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.
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.
What is an Electric Bike Conversion Kit?
Simply put, these conversion kits are used to convert standard bicycles into electric bicycles.
This process typically involves replacing certain parts of your bike in order to make it run without assistance (it might need a push start, but it should move on its own after that).
What you need to replace will depend entirely on the type of e bike conversion kit you go with.
Most require a unique type of wheel that derives power from a battery pack found on the stem of the bike, whereas others offer a much simpler option by simply providing a boost to the crank for a more natural sensation.
There are three main types of e bike bike conversion kits for you to pick and choose from at this moment in time, each with its own setup, benefits, and drawbacks.
The three main types of electric bike conversion kits consist of:
- Friction Drive Conversion
- Mid-Drive Conversion
- Electric Bike Wheel Conversion
Friction Drive Conversion
Friction drive conversions offer the easiest installations possible, consisting of only a handful of parts that attack onto your current metal steed without needed to remove the wheel or anything like that.
You simply clip it on and off and carry it around with you when not in use!
A roller pushes against the type on the wheel and as it turns so too does the wheel.
Unfortunately, the ease of installation does not change the fact that it’s the weakest option out of the three if you’re looking to simulate the feeling of being on a legit e bike.
Why that is comes down to how much pressure is placed on the modular battery system that is generating all of the power.
This system, while powerful in the case of the Rubbee X, tends to work best over short distances — the sort of distances most wouldn’t mind just cycling towards.
We would not recommend applying a friction drive conversion on a mountainbike or fat bike.
Doing so is more likely to wear this type of kit down a hell of a lot faster. Plus, the bounciness of the ride could knock it off the wheel, which risks breaking it while you’re in motion.
Electric Bike Wheel Conversion
This type of electric bike conversion is rather self-explanatory, given the name.
It involves swapping either the front or rear wheel for an electrified version, one capable of providing your bike plenty of energy in order to run unassisted.
Like the previous kit, installing this electrified wheel is pretty simple.
All you need to do is take off the old wheel, install the new one, ensure that the chain is connected properly, connect the power pack, and away you go!
Powering the wheel can and will change the way the bike feels, and can make it feel heavier on one side instead of the other.
It can be jarring at first, but you should get used to it in time.
Mid-drive conversion kits are easily the most consistent of the bunch when compared to the other two conversion kits mentioned.
They will get you where you need to go without worry.
Part of why this type of electric bike kit is such a safe bet comes down to where it’s installed on the bike.
The drive sits very low on the frame which balances it perfectly on the bike itself, giving riders the most natural feel possible.
Mid-drive conversion kits allow you to conquer any hill, any trail, and any task (within reason).
Many come with full mobile app support, too, giving you a much better idea of power, settings, and various other tidbits of information.
We should point out that this particular type of kit tends to be the most expensive — with friction drive conversions sitting at the cheaper end of the scale.
It’s also quite complicated to install, so be sure to consult the instruction manual thoroughly to ensure that the conversion is 100% secure.
Best Electric Bike Conversion Kits
Below we’ve picked out some of the very best electric bike conversion kits out right now — each offering something different in terms of type, performance, cost, and features!
Swytch is one of the leading e bike brands © Credit to Swytch
Cost: £449 Motor Position: Front Hub Battery Included: Yes Wattage: 250
The electric bike conversion kit that can hack your commute | Boost
You can’t talk about e bike conversion kits and not mention the Swytch Kit at least once.
This nifty little piece of kit is very easy to use, and has been proven to install itself on almost any type of bike — from a penny-farthing to a unicycle.
If it has wheels and pedals, then it’s compatible with the kit, essentially.
One of the best things about the Swytch Kit is how easily it attaches itself onto the bike. The battery mounts easily to the handlebars, and disconnecting it is even easier.
One of the latest updates of the Swytch system has added a neat handlebar-mounted LCD display, in place of those clunky buttons that used to be on the battery.
Not a lot of e bike kits can compete with what Swytch has produced. It’s the perfect entry-level kit due to its ease-of-use, but unlike other entry-level kits, it lasts.
Is this the best looking kit of the bunch? © Credit to Pendix
Pendix eDrive 300
Cost: £857 Motor Position: Crank Battery Included: Yes Wattage: 250
The first mid-drive conversion kit on our list here is also one of the most expensive.
Is it worth it? We’d say so, as would those who are already riding around thanks to this kit.
