A couple of weeks ago my wife and our ten-year-old son took over the kitchen for an afternoon and turned her bike into an e-bike. They used a conversion kit from Swytch, who will send you a new front wheel with a hub motor. Swap over the wheel, install the battery and wire it up, and you’re ready to go. I thought I’d let Louise tell you about it herself:
Where did you find out about Swytch?
The first time I heard about Swytch was on an ad on Youtube. If was quite funny and cute, and I watched the whole advert and it stuck in my mind. When we went to the Fully Charged Show they were demonstrating them, and I had a chance to have a go.
And what did you think when you tried it out?
It was cool to see the battery pack being used on different bikes, because I’d found it hard to believe that it really would work on any bike. As a bit of a PR stunt they even had one fitted to an old Penny Farthing. When I had a go on the test bike, the concourse was a bit small and you couldn’t really get up to speed before you had to turn a corner, but it gave me a good sense of how much power there was as it kicked in.
Why did you go for a Swytch conversion kit rather than an e-bike?
I haven’t had a bike for years, and then I borrowed one during lockdown and got back into cycling again. I bought a secondhand bike that I really like, and I didn’t want a second e-bike for the occasions when I needed it. The fact that I could convert my own bike, but take off the battery and use it as a normal bike if I wanted, that made a lot of sense.
How easy was it to fit?
I wouldn’t say it was easy, because I don’t normally concern myself with nuts and bolts. I needed a little bit of help understanding some of the parts, but basically my ten year old son and I worked through the instructions and we did it. There weren’t any occasions where we followed the instructions and couldn’t do it.
How would you describe your experience of bike maintenance up to this point?
Zero. Zero experience. The only thing I’ve ever done is pump up the tires, and that’s it. But we followed the steps and it worked. It helped that there was a booklet of instructions, and then directions to go online for more. There wasn’t necessarily more detail online, but there were videos that clarified what you had to do.
How have you found it?
The kit turned up in winter and I’ve only had a few chances to ride it so far. One recent trip was where I had to get somewhere fast. It was a last minute thing and normally I’d jump in the car, but I took the bike instead. I couldn’t have done that before, as it involved going down and then back up some steep hills, and my bike as it was would have been too slow. That was brilliant, to know I could take it in an emergency, and displace a car journey. I’ve taken it on a longer ride too, and I feel like I’m getting the hang of controlling the power better.
It’s nice to go faster on the flat, and then it’s on the hills where you really see the benefit. We live in a very hilly area, and so to be able to coast up the hills as easily on the flat is really good. It means I can take on journeys that I wouldn’t normally be able to do on a bike.
What do you hope to do with the e-bike that you couldn’t do with a normal bike?
I’m hoping to be able to use it for work. Most of my shifts are very early in the morning and I take the car. On the days when I go in later, I would usually go on the bus. Going to work is a 12 mile round trip, and I did do it on a normal bike once and it nearly killed me! It’s not just my fitness levels, but the time that it takes. The e-bike will halve that journey time, and with the benefits of some exercise and fresh air.
I expect to use it to go swimming as well. It’s a 45 minute walk to the pool, or a ten minute drive. With the e-bike I can cycle that in fifteen minutes. I’m not going to walk 45 minutes each way to swim, and I don’t want to drive short distances, so the bike is perfect to displace those short car journeys.
I haven’t used it for long enough to know for sure. The shape of my handlebars means I haven’t been able to tighten everything up as much as I’d like, so I’m not sure I’d want to take it on very bumpy ground. And the battery pack is quite heavy, so if you take it shopping you have to lug it around – but I guess that’s true for any e-bike.
The Swytch conversion kit is available to pre-order at a 50% discount right now, or full price if you want it straight away. It’s a fraction of the cost of a new ebike, and it can upgrade a bike you already love. If you have any other questions about it, drop them in the comments below and I’ll get Lou on the case.