Governments and environmental enthusiasts encourage people more and more to adopt cycling as their main mode of transport. Countless businesses across the world also have schemes in place to incentivise employees to cycle to work which is a double edge sword in improving health and reducing congestion on the roads.
However, if the prices of some electric bicycles are deterring you from committing to cycling then we have a solution for you. Rather than fork out thousands of dollars for an electric bicycle, use your free time one weekend to build your own DIY electric bike and save over $2,000 in the process. Read on to find out how you can build your own.
Bicycles are a great mode of transport, but sometimes the effort of cycling can alienate some people hence the reason I have chosen to focus on electric bikes. Certain journeys may have hills or difficult routes so the extra power increase the advantages of using a bike, but the dilemma is how does one get a fast enough electric bike without spending thousands of dollars?
If speed is one of your main goals the best type of bike to customise is a mountain bike due to their suspension. High speed cycling bikes may seem like the natural option, but if you want to hit 65 KM/H speeds then narrow wheels, zero suspension and thin frame can make for a rough ride.
A heavy duty, light weight and low cost mountain bike is ideal and with the additional power you are about to add, it’s a rare perfect combination in the electric bike market.
- Focus Thron Impulse 27R 2.0 - $5,999
- Cube Reaction Hybrid HPA Pro - $3,889
- Focus Thron Impulse 27R 3.0 - $4,999
On the other hand buying a mountain bike is considerably cheaper. Good quality mountain bikes can be bought from roughly $500 upwards. The dual suspension bikes do cost more, however there are always plenty of money saving options such as buying second hand online too.
The intended e-bike that we are recommending you to build today has a mid-drive mounted motor. This means that the motor is mounted at the crank, making the bike great for climbing and having centralised weight distribution.
Choosing a bike with full suspension helps maintain control at higher speeds and ideally with a frame that allows you to mount the motor where a water bottle might normally be stored is also ideal.
The Power Components
There are plenty of motors and kits out there to customise your bicycle into an e-bike, but here is one of the more powerful options recommended for customising a mountain bike.
Motor – 750 watt Bafang unit capable of 50 KM/H speeds.
Battery – bigger the better, so ideally 52 volts, 13.5 amps with Panasonic 18650 cells (same as Tesla use).
Charger – Lithium-ion batteries work better over time when they are not charged up to 100% so investing into a charger that charges the battery to 85% - 90% can prolong the life considerably.
All of the items above can be bought in a kit online, but many other variants exist too. If you want this particular kit, here are a few websites you can purchases from:
Following a few videos online showed that these types of kits can easily be installed by even a novice in under two hours. The most difficult part from my experience looked to be the soldering of a couple of wires. However, if you want a basic overview of the steps, read below:
- Remove bottom bracket (requires special tools).
- Install mid-drive motor unit.
- Install battery pack mount and battery.
- Install electronics including speed sensor onto the back wheel.
- Connect all electronics together.
Optional: Those of you who want to go through the finite details may also be interested in re-calibrating the rear shock on your dual suspension bikes to accommodate the extra weight.
If you are not yet convinced this is the right move for you, then consider the cold hard numbers instead. A good quality electric mountain bike from the shops or online will cost a minimum of $4,000 and the bike / suspension won’t be as good compared to a good quality mountain bike. To build your own bike with a good quality second hand dual suspension bicycle costing $700, plus a kit for $1,250 and the total cost is under $2,000. That effectively means your two hours of work installing the kit will save you $2,000 or $1,000 per hour, which isn’t so bad.