One what I love about this particular e bike kit is how seamless it fits in with any bike. It’s not bulky like a lot of crank-based kits which can feel odd to cycle with.
One of the only downsides of this option is that it needs to be fitted by a dealer, and dealers might not be so close to a lot of owners.
Still, this does have its benefits as it means you are guaranteeing that the Pendix is installed correctly, allowing you to ride around with complete confidence.
It looks the part, and it feels the part. There’s not a lot of electric conversion kits that can measure up to the same standard as Pendix eDrive 300.
Reliable and guaranteed to take you places
TongSheng Mid-Drive Kit with Battery
Cost: £579 Motor Position: Rear Tire Battery Included: Yes Wattage: 250
When we think of some of the very best mid-drive conversion kits, we instantly think of options like the TongSheng Mid-Drive Kit.
5 Best E-Bike Conversion Kits 2023
Why? Because it’s everything it says it is and more. It’s also one of most natural-feeling conversion kits on the market.
What’s great about this particular kit is that it will actively match the effort you put in — or as the manufacturer puts it:
“The harder you work, the harder it works.”
Max torque available on this TongSheng system is 80Nm but depending on your chosen assist level, that 80Nm will add between 36 and 300 per cent to your pedalling power.
Here’s a quick rundown of its key features:
- No thumb throttle
- LCD display
- Replacement cranks
- Fits 67 – 73 mm BS bottom bracket
Pure. Unrivalled. Power. That’s what you’re getting should you decide that this is the e bike kit for you. The installation can be a tad finicky, but once it’s on there you should have no problems.
Meet the Rubbee X © Credit to Rubbee
Benefits of E Bike Conversion Kits
Now onto the benefits of these electric conversion kits, and why they could be a much better option than buying a full electric bike.
There are many benefits to choosing a conversion kit, as you can imagine, the most obvious being “they tend to be a lot more cost effective than a bike.”
While true to some extent, you can actually get a decent e bike for under £1000 which is quite close to the costs mentioned above.
How you choose to ride is completely up to you, of course, but here’s a brief rundown of why going with an electric bike conversion kit is beneficial:
- Convenience: The ability to attach/detach the kit whenever you like gives you the best of both worlds. It also means you don’t have to get acquainted with a brand new ride!
- Affordable: Most e bike kits are under £700, making them somewhat cheaper than full options from the likes of Raleigh, Trek, and Rad Power.
- Preferred: A lot of cyclists feel comfortable with their non-electric bikes. Giving them the option to go electric without having to buy a completely new bike is why a lot of riders go down this route.
- Eco-Friendly: E bikes are known to be a lot better for the planet when compared to, say, cars, trains, and buses. They’re great for commuter, and for getting around, generally, without emitting a lot of emissions.
If you want our advice, you should make your decision based on why you want to ride around on a pedal-assisted bike in the first place.
For example, let’s say you’re someone who likes to do a lot of adventuring via a sports-style bike, but you need just a little bit of extra assistance in order to help you train and get better.
A conversion kit is great for that as it acts as a set of training wheels for long distance travel, helping you increase your stamina without feeling too exerted.
Buying a full electric bike for this might not be the best choice, especially if you’re already beyond satisfied with the racing bike you have.
This is but one scenario, yours might differ somewhat but you get the point.
BAFANG E-bike Front Hub Motor 48V 500W Bafang Brushless Gear 20/26/27.5/700C inch Electric Bicycle Conversion Kits
This front-wheel E-bike conversion kit is easy to set up and easy on your wallet. Electrify your bike in one hour by following the installation video and manual. Don’t forget to choose the correct wheel size!
After setup is complete, ride around the town with pedal assist or switch to E-bike mode for longer trips. Commuters, long-distance trekkers, and mountain bikers can cruise up to 24 miles per hour. The battery is not included.
Price at time of publish: 579
Best for Commuting
Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit
Daily riders will love this easy-to-install, lightweight e-bike conversion kit. It is compatible with most mountain, road, hybrid, and step-through bikes, and disc brakes.
It’s as easy to install as swapping out your front tire. The controller and battery are combined into a 34.2-Volt power pack, which is included in the kit and mounts to the handlebars. That makes it easy to remove and keeps thieves at bay, but our tester did miss having the use of a handle bar basket. The battery pack is fitted with indicator lights that tell you how much juice remains and what assist mode you’re in. Once the system is set up correctly, you’ll be able to top out at 15-25 mph.
