This kit from Ebikeoutlet combines a heavy duty looking Neodrives rear hub with a BMZ battery integrated in a rear pannier rack.
Both Neodrives and BMZ are quality names in the e-bike world. By offering premium features - like torque sensing in the powerful rear hub motor and a decent-sized battery from a renowned maker - for a sub-£550 price tag, this kit really stands out from the crowd.
It's worth saying right from the start that, although the kit has some points to be aware of (which we'll get to), in terms of high quality bang-for-your-buck, it's very, very hard to beat.
What you get and how to fit
Ebikeoutlet describe their kit as having a 250W high torque rear gearless motor with regenerative braking from Alber and a torque sensor built into the wheel. This means that, unlike many other torque sensing kits, there is no need to remove the bottom bracket (for example as required on the ever popular Bafang BBSO1 mid drive kit). The Ebikeoutlet kit is designed for you to be able to swap out your rear wheel, fit the rear rack with battery housing and the handlebar display and control buttons, and you are good to go.
Battery options are 416Wh (our test kit) or 536Wh from renowned German battery manufacturer BMZ. The battery has a neat clip fitting onto the top of a rear rack where it feeds power to the motor via a magnetic Rosenberger style connector. The accompanying fast charger claims a full recharge in just two hours. There is also a handlebar mounted LCD display that is 'twist-removable' with a separate wired button control that mounts by your left thumb.
This is undoubtedly amazing value but comes with a couple of caveats. The motor is ready spoked into the wheel but only 26" and 27.5" rims are available. Presumably the restricted wheel size choice is part of the reason for the low price. It's also a very heavy kit - as most very powerful kits are.
Ebikeoutlet say the kit is particularly suited to mountain bike conversions and after fitting it to a 27-speed 2008 Marin Indian Fire Trail (bought on eBay for £205), the unpowered bike had increased in weight from 12.85kg to 22.30kg, the kit adding 9.45kg. Whilst this looks a lot at first glance, I think it's fair enough given that you get a get a very powerful kit on a bike that has a huge gear range, high quality Fox front suspension and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. Today's similarly powerful and equally specced ready-to-ride shop floor e-MTBs can easily exceed this weight.
I was dreading fitting. Most kits are front hub motor designs because of the potential problems of rear hub kits to do with gear and brake compatibility and chain alignment. However, the Ebikeoutlet Neodrives wheel came ready fitted with a nine sprocket cluster and after fitting the disc rotor and tyre off the Marin to the new motor wheel, it slotted straight into the frame like a dream. No fettling was needed on disc alignment or on gear indexing and axle spacing within the frame. Maybe I was lucky but certainly the 26" wheel kit looks to be made very accurately indeed.
The rear rack was bolted on via the four length-adjustable stays; the handlebar button and display were easily mounted; and all the cables were cable tied to the frame and connected 'plug and play' style.
I only had a couple of concerns. Firstly the supply connector on the wiring loom where the display connects up had some rather exposed, thin wires and didn't look particularly weatherproof. As this was a test and the kit was only on a short while, I simply cable-tied it to the frame, but if I was to fit if permanently, some kind of weather and shock protection would certainly be appropriate - probably the quickest solution would be a neoprene covering.
The second issue came to light in testing when the high torque of the motor forced the rear axle out of the dropouts. There is a hugely beefy anti-torque washer on one side of the hub motor, but this wasn't really sitting deep enough in the dropouts to be entirely effective. After reseating the axle and resting the anti-torque washer more against the frame, then using a torque wrench to tighten the axle nuts to 35Nm, the problem did not recur.
The ideal would be to fit to a recipient bike with deeper dropouts, but whatever bike you fit the kit to, pay special attention to the security of the rear axle in this area (and if it sounds too tricky, a good e-bike workshop should be able to advise on how to make it optimally secure to stop the axle rotating out of the frame).
Whilst there is a light unit on the rear of the battery, it is not hard-wired. This is a system designed originally for bike manufacturers to fit to production e-bikes on which a frame-concealed DC to DC converter would drop the battery voltage to 6 or 12 volts, which is what most e-bike lights run at. The wiring loom does have a spare connection specially for lights to tap into and a competent enthusiast or e-bike workshop should be able to hardwire front and rear lights to the main battery. It's a pity they are not included with the kit even as an optional extra but it's good that the potential to do this relatively easily is there.
The performance of the Neodrives kit was a revelation. It was class-leading in terms of its hill climbing and also returned a very respectable range, which I wasn’t expecting as big, gearless heavy motors like this tend to use a lot of energy just to get up to speed as they lack the advantage of reduction gearing.
The kit made mincemeat of our two standard hill climb tests - long and demanding and short and ultra steep respectively. Most striking of all, it just about equalled the performance of a Riese and Muller Homage equipped with a Bosch Performance Line CX mid-drive up a very testing long climb up a former spoil heap. This was of course on the top power level and with the aid of those ultra low gears found on a high quality MTB like the Marin.
If you are planning to use the kit in such demanding terrain, I'd reiterate just how important it is to get that rear torque washer secure and working effectively as it was on this big climb that the axle loosened off. Most of the time I enjoyed using the bike on pretty demanding but lesser gradients where the lower two of the five power levels were sufficient when used in conjuncton with that low gearing. That frugal use of power also helped return a range of well over 40 miles - highly impressive for a 416Wh battery on hilly, off-road terrain. The battery was removed quickly and easily using a large spring catch on its underside and recharged from empty as promised in a couple of hours.
The LCD display was intuitive to use. I quickly found the software setting that activated the regenerative setting and found this useful as a 'drag brake' on long descents, though it won't contribute much to extending your range. Most impressive of all the battery gauge and range estimate proved very accurate. I also liked the fact it was quick and easy to remove, which is a nice added security feature / theft deterrent.
The Ebikeoutlet Neodrives kit is superb value - other Neodrives kit are out there with a price tag of well over £2K and the Neodrives-equipped Gudereit model we looked at here is priced over £5,500. If you are planning to use it for serious off-roading or cargo hauling where torque loads on the rear axle will be high, I would suggest spending some of the considerable money you save over other equally powerful options on having it professionally fitted so that the rear axle is secured properly.