Do you own a 16-inch folding bike because it sounded like a great option for commuting but for one reason or another it’s not working out? What if you could convert your folding bike to a folding electric bike? Would you have renewed excitement about using it for commuting again?
We were going to convert a folding bike to an e-bike but then we came across a video by Sam a.k.a. Bike Commuter Hero. He purchased a Litepro folding bike to use for commuting but found it didn’t have enough oomph (our interpretation) and he actually noticed his commute time taking longer. So in exploring his options he decided to try the Swytch e-bike conversion kit.
Since Sam did a fantastic job at both the e-bike conversion and the pros and cons (which is pretty much what we were going to do) we have opted to share with our readers his experience. As they say “why reinvent the wheel.”
Converting a Folding Bike with the Swytch Kit
Adapted from Sam – Bike Commuter Hero
Hi guys, back in January I bought the Swytch e-bike conversion kit and I’ve had a chance to use it for a few weeks. We’re going to find out whether this is something that you might want to consider too.
So why did I get this kit in the first place? I bought this Litepro folding bike at the end of last year. It’s a folding bike with 16-inch wheels and I love the idea that I could carry it with me on public transport, store it easily, I didn’t have to lock it up outside, and I could always have it with me.
Now the problem is that this folding bike is a lot less efficient than my fitness bike which is my main commuter. The wheels are smaller and the gears are less efficient. Usually, it’s not a problem to be slightly slower on a short ride but I lost about 5 to 10 minutes on my 10-mile commute and it felt very sluggish. After the novelty of having a new bike wore off, I noticed that I didn’t want to ride this bike that often, and I defaulted to my fitness bike for my commute.
Another problem is that I have a very steep climb very close to my house and the bike doesn’t have a good “granny gear” so coming up the hill was very challenging. I wanted to get an e-bike kit that could make the commute faster and the steep climb easier. I was also interested in finding out if the Swytch kit was compatible with a Brompton clone (or BrompNot). As you may have noticed this is not an original Brompton – it’s called a Litepro. I know some of you also ride similar 16-inch wheel bikes and you are interested in finding out this as well.
Swytch Kit For Brompton Clone Folding Bike Overview
I could have bought a new e-bike if I wanted to but I love the idea of having a folding electric bike so I was excited about this project. I placed the order for my Swytch Kit at the beginning of January and it arrived in May. It took about four months. To get the Swytch I knew that I would have to wait several weeks but I was hoping that it would take a little less. The good thing is that the kit arrived with everything ready to install. All I needed was an Allen key, tire levers, and a pump.
UPDATE: Swytch Kit is in the process of rolling out a new e-bike conversion kit. Due to high demand of their new version they are taking orders for 2023 delivery.
If you are moderately skilled, and you don’t puncture your inner tube in the process of removing your tire from the old wheel, and mounting it on your new wheel as I did then the installation takes only about 15 to 30 minutes. To convert your bike you need to change your old wheel for the new wheel, put on your pedal sensor, mount the battery holder, connect the cables and you’re ready to go.
You can add a few accessories to the Swytch kit such as a throttle to ride the bike without having to pedal and the brake sensor which cuts out the power to the motor when you apply the brakes. I didn’t get those but I bought the extended battery pack so this is the Swytch Pro. Swytch claims to have a range of 50 kilometers (30 miles) with an integrated light unit into the battery.
You interact with the menu through the buttons on the battery unit and the battery level and the assist level display show you where you are in the menu. You can set your wheel size, your top speed, your power level, and everything else. It’s quite simple as long as you have the manual. The only way to tell where you are in the menu is by reading the bars of the battery level and the power assist level.
My version came with a 15.5 miles per hour speed limit (25 kilometers per hour) because I am located in Europe. But you can unlock the speed up to 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) with just a few clicks and it’s a lot of fun too.
Testing Swytch On My Litepro Folding Bike
Now I tested it and it doesn’t quite get me up to the maximum promised speed which is 20 miles per hour, but I was able to get about 18-19 miles per hour out of it. This is all well and good but how does it actually ride?
