On Tuesday last week, I finally received my long-awaited order of a Swytch E-Bike Conversion Kit – a project I backed on Indiegogo back in February 2018, nearly a year ago.
The Swytch is an all-encompassing kit that promises to convert 99% of regular cycles into electric-assist cycles tidly and with relative ease. It’s unique selling point however, is that this is not a one-way conversion. It uses a ‘power pack’ that can be docked to the handlebar when the user wants an e-bike, or quickly removed when the e-assist isn’t required. It was this feature that sold me on the idea.
The advantage of this type of system is that when electric assist is not required (for me, that might be during the school run, trips to town – mostly short, easy journeys), a significant proportion of the weight (i.e., the battery) can be removed from the bike without needing to worry about changing any connections. The pack is removed from its dock with a simple press of a button and pull-away, removing the roughly 3.3kg of weight that the pack with a 50 mile battery adds. All that’s then left is the pedal sensor, front hub motor and (if installated) the brake sensors. That front wheel weighed in at about 2.9kg – perhaps a couple of kilos more than a regular wheel – so, in the unassisted state, the additional weight is not huge.
I recorded my unboxing of the Swytch package which can be seen in the ‘first look’ video below. But in summary, the kit comes with everything needed (except tools) to get the cycle converted: a new front wheel with electric hub motor, a magnetic disk and cadence sensor for the pedal to detect pedalling, the dock connector, the main power pack with battery already installed, a battery charger, ten zip-ties and optional brake sensors.
The standard EU/UK compliant kit (250w motor, speed limited to 25kph/15mph) comes in two versions – with a 25 mile battery, or with a 50 mile battery. These batteries are user-replaceable so spares can also be obtained, either to replace a worn battery in years to come, or to carry for longer rides. There is also a Brompton varient for those wanting to convert existing non-electric Brompton bicycles, should they choose not to go for Brompton’s own electric version of their folding classic.
Outside of Europe, regulations may differ and there is a version available with a more powerful motor. The kit also supports an optional twist or thumb throttle to enable it to operate without pedalling. I didn’t add this to my order though, as it is sadly not legal here – users in the EU/UK must pedal for the assistance motor to kick in. Stop pedalling and power will be cut to the motor.
My use-case for the Swytch (or an e-bike in general) isn’t really to get about town – although one side of Nuneaton is particularly hilly where this kit will come in handy. I’m more likely to find myself wanting to use it on long leisure rides where it can smooth out some of the hills. The worst local climbs I find really offputting and quite a struggle, particularly if they’re near the end of a ride. So, having a bit of help will be appreciated. I also want to use the kit as a bit of a range extender, giving me more exploration options and different routes. My ride to Leicester last year was a real struggle at 45 miles (both ways) – this sort of journey will be where the kit really comes in handy.
It’s important for me though that I don’t rely on the kit to do all of the work. Cycling has been a bit of a fitness boost for me and I want that to continue. Fortunately, the kit has a range of assist levels so, when I want to put more effort in, I can still do so. It will also cut out at the legal limit of about 15mph. So, if I want to go any faster, that’s all on me once the bike is up to speed.
I’ve already installed the kit on to my Merida hybrid bicycle and had a couple of rides, but I’ll cover the installation and use/ride experiences with it in later posts. In the meantime, you can find out more about the Swytch at its website – www.swytchbike.com.