Bicycles are not designed for so many kilometres
In addition, bicycles with e-assistance cover all in all much more distance. “A standard bicycle is designed for a service life of about 10,000 kilometres,” explains the ADFC spokesman. “90 percent of all bicycles don't even reach the distance during their use. If you're equipped with an electric drive system, you'll easily cover that distance in two years.” If the parts are not designed for that much distance, there is a risk that they wear down faster.
Dirk Zedler also has to contradict cyclists who think that their old bicycles can be easily converted. The managing director of Zedler-Institut (Zedler Institute for Bicycle Technology and Safety) is a specialist in testing bicycles and their components.
Retrofit drive systems are often not up to date
Although some companies do offer retrofit drive systems, the big renowned manufacturers are not among them, according to Zedler. His experience: the retrofit drive systems are technically not up to date “Electric bicycle technology has been subject to an extreme further development in the past five years,” the expert explains. “This does not apply to the retrofit kits to the same extent. They usually don't ride as comfortably and are often subject to a lot of quirks.”
In Zedler’s opinion the drive systems are usually much simpler in design, with a worse response, often run over and sometimes wear down faster. What seems to be a bargain at first glance can turn out to be a disappointment later. “You think I have my classic bike and I love it,” says Zedler. “Then, when you have the drive system installed and are honest, you have to admit that riding it is often just no fun and definitely not up to the standard of today's electric bikes.”
Good retrofit kits are expensive
In addition, in financial terms the whole conversion is usually hardly worth it. According to the ADFC expert Filippek, some retrofit kits can be found on the internet for as little as 150 euros, “but that's really impossible stuff.” For a high-end retrofit kit, on the other hand, the consumer has to pay between 1,500 and 1,800 euros, says Dirk Zedler. “That's already on par with a price-reduced electric-assist bike, which is available as a fully-assembled bike from a specialist dealer.”
Dirk Zedler also knows of a few smaller manufacturers who offer such retrofittable bikes. “That's okay, if the bike is tested for a drive system, the conversion makes sense in technical terms,” he confirms. However, you also have to calculate whether it's worth it. On the other hand, a concept that caused a stir a few years ago, did not catch on: The idea was to turn a normal bike together with the smartphone into an electric bike by simply replacing the rear wheel.
Weighing up the fit of the drive system
If and when retrofitting is allowed, the question arises as to the type of the drive system. In addition to the front or rear drive system, there is also the mid-mounted drive system. According to Filippek, each has its advantages and disadvantages. A drive system in the rear wheel makes the bike very heavy at the back and affects the riding experience. If the drive system is in the front, the front wheel can spin. With a mid-mounted drive system, the load on the drive parts is very high, which increases wear.
Installing the drive system is not witchcraft, says the ADFC expert. However, if there is still a warranty claim on the bike, it will expire. Nevertheless, bicycle tester Zedler advises against doing it yourself. “A little technical expertise is not enough for this, you should have a certain knowledge and special tools. Often the frame has to be worked on mechanically.
Whoever retrofits himself must also be liable
If there is an accident with the bike, for example due to material failure, things can get tricky. If you have converted the bike into an electric bike yourself, you have no one to address to if you have bad luck,” Zedler points out. “Then you have to bear the liability alone.” So in the end, you might consider keeping the old bike and buying an e-bike in addition. A second-hand one is cheaper after all. But take care, warns ADFC expert Filippek: “The valuable thing is the battery, and you can't tell whether it is worn down or not. It's best to have it readout at the dealer, then you know approximately how long you can still ride it.
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Author: Christina Bachmann