Not taking a shine to the made-for-you electric bikes on the market?
You’re not alone: there’s a fairly large online community that builds, mods, and flips electric bikes.
You can make a DIY electric bike, and save out on all the MSRP that online shops and dealers are trying to get out of you.
The only thing this is going to cost you is your time. The upfront costs will be lower than purchasing a completely finished eBike, so if you hustle when you work and don’t mind waiting for shipping times, you’ll be able to make a DIY electric bike to serve all your needs, and save a huge chunk of change in the process.
This is how you do it.
Can You Build an Electric Bike?
Yes. You can completely build your own electric bike from the frame up, without using a conversion kit, and get all the specs that you want out of an eBike.
We’re going to talk about the hoops you have to jump through and the pitfalls that you should look out for, but yes, you can build your own electric bike with a bit of know-how.
The biggest hurdle that you’re going to face when you ask yourself “Can I build my own electric bike” is whether or not you’re confident enough to do it. Online tutorials (like this one) can answer your questions, but at the end of the day, you have to be the one to actually carry out the task. Ask yourself:
Am I handy? If you’re not keen on being handy around the house or the garage, this might be a little outside of your realm. Fortunately, seeing can be learning—watch some YouTube videos of pros converting their own bicycles before trying it out for yourself.
Do I know the regulations? Are you buying a kit from a company, or are you doing this completely solo like the madman you are? You should always go with a kit, since they have to be manufactured in a way that forces them to be made safely.
Do I understand how batteries work? Hooking up the wrong wires or handling a battery improperly can have serious issues associated with it, so are you willing to look at the necessary information and figure out what needs to be done, or is this something you would rather hand off to someone else/a kit manufacturer?
Is it Legal to Build Your Own Electric Bike?
Yes and no. Let’s look at the restrictions in place set on a federal level before we think about bringing a motor, power tools, and a bicycle into our garage and making a Frankenstein creation.
Manufactured Protocol: Because certain laws exist on a federal level, you’re a little bottlenecked in what you can do while making your own electric bike. That’s good, because it keeps you within the scope of the law, but bad if this is an off-road, off-the-record recreational vehicle for you to enjoy.
State Laws: State laws will overturn federal laws when it comes to operation, not manufacturing. No state can allow manufacturing thresholds that rest above federal regulated levels, but basically, they can dictate how they’ll be used on roads and which traffic laws apply to ebike users. This is local to your municipality; it can change depending on the state or the town, so it’s good to sign up for local government newsletters to be informed of any of these changes. We can’t help you with this one: you’re going to have to look up your state and local laws to determine if the speed cap is legal near you. To throw you a bone, we’re pretty sure the 750W battery limit applies across the board.
Necessary Tools: Depending on what you’re using to make an ebike, you just need to make sure you have the legal right to use certain tools. We’ve seen some intense tutorials involving soldering and welding, and depending on where you are, you can’t just pop open an acetylene torch in the front yard without arousing some sort of suspicion from the neighbors.
How to Build an Electric Bike
Now, if you don’t want to get an electric bike conversion kit, that’s okay.
You want to truly DIY this thing from the ground up, so we’re going to tell you exactly what you need to make this dream a reality.
We’ll cover the tools you’ll need, and the steps that you need to go through. Be ready, because this can take some time.
Tools and Equipment Required
Let’s start with the equipment. If you’re not using a conversion kit, you need to separately source the following items. These are not things you can just machine at home, and no at-home 3D printer could make parts viable enough for this.
This is usually why people go with kits. You’re going to need:
Hub motor (attaches to wheel)
Tool requirements can vary, but these should do the trick for this project:
Basic wrench set
Electric drill (powerful enough to go through metal)
Bolts to secure battery
This is a fairly straightforward process. What you’re going to do is start by getting your stand set up and clearing out a space so you have plenty of room to do this.
1. Remove Back Wheel
We’re going to mount the hub motor onto our wheel, but it turns out that it’s much easier to do this when the wheel is off and laying flat on a work space.
Most hub motors designed for ebikes are going to come with fastening pieces, so you won’t have to worry. If not, inspect the hub motor you purchased, and hunt down the appropriate parts. All hub motors are going to be slightly different.
Removing the front wheel will also require you to disconnect the brake calipers.
2. Fasten the Hub Motor
Attach the hub motor with special attention to where the brake calipers will be replaced. Once the motor is secure, reattach the wheel.
3. Realign Brakes
Connect your brakes as they were before. You’re essentially reverse engineering what you do in the first place. This is important: test your brakes and ensure that they feel the way you want them to. You’ll test them again at the end, but it’s better to be safe during the entire process. This will be a good gauge to tell you if the calipers aren’t lined up properly.
4. Attach Your Speed Controller
Speed controllers are tricky, because they tend to have relatively small bolts. Align it above the chain and secure it to the frame, ensuring it’s properly attached to the hub motor.
5. Attach Your Throttle
Your throttle will attach to your speed controller. The throttle wiring will run along the frame, so secure it in place once you find a comfortable spot for your throttle on the handlebars.
Once it’s all secure, connect the throttle and speed controller and make sure the line is taut so it doesn’t get stuck on anything during operation.
6. Attach and Mount Battery
Now’s the moment of truth: it’s time to put the battery in. This is also going to attach to the speed controller and the throttle, but the trick is mounting your 48V battery to an area on your frame. You could do one of two things:
Use included battery housing and attach in the spot where you would normally put your water bottle on a bicycle frame. Wiring can usually be bunched up and stored inside of the housing if need be.
Place a rear wheel rack, and mount a plastic or metal container to house the battery in. Secure the battery, run wiring through a hole in the housing to the frame, and attach everything accordingly.
7. Secure Wiring
Last but not least, get some zip ties, and secure everything that even wobbles a tiny bit. This step takes three minutes, and it’s easy, but due to the excitement of being finished it’s often overlooked.
This is going to save you a headache and a half – always secure your wires, folks.
That’s it, you’re done! Your electric bike should be ready to roll!
You’ve Built Your Own DIY Electric Bike
There are specific laws about electric bikes, and they’re expected to change in the not too distant future with the way eco-friendly commuting has taken off, but as long as you make sure your bike is up to snuff with the proper codes, you should be okay.
Avoid the MSRP, learn skills that matter, and build your own DIY electric bike with pride.
It’s time to zip down the lane and skip waiting for a rideshare company to come pick you up (and charge you an arm and a leg for doing so); this is the solution you’ve been waiting for.
Noel Joseph has been in the world of motor vehicles for a long period. Currently, he is enthusiastic about Electric & Hybrid Motors and is an independent researcher. He advocates for a clean and sustainable future and envisions utilizing his years of experience in mechanical engineering. His new venture here at CompactPower.com is to organize and simplify knowledge on Electric vehicles. He wants to build a space where people can talk about EVs and associated technologies with freedom.