What an exciting time it is to be alive with so many e-bike options to choose from! With lots of options, though, can come lots of confusion in finding the right system for you. That’s where we come in! We aim to help arm you with the information you need to decide on the right type of e-bike for you. In this article, we are discussing the difference between converted electric bikes that use a conversion kit and purpose-built electric bikes, like a Bosch powered Xtracycle. We will examine the pros and cons of each and how to decide which configuration is right for you.

If you already have a non-electric bike and are looking for tips on converting it with an e-bike kit, check out our article “All you need to know about doing e-bike conversions”.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When shopping for an e-bike conversion kit, Xtracycle only recommends kits with a max 20 MPH assist. We recommend against kits with an assist higher than 20 MPH or any kit (regardless of max assist level) with throttles.

Let’s dive right in!

Converted vs. purpose-built: what’s the difference?

A converted electric bike is a non-electric, also referred to as a “mechanical” bike that has been electrified using an e-bike conversion kit. This kit typically includes a motor, a battery and electric controls. Converted e-bikes maintain their ability to revert back to a non-electric bike once the conversion system is removed. Here is an example of a converted Xtracycle EdgeRunner using a rear hub Bionx motor:

A purpose-built e-bike is a bike that is meant to be sold as an electric bike. This means the bike has a custom frame made to fit a certain e-bike motor and that the electrical components are integrated into the frame design of the bike. Often times, a purpose-built e-bike can only ever be an e-bike and cannot be retrofitted to become a non-electric bike. Here is an example of a purpose-built Xtracycle EdgeRunner with a Bosch system:

A big difference between the frame of non-electric bike and a purpose-built electric bike is in the bottom bracket area. Let’s take a closer look since this difference plays a role in the pros and cons of each system:

On a non-electric bike, the bottom bracket shell is a hole in the frame meant to house the bottom bracket (what connects the two pedals within the bike frame) and allow it to smoothly rotate as you pedal. E-bike conversion kits are intended to be installed on bikes with bottom brackets. With a mid-drive system, the motor utilizes this bottom bracket shell and installs into that hole along with the crank arms. With hub drive systems, that bottom bracket remains unaltered.

On a purpose-built electric bike like an Xtracycle Bosch bike, there is no bottom bracket nor bottom bracket shell. In its place is something called a node. This node is a custom fitting or cut-out in the frame intended to securely hold a specific electric bike motor. Once the motor is installed, the crank arms install directly into the system and it is the internal gearing of the system that turns when you pedal. When the motor on an electric bike is removed, the bike is non-functional because there is no place to install crank arms and pedals.

Buying a purpose-built e-bike: pros and cons



Buying a bike to convert: pros and cons



What kind of e-bike is right for you?

Since each rider and their needs are unique, it’s challenging to have hard and fast rules on what type of e-bike will work for what type of rider. Our best piece of advice is to take stock of the above pros and cons of each system to see if one meets your needs better than the other.

Still not sure if a purpose-built e-bike or converted e-bike is best for you? Our knowledgeable, cargo biking enthusiasts on staff are more than happy to share their thoughts and experience to help you navigate the options.

Ready to start building your purpose-built Xtracycle electric cargo bike?

Not sure what kind of cargo bike is best for you? Take our bike recommender to get a recommendation based on your unique needs.

Looking for Part 2 and Part 3 of this three part series?