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Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit new generation review

14 Apr 2021

Page 1 of 2Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit new generation review

Verdict:

A clever way of converting your existing bike to an e-bike that will help up any hills you might point it at

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Excellent alternative to buying a whole new bike • Great customer service and expert help available on video chat • Convenient battery size and weight
Against 
Fiddly set-up • Battery size is a plus but does mean the charge can run out more quickly than it might

Despite the technology being a number of years old now, e-bikes have really taken off over the last couple of years – boosted even further by those looking to avoid public transport during the pandemic.

Buying a new bike, whether electrically assisted or not, can be a large outlay and so a common approach for cyclists is periodic upgrades. Think new wheels on a road bike, or more aero kit once you’ve got a bit fitter.

It’s in that vein that the Swytch e-bike conversion kit finds its niche: rather than investing in a whole new e-bike, the Swytch systems allows riders to change out – swytch – to a new front wheel containing the bike’s motor, which is connected to a battery pack mounted to the handlebars.

The bike can be back to its original, unassisted self within a few snips of the cable ties holding the connecting cables and a WorldTour-speed front wheel change – if such a reversion is ever wanted or needed.

 

Set up

By my own admission, I am far from the most accomplished home bike mechanic. I’m fine with the basics but present me with a brake calliper that needs bleeding or a Di2 mech not doing what it should, and pre-pandemic I would have deferred to my colleague Stu quicker than Kasper Asgreen getting in a race winning move.

However, for obvious reasons Stu and I haven’t been in the Cyclist office workshop for over a year – in his case, probably one small relief in an otherwise unfavourable global situation. As such, I was left to set up the Swytch e-bike conversion kit myself. It took a while but I got there eventually, which makes me relatively confident that this will be within most people’s capabilities.

What’s more, Liam from the team at Swytch joined me on a Whatsapp video call to check over my handiwork and ensure everything looked like it should be. Thankfully, I’d managed it. I thought this was a special favour as I was reviewing the system, but I later read that this is a service that Swtych offers to all customers – which gets a huge tick from me.

However, before getting Liam’s approval over a Mark Zuckerberg-owned messaging service, the setup did get slightly fiddly and almost frustrating at times.

Buy the Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit now

This chiefly had to do with the bracket that holds the battery on the handlebar. There’s a strap that goes underneath the stem that is intended to stop the bracket from moving up and down when the battery is added or removed.

Finding the correct length of the strap involved a bit of trial and error. However, even when finding the nearest notch, the bracket is still inclined to move slightly when the battery is removed – although not enough to fully hinder the removal of the battery, which is essential when leaving the bike unattended or when recharging.

The most difficult part of all was the application of the magnetic sensor on the non-driveside crank arm, which indicates to the battery and motor that it’s being engaged and how much assistance it should supply.

Cable ties and much relocating of parts later and everything was lined up and working as it should.

 

Handling

With the extra weight of the conversion kit all at the front end in the shape of the hub motor and handlebar-mounted battery pack, there is a noticeable change to the way the bike handles. This isn’t a problem per se, but is something riders should be aware of when starting out with a newly ‘Swytched’ bike.

Depending on the bike’s cabling situation, the handling change can come in two forms. The first, as mentioned, is as a result of the kit’s weight – which isn’t overly bulky but does have some weight to it at 2.06kg. It means that the rider will need to put a bit more arm power into getting the bike round corners but it’s easy to get used to.

Related but slightly different, the battery pack weight speeds up the centrifugal force of the handlebar turn meaning that if the rider attempts to change direction too sharply it can cause a certain level of jack-knifing, sending the front wheel away from the turning axis and into a locked position. You’ll only let it happen once and it shouldn’t cause too much bother, but will give a slight jolt of surprise.

 

Battery life

The assistance comes in five strengths – as shown by a light-up display on the top of the battery, where you can also check the remaining charge – also shown in five lights of 20% each.

The battery life is, as to be expected, highly variable. That is to say, ride everywhere on power level one up and down the Belgian coast and you might forget where you left the charging cable, so long will it be between you needing to use it. Whereas a power pack whacked up to five for speedy ascents around hillier terrain and you may be plugging it in between every ride.

Buy the Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit now

Each rider will be different, and may even differ compared to themselves from one day to the next, but most – probably all – people will be able to get to and from their place of work (when that’s no longer their own home) without breaking a sweat thanks to adequate assistance while not having to ride the last few kilometres with a bricked battery.

Worth the wait?

Swytch’s purchasing model differs from most. With the company tending not to hold much stock, customers are instead able to pre-order kits within set windows. Once the window closes, the firm aims to have kits delivered to customers within five to 10 weeks (with the unavoidable 'customisation window' of one to three weeks you may be looking at six to 13 in total).

However, on the plus side, this delayed gratification model means that you’ll be able to get in at a much cheaper price as the firm will already know how many units it needs before starting production. Having already delivered around 20,000 kits, Swytch seems to have the system fairly well worked out.

In theory, you get 40% off the retail price. Of course, as most customers are getting them at that price you can choose to view it rather as just a very cheap deal. Either way, the kits represent excellent value assuming you’re prepared to keep taking on hills under your own steam for a good while after purchasing.

Pricing

Further to the above, according to the brand its pricing structure works as follows:

Retail price

Full RRP pricing for Swytch's products starts at £999 (including VAT), and can be found on the web store and eBay store.

Pre-orders

Periodically, Swytch allows customers who have registered interest to order with approximately 50% discount on RRP with payment up front and an average three month delivery time.

Pre-order windows are usually every two months in line with the manufacturing batch production runs and for every additional pre-order received Swytch adds one unit to the latest manufacturing run. This way the brand says it is able to offer the distribution pricing to individuals by grouping multiple customer orders together and delivering on a made-to-order basis.

The pre-order pricing, Swytch says, is subject to change between each pre-order sale launch based on currency rate changes, cost increases and shipping cost charges. The final pricing is announced at launch time to all waitlist subscribers at the same time.

Summary

The Swytch e-bike conversion kit is an excellent way of getting some assistance into your bike without investing – in terms of both cost and storage space – in a whole new bike. Retain your original front wheel and you can return the bike to its original non-assisted state; perhaps an e-bike for commuting and pedal-only power on weekends.

Although the effort of doing this might not be worth the bother when the hub motor only adds around 2.06kg to the bike’s weight and the battery can be left at home if you are determined to ride without it from time to time.

While the assistance doesn’t feel quite as smooth as a bike with a bottom bracket located system, such as Shimano Steps, it’s plenty close enough in performance for the rest of the package – that is most of the bike still being your original – to more than outweigh this element and make the Swytch system a viable option for anyone looking to get a bike of help on the hills.

Buy the Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit now

Page 1 of 2Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit new generation review

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