The Best Types Of E-Bikes For E-Bike Packing
Electric bikes have gained lots of popularity in the past few years, and they are especially useful for those who want to travel short distances at a low cost while being eco-friendly. However, if you think that all electric bikes are created the same, you are very wrong! Depending on the type of biking you will pursue, you have to adjust your buying preferences. wasting money is surely something you want to avoid.
Today we discuss what types of bikes make really good companions for bikepacking, followed by our recommendations and advice. You want to make sure you have a good vehicle to rely on, as you don’t want to be stranded somewhere random.
What Do I Need To Keep In Mind?
Before we dive into the advice, you must know that there might be no need for you to get an extreme electric bike, especially if you won’t embark on rough journeys. Some people prefer one-day adventures on country roads, which means that a good electric bike with a good battery does the job. You don’t need to have a special hunting bike or a mountain bike. However, if you will be biking on rough roads and dirt trails, you want a more sturdy bike, as you will quickly ruin a city bike.
Think about the terrain you will ride on, the roads you will visit, and the types of obstacles you will run into. the more extreme your trip gets, the more suspension you need. If you ride uphill a lot, keep in mind that having several easy gears will make it easier to keep your energy up. Larger wheels and tires will give you a smoother and safer ride, while aluminum frames tend to be vulnerable and unpractical for gearing up. Keep these small things in mind. they surely do make a difference.
What Type of An E-Bike Is Ideal For Bikepacking?
We have three different bike categories we prefer, as we find them perfect for this particular journey. If you don’t like them or already have a bike and you’re more interested in making small changes to it, read our advice in the next few paragraphs. Keep the advice in mind when making your potential buys.
Fat tire electric bikes. Electric bikes with fat tires make great companions as the surface of the tires makes it much easier to ride on difficult terrain. They’re good for snow, dirt, and sand, as they distribute your weight and make sure you don’t get stuck. These bikes are usually made from rigid materials, and the fact that you’re a little bit higher off the ground helps keep the bike clean as well. less dirt on the frame of the bike.
The tires tend to absorb a lot of shocks, and this makes riding more comfortable. Stability is also better, as the weight of the tires keeps you on the ground. However, uphill battles might be slightly harder as the bike is heavier.
Hunting bikes. Hunting bikes can often be classified as fat tire electric bikes with some additional specs to them. They have great suspension because you want to ride fast when you’re hunting, and the wide, heavily textured tires make for easy riding in the dirt, mud, as well as shallow rivers.
These bikes usually don’t have many gears, making it troublesome for less fit people to climb uphill. However, they’re perfect for riding through grass and even bushes. In addition, these bikes often come with storage space of some kind, usually on the back tire, which ends up being quite useful for those who are bikepacking.
Mountain bikes. The last bike category we think is especially suitable for bikepacking are mountain bikes. Mountain bikes are the perfect balance between hunting bikes and city bikes. They have wider tires, but they don’t weigh as much as hunting bikes do. They often come equipped with lights, which is practical, and they have great suspension.
Bikes like these are good for uphill climbing, as riding on mountains requires both uphill and downhill movement. They are made to handle these conditions well, and even if you’re not too fit, you’ll manage through various semi-wet terrain too.
Our Words of Advice
Not ready to buy a new bike or want to convert your old bike? No problem. Here is our best advice to keep in mind no matter what type of bike you end up buying.
The battery is important. You don’t want to embark on a journey without thinking about the mileage your battery covers. Unfortunately, many tend to forget that they could end up sleeping in a tent or a camp, where charging your bike isn’t an option. A good rule of thumb is to ensure you have 20% more power than you need to bike to your destination AND back.
Wider tires give better results. Wider tires distribute your weight well, which means that you can ride better on difficult terrain. However, don’t go for massive tires if you’re sure you’ll ride mostly on roads and steady pavements, as they add additional weight.
Don’t overpack. Keep it light. both the bike and the luggage, especially if you’ll be riding uphill. The heavier your bike is, the tougher it gets to pedal.
