I think it should be noted that EM3EV also sells Bafang BBS02 kits.
This list is a great idea!
demeyer1 wrote:I know there are a couple folks in my shoes on the forum who want to try a first time conversion kit out, but it seems daunting. Couple questions for the more experienced:
1. Which of these kits is the most turnkey (for <= $1100)?
2. Which bike, commonly available on Craigslist in most cities, would be easiest to convert?
demeyer1, I can't call myself an expert, but I can say I've done a ton of research on 1st-build kits. Here are my incomplete thoughts, FWIW:
I have a lot of respect for TeslaNV, but it's hard to believe he mentioned the BBS02 as an "easy" kit for beginners. I mean, it involves totally replacing your crank and bottom bracket. I didn't even know what a bottom bracket was when I got into this. I rode a bike as my sole transportation for several years in a different country, and the hardest repair I ever did was replace a hub due to a bad bearing. I don't even own the tools to take off a crank, and I barely know what a spanner wrench is. The vast majority of people would need a bike shop to put that kit on, and most people with some starter tools and dabbling at being handy IMO do not have the tools required to do that conversion. My dad, for instance, who is interested in ebikes, would just not be able to do it. I inherited a lack of handiness, not surprisingly, but I just have more stubbornness/determination, so my "will" can make up for a lack of "skill", thanks especially to the internet and forums like this one.
The absolute easiest thing is a hub motor on the front wheel, but please don't do it on the front wheel. Front wheel hubs are dangerous for multiple reasons. You don't want anything bad happening with your front wheel when riding (loss of traction due to power applied, forks weakening/breaking). Safety first. That said, the rear wheel hub motor kits are the easiest/most turnkey. I mean the ones which are already sold mounted on the wheel, with the gear and spokes and everything. Some kits even have a tire on them! You would be swapping out the rear wheel (loosening/tightening lug nuts), and affixing the cables, hopefully swapping in your safety e-brakes that cut off power when you brake, mounting your battery, and that's pretty much it I think.
The Ebay kits are the cheapest, but probably have the worst support. Can't speak from experience, but they are a USA-based importer of Chinese schlock--I mean goods. IOW, they don't just sell Ebike stuff--at all. They do move a lot of those kits though, so maybe they have a specialist for them. YesComUSA sells as Ebay seller Xcceries, so you get Ebay protection plus a slightly better deal. The most vocal supporter for them here is user WesNewell. Most of their kit motors have the copper wound fairly "fast" (lower torque, higher top speed on flats), which is ultimately what started to turn me off personally. I believe at least some are Golden Motor knock-offs. I think the "speed" of the winding is the biggest thing stark newbies do not realize when purchasing a kit, not realizing even most expensive kits won't get up all hills by themselves. The other one is how dangerous front hub motors are. Another is the need for torque arms in all front motors and many rear motors. For me, deciphering WesNewell's signature was the start of understanding the "recipe" these kits contain. Then looking at the Ebay listings for these kits (Xcceries), as Ebay tends to have decent product photos. WesNewell has replaced his controller though, and his battery is self-assembled and not super-simple. For me, the most complex thing about converting a regular bike with a regular kits was not that, but, it turned out, the battery itself. It can cost as much as everything else combined, and if you DIY it, it's another learning curve with potential danger (particularly with LiPo, which is what I did). Worth it for me b/c I get more power, lighter weight, at far less money. Just learn the ropes. Or go with a safer chemistry.
The forum elder who IMO is the most knowledgeable and prolific about ebikes here is dogman
, who, as I understand it, works for EbikeKit.com (I think the guy should own it!). This guy thinks ebikes all day long, then comes home and does ebikes at night on his computer helping US out for free. And probably has some real ebiking at least a couple times a day somewhere in there. I can't imagine getting a better support person from a seller. Their prices are naturally higher than Chinese outfits, and I just cannot figure out their website.
Complete hub kits will come with not just the motor, but a controller, throttle, safety e-brake thingies, and possibly a battery.
The real question is: how much of a learning curve are you willing to put up with to save x amount of money, and/or to achieve a certain performance with a certain price range, and/or do something unusual. Such as, do you not even want to replace the tire on a rear wheel kit (if so, look for a kit with a tire included). Second, what kind of support do you want or need from the seller. Third, what kind of terrain or riding style (including distance) will you be doing. Commuter (emphasis on reliability and efficiency) vs pleasure riding (emphasis on fun, or maybe just cheap) might be different, even for the same person. There are a lot of good kits out there, and ppl on this forum tend to support those who have better support, but there is a range within there. Such as, if you go with a Golden Motor, most here including myself would recommend you get it from GoldenMotor.ca (Canada) instead of GoldenMotor directly out of asia, b/c the .ca guy is serious about support and returns are easier too. There is a Golden Motor USA, but I haven't turned up much info on him. GoldenMotor is sparse with allowing dealerships.
This forum is made possible by eBikes.ca, which sells kits geared towards people who want high quality, and high quality support (people who don't want to cheap out, just want something good). I think it's fantastic that we're not restricted to mentioning outside vendors. I think he realizes that the more this forum flourishes, so do ebikes, and the more that happens, the better he is going to do either way (rising tide will raise all boats). Kind of like Tesla is not going to hoard their patents anymore. Justin is some kind of ebike genius or something. He makes his own non-kit products which he actually sells to other vendors. For instance, EM3EV sells his torque arms, which to me is quite an endorsement. His most famous product is Cycle Analyst, an extremely fancy watt meter/bike computer basically (but much more), commonly referred-to here cryptically as "CA". The geared motor version he sells is by Ezee which is higher quality than MAC and BMC (similar designs) and more efficient, but at a higher cost. EM3EV is based out of China, but run by a non-Chinese person (who I think has moved to China?). Both vendors offer highly customizable choices.
After my own research, I had narrowed it down to a MAC which is a geared hub (10T I'd imagine is the best balance of torque and speed for most people), Bafang BBS02 which is a mid-drive (doesn't fit on some bikes, more complex install), and some version of GoldenMotor Magic Pie which is a strong direct drive hub motor, in no particular order. YMMV. But you see my indecision here: the 3 I settled on represent the 3 fundamentally different types of eBike kits! With their own tradeoffs. Plenty of other good products. For me, torque was/is more important than just raw speed and then puking it on a steep hill. Check out WesNewell's 'Hills of Wylie' video #2 around 9 minutes in if you want to see what I mean (again, no disrepect Wes--quite the contrary)... that's a thousand-watt kit. I will quickly add that Wes has been very happy with his kit but also is now getting a more powerful motor after several years. So, now you've discovered ES--and you have naturally discovered indecision! But that's a problem you want to have, due to so many good products, and some good vendors.
Hope that helps. I know this is the kind of post I wish I would've come across when I started to research and got overwhelmed. Again cred to WesNewell's sig, as that is where it started to come together for me. Long, but I'm sure it'll save some newbies hours of research. The OP will do the same.
PS: As for your question #2, I didn't take a stab, b/c I'm not a bike expert. However steel frames are viewed more favorably due to their strength and the fact that steel usually bends when stressed, while aluminum usually breaks. And steel-framed bikes are usually cheapest, too. This is not a 'feature' many will usually be 'advertising' on CL, though. I draw distinction from high-end chrome-moly steel frames, of course. If you want to do a BBS02, you will need to get a bike with a compatible bottom bracket, and knowing what it is for a used bike on CL is not going to always be easy. Basically, fat bikes are out unless you get one of the new crop of custom-modded BBS02's which fit up to 100mm BB. Most people here, I think, start out with a cheap used or already-owned mountain bike.