The Swytch kit has a small 250 watt hub motor so it’s not very powerful but it’s a lot of fun to ride, and it makes a huge difference compared to pedaling without any assistance. You can pick up speed much faster with the pedal assist than without it. You can go against headwinds without any problems and you can climb hills with ease. Most importantly you don’t get as sweaty as you do without pedal assist which is a nice thing in the summer.
I ran a test ride on my fitness bike against the Swytch kit to get up my steepest climb just to see how much difference it makes. What better way to find out how much difference the pedal assist makes than to do a baseline test with my fitness bike. My Merida Speeder is the bike that I use to commute with most of the time. I’m going to go up a 10-degree gradient. I don’t know how long it is but we’re going to do a baseline test to see how long it takes me to get up there. We will then compare it against the time with the Swytch kit. And we’re off!
So it took one minute and 30 seconds exactly to get up the hill with my fitness bike at my normal pace and normal effort. I’m going to ride up with the folding bike without any pedal assist just to see how that performs… Okay, that was one minute and 38 seconds but I was spitting out my lungs at the end because I was pushing so hard. Now I’m going to put the Swytch battery to the maximum assist level and see how that goes… This ride was much nicer. Let’s consider that in my last run this is when I’m supposed to be the most tired I can come up without any problems while holding the handlebar with one hand and the camera with the other hand. Probably not very prudent but hey everything for science.
When I put the Swytch kit to the highest assist level it took me exactly one minute to get up to the top of the hill, I was able to breathe normally and I wasn’t getting overly sweaty either. When I ride this folding bike on my commute with the Swytch kit turned on I can beat my main commuter by a few minutes. If I have the power assist turned to medium or medium-high level when I start pedaling the power from the motor kicks in after about half a turn of the crank.
The Swytch kit has what’s called a cadence sensor, tiny magnets around a ring attached to the pedal crank, which tells the sensor that you’re riding, and then the power is applied to the motor. This is a less advanced technology than a torque sensor which gives you power assistance in proportion to the power that you put into pedaling – it’s like having bionic legs.
I wanted to know how accurate the promise of 50 kilometers or 30 miles of range so I rode it to work on the highest pedal assist level. The charge dropped from 5 bars to 4 bars after about 16 kilometers when I got to the office which is about 10 miles. I didn’t charge the battery in the office so it quickly dropped from four to three to two bars all within a mile or so when I rode home in the afternoon. I had to drop the pedal assist level from the maximum to the minimum. I did my round trip of 32 kilometers (20 miles) on a single charge and I only had one bar left. So if you push it on the maximum pedal assist it’s not going to give you the full range. If you put it to the minimum pedal assist (and you’re not very heavy) then it may give you even slightly more than 50 kilometers or 30 miles.
You know you always have to take a lot of things into consideration such as weather and road conditions and terrain and your weight. I also like that the battery unit doesn’t attach to my luggage block but to my handlebar. This way I can have a basket or a bag attached to the bike. Of course, I have to remove the battery unit in order to fold the bike completely but I can carry it in my hands or put it in my bag.
Is Swytch Kit for Brompton Folding Bikes Worth It?
Now should you consider buying this Swytch kit?
Well, let’s see some of the cons because there are some to the Swytch. First, it is not very powerful. Secondly, the Swytch kit is not very cheap either. I paid 950 euros (over a thousand dollars) for it. You can get a really nice Bafang mid-drive motor for the same amount of money. Thirdly, you need to wait for several months that’s another con.
So it really depends on what you want to use the Swytch kit for. If you already have a bike that you own, use, and love but you want some gentle pedal assist on the heels and you want to avoid having a sweaty back on your commute then it is a viable option. If you have a folding bike and more specifically a Brompton or a Brompton clone this is one of the easiest ways of turning it into an e-bike and keeping its folding capability. However, if you want to go off-road, want to go really fast and climb really steep hills or you are very heavy or you need a really long-range option then this is not the best option.
If you are wondering why I mounted a thousand-dollar kit on a folding bike that is worth considerably less then I suggest that you check out my video which explains the reason for this experiment and how it went down. It may even save you some money on a new Brompton.
See you there!