The idea behind the Swytch Universal eBike kit is easy to understand. By swapping your normal front wheel with one powered by an electric motor, any compatible bike becomes electric. What’s more, you don’t need to spend thousands of pounds, with the basic kit costing from £500. We explain all about the ordering process in a separate article, How much is the Swytch bike kit?
Swytch eBike kit review: what you need to know
Swytch works, and it works well, but it’s fiddly.
By “works”, I mean that it will shorten your journey times and make rides easier. What’s more, it turns impossible inclines into ones you can get up with comparative ease. Based on my journeys so far, I would say it turns a 60-minute ride into a 50-minute one, and you aren’t so sweaty at the end.
By “fiddly”, I mean that if you’re barely able to put up a shelf then you might struggle to fit everything together. And it could take you a while; I hit several hurdles and ended up wrestling with the process over the course of several days. However, I must emphasise that much of this was down to my procrastination; I’m sure your experience will be better!
If you do hit problems, Swytch provides a one-to-one video call for everyone who buys a kit. They were lovely on the call, but didn’t spot what turned out to be my most frustrating mistake: I’d put the pedal accessory on backwards. I suspect they missed this due to the low definition of video connections.
Swytch sells two versions of the kit: ECO with a 180Wh battery, and PRO with a 250Wh unit. Think around 20 miles of assisted riding for the smaller offering, 30 miles for the bigger one. “Proper” electric bikes tend to come with bigger batteries, around 400Wh, with the promise of 60 miles.
Whichever unit you choose, you’ll lose almost the whole of your handlebar, because that’s where the battery pack sits. The larger kit includes a 200 lumens light, but it’s no match for the dedicated units that frequent night-time cyclists enjoy. There are loops to hold third-party lights, but I’m not a fan.
Swytch operates a very odd pre-order system. Basically, if you’re interested then you sign up via its website. You’re promised “50% off”, but it doesn’t actually tell you the price. Allow me to reveal all below:
|Model||Universal ECO||Universal PRO|
|UK price (with 50% off)||£499.50||£624.50|
|Range||Up to 35km (22 miles)||Up to 50km (31 miles)|
Swytch will notify you when the next batch of kits become available.
Swytch: how it works and what you get
There are four key elements to the Swytch eBike kit. The first is a magnetic ring that you fix near to the pedals to detect each revolution; all the magnet does is send a message to the motor that it’s free to do its thing.
So, to the motor. This is built into the front wheel that Swytch sends you, once it has determined what make of bike you have and your braking system (it works with rim brakes, disc brakes and drum brakes).
The final two links in the chain are the battery pack and the handlebar mount that it clips to. You can then clip or unclip the battery from your handlebar with ease. That’s useful both for charging and when you’re out in town; it’s a chunky 1.5kg but squeezable into a decent-sized rucksack.
The pack offers five power assistance settings, all controlled via a touch-sensitive button, plus (on the bigger unit) a 200 lumens light.
All this comes supplied in a series of boxes, along with a handy first steps manual, lots of cable ties to fix the various parts to your bike and things that may or not be useful – such as spacers.
Oh, a quick word on the manual: you really should read this carefully, and watch the supplied videos, before you do anything vaguely physical. This was the mistake I made.
Swytch eBike kit: the installation process
I thought that it would be easy to add the Swytch kit to my bike. It’s a boring hybrid bike with no fancy extras to complicate the installation process. I had to jettison my front lights and my lovely clip-on carry case, but I hoped to find a new home for them elsewhere.
However, the unusual shape of the main body proved to be a problem, as did not following the instructions quite closely enough. As a special treat, I will be sharing a “how not to install a Swytch eBike kit” as soon as we’ve got the video edited. Hopefully you won’t make the mistakes that I made as a result!
If you’re good at handyman/woman things then it will probably take you an hour or two to sort out. Now that I’ve done one, I reckon I could repeat the process in around 30 minutes. But I hit so many hurdles, mostly of my own making, that I actually spread the pain over two days with a gap of three weeks in between.
Don’t forget that you have the option of a free video call with Swytch’s technical team if you hit problems.
The riding experience
Once everything is attached as it should be, what’s it like to ride? Your first adjustment is to the front-heavy wheel, which doesn’t take too long to get used to – if you’ve ridden with heavy panniers then you know how quickly you adjust to a change in balance of weight.
The second thing to become used to is the mini-surge of power that appears when you start pedalling. It’s like you’re being magically pushed along by bike fairies, especially at first. The faster you go the less noticeable this effect becomes.
Don’t be concerned that this acceleration will push you into traffic. The motor is only activated when you pedal, and who pedals when they’re trying to slow down? Stopping is just as natural as before. What’s more, you get that little extra boost of acceleration from a standing start, which makes it easier to get up to speed on a busy road.
Criticisms? It could be easier to adjust the power. There’s a touch-sensitive up/down arrow on the top of the power pack, with a green LED to show how much assistance you’re currently getting: the maximum is five bars, minimum one.
