I’ve had my Trek 830 bike for 30 years; My parents bought it for me when I was a kid so I could get home to school and back. While the paint has chipped in places and I’ve had to replace shifters and tires over the years, it has held up very well. After my daughter was born, I added a seat to the bike to give her new purpose. And, since I first used my bike to ride to school, why couldn’t I use it once again for that purpose – only this time it would be to get my daughter to school.
However, as she got older, it got harder to climb the hills around my town. Even taking her to school would be a challenge. But could an electric bike conversion kit breathe new life into my 30-year-old ride? I installed the Swytch ebike conversion kit on my trusty Trek to find out.
One of the benefits of buying a conversion kit is that they are less expensive than buying one of the best electric bikes, even one of the best cheap electric bikes. And, if you already have a traditional bike, there’s no point in going out and buying a completely new model. But how does a conversion kit like the Swytch compare to an electric bike? Read the rest of this Swytch review to find out.
Swytch eBike Conversion Kit Review: Price and Availability
The Swytch eBike conversion kit is only available through the Swytch website. The company offers two versions: one for traditional bikes and one for folding bikes like the Brompton.
As part of the ordering process, you will need to provide some information, such as the wheel size of your bike (16 to 28 inches), whether you have disc or rim brakes, what type of display you want, and the size of the battery you you want: Air (15 km 90 Wh) or the tablet Max (30 km 180 Wh). If you order, go with the bigger battery. I’ll explain why later in this review.
Due to limited inventory, Swytch has a convoluted ordering process. As of this writing, if you want the Max version by July/August, it will cost $879; if you don’t mind waiting until September/October, the price is $649.
Similarly, an Air model for a July/August delivery date costs $649, but drops to $499 if you wait until September/October. Regardless of the model, you also have to pay a down payment of $200 to $300, whichever you choose.
But that’s not all: After you submit your credit card information, you’re hit with other add-ons, some of which are necessary, like a display, which can also drive up the price. (I couldn’t find specific prices for these, as I was supposed to place an order for the bike.)
I also found three separate pages for ordering the Swytch; through this page (opens in a new tab)looks like you can order the Air kit right now for $1,500; this page Swytch (opens in a new tab) allows you to order the bike at a much lower price with longer delivery dates; AND this page Swytch (opens in a new tab) it simply lets you join a waitlist.
The three separate ordering pages, long wait times, and hidden fees would make me feel uneasy if I were a consumer.
Swytch eBike Conversion Kit Review: Setup
The Swytch kit came with a nice set of tools: a sturdy adjustable wrench, a pair of nail clippers, and a set of allen keys. Ironically, the latter didn’t have an Allen key small enough for a pair of screws from the Swytch kit. You’ll need to supply your own tools to remove the rubber from your bike’s wheel, but those are pretty cheap. This set of four bike tire levers cost $10 on Amazon (opens in a new tab)and any local bike shop should have plenty in stock.
Installing the entire kit took 30 to 45 minutes, although it could take a little longer if you’ve never worked on a bike before. First, you need to replace the front tire on your bike with the one included in the kit. You then have to install a sensor around the pedals, then place the battery pack and display on the bike. The battery pack mounts between the handlebars and takes up a lot of space; I had to move my bike light to a different spot.
Everything is fixed with screws or plastic ties, which are also included in the installation kit. With the exception of the front tire, everything is fairly non-invasive, so you can remove it easily.
Swytch eBike Conversion Kit Review: Performance
The Swytch has a modest 250W motor, but it was more than powerful enough to give me a good boost as I pedaled. It didn’t turn my 30-year-old Trek into a motorcycle, but it made getting up and down hills a lot easier. In the US, you’re limited to a top assisted speed of 20mph, which was plenty fast for me.
The motor kicks in after a couple of pedal cranks, so it’s not instantaneous like the torque sensor on some of the best electric bikes. Then again, this kit is under $1,000, so I’m willing to give it some leeway.
The small OLED display (showing speed, distance traveled, and battery life) was bright enough for most situations, but got washed out in direct sunlight. I haven’t watched it that often, however. Two buttons just below the display let me adjust the level of motor assistance; they were easy to press, but you should try to fit it as close to your thumb as possible.
While the basic kit only offers pedal assist, you can buy a thumb throttle for the Swytch if you want it to do all the work. However, this will drain its small battery even faster.
Swytch eBike Conversion Kit Review: Battery life and range
The only real problem I had with the Swytch was the size of its battery. The company advertises that the 180Wh Max battery has a maximum range of 30 kilometers, which is about 17 miles.
The drive from my home to my son’s school is approximately 3.6 miles, making two round trips approximately 14.4 miles. In my years of testing electric scooters and electric bikes, I found that manufacturer range estimates were very optimistic, and the Swytch was no different. His battery died while I was still a mile—and a big hill—from my house.
Hopefully Swytch will make a larger battery pack in the future, perhaps one that could attach to a rear bike rack.
The Swytch’s battery popped out of its handlebar-mounted position easily; the battery (9 x 3.9 x 1.4 inches) is about the size of a women’s clutch, so it’s not overly large. While it’s easy to put in my backpack, I wish there was a way to lock it in place on the bike itself so I wouldn’t have to worry about it getting stolen.
Swytch eBike Conversion Kit Review: Conclusion
Taking my daughter to school and picking her up on my bike on a beautiful sunny warm spring day was a real treat. We could better enjoy all of our neighbors’ lawns and gardens as we passed, and it was a pleasure to smell the flowers and blossoms along the way.
It is certainly more pleasant than driving in a car and, over the course of a week, it saved me about a liter and a half of petrol; over the course of a month, it would be conservatively about 130 miles.
Will this pay off soon? Not likely. My Honda CR-V gets about 30 miles to the gallon. Taking an average price of $3.50 a gallon, we’re spending about $15 a month just to drive her to school. At that rate, it would take 40 months to pay back the cost of the Swytch, assuming I’d ride my bike every day.
However, the limited range and murky ordering process don’t inspire much confidence; if Swytch were a little more open about what accessories come with the kit, I might be more inclined to order.
Even so, there are other ebike conversion kits that offer more value, even if they cost more. This Bafang front hub kit (opens in a new tab)for example, comes with a 500W motor and a much larger 557Wh battery for $849. Bafang is also up front on how much each add-on costs, and you can get it right away.
The closer you get to $1,000, the less attractive an ebike conversion kit becomes, as many of the best cheap electric bikes can be found at that price point. But if you want to breathe new life into your old bike, these kits are definitely worth checking out.