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Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit new generation review

14 Apr 2021
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

Swytch Universal eBike Conversion Kit review

A quick-fit kit that will electrify any bike and help you cycle to work

Joseph Delves – February 2019

Pros: Quick to convert and fun to use • Light and secure attachment system  
Cons: A little heavier than suggested • You’ll need to work to hit the listed maximum range  
Price: £549

The Swytch universal e-bike conversion kit will transform any old bike into a whizzy modern e-bike by swapping your stock front wheel for one with a motor and adding a battery pack to the handlebars. With low-key looks, the battery pack is both easily removable when locking the bike up – and won’t do much to alert anyone to the electrical assistance you’re receiving.

With the narrow hub motor listed as weighing just an additional 1.5kg, the original power pack should add another 2.5kg. Giving a total of weight of 4kg, one upside of this split system is that if you remove the battery for unpowered pedalling, you’ll be spared most of the system's mass.

 

With nine different assist modes, the standard £749 kit uses a 36-volt, 250-watt motor, and claims a range of up to 80km. Providing power assistance up to 24kmh – as allowed in the EU, or 32kmh which you can play around with on private roads – it also includes an easy to fit cadence sensor.

Available through a crowd shopping model, you can get the kit for around half price if you don’t mind waiting some months for its arrival. With the second generation now in production, the batteries powering these latest kits have shrunk dramatically.

However, the functionality remains largely similar to the version discussed below.

 

Chop-shop

Convert any bike to an electric bike? Challenge accepted. My 1977 Hercules Balmoral came via a skip in Millwall. A bit of a spruce up, and it’s proved the perfect bike for getting around town.

Buy an Electric Bike Conversion kit from Swytch Bike

Too ugly to get stolen, too heavy and slow to get me in trouble on the way home from the pub. But how would it deal with being electrified?

I took it down to the Swytch team to find out. Coming as a kit containing the motor pre-built into a wheel in your choice of diameter, the rest of the kit consists of a quick-release handlebar bracket which holds the battery and a simple cadence sensor.

In theory, all you need to fit it is a spanner and a 5mm Allen key. You swap in the wheel, bolt the bracket to the handlebar, snap the ring of magnets that make up the cadence sensor around the bottom bracket shell and secure it with a c-clip, mount the attendant sensor, and finally connect up all the wires.

While my elderly bike needed a bit of extra persuading, I believe Swytch’s mechanic when he said he can convert modern bikes in around five minutes.

 

Power is on

My Hercules now juiced up, I realised how many bikes there must be in sheds just waiting to be resurrected, Frankenstein-style, with a jolt of electrification.

Made into electric grocery getters, or weekday commuters, they could be a more environmentally friendly and less nickable alternative to an all-new e-bike. It’s a nice feeling to hop onto your old familiar bike, but suddenly find it’s gained a host of extra watts.

So how did the kit perform? The motor is silent and easily powerful enough for hauling both rider and panniers up steep hills. As standard, the assistance comes on quickly and provides a good push, however, I never found the bike running away from me.

Quiet in operation, overall the kit doesn’t add an excessive amount of weight, leaving handling acceptable, especially when used with wider tyres.

With Swych having upgraded the motor, the amount of resistance when used under your own steam has been reduced. It’s not quite frictionless, but it doesn’t make cycling without electrical assistance a chore.

This fact is boosted by the ease with which the battery removes too, allowing the converted bike to be ridden unpowered without too much extra effort.

Instantly unclipping, there’s no locking option on the pack itself. This is probably a wise move, as on my way to visit Swytch I found one of London’s new Lime electric rental bikes dismembered, dumped, and relieved of its valuable lithium-ion battery pack.

 

About the size of a large lunchbox and weighing a chunk over its advertised weight at 3.35kg, the battery pack remains easy enough to carry anyway. I often forgot it was in my backpack. Especially as it’s got its own handle.

Snazzily it comes with its own USB outlet allowing it to also charge devices from bike lights to smartphones.

Swytch is also working on an alternative smartphone-controlled micro battery that could fit in a handbag. For riders with a short commute, or featuring a particularly hated hill, it could be a legitimate #gamechanger.

 

Range and functions

In use, I found the stated range a little on the optimistic side. At least if you let the motor do most of the work. The uprated £749, 360wh battery is capable of achieving somewhere a little over 40km if you choose to just turn the pedals, with that doubling if you’re prepared to put a degree of effort in.

Either way, it’ll easily manage most commutes. Replenishing over the course of a couple of hours, the charger itself is silent, rather than emitting the high-pitched whine I’ve heard from many others, making it well suited to use in shared spaces like offices.

The system’s various modes are accessed and displayed via buttons and an LCD screen on top of the battery pack. Showing overall distance, trip distance, time, and power, along with current speed and battery level, there’s no range remaining option.

Although on the plus side it does have a backlight if you want to read it at night, along with an illuminated logo on the front to help add a little extra visibility.

Also pleasing is the system’s ability to allow keen home tinkerers to get into its back-end. This means you can adjust the maximum speed available for those private road excursions, tailor the assist levels, and tune how rapidly the power is applied upon turning the pedals.

Likely to please the same crowd is the support offered by Swytch in the form of extra adaptors and torque arms available for more complicated conversions.

One gripe though. I found the display sometimes provides an inaccurate speedo reading, tending to jump around above and below your actual pace. Luckily neither the assistance provided by the motor nor the overall distance calculated seems to be affected.

 

Read more about the system here: swytchbike.com

Conclusion

Although I went with a hybrid conversion, there’s no reason the kit wouldn’t work just as well on a racing bike. There’s also an option for the diminutive Brompton folder, while tabs on the hub mean the system will also fit disc brake-equipped bikes.

Not dirt cheap, compared to grubbing about on the internet for components of questionable provenance, but I reckon the Swytch kit’s pricing is good.

Buy an Electric Bike Conversion kit from Swytch Bike

Overall the Swytch system is versatile, its ease of installation is excellent, and the parts are of sound quality. Its performance solid, even if the weight and range are a little heavier and shorter than listed.

Regardless, it’ll suit most commutes, and if fitted to a racier bike will give the lift you need to make it up bigger hills or stick with your speedier compatriates. All considered it’s electrifying stuff.

Rating - 4/5

This review was updated after publication following a change to the products sold by the brand

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