Is a self-installed electric bike kit for you ?

By Mike

As the owner of an electric bike store, I frequently receive questions from folks wanting to buy an electric bike kit that they can install themselves. We do install electric bike kits here, primarily on Schwinn Tricycles, and we will evaluate your bike and provide a quotation for an electric kit to be installed by us.

Its been my experience, as both a degree'd mechanical engineer, and someone who has worked with electronics for a number of years, unless you are fairly mechanically and electrically inclined, and understand the potential risks involved, it would be my genuine recommendation that you leave the installation up to a electric bicycle shop that has the tools, and is willing to warranty the work required to install an e-bike kit.

Here are just a few of the items that can be challenging for you to handle, and end up costing you a lot more in time spent, and even money, than a qualified electric bike shop would charge to install and warranty the work:

1) When ordering the kit, do you know if the throttle supplied, brake cables, power loom, pedal assist sensor, and LCD cable all have the right length of cable for your design of bike ? This can be a tough one, and while the kit may seem to have everything you need, quite often it is hard to translate the needed lengths for your own bike, into what lengths of cables you will need from the kit. Suppliers seldom publish the lengths, and even then you have to call and ask questions, as kit materials change all the time, and they don't usually update their web-sites. You'll have to know EXACTLY where everything will mount, otherwise the individual extra charges for special length cables being bought after the kit is received, can defeat the purpose of buying a kit you felt was going to save you money.

2) How do you know what amount of wattage the motor should have for your bike, and where you will mount the motor - front or back ? Depending upon the style of bike, and whether you lean forward or have an upright posture, or depending where you plan to ride it, how much you weigh, how often you ride, and the depth and diameter of your tires, can greatly affect the size and appropriate location of motor, not withstanding what you have for gears and a derailleur. I can assure you, one size does not fit all, and over-sizing a motor (i.e. 750 watts to 1000 watts) can be more dangerous than doing the kit yourself. Also above 750 watts is not street legal per federal law.

3) What will you do, if for example, the battery read out, or speed (mph/hr) is not showing once you've installed the kit ? There are at least 5 different things that will need to be checked or go wrong that can cause that to happen, and unless you have the right tools and a background in trouble-shooting electronics, you could be talking hours or days spent trying to determine the problem. Worse, your supplier won't know either, bc they don't know how you installed the kit, and you could be ordering part after part before you resolve the issue. Most local suppliers do not stock the individual parts, because this market is still emerging and their isn't enough business to justify the cost of that extra and infrequent request for parts. I'd estimate that between 10% and 15% of the parts I receive in these kits don't work, and I have to order replacements.

4) Battery capacity, and controller sizing. This area is one of the most problematic challenges of buying a kit, in that Li-ION batteries are very expensive, and there needs to be a very good match between the controller type, amp draw, motor size, and battery rating, that most suppliers over-look, and you'll end up with a non-functioning system months after the warranty has expired, if these parameters are not correctly established for the kit you are choosing.

5) Battery shipping and mark up. Li-Ion Batteries are illegal to ship unless appropriately packaged and insured, and labeled, which means they are very costly to deliver in a kit, unless the supplier is not following the law. The cost of these batteries is already expensive, and when you add in shipping and insurance, it can increase the package cost by 25% to 50%. (when done legally). When not done legally, you will be potentially at risk of not receiving your package, or worse receive something that might later reflect hidden shipping damage, and risk a fire.

6) No regular bike shop, nor any reputable electric bike shop, is likely going to want to touch your self-assembled kit if you run into problems, so you will be pretty much on your own, and should probably set aside another 50% of what you pay for an on-line kit, for contingencies that are unanticipated.

7) Budget : Plan to spend at least $800 to $1000 for a well built, and quality kit that contains hub motor, Li-Ion battery, throttle, motor cut outs, mounting materials, LCD, controller, pedal assist components, and all water proof wiring. If it's any less than that, you will receive inferior battery, lower quality motor, and electronics that are likely to not last longer than 1 season. While price doesn't guarantee quality, I've been in this industry, built enough kits for bikes, and sold better quality factory built e-bikes, to recognize that quality can't be had for any less than the above price range mentioned.

Maybe the above will help you determine if a self-installed, DIY e-bike kit is for you.



Mike's E-Bikes








  Note: Please call ahead of time, for an appointment during listed hours. e-Bikes are in stock and available to test ride.     

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 12:00 PM - 4:30 PM


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Mike's E-Bikes

877 Buttonwood Circle,

Naperville, IL 60540

Phone. 331-213-5910