The topic of motorized bicycles has come up on these pages before (here & here), and all along I’ve been wanting to do more than just talk about it. Last fall I took the plunge and committed cash toward that end, and bought myself a kit. And it’s finally ready!
What I bought is an electric Rear Wheel Conversion Kit from Golden Motor. It consists of a 36 volt, 500 watt brushless hub motor laced into a bike wheel, the motor controller and the hand controls. Aside from all that I also had to source a set of batteries, then figure out how best to attach it all to the bike.
As advertised, the kit should be fairly easy to install and set up — pull the original wheel off, pop on the wheel with the motor, then figure out how to hang all of the extra gear on the bike. But… as it was delivered, the wheel and hub required a bit of surgery to get everything to fit together properly. I learned afterward that the hub motor was originally designed for use on electric mopeds in China, and was later repurposed to be used for bikes. I won’t bore you with a lot of Make-like detail on all of the extra work and expense that went into getting it set up… Even after all that it still doesn’t fit the bike perfectly, but it does work.
Now that it’s all together — and the weather around here is finally shaping up — I’ve been able to venture out on it a number of times & make a few trips to work and back, and I have to say that the thing is a blast to ride. At speed, the motor is totally silent, so it’s like you’re riding a regular bike, except you move like you’re always on a downhill slope.
I usually find myself pedaling while I ride; it just seems weird to not pedal. And it’s rare that I take it out of high gear, as it takes very little effort to keep it going at about 20-25mph. Pedaling is somewhat optional, but how far you can go on a battery charge depends a lot on how much you help things along, and it also affects speed to a degree.
I use three 12V/7ah batteries for power, and I figure that’s good for about 5 miles or so on flat ground without pedaling. I live about 6 miles from work, so the more I help out the less chance I have to pedal the thing up the hill the last quarter mile on my own power. The motor is installed on an old ProFlex mountain bike with street tires. I haven’t weighed it with all the gear on it, but I’m guessing it probably tips the scale at about 70lbs or so. And at that weight pedaling up a hill with no assistance isn’t a lot of fun.
If I were to do it all over again, I’d do most things the same, but definitely wouldn’t buy a kit from Golden Motor. Their rear hub is still a work in progress, and the company is less than responsive to requests for help and complaints (like, not at all. And since they’re in China, what can you do?) When I bought my kit the cost for a front or rear hub was just under $300; now it’s more like $338 shipped, which is still considerably less than what other manufacturers sell. While my motor works fine and appears to be well designed & built, reports on Golden’s user forum make it apparent that quality problems are far too common, and the attitude that comes across from Golden is that they don’t give a rip. Spending a little more with another company would probably get a better product, and more importantly, better support.
All in all, I think the project is a success. The bike is fun to ride, the motor seems to be pretty durable and reliable (time will tell…), it still gives me a bit of aerobic exercise, and most importantly, I won’t be using a 3,000lb vehicle to haul my 230lb arse to work & back every day, finally getting the vehicle to driver weight ratio back where it ought to be.