There are some significant advantages to an affordable kit like this.
Electric bikes are transformational. Just last night I was riding home on mine from a lecture downtown, a slight uphill all the way ending in a not so slight uphill, thinking that I never used to do this on my regular bike. The last evening lecture I attended, I took the subway there and an Uber home. But the whole time I was listening to architect James Timberlake at Ryerson University, I worried about my expensive bike, even with its three heavy duty Abus locks.That’s why I am so intrigued by the Swytch e-bike conversion kit, up on Indiegogo. It’s the latest version of a unit that sold 3,000 copies in 45 countries. And it is not heavy and expensive; it starts at US $399 (for a limited time, as is often the case on crowdfunding) and weighs three kilograms.
It’s actually very clever; you get a front wheel (they claim any size) with a 250 watt, 40 Nm motor, a bracket that fits on your handlebar, and a sensor for your pedals that are all permanently attached to your bike, and then a little all-in-one battery pack (19 x 12 x 7cm) that clips on to the handlebar bracket.
The Swytch power pack is equipped with a 250W lithium-ion cell battery connected to a sine wave brushless motor controller. It will last you up to 50Km on one charge, and charges in just 3 hours.
The cadence pedal sensor sends a signal to the controller, which then supplies power to the motor, giving you a smooth assist.
I have not been a fan of front hub drives; the Swytch people don’t know the quality and strength of your drop outs and this is adding new stress. It can affect how the steering feels. And, if anything goes wrong and the motor seizes up, it can be very dangerous. On the other hand, I have been advised that the added stress from a 250 watt motor isn’t that great, so the risk of the fork failing or the steering being compromised is negligible. There are real advantages: it is by far the simplest and easiest drive system to install and maintain, and the cheapest to build. If you have a bike already, it lets you upgrade and reuse it.
Then there is another advantage I really like: the instantly removable battery pack goes with you instead of staying with the bike, so it is not going to be a highly visible or attractive target for thieves. If you live in a big city where bike thefts are common, this is no small matter. Being downtown at the University at night, I would have worried a lot less on an inconspicuous old bike with a Swytch than I did with my Gazelle.
Not everyone can afford a fancy new e-bike; not everyone wants to part with the bike they already have. Swytch has built what looks like a really affordable and easy-to-use kit that works on almost any bike, a real step forward in the e-bike revolution. More on Indiegogo.