In general, I love it. It makes my ride easier without feeling like I’m riding a giant bulky e-bike. It’s got a phenomenal amount of power for such a little machine and seems like it has a good battery life too. ~ Treehugger Tester
Ebikeling Waterproof Ebike Conversion Kit 36V 500W 700C Geared Electric Bike Kit
Do you want to go farther or faster? You can do both with this setup from Ebikeling, with its 500-watt motor. Ebikeling makes it easy to buy different compatible batteries and other accessories in an a-la-cart way. There are seven different batteries that come in different shapes (bottle, triangle, rectangular), so that you can pick the one that suits your bike and needs best.
The double-walled rim and motor are ready to install right out of the box—just swap them out for your original bike tire. An LCD screen is included to help you stay within your town’s speed limit. You can choose between a front or rear mount, as well as a thumb or half-twist throttle.
Price at time of publish: 390
AW 26×1.75 Rear Wheel 48V 1000W Electric Bicycle Motor Kit
Thanks to a 48-volt, 1000-watt battery, the AW wheel E-bike conversion kit satisfies anyone with the need for speed. A thumb throttle makes speed control simple. This kit is available as either a front wheel or back wheel conversion option. It fits any 26-inch bike frame with a 3.9 inch front dropout spacing (for a front wheel conversion) or 5.3 inch rear dropout spacing (for a back wheel conversion). The rear wheel kit weighs 24.7 pounds, the front wheel kit weighs 23.5 pounds.
The aluminum frame offers durability and stability, which is essential when you’re rolling at top speeds of 28 miles per hour. Hand brakes turn the motor off automatically to both improve safety and conserve battery power.
Price at time of publish: 300
The most common way to give your bike some extra e-power is to replace its front wheel with a powered one carrying a motor in the hub. The high-torque brushless motor and lithium-ion power pack by Swytch is the world’s smallest conversion kit. It’s easy to install on most bicycles, including trikes and folding bikes, no matter the wheel size. While the pedal sensor measures the cadence of your pedalling, the power pack counts the exact power needed in the front wheel’s motor. The moment you stop pedalling, the system cuts off the power. The motor, rated 40Nm, can assist you well enough to enable you to climb a 30% incline with light pedalling. Compatible with both disc and rim brakes, the system ensures a range of up to 50 km. Even though the original system is currently out of stock, you can find used kits starting at 650 euros.
Conv-E Conversion Kit by Powabyke
For as much as 870 euros you can get the Conv-E Conversion Kit, which promises to transform any standard bicycle to electric within an hour. The product comes with a 10Amp battery and controller pack, a powerful 250W brushless motor, a charger and mounting brackets. It takes five hours for the battery to fully charge, giving you a range of up to 65 km, depending on the rider’s weight, effort and terrain profile.
The Rubbee electric bike conversion kit features a completely different design. The system is easy to mount on the seat post from where it pushes on the rear wheel. Installation takes seconds, with no tools needed. The system guarantees a drive without energy loss due to active suppression and electronic anti-slip control. The regenerative braking recharges the battery while descending or braking. The rear light makes you visible on the road. The system itself costs 529 euros. Each extra battery is 99 euros. The modular system accommodates one, two or three batteries. Depending on the number of batteries in the cartridge, you can reach speeds from 25 to 32 km/h with a total range of up to 48 km.
go-e ONwheel e-bike conversion kit
Based on a similar principle, yet packed in a smaller and more subtle body, the go-e ONwheel is currently running a campaign on Kickstarter. The inconspicuous drive is intended to be installed within four minutes. While the battery pack comes on the top frame tube, the drive system is clicked under the bottom bracket. After the sensors detect pedalling, the motor engages and assists you with up to 800 W of extra power on your rear wheel.
Bafang electric bike conversion kit
Suzhou, a company based near Shanghai, offers a variety of drivetrain systems for different types of bikes. You can choose from the front- or rear-drive-train solutions, capable of a wide range of performances. The motor can be hidden in either the front or the rear hub, or in a box designed to be fitted beneath the bottom bracket.
What can you expect from your bike after it passes through the e-bike conversion kit enhancement process? It gains extra power, enabling you to ride almost effortlessly, as you would on any e-bike. On the other hand, the overall weight will increase and the weight balance will be altered from moderately to significantly, depending on the drive train. In contrast to complete e-bikes, you cannot take a test ride before you buy, which is the greatest downside of the conversions. over, some of them require mechanical skills to carry out the conversion. For many riders, however, the kits offer an interesting way to refine their current bikes.