Suspension is crucial for comfort. Those who plan on biking for a few days or more make sure to invest in a bike with proper suspension. If you don’t, make sure you have a comfortable seat.
Inspect terrain before making a buy. Don’t make a buy relying solely on your gut feeling. Make sure to have in mind the type of adventures you plan to embark on, as well as the terrain you will encounter. Maybe you don’t require a new bike but can modify your current bike for the adventure.
Storage is important, but keep it balanced. If you’re embarking on a journey, you need to ensure your luggage is safe. While some people like to use a light backpack, most use storage spaces on their bikes. The back wheel and the frame give you better balance than baskets, which can also be a personal preference.
What is bikepacking exactly?
Bikepacking is somewhat of a routine for those who love nature and traveling, and it’s preferred amongst camping enthusiasts and people who have traveled spontaneously before. The idea is that you get your travel essentials ready, configure your bike, so it supports your luggage without much hassle, and you pave your way around various roads and trails for a few days.
While not everyone has the stamina for a two-day biking trip, some enthusiasts will embark on a half-week journey across a few states. Don’t get us wrong, you can always make it a short morning-to-evening type of trip, but why not be more adventurous?
Why do people enjoy bikepacking?
This type of journey can be used to reconnect with nature, visit a nearby town on a budget or maintain your physique while challenging yourself with new roads and experiences. If you already have an electric bike, why not give this adventure a go?
Electric bikes can be practical for adventures as well. fat-tire bikes, mountain bikes, and hunting bikes make the best travel companions. However, you can always modify your bike by improving the suspension and switching your battery (to a more powerful model) and your tires (to a wider model). So keep it light and enjoy the biking!
Even though an e-bike’s lithium-ion batteries can become dangerous, a special battery-powered vehicle classification known as UN 3171 makes shipping e-bikes in single packaging easier, cheaper and more convenient.
Per this classification, your e-bike is NOT considered to be hazmat; you don’t need to be a hazmat-certified shipper; you don’t need to pay a hazmat surcharge; and you can ship your e-bike to and from more locations.
Shipping e-bikes under this classification is limited to ground service within the contiguous U.S. We do not ship to Alaska or Hawaii because aircraft are often used to fulfill “ground service” shipments to those states.
How To Ship Your E-bike with BikeFlights
Our e-bike shipping service is for shipping single e-bikes with a fully functioning battery that is either contained within the bike’s frame or installed on the bike.
Prior to shipping your e-bike, you must do these five things:
- Lower your battery charge to less than 30% to limit cell-to-cell combustion.
- Power off your battery, remove any keys, and ensure that your battery cannot turn “on” during transit.
- Protect your e-bike and its battery by using lots of extra-dense foam padding.
- Pack your e-bike into a large and sturdy box rated for e-bikes such as the BikeFlights Bike Box Large (BBL).
- Completely remove or completely cover ALL bulk shipping hazmat markings like these:
Why? Hazmat stickers are required for bulk e-bike shipments such as when a manufacturer or distributor ships many e-bikes together on a pallet, but these stickers are NOT required for single e-bike shipments. In fact, failure to remove Class 9 or UN 3480 markings on your single e-bike shipment will result in your e-bike being incorrectly considered a hazmat shipment, which means it will be stopped and tagged for disposal.
Size and Weight Restrictions
Limits on shipping size and weight for e-bikes going through the ground service network are the same as for standard bikes. Please see our Dimensions Rates page for more information.
If your bike is over 70 pounds, we recommend that you apply a heavy package sticker like the one below. This helps to alert carrier drivers, staff and others that special care should be taken for safe handling.
Pick Up or Drop Off
We recommend you schedule a pickup when booking your e-bike shipment, and we’ll send a carrier driver to come get your packed bike. You may also drop off your e-bike shipment at a UPS Customer Center; remember to always ask for a receipt.
We do not recommend that you drop off your e-bike at UPS Stores because they are individually franchised, and rules and restrictions about the size and weight of packages they will accept vary by location.
Battery-Only Shipment Options
- To ship a healthy spare or standalone battery, please contact the United States Postal Service (USPS).
- To recycle a damaged or defective e-bike battery, please contact Call2Recycle.
