Adventures in converting my bicycle into an e-bike
This past couple of weeks I have been converting my bicycle into an e-bike using a conversion kit. This afternoon I rode my e-bike for the first time. Installing this kit was a much bigger challenge than I at first expected, so I wanted to write down my experiences.
I ordered the conversion kit from Cyclotricity on 25 February and it arrived earlier than expected, only two days later. Unfortunately there were no instruction manuals or tools included with the kit, but I found the installation instructions online.
The first issue appeared when I tried to fit the new wheel with the motor onto my bicycle. I pre-measured the clearance between the forks (100 mm) and the dropouts (10 mm), so I was a bit surprised when the wheel got stuck when I started to tighten the nuts. I called Cyclotricity and they were very helpful in explaining that I would need to use washers as spacers to keep the fork in place. There were only three washers supplied in addition to the special torque washers, so I needed to find a store that sells washers in the right size. It was only at the third store that I went to that I finally found suitable washers, as the washers were not of a standard sizing. This part would be so much easier if they just included a couple of extra washers with the kit.
Installing the throttle, brake levers and LED dashboard was pretty easy. I just needed to determine how I wanted to mount all the controls on the handlebar, so that everything would be easy to reach.
The next step was installing the Pedal Assist System (PAS). This required two trips to the bicycle store for special equipment: a crank removal tool and a bottom bracket removal tool. They were not cheap either (at around £9 each) and I also needed to buy bicycle grease to put the bottom bracket back. I also had to go to the hardware store again as the bottom bracket removal tool required a massive spanner of 1.5 inches. I can understand that Cyclotricity can't include these tools with the kit, as it depends on the type of bicycle you have, but maybe they can make it a bit clearer on their website before purchasing a PAS.
The next issue was that the PAS sensor didn't fit because I have a bike chain guard installed. I took to the bike chain guard bracket with a hammer, bending it to make space for the PAS sensor. When I finally got the PAS sensor installed, I realised that the instruction manual was unclear on which way the sensor should go, as the photos in the manual did not match what was in the kit.
Next I tried to fit the pannier rack on the bicycle. The pannier rack was extremely difficult to fit to the bicycle properly. Once again the photos in the manual did not match the components in the kit. I ended up having to re-fit the pannier rack to the bicycle about a dozen times, scratching the mudguard and side of the bicycle in various places. It's not as if we live next to the coast where things rust easily. 🙄
The final issue was when I attempted to open up the controller box housing on the pannier rack, and discovered that one of the screws had completely seized up. I ended up completely stripping the screw trying to get it out, and had to buy a hardened drill bit to try and drill out the screw. In the process the drill bit and a small piece of the controller housing broke off, but at least I could now fit the controller into the housing.
Finally it was time to plug in all the cables, secure them with cable ties (which also were not provided with the kit) and check if it worked. I first had to calibrate the LED dashboard and learn how it works, and then for the first big test: Pushing the throttle and hoping that the wheel turns. It did!
I took my converted e-bike for its maiden ride. While I still need to properly secure some parts that were rattling, it managed to assist me up a very steep hill – exactly what I was looking for. One downside was that the PAS sensor doesn't seem to work, so I may just need to take the pedal arms off again to see why. Until I get it working I can at least use the throttle to make it work.
Will I do it again? Now that I know what is involved and have all the required tools, I'm feeling pretty confident that I can also convert my wife's bicycle into an e-bike. I also now know where to source the additional parts from. I hope that Cyclotricity is willing to take on some advice on how to make their e-bike conversion kits just a little bit easier to use.