Build Your Own E-Bike and Start Your Commute
Why not electrify the bike you already have? Technologies for motors and batteries have changed significantly in the past couple of years, and an add-on drive is a less complex affair, with much better results.
More people have turned to riding electric bikes these days now that they have become more useful with powerful Li-Ion batteries. The first consideration that comes to mind for most is what kind of e-bike to choose and at what cost? Some e bikes are touted as ‘The Best In The World’ – for tens of thousands of dollars. There are also e-bikes for a few hundred dollars at many big box stores, perhaps you wouldn’t know the difference. As an avid e-bike rider myself, I am familiar with their ownership and daily use, I will be completely frank here and tell you that ‘The Best E-Bike In The World’ is the one that you are riding now.
If you are currently riding a normal pedal bike that you like, but are tired of the pedaling or simply no longer have the stamina of your younger self to continue, an electric conversion may be the best solution. Converting your own bike to e-bike is actually the easiest thing to do: electrify it with one of many kits that you can buy on-line and install it yourself.
There are many different options to do this with, hub motors being the most common way, with more expensive mid-drive and friction drives also available. To my dismay, even the most powerful systems are not all that great due to the inevitable result of a heavy bike that is harder to control, harder to steer, and harder to stop, even with disc brakes that we Ricky Racers already know about.
In my case, I decided to use the lowest amount of power needed to get the extra help in pedaling, but without the high cost and none of the drawbacks of an overpowered and overweight e-bike. The leg power of a very strong athlete like Lance Armstrong (pre-doping) is about 300W max power for short burst and about 150W continuous power. The electric assist feels like riding a tandem with Armstrong (post-doping) behind you pedaling away like crazy.
The low power and super light (2lbs) motors are not available in hub form because hub motors are direct drive (the wheel speed is the same as the hub motor speed) so hub motors need to be big in diameter in order to produce the torque required. I found the small drives made for skateboard/scooter applications can power the wheel by friction on the bike tire. An electric motor is most efficient at its maximum rpms and this little motor can spin to 10,000rpm – compare that to the low 300rpm of a hub motor!
By attaching the motor under the rear bike frame and rubbing on the tire and adding the 4AH Li-ion battery and small controller, I soon had an e-bike that was absolutely and definitely the best I ever built. The whole thing added just 4.5 lbs to the bicycle, and I can carry it up and down the stairs with no hassle – something that would never happen with an 40lb hub motor e-bike. The best part is the low cost of this conversion – around $300. You will also have a very discreet e-bike. If you want to later change bikes you can easily remove this kit and bolt it up to a new bike in mere minutes.
Riding my e-bike is a very pleasant revelation when compared to the overpowered, overweight and overpriced e-bikes I had before. I can still maintain the legal maximum speed of 20mph on level ground in top gear with very light pedaling.
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