Buying a commercially available retail electric bicycle is a great way to get going quickly and enjoy the immediate gratification of getting around on an ebike. However, converting your own bicycle into an ebike comes with many advantages over buying a retail ebike. Some of the best reasons to go with a do it yourself ebike include:
- saving money
- more opportunity for customization
- better quality parts
- using your own bicycle
- getting the pride of commuting on your own sweat and labor!
Save money with a do it yourself ebike
So how can building a do it yourself ebike from an electric bicycle kit save you money over a retail ebike? When you buy retail, you aren’t just paying for the ebike, you’re actually covering all of the research, development, design, fabrication, assembly, marketing, shipping, storage, markup and overhead that goes into getting that retail ebike out of the store.
When you decide to convert your own standard bicycle into an electric bicycle, you cut out all of that extra stuff and just pay for the ebike parts themselves. That’s why you can actually get the same parts used on a $2,000 electric bicycle for a quarter of the price.
Electric bicycle conversion kits and individual ebike parts are available all over the internet, mostly coming from Chinese suppliers, though sometimes resold by American companies, such as Electric Rider and Clean Republic, which offer better service than trying to deal with most Chinese suppliers. You can even get electric bicycle conversion kits on Amazon, delivered quickly right to your door!
By choosing exactly the parts you want and not paying for extra accessories or specs of a retail ebike that you don’t need, you can save even more money. Usually a complete electric bicycle conversion kit is the best way to go if you want a great deal, but sometimes you can actually find a better price by shopping around and buying parts from different suppliers.
I also highly recommend checking out the “for sale” sections of the ebike forum Endless Sphere for some great deals. People are always selling both brand new and used ebike parts. Sometimes you can pick up a battery with just a few charge cycles on it for half of what it costs new. I’ve built whole ebikes from parts acquired through Endless Sphere. There’s also a great post on recommended vendors. Electric bicycle conversion kits are really easy to install on a bicycle too. They’re specifically designed for absolute beginners so that pretty much anyone can convert a bicycle into an electric bike.
Gain control when building your own ebike
When you choose your own parts, you have total control over the performance of your ebike. This applies more to choosing parts individually, but even buying a complete electric bicycle conversion kit is a great way to go. There are so many different kits out there that it is definitely possible to find something for everyone, with speeds from as low as 12 mph (20 km/hr) up to 35 mph (56 km/hr) or even faster.
The kit you choose will largely depend on your own desires. Are you looking for an around the town grocery-getter or a hot rod that can beat cars at traffic lights? Both options are entirely possible with different ebike conversion kits available all over the internet. Planning out your build with the right parts for you and then choosing the best vendors is something I cover extensively with many chapters in my book.
A do it yourself ebike means a better bicycle
Another great reason to do your own electric bicycle conversion is that you can start with a much better quality bicycle than standard retail ebikes. A dirty secret of the industry is that many ebike manufacturers skimp on the quality of the actual bicycle, including the frame and components like brakes and shifters, so that they can try to bring the price down enough to draw in consumers. By converting a bicycle yourself, you’re already saving a bunch of money, so why not put some of that back into a better quality bike?
There’s a good chance you’ve already got a great bike just gathering dust in your garage or basement, why not convert your bike into an ebike? Or you can get a bike that you really like from a local bike shop and start the conversion on your new bike. This way you can be sure that you are using a bike you already know and love, instead of settling for whatever frame and components the ebike manufacturer chooses for cost reasons.
Be proud of building your own electric bicycle!
The last and perhaps best reason for converting your own bicycle to electric drive is simply the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel. I get a great feeling every day when I commute on my ebike, knowing that I’m doing a good thing for the environment by foregoing a car (I haven’t owned one in 6 years since I built my first ebike) and that I’m also commuting on something I built with my own two hands. It’s not that difficult to convert a bicycle into an electric bicycle, but the sense of accomplishment you feel will last as long as the ebike, and perhaps longer!
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