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DIY Under $500?

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    DIY Under $500?

    Hello all,

    I've always wanted an e-bike for my daily commute, but I can't afford one right now. So I am trying to convert my 2011 Cannondale SL4 hardtail instead. I am not terribly concerned about aesthetics, torque or top-speed. But I do want something that can travel about 8 miles on a charge. Reliability and minimal maintenance cost would be a bonus of course.

    Would it be possible to build one under $500? What would be an ideal set-up for this purpose? I would truly appreciate any and all input from experienced builders.

    A hub drive would be the cheapest but you would still be over that price when you get a decent battery. Changing a flat tire would be a pain. This would be over your budget but is worth researching and learning more about. Stealthy and quiet.


      Thank you so much for the suggestion! It's funny, because yesterday I bookmarked the page you just linked me to. And yes, at the moment BBS02 kit is number 1 in my shopping list as it seems dependable and powerful enough for my needs. I am starting to gauge the going price for this on the internet (ebay, amazon, etc.) in hopes of finding a steal or a flash sale. But it seems that finding a battery deal would be harder. Why are the batteries so expensive??? I am so tempted to just go with 12V lead acid or DIY 18650. But I think I am better off pawning things off around the house and buy a decent battery pack.

      Changing a flat tire on a hub drive system would be more cumbersome, but I am willing to put in the work if it suits my needs. Have you any experience with Hill Topper from Clean Republic?


        No hub motor experience. After weighing all the options for DIY, mid drive made the most sense. For 175 more dollars you can get this. Very durable so far and will climb almost anything.


          also take a look at this site
          Last edited by New Mariner; 04-01-2016, 01:01 PM.


            The Golden Motor Smart Pie is a great motor. It pulls 720 watts from a 36v battery, smooth and quiet. GM Canada sells them around $320 but you have higher shipping and a currency fee. Eric at Luna Cycle may get some in stock, and I figure he might be around $300. The Smart is the smaller version of the Magic Pie.The controller is built in, sine wave.

            I built a bike with a Smart and I am using a $260 LiFePo pack from China. That's close to your number. You could get a LiPo configuration at 36 volts from Hobby King, maybe 8 AH, and meet your number. I wouldn't go with anything but the good lithium cells, at this point. LiFePo is heavy, but safe. LiPo is not so safe. You see LiFePo on Ebay. You could build a small pack with good cells.

            I like the hubs. I think your bike has a front suspension fork, which is not good for a hub mount. Fronts are easy, and the flat change is not a problem. There are no name hubs out there for around $120. You could do this, at your budget.


              Thank you so much George! This is great news. I did read some good reviews about Magic Pie from Golden Motor, but I never knew it had a lighter/cheaper sister! And yes, my bike has front suspension. I guess I will either lock it out, or get a rear wheel version. I am leaning more towards rear wheel since the front fork is aluminum. Okay, I am off to some research now. Thank you so much again!


                Luna has a nice MP4 kit for $400 shipped. A darn good price. Do yourself a favor and save some bucks until you can get the motor you want. Sometimes you can find good deals on used hub motors too. Some of us like to upgrade and often flip good used kits. I see them fairly often on Endless Sphere Facebook. I picked up a 36V 250W rear hub for under $100. and paid $30 shipping. I got an upgraded controller for $65 and it's a great little loaner bike. George, IMO got lucky with his $260 battery. There are more failure stories than winners in my opinion. There are a few good battery dealers out there but it's tough to sort. You can trust the 36V batteries from Luna. But they are the cheapest I'd take a bet on in todays' market. I paid $600 for a 36V two years ago and they're still running strong. Buy good cells follow basic care rules and you can get a lot of service life.
                After riding on nearly every type of motor I have to say the BBS series are my favored. Although a 1000W MXUS DD front on a comfort bike is still one of my favorite rides.

                I saved for my first bike and salvaged whatever I could from the basement and closet and paid to much for my first kit. It was a BBS01. I still have it and my wife loves it. Not cool to a lot of folks but the 22MPH it squeaks out is fast enough for her and it's incredibly reliable and she gets 25 miles out of an 11Ah 36V battery. I have another on the bench. It's really a shame these little mortors are underrated in my opinion, but everyone likes to go fast in America. My EU and AU buddies still ride their BBS01 250W and like them. But the they have to, since anything faster is illegal. Funny how it goes.

                I say give something up. Squander your nickels. Mow a neighbors lawn. Rake a yard. Spend less time sitting and find little side jobs. Earn your way into the ride and motor you want. There's always a way.