The battery level indicator sits to the right, again going from one bar to five bars. On longer trips, I found myself keeping a wary eye on this and choosing to switch to a lower power setting to eke it out further.
On the flat, you really don’t need much assistance as you aren’t tackling gravity. It’s when you’re heading up a hill that the motor really comes into effect: there’s a killer hill that I don’t have a gnat’s chance of getting up normally, but with the assistance at maximum I scooted up it relatively easily.
In fact, I’d be warier of going down steep hills rather than up them. When I was steaming down that same hill on my return journey, the weight of the front wheel (1.5kg) proved too much for my repaired inner tube and it completely blew on me.
Swytch eBike kit review: final verdict
The Swytch system is clever and effective. I also like that if you just want to go for a normal ride on your bike then it’s a simple matter of removing the Swytch wheel and putting your old one back on again. Aside from some straggling wires, it’s no different from before.
But please note all the caveats included in this review. The fiddly install process, the loss of handlebar space, the limited range compared to true electric bikes. It isn’t a must-buy but is well worth investigating if you have an old bike that you want to electrify.
Swytch Universal eBike
Ease of assembly
Follow the instructions carefully and this will indeed turn any bike into an electric bike – and one that can carry you up hills like never before.
- It works!
- Great acceleration up hills
- Breathes new life into an old bike
- Fiddly to set up
- Limited range compared to “proper” electric bikes
- Takes over your handlebar
thanks Tim for a pretty honest review – of a piece of Chinese kit that’s over hyped (50% off tells the story)
Would agree with LL’s comment on the review. Not sure about the throwaway comment re Chinese manufacture. I’ve been using a swytch kit on a folding bike for 8 months now. Cost me ~ £560. It has worked well. I didn’t like the extra weight at the handle bars so moved the battery mount onto the headtube, bit like their Brompton option. I have the Pro version and running at minimum assistance get 40- 50km on mixed hilly routes. The extra weight does demand more of your brakes going downhill.
I understand that when it works, it can work well. My problem is that mine didn’t work and service was appalling. I put it together and it just made no difference to my ride (and I verfifed this by recording my heartrate and speed using my Garmin over the same route multiple times).
I went through all their troubleshooting to no avail. I went back and forth with their support team, some of whom tried to be helpful. I had bought 2 kits so I swapped the power packs between them with no success. They sent me a new handlebar mount (eventually, reluctantly) and that did no good. I tried the one from the other kit and that didn’t work.
After some persuasion, they agreed that I could return it for a refund. Weeks later, I’m still waiting to see the money.
I’ve just bought a lightly used cheap Apollo hybrid Transfer with a less than 2 year old, 180Watt hour battery pack, Swytch set up fitted. The indicator lights on the battery pack are red, not green as mentioned above. Hope it’s just a different generation pack. I did a 15 mile round trip mostly on level one assist and a bit on two and went from battery level 5 ( fully charged ) to 4 in the last mile and 3 in the last half mile uphill. A very good level of assist. Is it best to keep the battery pack as fully charged as possible or run it a fair way down I wonder ?
Helpful review Tim, thanks. 2 queries: I like to do rides up to about 40 miles. Is it feasible to buy a second battery to carry about and, if so, any idea of the cost? Secondly, the old battery let a rider switch (pun intended) to USA regulations and cycle up to about 21MPH. I understand the law surrounding this but is this still possible (on private land of course)? Thanks again
As a 77 year old who struggled with the steady but not steep last but one hill over the last mile of a 7 mile return journey from the community farm after a morning’s work the Swytch kit was transformative, no longer needing half the afternoon to recover. As my 31st October post explained I avoided the possible grief of dealing with Swytch by being fortunate enough to buy second hand. So I find Lucy’s comment a bit too negative ” overhyped Chinese kit “. ( I would like to think others than the Chinese could produce it for obvious ethical and economic reasons, but….) meanwhile I am replacing use of a car every time I cycle.
I purchase the pro kit last year in May 2022. I was told I would receive my kit in September. Then October. At the end of October, I was told shipping issues would delay getting the battery. They asked if I wanted the wheel and rest and battery would be delivered later in year, I said yes, I would like everything minus battery. November came, nothing. December, I received and email asking for the tax needed on the kit. After I paid the tax, my kit would be delivered. January came and today January 26th, 2023, I received a box with the battery, mount, display and a manual. No wheel, charger or the rest of my kit. On their website where i opened up my order, it said order complete, and delivered.
Delay after delay tactics and I am not the only one. Check twitter, Swytch. There is so many waiting for their order and still waiting. What good is my order without the wheel motor system? Buyer beware!
I own two E-bikes, one a mountain bike and the other a step through for my wife.
I was planning on putting this on a trike for around camp, using it to go to camp store for supplies.
Buy a kit off of amazon and at least you’ll have option for refund if not delivered. A few on twitter that said they opted out and asked for refund. They are still waiting.
Are the cable connections the one the new air max and the original eco kit.