Swytch bike review: Is this ebike conversion kit worth the money?
Pros: Makes light work of long commutes Reasonably simple to install No permanent changes to bike Great for those with injuries that might get in the way of cycling regularly Light weight construction means your bike isn’t unmanageable if the battery runs out
I had such good intentions when I bought my bike. I was going to cycle into work every day, saving me money on the bus fare and getting exercise at the same time. But then I tried the journey, and often ended up arriving sweaty and out of breath – a victim of Bristol’s many hills.
In comes the Swytch eBike Conversion kit, and now I have a bit of extra electrical assistance to help me with the tricky parts. My bike is getting out and about more than ever before. Swytch advertises itself as the world’s smallest and lightest ebike conversion kit, and says that it works on almost any bike. You can turn your bike electric whether it’s a mud-covered mountain bike, a retro step-through like mine, or even a penny farthing.
The kit is compatible with all gear types and all rim and disc brakes, but it won’t work with thru-axle bikes. If you’re not sure whether your bike is compatible, or what size of wheel to order, the Swytch customer service team can take you through it. While the Universal kit will work for most standard cycles, the Brompton kit is designed specifically for folding bikes.
Installing the conversion kit
The Swytch kit is fairly simple, made up of a few pieces. There’s a replacement front wheel which contains the motor, a power pack with a bracket to mount it to your handlebars, and a pedal sensor. You can pay extra for add-ons such as a brake sensor, which disconnects the motor as soon as you start to brake, and a throttle (though this isn’t road-legal in the UK). The power pack comes in two tiers: Eco, which has a range of 35km, and Pro, which can go as far as 50km. Both have a power of 250W and are limited to 15mph in the UK. The kit adds a total weight of 3kg to the bike, between the power pack and the motor in the front wheel. For the Universal kit, the Eco model comes in at £999, and Pro costs £1,250. Converting my bike was relatively straight-forward, and with the help of a friend with a bit more experience in bike maintenance, we managed it in a little over an hour. I was pleased to see that none of the changes are permanent – I could return it to a push bike if I decided the electric life wasn’t for me. That said, the kit adds so little weight that I’d be more likely just to cycle with the power pack switched off than go to the effort of changing over the front wheel again. If you know what to look for, it’s clear that my bike has been altered. The big black box between the handlebars is immediately recognisable, and I spotted a couple of others with a Swytch out and about. And, of course, the motor in the front wheel isn’t particularly subtle. But since it doesn’t have the chunky frame I’ve come to associate with a typical ebike, it’s not completely obvious that my bike is electric.
What is it like to ride?
Two factors affect how much power the Swytch kit sends to the motor: how fast you pedal, and the power setting you select. On top of the power pack, sat between the handlebars, are two sets of lights. One indicates the charge left in the battery, and the other shows the power level, which is adjusted with a click of a button. The first time I rode the bike, it was a little unsettling. I never felt unsafe, but it did feel like I couldn’t control my speed quite as closely as I wanted. I know how my bike responds when I ride, so to feel it power forwards more than I expected with every press of the pedal was odd. However, I got used to it quickly and speed control feels intuitive. Just like with a push bike, pedalling faster means you pick up speed – the difference is just how much. As for the handling, there is a small difference – on my bike, at least. I could tell at first that the front is a little bit heavier, but it never got in the way of cycling, and I got used to it quickly. If you often take corners at high speeds, you should take care on your first few rides while you get used to it. You can’t sit back, put your feet up and let the bike carry you up a difficult hill. The Swytch only provides power when you’re pedalling, and you still have to overcome gravity and air resistance as normal, so it’s perfectly possible to get out of breath. Even so, I managed to whizz up Bristol’s notorious Park Street without having to get off and push. I tried not to look too smug when I overtook a cyclist who had given up halfway. Most of the time, the power pack will provide enough assistance to your pedalling on the lowest setting. That was enough to get me up to a comfortable speed on a flat road or a slight hill. I only tended to use the second or third power level out of five to get me up anything steeper. There’s not much point in using a higher power level on a flat road, since UK law prevents the motor from providing any power if you’re going over 15mph (24kmh).
