Turn any bike electric with the Barak e-bike kit

E-bike expert Micah Toll has created a DIY kit that allows anyone to turn any bike electric.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
4 min read

Micah Toll

The electronic bike is on the rise, but, like anything new, it's going to set you back a pretty penny to buy one off the rack -- up to thousands of dollars in some cases. Luckily, there's also a growing trend of DIY conversions, either through kits, or guides that help you pick out the components.

One such kit is from e-bike expert Micah Toll, whose DIY e-bike book hit Kickstarter to great success earlier this year. Now, Toll -- who has built hundreds of e-bikes, founded an e-bike start-up, and spent time volunteering to teach people how to build their own e-bikes -- is launching a kit of his own, once again via Kickstarter.

"I've been working with e-bikes for many years now, and so I've used just about every e-bike part and kit out there. Some are great, others are not," he told CNET. "I've used this experience to help beginners learn what to use and what to avoid in their own e-bikes. But after seeing so many low quality kits with over-rated specifications that often confuse or trick consumers, I decided I wanted to make my own e-bike that would offer not only great value, but better performance and range than many of the other products currently available."

Called Barak, the kit consists of four parts: the battery, which powers the e-bike and bolts on to the bicycle frame; the controller, which -- obviously -- controls the bike, tucked inside the battery housing; the motorised wheel, which replaces the front wheel of the bike; and the throttle, which slips over one of the handles and allows the rider to control the bike's speed.

Toll is offering the kits with two customisations: you can choose from a 20-inch or a 26-inch wheel, and between 350 watts and 500 watts of power. Each kit has everything you could possibly need to convert your normal bike to an e-bike, including zip ties, and -- according to Toll -- it's very easy to assemble.

"It's actually surprisingly simple to install my kit. My design goal was ease of use, and I think I've really stuck to that. Basically, if you have the technical skill to assemble an Ikea coffee table, you can install my e-bike kit," he said.

"There are only 3 or 4 parts, depending on which version of my kit you use. You only have to remove your front wheel, replace it with my motor wheel, bolt the battery onto the bike, and slide the throttle on the handlebars. It only takes three tools (a wrench, screw driver and Allen key). For some people this may be their first 'technical project' but because it's so simple, it's a great confidence builder!"

The kits give a converted bike a range of about 23 miles to 30 miles (32km to 49km) on a 24V 10AH lithium battery that takes about three hours to charge fully, with a top speed of 20mph (32kph). And, Toll said, they're less than a quarter of the price of the average off-the-rack e-bike, coming in between $585 (AU$632, £349) and $655 (AU$707, £390), depending on the power level.

Micah Toll

"I've tried to rate my e-bike kit very fairly in terms of power and range. Many other e-bike kits list their maximum range value as what they get when the rider is pedalling as well, and usually at a reduced speed," Toll explained.

"This is how many kits get those ridiculous 30-mile-range figures. My kit is rated for range at top speed (highest power draw) and with no pedalling, where it gets about 20 miles. If the user pedals as well, 40 miles is achievable easily, and if the speed is reduced just a bit, 60 miles is achievable. But these are just number games at a certain point when it comes to marketing, which is why I've tried to rate my kit as fairly as possible."

Toll believes that the e-bike is the way of the future.

"I haven't owned a car in about seven years, but I've been able to get everywhere I need to go on an e-bike. I've never had to pay for gas, insurance, parking in the city or any of those costs," he said. "I can charge anywhere there's an outlet and I can ride anywhere as well, including streets, sidewalks, bike paths, off road trails, etc. It's this freedom of transportation, while doing my part to reduce pollution, that I find so much fun. I just hop on my e-bike and go!"

To read more about what the Barak e-bike kit can do, head on over to the Kickstarter project page.