There is no shortage of bicycles in the world, but as technology changes, so do our buying habits. Over the past year, the electric bike industry has seen a massive surge in demand, but buying an all-electric bike isn’t the only way to get more power on the pedals.
With so many manual bikes in the world, converting an existing bike to an electric bike is a way to add extra pep to your pedal without having to buy a whole new bike. E-bike conversion kits are nothing new but the people at Swytch from the UK wanted to make the process easier and built their own bespoke, high-quality E-bike conversion kit.
The Swytch kit revolves around a replacement front wheel that comes with a hub-mounted 250 watt motor. A pre-purchase questionnaire on the website ensures that the balance bike is as close as possible to your current balance bike for a plug-and-play experience. When the kit arrives, all you need to do is transfer the old tire and tube to the new bike and, for bikes with disc brakes, the rotor to the new rim.
The driven front wheel is wired to a battery mounted on the handlebar, which also serves as a display for all the equipment. The battery is a smart choice and can be removed for even greater convenience. When you have reached your destination, press the release button and pull the pack off to recharge.
I’m generally not a fan of putting weight on the handlebars as it affects the steering, and while you will definitely feel the extra 2kg on the battery, the extra functionality almost makes you forget it’s there.
A cadence sensor completes the kit and provides the system with the primary input to let it know when to provide assistance. It consists of a ring of magnets attached to a crank arm that clips around the crankshaft. A wired sensor runs along the down tube and is on the frame side of the magnetic ring to read each of the magnets as the pedals rotate. The kit includes a few different ways to assemble the magnet ring for a wide variety of bikes.
A handful of cable ties ensure that the various cables are attached to the bike and after a quick charge of the battery, the race begins. Pro Tip: Place the battery on the charger when you start installing the kit so it is ready to use right out of the box. A full charge takes about 2 hours. So allow enough time to fully charge it before heading out on the opening ride.
Our particular installation required that I had to file the axles off a total of about 1mm on either side of the Swytch wheel. The kit comes with a standard 10mm axle, and for the lucky handful of owners with forks designed for 9mm axles, you’ll need it. It took us about 10 minutes total so not a big deal, but well worth paying attention to beforehand. The company offers a hands-on tutorial for the process. Whatever you do, don’t go the easy route and just put your forks down. It might be easier, as they’re usually made of softer, lighter metals, but it can compromise the integrity of the fork.
The resulting installation is pretty stealthy considering how much functionality it adds. The front hub motor adds 1.5kg to the front wheel and blends directly into the wheel. You hardly notice it aesthetically. The cadence sensor and cabling fit directly into the cables on most manual bikes.
After a quick charge of the battery, it was on the road. The kit is turned on via a button on top of the power supply, which serves as the basic but functional display for the system. On the left side, a row of LED lights shows how much battery capacity is left, while the right side of the display shows which pedal assistance setting from one to five is selected.
The integrated display speaks for the effort that Swytch has invested in developing a slim and functional kit. From level one to three, the front engine provides gentle support that is the perfect support for longer trips like commuting, a trip to the shop, or a day trip to the beach.
When you ride it up to assist levels four and five, the bike becomes a workhorse ready to climb any hill in the way. It is an impressive performance for a motor with a duration of 250 watts and speaks for the torque of 40 Nm that it delivers. As electric bikes continue to evolve, manufacturers are getting better at maximizing the benefits for riders. Even with the standard output of 250 watts, the torque of this motor generates rapid acceleration at the higher pedal assistance levels.
Overall, Swytch has put together a high-quality e-bike conversion kit that gives buyers the assurance that they are not just getting a mess of parts. Instead, the Swytch kit makes it relatively easy to convert almost any bike to an electric drive. As with any retrofit, there are certainly a few things that need tweaking, such as the need to file down the axle on ours, but that’s to be expected with a kit that will fit a wide variety of bikes.
In addition to the universal kit with Eco Power Pack that we tested, the company also offers a kit with a larger battery, the Pro Power Kit. Swytch also makes an electrification kit optimized for Brompton folding bikes based in the UK. These bikes are very popular with urban commuters and with this small electrification kit they become absolute commuter wreckers.
Prices for the Swytch kit range from £ 999 (~ $ 1,375) for a universal Eco Power kit to £ 1,500 ($ 2,065 for the Brompton Pro), although Swytch is promotional prices for the next production runs at one offers considerable price discount. For more information on either kit, or to order one for yourself, visit the Swytch website.
Technical data of the Swytch e-bike kit
- Range: Up to 50 kilometers
- engine: 250W brushless DC gear front hub motor
- Versions: Eco Power Pack and Pro Power Pack
- battery: Eco: 180Wh built with 2500mAh cells, Pro: 250Wh built with 3500mAh cells
- Battery life: 800 cycles (Eco) / 1,000 cycles (Pro)
- Range: Eco: 35km at 125W Pro: 50km at 125W
- Drive type: Frictionless gear motor of the front hub
- Width of the fork end: 100mm (suitable for standard bicycle forks)
- Top speed: 25km / h. Can be dethreaded at 28km / h (Eco) and 32km / h (Pro) for off-road use
- Torque: 40 Nm
- Brake compatibility: Rim and disc brakes (screws included for mounting the rotor disc)
- Gear compatibility: All gaits, including chain and hub gears
- Extra weight: 2kg power pack and 1.5kg motor
- Spokes: Silver or black 36x12g spokes
- edge: Silver or black double-walled from PowerRim
- Dimensions: 120x70x190mm
- light: Pro includes an integrated 200 lumen front light. Eco does not contain any light