How long does the battery last?
I can’t say for sure how much battery my commute uses, since the power level indicator is just five lights, but I’d expect it to go down one click by the time I get home, leaving maybe 80 per cent. If that means that I can cycle for around an hour and use only 20 per cent of the battery, then I can’t imagine any ride I’d do would risk running the battery flat. However, as someone who likes to be chronically over-prepared, it seems strange to me that there isn’t a on the power pack to carry the charging cable. You charge the bike by unclipping the power pack and taking it inside to a plug socket. If I was cycling into the office every day, I’d want to have the cable with me to give it a quick boost during the day if necessary.
What is it like to live with?
My cycle to work, which takes me around 45 minutes without electrical assistance, came down to just over half an hour with the Swytch kit. The time difference isn’t life-changing. But the big difference it makes is that I can arrive at work feeling refreshed from the cycle, not sweaty and out of breath. It also takes some of the pressure off my dodgy knees and makes longer cycles more doable. Turning the power off completely while you ride is simple, so it’s not hard to save battery on an easy stretch. When it’s turned off, thanks to the lightweight kit and the “frictionless” motor, the bike didn’t feel noticeably heavier than without the kit installed. The only time I noticed the extra weight was when carrying my bike upstairs – since the power pack and motor are both on the front, it made my bike a bit front-heavy. Though it’s a bit tricky to carry, it’s not a big issue for me, but something to take into account if you’re getting the kit due to injuries or disabilities that would otherwise make cycling inaccessible. One of the biggest issues I can see is that the power pack takes up all the space on my handlebars, leaving no room for a headlight. The Pro kit comes with a light built into the front of the power pack, but the Eco doesn’t. Both power packs have fabric straps on the front and top that you can use to add one, but you may have to buy a new headlight that can be attached this way.
Cycling with the Swytch kit doesn’t take much time off an average cycle, but it makes it more comfortable and a bit more fun. So the question is: would I spend £1,000 or more on it, or would I choose a complete electric bike instead? If I didn’t already have a bike I really like, I probably would choose a complete electric bike instead. That way, I can be confident that the bike is designed to have a motor attached, and would probably avoid the balance issues of adding an extra 3kg to the front. And for the same price as the Swytch kit, there are electric bikes out there that offer a similar range. But Swytch regularly run half price offers on their website, if you’re willing to join a waitlist. At half price, even the Pro kit would pay for itself in bus tickets in around nine months – and that sounds like a much more sensible investment. Given this price, I’d prefer to keep the bike I already know and love and give it a power boost than shop around for a completely new ride.
Other products to consider…
Bafang Front Hub Motor
Guide price: From £380 Like the Swytch, this conversion kit from Bafang has the motor in the front wheel. You can choose between different types of display and different sizes of battery. This kit is only suitable for bikes with disc brakes, and the £380 price doesn’t include a battery.
Rubbee X Base Model
Guide price: €579
The Rubbee X is a completely different kind of conversion kit. While the Swytch has a motorised front wheel, the Rubbee is a module that sits on your back tyre and drives it with a rubber flywheel attached to a motor. Because you don’t need to replace your wheel, installation is even simpler. You can change between Eco, Cruise and Power modes through the smartphone app. Though the range is limited to 16km, you can boost it by buying additional battery modules.
Guide price: From £360
The Bafang conversion kit places the motor low down on the bike, near the pedals on the bottom bracket. This makes it more stable than having the weight on the front wheel. The kit starts from only £360, but be aware that you’ll have to buy the battery separately, and installation will require a bit more know-how than other models.
Carrera Crosscity Folding Electric Bike 2020
Guide price: £999
For the price of the Swytch Eco kit, you can get a complete folding electric bike from Carrera with the same claimed range as the Swytch Pro. And there’s no faff in installing a conversion kit. Even this little bike weighs 18kg though, so if you’re used to riding something a lot lighter, a conversion kit might be the choice for you.
