How to convert an old bike into an e-bike

We all know cycling is a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around. But no one can deny its hard work too. A quick spin into town can turn into a long and sweaty slog, but you can avoid all the problematic peddling by simply using an e-bike.

Undeniably the latest tech trend is in e-vehicles. Cars, bikes, scooters, skateboards, unicycles, segways… However, if you have an old bike at home, don’t rush to go and buy a new one. You can easily convert your old faithful friend into an e-bike.

And yes, you can do it completely by yourself. There are plenty of kits on the market to choose from, and you will soon be trundling along at 40mph or more. But be careful, many cities have speed restrictions. Don’t go breaking the law!

What you will need to build an e-bike

A decent frame

The higher the quality, the better the chance you have of pulling this off. Electric motors are extremely powerful, and the torque can literally break your front forks. If your bike isn’t full suspension or is a cheaper model, then a mid-range or rear-wheel drive conversion will probably be better. A more affordable and less complicated option is a front hub conversion, but you may want to upgrade your forks to compensate for the extra torque first.

An e-bike conversion kit

They come in plenty of designs, configurations, and capabilities. They normally consist of:

  • A 48V 1000W motor. The three different types of motor are – front hub, direct drive hub, and mid-drive hub.
  • A front or rear wheel
  • A 48V motor controller
  • Hand brakes
  • A thumb throttle
  • Handle grips
  • Batteries
  • Controllers and cables

Choosing the correct motor for your conversion is probably the most difficult choice you will have to make. The design of your bike will often dictate to you which configuration you have to use. Some conversions aren’t compatible with the thousands of bike designs out there. Typically a front hub conversion is the most versatile choice because it doesn’t really interfere with the design of the bike.

Image source: Amazon

For more details on your options read on.

Front hub motor

  • They are the most common motors found on e-bikes at the moment. They are cheaper and are easier to convert.
  • They have significantly less power than the other motors on this list.
  • They are smaller and lighter than direct-drive hub motors. 
  • They have a one way bearing inside them, so the motor doesn’t offer resistance when the rider stops pedaling. That means you can coast further just as in traditional cycling. 
  • They have a throttle and offer pedal free riding.
  • Use this option if you are intending to go free-wheeling around the city.

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Direct drive or rear hub motor

  • This type of motor is fitted to the rear wheels and is used when higher power output is necessary. They are manufactured to provide higher torque because of the positioning and weight of the rider. 
  • This type of motor offers faster speeds. 
  • They usually come with a throttle so you can ride pedal free.
  • It uses the internal gearing to slow down the bike, which has the additional benefit of having regenerative braking, which recharges the battery slightly for more extended usage.
  • The motor is more complicated, so there are more potential problems when fitting a conversion kit.
  • This option is good for bikes that have heavy full-suspension front forks as it evens the weight distribution. 
  • It feels more natural when riding as the motor is pushing you along from behind. 
  • They are often quite complicated to fit and set-up correctly.
  • If you intend to use this bike for cruising at speed then this is the option for you.

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Mid-drive motor

  • The placement of the motor and battery on the frame provides good weight distribution.
  • This motor provides power through the crank and the entire drive train. So you will see more wear on your chain and gears with this option.
  • The benefit of this motor is that you can still use your gears. 
  • This motor doesn’t interfere with wheel choice, so you can choose whichever wheels you want. This is particularly important for mountain bikers who like to choose wheels depending on the terrain. 
  • With this option, very few conversions offer pedal free options so you will almost always have to pedal.
  • If you want to use this bike off-road and on trails, then use this option it feels more natural.

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It must be said that using a front mount conversion kit is much easier if this is your first e-bike conversion. Using the simpler option will help you avoid issues with the crank and rear wheels. Additionally, if you find yourself changing out tires quite often, then a rear hub conversion can be particularly annoying.


Usually 48v lithium-ion, it mounts on the frame through the water carrier bolts.

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Upgraded breaks are needed. You won’t be breaking through a caliper onto the wheel like a normal bike. An electrical signal will be sent from the lever to tell the motor to lower its output and the internal gearing of the motor will slow you down. 

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They can come in the form of a twist-grip or thumb control. It enables you to control the power output of the motor to change your speed.

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Front-wheel and hub motor

The motor will come attached to the wheel. Motors can be brushless or brushed. For more information on the differences between the two motor types, please visit Rozum Robotics LLC 

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Motor control unit

The battery provides DC power, and the motor runs on AC. Motors are designed that way for speed modulation. When you are riding a bike it’s obviously crucial that you can change the speed. To do this, you need some control circuitry to convert DC to AC.

The electrical system will need no wiring you do not need to be an electrical engineer. They are all plug and play and are labeled to avoid confusion.

Image source: Amazon

An e-bike for half the price

E-bike conversions can be quick and easy and you could have yours up and running in a matter of hours. Undoubtedly it may not look like a top-spec mountain bike that has been designed around the entire system, but these types of bikes command high prices.

If you are on a tighter budget and are willing to put in the work you could have a similar bike in performance terms at least, for half the price.

For a video on how to convert your old bike into an e-bike in 30 minutes check out this Youtube video


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