Swytch evaluate: New equipment makes your present bike electrical, can it compete with a brand new ebike?
Swytch is designed to save you from buying an all-new electric bike This article contains affiliate links, we may receive a commission on any sales we generate from it. Learn more
Don’t want to ditch your bike, but want some extra help on the hills from a motor? That’s what Swytch wants to solve. This clever DIY kit is designed to transform any two-wheeler into a shiny new electric bike, complete with a motor built into the front wheel hub, detachable battery for charging, and (for an extra fee) a throttle on the handlebars to treat yourself to some extra oomph when the going gets tough.
Of course, this could be a disaster. Our favourite electric bikes are the ones that were designed from the ground up to incorporate a motor and a chunky lithium-ion battery cell. Brands like Cowboy, VanMoof, and Ampler have dreamt up brilliant new ideas – like thief deterring bike alarms, always-on GPS to track the location of your bike, crash detection that alerts your emergency contacts, and more.
Bringing a motor, battery, and all of the wiring to a bike that was never designed to support these elements could leave you with the worst of both worlds. But, against all the odds, the team at Swytch seem to have managed it.
For this review, Express.co.uk was mailed out a Swytch conversion kit for a Brompton. It included a replacement wheel – with a diddy (but surprisingly powerful) motor built into the hub, a sensor system to track the amount of gusto being applied to the pedals, a mount for the battery, some wires, the water-resistant lithium-ion pack itself and some charging cables.
With the Brompton and non-folding bike kits, you’re going to need to replace the front wheel. That might sound scary, but Swytch includes a detailed step-by-step manual that guides you through the process of upgrading your existing bike. We were surprised by just how much fun we had following the guide, which is incredibly clear and well-presented.
If you’re struggling, Swytch also provides a selection of YouTube videos with the same steps.
That said, if you’re the sort of person who shudders at the thought of setting up new IKEA flatpack furniture or who takes your bike to the local Halfords when it has a puncture …it might be best to rope in a friend or family member to help with the set-up. All in, it took us an hour or so to get everything fitted to our bike, tuck away the cables as best we could, and head out on our first test ride.
And this is where the Swytch kit really impressed us.
Having tested our fair share of electric bikes, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what makes for a good ride experience …and what doesn’t.
For those who haven’t used an electric bike before, it’s worth remembering these aren’t battery-powered motorbikes disguised as bicycles. Instead, the motor is only there to make peddling a little easier, almost like a strong wind behind you or a leg transplant from Chris Hoy. But make no mistake, you’re still going to need to put in some grunt. Coupled with the fact that research has shown that electric bike owners head out for rides for frequently and are more likely to attempt longer routers, these bikes can still prove good very good exercise.
In the UK, all electric bikes are limited to 15.5mph, so don’t expect to hit a new land-speed record while furiously pedalling downhill
Some manufacturers do offer manual controls on the handlebars to toggle between the amount of oomph given out by the motor — so you can decide for yourself how much help you need, while pricier models tend to measure the pressure applied to the pedals to intelligently judge how much of a helping hand you’ll need. For our money, this is the better system as it means you’re spending less time staring at the handlebars, less time juggling between power settings and gears to find the best fit – and more time just pedalling and enjoying yourself. It can also be a bit of a battery saver, as it might not engage as frequently.
In the UK, all electric bikes are limited to 15.5mph, so don’t expect to hit a new land-speed record while furiously pedalling downhill, the motor isn’t going to engage.
Swytch ships its conversion kits with a sensor system designed to work out how easily you’re turning the pedals. If your legs are spinning in a blur, the motor isn’t going to kick-in as you’re probably managing just fine …or flying down a hill. However, if it’s taking minutes to slowly grind the pedals a full rotation – the motor hidden in the front wheel will kick-in and take off some of the pressure.
The sensors, motor and battery pack takes about one-hour to equip
All of this means that riding our Brompton with the Swytch kit fitted felt incredibly natural. The pedal sensor is well-tuned and is brilliant at judging when to call upon the motor for some extra help …and when to leave you under your own steam and conserve battery. When it senses that you do need a little extra oomph, the motor slowly ramps-up to speed, so it never feels like you’re out of control. There are settings on the battery to determine how much the motor kicks in. This is a nice touch as if this is your first experience with an electric bike, you can set the motor to slowly take up the slack. More experienced riders will likely want a faster response from the motor to tear away from traffic at busy junctions.
As mentioned above, Swytch does offer an optional handlebar-mounted throttle, if you want the option of controlling the output from the motor yourself. But in our time with the Swytch kit, the smart sensor strapped to the pedal was more than good enough that we didn’t feel the need to install a throttle. If you can avoid the hassle of another control on your handlebars – you’ll still need to worry about switching between gears, after all – then count your blessings.
Finding the right balance between easier gears and the power coming from the motor can be a right faff. Better to let the software inside the battery figure out how much help you need to push the pedals, and you can focus on the road ahead and the gears.