Looking for more options? Why not check out our roundup of electric bikes, tried and tested? Or perhaps you’re after some bicycle gadgets to pimp your ride? If you’re just starting out and are looking for information, check out our beginner’s guide to bike technology.
Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit review
The Swytch Universal eBike Conversion kit is well made and well thought out. It can transform an ordinary bike into a much nimbler machine that’s ideal for commuting and town errands. On a lighter-weight road bike it isn’t quite so useful due to the extra weight over the front wheel and the swapping of natural ride feel for electric motor assistance, although it’s still great fun. If you can get it at the 50% pre-order discount price and swap some car journeys for e-bike trips, it’s worth it.
- Swytch offers 50% off pre-order and with that discount £500/£625 is a fair price
- Straightforward to fit
- Fun uphill
- Would be really beneficial for utility riding
- – Can deaden steering feel
- – Riding dynamics can be compromised if fitted to a lightweight bike
- – A lot of weight on the front end
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The Swytch Universal is a well constructed and thought out electric bike conversion kit. The motor is in the hub of the Swytch front wheel that replaces your own bike’s front wheel.
Fitting the Swytch kit to a bike is straightforward and easily reversible. (see the video above about how to fit it). The instructions are clear. I swapped the system over from one bike to another in about an hour or so.
The handlebar-mounted battery pack functions well. It unlocks from the holder easily and has a convenient carry handle. The settings. on top of the battery pack. are easy to adjust and assistance can be altered on the move without problem.
The system has been reliable during the (winter) test period.
The Swytch system is billed as being universal, meaning that it will fit to nearly any bike and fit easily. The drawback to this is that all the weight is on the front end. The battery pack mounts to the front of the handlebars and the motor is in the front hub. This could be alleviated by moving the battery into the frame area or over the rear wheel. However there are so many variables in doing this it could get very complicated for a universal kit. Not all bikes have a front triangle in the frame or it is a small one. Not all bikes have a rack or can accommodate one and so on. Swytch has chosen a path that can allow their kit to be fitted to the most bikes.
How fast is the Swytch e-bike conversion kit?
I had a fun evening ride with tech writer Simon Smythe where he was on his fixed-wheel Mercian and I was using a winter-spec Genesis Equilibrium with the Swytch fitted. On the homeward half of the ride we decided to race a little and whilst Simon would ride away from me on the downhill and flatter sections (I was hitting the resistance in the system) I would steamroller up the hills and overtake again. We dubbed this ‘Bot Racing as it makes you feel like a machine: you can maintain the same speed regardless of the gradient.
UK e-bikes are restricted to 15.5mph but I found the assistance didn’t cut out once the bike reached this speed. Going faster than 15.5mph the motor was still operating but was supplying much less assistance relative to power through the pedals. There’s a chance it was inadvertently derestricted for off-road use. Its claimed maximum speed is 32kph or 19.9mph.
The resistance I mentioned makes it feel a bit like an old-fashioned turbo trainer, this is compared to the almost flying sensation that you get on a light and sorted bike. The Swytch somewhat dulls the dynamic style of riding. However on that ride it was enormous fun.
How long does the battery last?
On this ride the battery was fully charged at the beginning and after one hour (17 miles or so with hills) had just used two bars out of five. I wasn’t being particularly frugal with the assistance and pushed it hard. The claimed 50km/30mile range seems truthful to me, but obviously some restraint using the power level and assistance would squeeze a bit more out.
There is some motor whine when power is being applied and this only stops when you stop pedalling and are freewheeling. All the time that you pedal there is a bit of noise. I noticed it less and less as the testing went on.
I concluded that although the Swytch system is fun and with its ability to get you across roads quickly and up hills like a robot, on a light road bike you notice the steering deadened by the weight, riding dynamics are compromised and although you can push past the top assisted speed it feels like a slog. However, this is not its natural home. Read on.
