What with the recession, a growing environmental awareness, and rapidly rising gasoline prices, more and more people are developing a growing interest in the electric bicycle. The electric bike has long been a transportation staple in Asia and Europe and is just now making its way to the shores of the New World. Electric bikes can be purchased new from a store or you can convert your existing bicycle to an electric hybrid with a conversion kit. Conversion kits come in many different powers, sizes and prices but by and large, you can obtain a far better and far less expensive electric bike from a kit than you can by buying one prebuilt. These kits are easy to install and require only a few common tools and minimal skills. However, if you need to hire an electrician to change a light bulb, they are not for you.
For this article, I am using a 350 watt 36 volt front wheel kit as they are far easier to deal with then a rear drive kit. Some features that I am describing in the installation may not be included in your kit, such as a horn button or headlight, but most of what is here will apply to any conversion kit.
The very first thing you will need to install your electric bike kit is patience. Don’t get in a rush. Take your time and do it right. Many websites claim that a conversion kit can be installed in about an hour. This may be true if everything fits absolutely perfectly, you have everything you need and you have done this before. However, to make this a neat, professional looking job without making any mistakes, it will most probably take you most of an afternoon.
Step 1. Loosen the brake cables where they fasten at the calipers. Turn your bike upside down so that it rests on its handle bars and remove the entire front wheel. Replace the front wheel with the one from the kit. Make sure that the side of the wheel that has the wires protruding from it will be on the left side of the bike once it is turned right side up.
If the axle does not completely fit into the slots of the “dropouts” you may have to file the slots a little wider. Use a mill file and file on the back side of the fork. Keep the filing flat and even and do both sides of the fork.
On the axle there are several washers. Slide the number necessary to completely fill any space between the fork and the hub motor. You must use at least one washer on each side of the motor if the sides of the motor housing rub against the fork. You may have to apply a little muscle to this depending on the size of your fork. Left over washers can remain on the outside of the fork. Tighten the nuts very tight! If you do not do this, the motor may pull out of the front fork and damage the thin wires to the motor. If the front wheel does not freely spin once these nuts are tightened, then make adjustments to the spacing of the wheel in the fork with the extra washers.
Step 2. Now turn the bike right side up and attach the battery rack. This may require just a tad of trial and error with the spacing to make it fit correctly. Attach the battery mounting plate (this is packed attached to the battery) to the rack.
Step 3. Remove the old grips from your handle bars. These may be very tight and require the use of pliers to twist them off or you can use a sharp blade to cut them off. After removing the grips, remove the original brake levers. To do this, squeeze the brake levers and this will expose the ball at the end of the cable in the brake handle. Pull this out through the slot on the top of the handle and slide the lever assembly off of the handle bar. Depending on your bike you may first have to remove one or more of the shift levers.
Step 4. Mount he headlight in the center of the handlebars. Slide the horn button onto the left side of the handlebars and locate near the light. Slide the new brake levers onto the handlebars and replace the cables exactly the way they were on the original levers. Slide the throttle handle on which ever side you prefer and the plain grip on the opposite end. This may all be very tight and a tiny bit of lubrication may be used to assist in locating these components. Do not tighten down any of the clamps and set screws until you have everything positioned to your satisfaction.
Step 5. Manually squeeze the brake calipers almost closed and pull the brake cable tight through the lock down nut. Tighten the nut. check the brakes to make sure that they close tightly but do not rub on the rims. Adjust as necessary.
Step 6. Securely attach the controller box to the frame of the bike. As you can see in the picture above, I chose to attach the controller to the underside of the battery rack. Make sure that where you choose to mount the controller, the wiring from the handlebars will be able to reach it. Connect the wiring harness as shown by the wiring diagram. The connectors only fit one way, don’t force them. Take your time and compare the colors of the wires to the diagram if necessary as well as make sure that everything fits snug. Finally, slide the battery into the rack and connect the battery. Fasten down the wiring with the wire ties so that it is neat and will not snag. Leave sufficient slack in the cable to the motor so that you can turn the handlebars without stressing the cable.
Step 7. Turn on the key and make sure that the battery meter lights up. if it does not, turn off the key and recheck your connections. Now lift the front wheel off the ground and twist the throttle a little to see if the wheel turns. If it doesn’t, turn off the key and recheck your connections. Your electric bike conversion kit is now complete.