                • GeorgeS
                  GeorgeS commented
                  Editing a comment
                  The original question was about $500 conversions. There are ways to do it. I don't think LiFePo is worth it, today, but it made more sense a year ago. My pack runs the full 15AH and gives me 700 watts without issue. The Ebay supplier has a 99% positive rating. Like I say, I wouldn't do it, now. Luna is a little light on basic packs, like a 36v 10 AH. I noticed that Bike Scoozy, a Michigan ebike maker, and Lazer, an IGG crowdfund, are offering basic 36v Samsung packs for $250. So there's another option. The Lazer guy has a full line of batteries on his website, but it's probably more his plans for the future. He seems to match Luna prices.

                Thank you Louis! My goal is to save enough money to buy a BBSHD kit. But until then, I want to see if I can get my hands on a used BBS02 kit. I see used 01/02 bare motors sporadically, but I am reluctant to pull the trigger, because I can't really know what kind of condition it is in. Are there any pitfalls I need to look out for in purchasing used units? I understand that the nylon gears are quick to fail under abuse, and it's good to have spares. What are some other replacement parts I need to be mindful of?

                And do you have any recommendation for other components such as controller, LCD display, throttle control, sensors, etc? If possible, I want to purchase components that will be compatible with BBSHD motor in the future.

                ​Thanks again for your sound advice and words of encouragement!



                  Don't waste the $500 on some used stuff when you really want the BBSHD, which is only a couple hundred more.

                  I'm thinking the BBSHD is now establishing itself as the new high standard for performance, ease of installation, appearance, and value.

                  So, why waste $500 to under-buy by $200?

                  I mean, Luna has a BBS02 with an upgraded controller at about $525, which probably comes close to matching the BBSHD.


                  But, still, if you really want the BBSHD, like Louis suggests, mow some lawns, fast from a meal per day for 30 days, or whatever it takes!


                    I'd check craiglist or elsewhere for a used bike. You'd be surprised what 500 will get you.


                      Ironjack makes a good point. It's probably worth checking your area for good used deals to get you started.

                      I see non-functional used ebikes for a couple hundred bucks sometimes. If you get one of those, the battery is probably going to be what failed. Maybe the controller. If you can get a dead ebike for $100, buy a pack and matching controller for $400, you might get rolling, with some work. Then sell that for 2x-3x what you have into it, and upgrade to the BBSxx.

                      I wouldn't replace the original batteries with same type, which were probably Lead Acid for any old, dead ebike. I'd upgrade to a Lithium chemistry. If it was a 24V bike originally, I'd go to 36V, setting the new controller's current to a safe limit and gradually increasing it until motor gets warm.

                      More risky than mowing lawns or a 2nd job, but maybe a more fun and educational route, eh?

                      There is a site called Searchtempest which will let you search all of Craigslist at once, or any radius around your home, by price and description. I don't know where you live, but here are a couple of <$200 low powered mid-drive bikes currently on CL; it took me 10 min to find them this way:

                      Mongoose CX 450 Motocross 24 Volt Electric Bike - $185

                      lafree electric bike - $100

                      Fabrication is fun! Build something today. Show someone. Let them help. Inspire and share. Spread the desire.


                      • ahgnus
                        ahgnus commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Yes, that's my logic right now. Since I don't really want to cut corners with batteries, I want to see if I can find a decent used Bafang unit.

                        And Searchtempest rocks! Thank you! Although I didn't find any used Bafangs, I did come across many interesting bargain e-bikes. One of which is Sondors e-bike for $400. Unfortunately it was local pick up only, and I can't travel 300 miles for that.


                        The seller sent me couple of pictures, and it seems to be in mint condition. If any of you are in the area, check it out.

                      I found some budget batteries on-line, but I have no idea if they are reputable vendors. Any ideas?





                        I've heard of greenbikekit. The other two are not giving enough details.

                        There's an interesting guy who designed and built an e-dragster, Ron Adamowicz. I guess if you want performance, this was the vehicle:


                        Now he seems to want a piece of the ebike business. He has a fatbike on IGG, the Lazer Edge. There is also a website selling batteries.


                        I guess you could say he knows how to build a battery pack but, you know, any new business, it's tough.


                          I found a 48V 12AH battery on Amazon for $200!! Good reviews as well!


                          The catch is.... it's a 40lb 4 x 12V SLA setup. lol I guess you are paying for the wiring job.

                          I am probably better off with this one. 48V 12AH Li-ion for $198 /w Free Shipping

                          Last edited by ahgnus; 04-04-2016, 11:07 PM.