The motor is incredibly useful when it comes to standing starts, especially in busy traffic. You won’t have to worry about slowing the flow of traffic as the 250W battery helps you get back up to speed without breaking a sweat. In fact, the pedal-assist system is just brilliant at ensuring you never feel like you’re wasting your energy trying to regain lost momentum at junctions, pedestrian crossings, or anything else.
If you’re using your bike to commute, it means you’ll be able to arrive in the office without a sticky sheen of sweat. Sure, that probably means you’re not burning quite as many calories on the route to work… but it also means you can enjoy an extra half hour in bed because you can skip the shower at work too.
The battery pack is covered in a water resistant fabric, so don’t worry about rain
If you have a folding bike, Swytch offers a specific kit for Bromptons
Although this is an after-market conversion kit, the end result is almost indistinguishable from the electric folding model designed and sold by Brompton itself. And that’s seriously impressive. That said, it’s worth noting that if you’re hoping to convert a standard A-frame bike, the results are unlikely to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the latest electric bikes from brands like Cowboy, VanMoof, or Ampler.
All of these manufacturers thread the wiring inside the frame, so there are no visible cables from the outside. As mentioned above, these bikes are engineered to tap into the battery cell to power a number of extra functions, including a GPS tracker inside the frame, front and rear LED lights, and theft deterring alarms. Unfortunately, none of these are available with the Swytch kit.
And that’s our only concern about the Swytch electric bike kit. Sure, the intelligent motor feels incredibly natural and it can breathe new life into a good quality bike that you already own… but you have to be seriously committed to that bike.
At full price, pairing the Swytch kit with an existing Brompton works out about the same as the Brompton-designed electric folding bike. But for other bike styles, the maths isn’t on Swytch’s side. It’s only a few hundred pounds more to buy a new electric bike from VanMoof – with its clever GPS tracking and loud anti-burglary alarm – than a Swytch kit for your existing model.
If you’re incredibly attached to your existing bike, that’s fine. But if you were tempted to upgrade to a new frame anyway… it might be worth looking elsewhere.
The 15.5mph motor sits snugly inside the hub of the front wheel
The biggest problem – in fact, our only problem – with the kit from Swytch is that all-important price tag. Starting from £999, it’s immediately clear why this after-market conversion kit is able to deliver such a premium experience when riding your bike. It’s because the kit alone costs as much as some discount-brand electric bikes. There’s no question that this is not a cost effective way to upgrade your bike with a motor. Swytch kits top-out at an eye watering £1,500 for the Pro version of the Brompton kit, which offers longer range than the standard configuration.
That said, if you can pick up Swytch for less than its usual price tag, don’t hesitate. Swytch is currently running an offer that slashes the price of its conversion kits by 50 percent, if you’re willing to put your money down while the company waits for new stock to arrive. Of course, this means you’ll have to wait a little longer before you’re whizzing around with the help of a motor …but you will get a much better deal.
At £499, the entry-level Swytch kit is an incredible deal. The compact motor offers a smooth experience, the sensors do a great job of matching the experience you’d get from a dedicated electric bike, and the battery pack has a pretty impressive range of either 35-kilometres, or 50-kilometres for the Pro version.
There are two detachable battery packs available, both connect to the handlebars
Swytch Electric Bike Conversion Kit Review: Final Verdict
- Pros: Brings Battery Power To Your Existing Bike, Detachable Battery Pack Lets You Charge Anywhere, Well Tuned Motor Feels Natural
- Cons: Pricey …Even Compared With Some New Electric Bikes
If you’re happy with your current bike …but want to add a motor into the mix, there’s no better option than Swytch. This clever conversion kit brings an integrated motor, a battery with plenty of oomph, and some smart accessories for those who want a dedicated throttle on the handlebars, or a sensor that kills the motor as soon as you start to brake. With one-year warranty with no-questions-asked dispatch or replacement parts, detailed installation guides, video tutorials, and one-on-one video calls available for anyone who is struggling to fit the kit to their bike, Swytch is a premium experience.
That premium feel extends to the moment you’re pedalling your newly kitted-out bike too. The acceleration from the motor is smooth and controlled, thanks to the nifty pedal sensors, so you’ll never feel like the bike is fighting against you. There’s also more than enough oomph in the battery pack that it’ll flatten out any troublesome hills on your next journey.
With a range of 21-miles, the more affordable battery pack will likely need to be charged at some point during a full week of commuting. Although anyone with a mixture of days at home and in the office can forget about the charging cable until the weekend. The pricier battery pack has an extended range of 31-miles, which is ideal for anyone who prefers to head out on longer rides at the weekend… or who has a particularly daunting commute.
Starting from £999, the Swytch isn’t a cheap option for anyone who wants an electric bike. However, it does offers an incredibly slick experience for those who want to keep using their existing bike model while adding the convenience of a motor. Everyone else should keep an eye out for deals – like the incredible 50% off available right now – or look to spend their £1,500 budget on a pre-built bike from the likes of VanMood, Cowboy, Furosystems, and others.