NOTE, 12/16/22: We are aware of multiple allegations from customers who have not received units after paying for them and many folks say the company is not replying to emails or giving refunds when customers ask for them. We recommend that no one purchases a Swytch kit until they publicly address these concerns and/or begin shipping product more promptly. Sorry for any issues our post might have caused. — Jonathan Maus, editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org. UPDATE, 1/19: Swytch has responded to many readers’ concerns in a Twitter thread posted on 12/16/22.
Of all the reviews I’ve shared here on BikePortland, none have sparked as big of a response as the Swytch electric bike conversion kit. At the time I said emphatically that the Swytch kit, paired with a Brilliant Bikes three-speed belt drive cruiser, was my favorite e-bike riding experience. I continue to stand by that, but at the time I also wondered if most people wouldn’t be better served just purchasing an off-the-shelf system.
I learned a lot from this community in the comments from that first post. So with that in mind, I wanted to share the latest update from Swytch.
What it offers
As before, the motor sits in the front hub and when ordering from Swytch you have the opportunity to choose what size wheel you need. All the wheels are 36 spoke count, double-walled construction with a solid axle and they are available in either a black or silver finish. The 250-watt motor with a top speed of 20 mph is also unchanged.
The solid axle will work for either quick-release bikes or bikes designed for a bolt-on solid axle. It will not work for a thru-axle bike but that’s a limitation of hub motors in general and not specific to the Swytch kit. One of the biggest points of discussion in the first article was the potential for movement in the dropouts and the optional torque arm. The torque arm is an optional accessory designed to spread the load for lightweight carbon forks. There is a torque washer included in every kit that slots into the fork drop-out. None of these specs for the wheel or battery have changed at all since the last version of the Swytch kit.
The cadence sensor is also unchanged. Like many of the less expensive e-bikes on the market, the Swytch kit only cares that you are pedaling, and not how hard. I’ll talk about this a little more below but this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different. The cadence sensor is what makes this work. The Swytch cadence sensor uses a magnet ring with a series of plastic bristles.
On the frame side there’s a sensor that registers the magnets passing by. The sensor is able to rock and just needs to be zip-tied to the frame so that it’s close to the magnet ring and always in the same place as the ring rotates. This is the hardest part of the system to install and it is still incredibly easy. Just check the clearance first and you won’t waste time installing and removing the ring.
The last piece is the battery and controller. This piece is what makes the Swytch system special, and it has been completely redesigned for the 2022 version of the kit. Previously, the battery and control scheme consisted of a handlebar mounted unit that looked like a front bag. Some units had a light on the front and they weighed about 2 kg. All the controls sat at the top of the pack and there were a series of lights to let you know battery life and power level.
With the 2022 Swytch kit update, that whole system is gone. Instead of the fabric outer with integrated controls, there is now a battery that weighs about half as much. It’s available in two versions that will either take you about 9-20 miles on one charge. You can get either version in a wide range of colors. The size is roughly 22.5 x 9.5 x 3.8 cm and there are no more controls built in. Instead of buttons on the battery pack, you can now access the modes, battery level, and current speed via a small display.
The battery is still removable, but that system has changed as well. The last generation mounted in the center of the bars with rubber spacers and an anti-rotation strap. The new unit uses metal spacers, lacks the strap, and mounting the battery involves sitting it on a small shelf then pressing the top down. The upper part of the mount connects the power as it clamps down. To remove it, just pull up.
If you wanted to upgrade your previous kit, all the connections are exactly the same. The cadence sensor and the wheel motor run up the frame and connect with a color-coded connection with only one possible orientation. The last kit had unused plugs and this one does too. The display fills one of them and there’s an optional throttle, either twist or thumb-activated, that will take up another. You could add a light to take up another of the plugs or a brake sensor if you are using the throttle.
How to purchase
After my previous review, I received a lot of confused messages about how to buy the kit. The company will tell you there’s more demand than supply and they are intentionally rewarding customers who are willing to wait by giving discounts. You had to sign up for the list and you could preorder at a discounted price.
Either way, the current situation for the 2022 Swytch eBike conversion kit is that it’s sold out. Existing waitlist customers will receive their pre-orders first and there is still room to pre-order for December delivery at a 50% discount. A third batch is also offered for a Jan/Feb 2023 delivery at a 60% discount. Unlike before, the whole system is now up on the website and pretty simple but Swytch is hoping that sometime in the first quarter of 2023 there will be enough supply to change over to a standard ordering process.
Right now the smaller battery complete kit is $1199 or you can pre-order at $499. The larger battery kit is $1599 and the preoder price is $649. If you already have an existing kit, you can also upgrade only the battery and control system for $799/$324.
What’s it like to use?
Nothing has changed in terms of how it rides, and that’s a very good thing! And now it’s even smaller and lighter. The low weight and ability to use a small bike is a big deal for accessibility.
It’s really easy cruise along at a nice clip without doing much work. Given that the Swytch kit is cadence based, you’ll just need to keep in mind that it will feel less like you are a bionic rider and more like the bike is doing the work for you. A mid-drive, torque-based system, can almost feel transparent. It’s like you are riding a bike and happen to be incredibly strong but depending on your needs that’s not always best. A cadence based system is great for transportation replacement.
Much of this section isn’t all that different either. Since the last review I put together one of the many Bafang based kits you can find on Amazon. As expected, it’s not nearly as slick as the Swytch. The end result looks like a science experiment. The Swytch kit is a more polished experience and also a better ride (depending on what bike you pair it with if course).
The challenge is that even though it works well, and the kit is now even more polished with the update, it’s still a kit. Given how prices of e-bikes are coming down, it’s not even that much of a discount — maybe even none if you pay full price! — and you end up with a bike that isn’t nearly as integrated. But what you get with the Swytch is the ability to install it on almost any bike. I personally haven’t put it on anything other than a pretty standard bike but there’s a lot of people who use them for things like trikes, kids bikes, cargo bikes, or just as a way to get a lightweight e-bike. If that’s what you need, Swytch makes a fantastic option.