I decided to move the Swytch kit across to my wife’s Pinnacle Stratus town bike. It’s not light at 14.2kg/31.3lb but it is representative of this type of bike. It has mudguards and a rack too. The Swytch kit added 3.7kg to the overall weight and it now weighed 17.9kg/39.5lbs. There is a smaller difference in added weight compared to the Genesis as this bike’s front wheel was heavier than the Genesis’s (1.84 kg vs 1.3kg)
In keeping with the ‘Dutch’ style of riding (everyday and utilitarian) I decided to run a few errands around town. I wore the clothes that I would if I was to walk or drive; jeans, T-shirt, jumper and trainers. No cycling kit whatsoever (maybe a helmet). Just the bike, a lock and a small rucksack.
Reigate has hills in nearly all directions and my house is near the top of one of them, but not quite. There is a short and steep incline for the for the first quarter mile which is quite an effort (usually first gear) especially with cold legs, in jeans and on a 40lb bike. Well, I sailed up the slope in a middle gear and didn’t break a sweat, and this was with both power level and assistance in the middle settings. There then follows a long downhill, where gravity helps out, but the boost still really helps at junctions and traffic lights where stopping is required. I found that there is no need to change down gears to get a swift getaway and keep out of the way of impatient cars and I pretty much left it in the same gear all the time. One turn of the cranks and the boost kicks in and you’re back to 15.5mph really quickly. I was across a crossroads from a standing start after the lights had changed from red to green before the cars caught me. a much safer situation.
I then arrived at my first destination, I locked up the bike, removed the battery pack, did the errand and then was quickly on my way again. The second task was on the other side of the hill that I’d just ridden down. I had a few refills to do at our local Zero Packaging shop and was carrying some jam jars to fill and a milk bottle to exchange. This ends up quite heavy so I tend to walk or ahem drive. The refills fitted into my rucksack and then back home up the final hill.
When I returned home I found that I was completely unsweaty, had saved a car journey or more than an hour’s walking (in two different directions) and easily carried a heavyish load. over it was really fun.
Another day, another errand. Today I needed to pop to the post office and walking would be too long, a car journey would seem wrong, my main road bike too vulnerable to theft, so I hopped on the Pinnacle x Swytch. I locked it to the lamppost, removed the battery and didn’t worry about it. Then I maxed the settings for the way home and flew up the hill in outer ring and fifth. Hilarious. Remember this is a 40lb bike now. This is its place for me.
The value in the Swytch system is that it can convert an ordinary bike into something much more useful and fun. It will save unnecessary car journeys and save you money too. But at £999 or £1,249 I would struggle to justify the outlay especially when you can buy a whole e-bike. the Ride 1Up for example. for 1045 (c. £800). Sorry UK, this is USA only! I did get to try the Ride 1Up out and it too was enormous fun.
However, Swytch has a pre-ordering system whereby if you sign up on its website you can get 50% off. So that makes it £499.50 for the Eco and £624.50 for the Pro kit. It’s an unusual business model but there you go.
So now at £500-625 it represents much better value for money and my interest is piqued once more. For me I’d choose the Eco pack as I would use it primarily for short local journeys and you only lose a small amount of assistance at the top end of the settings and the light. I’d save the money. If you want help riding longer journeys, say for leisure, then the Pro is probably the one to get with its longer range.
Although there was some fun to be had with it on a road bike, I found the weight dulled the steering and general riding dynamics were compromised. The top assisted speed of 15.5mph, whilst able to be ridden beyond, wasn’t especially fun. Hills were a hoot though.
This kit really suits town riding and commuting and could normalise using a bike for short utility journeys, especially for people who are not particularly into cycling. It also makes a fairly heavy bike into something much more enjoyable to ride as well as being more practical to boot.
With fuel going the way they are this could be an answer to saving some money long term with the added benefit of less car pollution and reduced road crowding. It will take a while to offset the cost of purchase against fuel alone but when you add in the residual costs of car ownership (insurance, MOT, Road Fund Licence, servicing, depreciation etc etc). It could, in some circumstances, replace a second car for some families. If you can get it for around £500 then it may well be worth trying out to see whether it can make a difference for you.
Here’s a short list of observations for potential buyers.
If you’re riding at night you may find that a front light is partially obscured by the height of the battery pack. The more expensive Swytch Pro kit has a built in 200 lumen light on the front, however. It is a bit more to be seen by than to see with though.
