Jay Caboz
Matt Leve, co-founder of Chilled Squirrel. Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.
  • For R15,000 this e-bike company says it can convert any unused bike left lying around in your garage and turn it into an electric one that will go up to 40 kilometres on battery power.
  • The electric bikes, or e-bikes, can zoom around the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town at a cool 80km/hour and the best bit is you don’t even need a licence to ride them.
  • E-bikes are an up-and coming trend in South Africa, giving access to commuters that need a little bit of an extra push.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.


A South African bike company says for R15,000 it can convert any unused bike left lying around in your garage and turn it into an electric one that will go up to 40 kilometres on battery power.

The electric bikes, or e-bikes, can zoom around the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town reaching speeds of 80km/hour. Being pedal-powered they don't require a licence to ride them, only a bike helmet. 

“Our main focus is about bringing enjoyment back into exercise. A lot of people find they hit a wall and lose their passion for riding, especially when it comes to tackling hills. People end up with these beautiful bikes they’ve bought, and they end up sitting in a garage just gathering dust,” said Matt Leve, founder of Chilled Squirrel, the company that is converting the e-bikes.

E-bikes are an up-and coming trend in South Africa, following their success in bike friendly countries like the Netherlands and Japan.

Back home in South Africa they're going a long way toward helping give access to commuters who need that little bit of an extra push - be it due to disability, age, weight or even distance. 

“E-bikes give people the opportunity to ride further than they could ever before. It gives them the opportunity to see more than the 5 to 15 km they would normally cycle for. Now you can travel up to 40 kilometres and even further,” said Leve.

Leve says e-bikes are really hitting it off off-road. The company has converted some 2,600 bikes - the majority of them being mountain bikes.

“In South Africa 8 out of 10 bikes sold are actually mountain bikes. It’s quite interesting because you’d think that road bikes would be more popular because of races like the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the 97/4. But most people do these races on their mountain bikes anyway.”

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.

They’ve become so popular that next year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour (2020) will feature an e-bike category for the first time. This will be subject to conditions like the bike being under 40kg, having a maximum 0.25 kilowatt output, is not permanently powered and is fitted with a control mechanism that limits the maximum electric powered speed (on PAS mode) to 25 km/h.

This is what the e-bike conversion looks like: 


Chilled Squirrel says an entry level conversion costs R15,000.

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.

For this you’ll get a battery capable of going 40 kilometres.

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.


There are also more expensive options with batteries that can travel 60km, 90km and 120km.

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.


The e-bikes can be equipped with 3 different drive trains made to suit the cyclist.

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.

A front hub build is the most economical and is used normally for roads. You can also get a rear hub motor for an all-terrain experience which can take on beaches and mountain trails.  Finally, there is a mid-drive system build which is ideal for heavier riders and taking on very steep hills.

This is what their digital speedometre looks like. 


The drive trains are customisable and can be fitted on to a variety of bike types. 

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.

Like this three-wheeler electric was made for Marguerite Black Marguerite, who suffers from a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder that has her confined to a wheelchair.

Source Chilled Squirrel.
Marguerite Black. Source Chilled Squirrel.


They have service centres in Cape Town and Johannesburg.


If you don't have an old bike, they say they can build you a new hybrid city-based bike with all the bells and whistles which will cost R25,000.

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/ Business Insider South Africa.


Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: