By Paul Willerton
There is beauty in simplicity. Consider the bicycle. Without electric assist, the most efficient human powered machine known to man.
With electric assist, the bicycle climbs off the charts. Still, many are intimidated by the bike – and particularly the electric assist bicycle.
Some electric systems can be complex. The influx of high-end, mid-drive motor systems have brought a surge of attention to the ebike, including a following of younger, more experienced riders.
At the other end of the spectrum is a much larger group of riders.
Has the market answered the call for the rider who may like everything about their traditional pedal bike but wishes they had some assist to ride longer, further or faster? Without spending much money?
Enter LEED Bicycle Solutions out of Mountain Green, Utah. What began as a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013 has continued to grow and service a large niche in the ebike space: front wheel ebike conversion kits.
Here is a video overview of their 250 watt and 500 watt electric bike kits:
Simply replacing the front wheel of any traditional bike and strapping on the included battery pack allows the converted LEED E-bike kit rider to enjoy the benefits of electric assist cycling.
Aside from assist, the big benefit of going with a LEED kit is cost. Through their website LEED offers two power choices and an assortment of battery options. LEED offers 250 watt and 500 watt systems, each with an assortment of battery options.
The 250 watt kit has seven different battery size options. These run from a 24V, 2.6 amp hour kit for $479 to a 24 volt, 25.6 amp hour $1,079 version.
The 500 watt electric bike kit comes with either an 11 amp hour 36 volt kit for $899 or a 13 amp hour 36 volt kit for $949. These batteries come in either a downtube or rear rack mount versions.
We will get into the differences between these systems shortly. For all of these kits, LEED uses what are called 8-Fun geared hub motors from a company called Bafang.
I ride and review a lot of e-bikes. Most of the bikes I’ve had in for review have been high-end mountain bikes, heavy lifting cargo bikes and cruisers geared toward riders looking for comfort and style across the price spectrum.
Since LEED sells conversion kits and not complete bicycles, I wasn’t sure what we’d be riding for the review. The bikes that showed up were Electra city bikes.
This style of bike is popular in Europe, and that’s where I’ve done most of my riding on them. I’ve always enjoyed this style of bike.
I find the riding position to be more comfortable – and powerful – than the lower cruiser style. They are also more efficient than cruisers, being lighter and riding on narrower tires. For the LEED kits, they are an ideal choice.
LEED kits can be fitted to any bike, and with prices starting at under $500, this became an eye-opening review. LEED demonstrates that the possibilities for mobilizing populations on two wheels is practically endless and achievable.
They prove that ebikes are not toys for the wealthier classes. Bicycles make humans the most efficient animals on earth. Adding affordable electric assist to that equation is a game changer.
One secret bike manufacturers don’t want you to know is that for the vast majority, new bikes are not faster than old ones. Literally any well maintained bike made in the last 40 years could be fit with a LEED kit.
Preferably, it would have a stout front fork, good headset, brakes and other components. Department store bikes are not worth converting for quality and safety issues. Well cared for bikes from the 80’s and 90’s can be had for next to nothing. The one’s in garages around the country are perfect candidates for a LEED kit.
I found the 250 watt kit a joy to use and ride for it’s elegance and simplicity. The old saying “Pick the right tool for the job” fits every form of cycling.
In our cars, most Americans have more power than we have the skills – or roads – to use. The LEED 250w can be used close to full potential by any rider on every ride. There’s a lot of greatness in that.
Climb on the bike, hit the little button with your thumb, pedal and go. It’s that simple. Turn your legs and pedal. Grabbing bigger gears, the stock city bike starts to spin out at 16 mph, which is right where the 250 maxes out anyway on a flat road. Release the thumb button and add your own power for a while.
Inclines, even 5%, show the limitations of the 250. Keep the power down, shift into smaller gears and pedal. Cyclists pedal up climbs and with the 250 they will still need to. Personally, I like the feeling of my own power on top of the motor and getting some light exercise on an ebike like this feels kind of therapeutic.
For the 250, LEED also offers the world’s smallest ebike battery. Initially part of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the aptly named “PBJ” battery packs 2.6 amp hours and 24 watts of power using Samsung cells in the size of a small sandwich.
It’s enough to add boost to 16mph for four miles. The way I rode the city bike with the 250, I only used power about half the time. The light weight of the PBJ made the bike more fun to pedal and easier to lift up stairs or onto a rack. One of the best urban batteries around for shorter trips, the PBJ is available from LEED for $169.
At the other end of the battery spectrum for the 250w motor is a 25.6 amp hour 24 volt pack using Panasonic cells. This battery is marked at $799 and offers an impressive 50 mile range at the 250’s 16 mph top end.
The 250 does not have a digital display to show the rider battery levels or speed. Some ebikes can be very difficult to ride once battery is exhausted. The LEED 250 is one of the easiest riding ebikes once batteries are exhausted, especially with the smaller, lighter batteries in the lineup.
It feels like just another pedal bike. I see this as another positive feature for this simple kit. You won’t feel stranded, but you will need to ride a nice, smooth bike the rest of the way if you don’t have a spare battery.
Moving up the power spectrum is the LEED 500w. As the name implies, it uses a 500 watt 8-Fun geared motor which can be mounted on the front or rear wheel. I like front wheel configuration for Leed kits if only for the sake of simplicity.
The 500w kit is not as simple however as the 250w. It has an added digital LED display to read speed, distance, battery and power assist levels. Power is applied with a thumb operated twist throttle.
Included is an optional Pedal Assist System. This is a two-piece install consisting of a round magnetic plate that is fixed to the inside of the chain rings on the crank set and a sensor that is positioned close enough to read the magnets.
Using the PAS option, electric assist starts whenever the pedals are turning. The thumb twist throttle will still override the PAS if it is used.
With the added torque of the 500w system, LEED includes a small torque arm to add extra rigidity to the frame whether the motor is installed on the front or rear of the bike. The addition of the LED display and PAS does add some complexity to the 500w kit compared to the 250w kit. For riders who want the added power, these extra pieces aren’t an issue.
The 500w kit has more torque and the ride tests showed a 3mph higher top speed, to 24mph. The added power does help on hills and carrying extra weight.
On the city bikes that were part of this review, the added torque and speed of the 500w were instantly noticeable. While that sounds like the winner in all respects, this review taught me some things. The results were somewhat surprising.
In a nutshell, on city bikes like these, ridden on road and without added weight, it was the 250w kit which ended up my ride of choice. I may love the feel of electric assist, but I am still a cyclist who likes to feel the pedals beneath me.
On the 500w kit, the Electra was under-geared for a 24mph top speed. The bike becames more of a coasting machine. That’s going to suit a lot of riders and may be the reason they want an ebike in the first place – to not have to pedal.
I still like the feeling of being on top of a gear while pedaling. Of course, none of this is the fault of the LEED 500w kit, it’s more of an issue with the bike it was installed on.
In contrast, the Electra with the 250w was a match made in heaven. I can say, the pleasure of riding the LEED 250w on that bike to the country store on several warm, Summer evenings to pick up a six pack and some drumsticks for the kids converted me.
Not only to city bikes in general (I will be adding one to my two wheeled quiver) but to lower power electric motors and smaller batteries for certain ebike applications.
One difference worth noting between the 250w and 500w kit was the ease of pedaling without electric assist engaged. With the 250w bike, cruising at 17mph without assist was easy. On the bike with the 500w kit, even more pedaling effort resulted in speeds closer to 12mph. That’s a huge difference and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The 500w kit does have a heavier and larger hub motor resulting in more rotating weight further out toward the rim of the wheel. The larger rack-mounted battery adds more weight to the bike.
Neither kit seems to add friction or added resistance. Other than these differences I was not able to figure out exactly what caused the difference in speed and perceived effort when riding unassisted.
LEED kits make sense for the vast majority of people who venture out on two wheels. Baby boomers who put their bike away years ago would be well served to resurrect those good memories and feelings with a LEED kit on those same bikes that have been sitting idle.
How many purchases do we make in our lives where we pay 100% the price of the product (or more, if financed) yet use it to a fraction of it’s ability? LEED ebike kits are one of those rare products that are amazingly useful, can be pushed to 100% of it’s ability on a daily basis and carries a very low entry price.
I did enjoy the LEED 250w kit on the Electra in this test more than many hub-motor ebike cruisers I’ve had costing significantly more. The bike achieves that elusive “less-is-more” balanced feel. It’s not hard to see this value equation coming into play in the ebike rental market, too.
The thing I like most about the LEED kits is the ability to give new life to any bike, new or old. I can think of a lot of old bikes I’d like to inject new life into.
If the bike has tall enough gears, I may opt for a LEED 500w after all. I don’t know, yet. It may be an old hard tail mountain bike or a retired steel Campagnolo equipped Italian road racing machine from the 80’s.
Whichever style ride I choose to give new life to, it will be my own choice and it will be totally unique. Thanks to LEED Ebike Systems, any of them are possible.
Thanks to Paul Willerton for his review of the LEED Ebike Systems.
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