There is a one-pedal-revolution lag before the motor kicks in. Equally if you stop pedalling then the motor carries on for a second or so longer. So stop pedalling if you want to brake and stop or do a slow speed manoeuvre!
You could probably run this on a single geared bike with no issues. Simplicity and save some weight.
15.5mph top assisted speed may or may not suit your riding type. It’s the law however. Other territories are allowed to use the 19.9mph/32kph setting.
Needs 10mm dropout in forks. The axle outside of that is 12mm diameter and it uses an 18mm nut. You may need to carry an extra spanner to fix a puncture.
Fitting is pretty straightforward and the instructions are clear.
The rim measures 25.5mm wide externally and 19mm internally. This means that generally tyres between 28mm and 62mm width can be accommodated easily. I ran a Continental 28mm road tyre reliably.
You can ride without the battery to save some weight but be aware that there is more resistance in the wheel than with a normal bike. If you lift up the front and spin the wheel it will slow within a few revolutions, where a good wheel will spin for a long time.
You can’t really ‘lift’ the front end over a pothole. Fit a sturdy tyre and keep your eyes open.
The power assistance setting (adjustable on the move on the top of the battery pack) gives you more or less help as you require. All settings will get you to 15.5mph but a lower one will require more leg work.
This ebike conversion kit breathed new life into my 30-year-old bike
The Swytch ebike conversion kit was a great addition to my 30-year-old bike. However, its limited range, convoluted ordering process, and long wait times would make me think twice about buying it.
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I’ve had my Trek 830 bike for 30 years; my parents purchased it for me when I was a kid so I could ride from home to school and back. While the paint has chipped in a few places and I’ve had to replace the shifters and tires over the years, it’s held up remarkably well. After my daughter was born, I added a child seat to the bike to give it new purpose. And, since I first used my bike to ride to school, why couldn’t I use it once again for that purpose — only this time, it would be to take my daughter to her school.
However, as she has grown, it’s become harder to get up the hills around my town. Taking her to school would also be a challenge. But could an electric bike conversion kit breathe new life into my 30-year-old ride? I installed the Swytch ebike conversion kit onto my trusty Trek to find out.
One of the advantages of buying a conversion kit is that they’re less expensive than buying one of the best electric bikes — even one of the best budget electric bikes. And, if you already have a traditional bike, there’s no sense in going out and buying a completely new model. But how does a conversion kit like the Swytch compare to an electric bike? Read the rest of this Swytch review to find out.
Swytch eBike conversion kit review: Price and availability
The Swytch eBike conversion kit is available only through Swytch’s website. The company offers two versions: one for traditional bikes and one for folding bikes like the Brompton.
As part of the ordering process, you need to provide some information, such as the wheel size of your bike (from 16 to 28 inches), whether you have disc or rim brakes, what kind of display you want, and the size of the battery you want — Air (15km 90Wh) or the tablet-sized Max (30km 180Wh). If you do order, go with the larger battery. I’ll explain why later in this review.
Because of limited inventory, Swytch has a convoluted ordering process. As of this writing, if you want the Max version by July/August, it will cost 879; if you don’t mind waiting until September/October, the price is 649.
Similarly, an Air model for a July/August delivery date costs 649, but drops to 499 if you wait until September/October. Regardless of the model, you also have to put in a downpayment of 200 to 300, depending on which you choose.
But that’s not all — after submitting your credit card information, you’re then hit with other add-ons, some of which are necessary, such as a display, which can also drive up the price. (I couldn’t find specific for these, as I would have had to place an order for the bike.)
I also found three separate pages for ordering the Swytch; through this page, it looks like you can order the Air kit straightaway for 1,500; this Swytch page lets you order the bike with a much lower price with the longer delivery dates; and this Swytch page merely lets you sign up for a waitlist.
The three separate ordering pages, the long wait times, and the hidden fees all would make me feel uneasy if I were a consumer.
Swytch eBike conversion kit review: Installation
The Swytch kit came with a nice set of tools — a beefy adjustable wrench, a pair of clippers, and a set of Allen wrenches. Ironically, the latter did not have a small enough Allen wrench for a couple of the screws on the Swytch kit. You will need to provide your own tools for removing the tire from your bike’s wheel, but those are pretty inexpensive. This set of four bike tire levers costs 10 on Amazon, and any local bike shop should have plenty of these in stock.
Installing the whole kit took around 30 to 45 minutes, though it may take a little longer if you haven’t worked on a bike before. First, you have to swap the front tire on your bike for the one that comes in the kit. You then have to install a sensor around your pedals, and then put the battery pack and display on your bike. The battery pack gets mounted between your handlebars and takes up a lot of real estate; I had to move my bike light to a different spot.
Everything is secured using screws or plastic zip ties, which are also included in the installation kit. Except for the front tire, everything is pretty noninvasive, so you can remove it easily.
Swytch eBike conversion kit review: Performance
The Swytch has a modest 250W motor, but it was more than powerful enough to give me a nice boost as I was pedaling. It didn’t turn my 30-year-old Trek into a motorcycle, but it did make it a lot easier to get up and down hills. In the U.S., you’re limited to a max assisted speed of 20 miles per hour, which was plenty fast for me.
The motor kicks in after a couple of cranks of the pedal, so it isn’t as instantaneous as the torque sensor on some of the best electric bikes. Then again, this kit costs less than 1,000, so I’m willing to give it a bit of leeway.
The small OLED display (which shows your speed, trip distance, and battery life) was bright enough for most situations, but it would get washed out by direct sunlight. I didn’t look at it all that often, anyway. Two buttons just below the display let me adjust the level of motor-assist; they were easy to press, but you should try and mount it as close as you can to your thumb.
While the basic kit offers pedal-assist only, you can purchase a thumb throttle for the Swytch if you want it to do all the work. However, this will drain its small battery even faster.
Swytch eBike conversion kit review: Battery life and range
The only real issue I had with the Swytch was the size of its battery. The company advertises that the 180Wh Max battery has a max range of 30 kilometers, which equates to about 17 miles.
The ride from my house to my kid’s school is about 3.6 miles, making two roundtrips roughly 14.4 miles. In my years of testing electric scooters and electric bikes, I’ve found that manufacturer’s range estimates to be highly optimistic, and the Swytch was no different. Its battery died while I was still a mile — and one big hill — away from my home.
Hopefully, Swytch will make a larger battery pack in the future — perhaps one that could be attached to a rear bike rack.
The Swytch’s battery popped out easily from its handlebar-mounted position; the battery (9 x 3.9 x 1.4 inches) is about the size of a woman’s clutch, so it’s not overly large. While it’s easy to throw in your backpack, I wish there was a way to lock it into place on the bike itself, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it being stolen.
Swytch eBike conversion kit review: Bottom line
Taking my daughter to school and picking her up on my bike on a nice warm, sunny spring day was a real treat. We could better enjoy all the lawns and gardens of our neighbors as we rode by, and it was a pleasure to smell the flowers and blossoms along the way.
It’s certainly more pleasurable than driving in a car, and over the course of a week, it saved me about a gallon and a half of gas; over the course of a month, that would conservatively be about 130 miles.
Will this pay off anytime soon? Not likely. My Honda CR-V gets about 30 miles to the gallon. Taking an average price of 3.50 per gallon, we’re spending about 15 per month just to drive her to school. At that rate, it would take 40 months to pay off the cost of the Swytch, assuming I’d use my bike every day.
However, the limited range and the murky ordering process don’t inspire much confidence; if Swytch were a bit more open about what accessories come with the kit, I might be more inclined to order.
Even so, there are other ebike conversion kits that offer more value, even if they cost more. This Bafang front hub kit, for instance, comes with a 500W motor and a much larger 557Wh battery for 849. Bafang is also upfront about what each add-on costs, and you can get it right away.
The closer you get to 1,000, the less attractive an ebike conversion kit becomes, as many of the best budget electric bikes can be found for around that price. But, if you want to breathe some new life into your old bike, these kits are definitely worth a look.