Are Electric Bikes Noisy?

I am an avid biker, so when the electric bikes hit the market, I knew I had to invest in one. However, electric bicycles aren’t cheap, and it was important for me to get all the facts before I purchased one. One of my concerns was whether or not the electric motor on the bicycle would be noisy (if I’m going to spend a lot of money, I want to be sure my bike doesn’t actually sound like a motorcycle.)

Are Electric Bikes Noisy? Most electric bikes that you can purchase from a bike shop are not noisy, but pretty quiet. However, the higher quality the bike, the less sound you’ll ultimately hear. Additionally, if you attempt to convert your normal bicycle into an e-bike, using a converter kit, you might find the motor to be more audible.

As electric bicycles have risen in popularity they’ve done a great job of making them not only more efficient, but aesthetically more pleasing. They’re not only looking better on the bike, but they create very little extra noise. Sure you’ll still hear the normal sounds of riding a bike, but not much more than that. You will hear the noise of the tires running against the ground and the chain running through the gears. For newer e-bikes, the actual motor shouldn’t produce much noise at all.

My brother had an gas-powered bicycle in high school, and that thing was LOUD. It sounded like a lawn mower when he was zipping around the neighborhood. It was a kit he installed himself and it got the job done, but it was noisy. Electric bikes don’t make nearly as much noise.

Higher quality motors have a higher price tag to manufacture. Additionally, purchasing an electric bike from a bicycle shop will cost more because they’ve done all the work for you already (vs converting your normal bike to an e-bike yourself.) When converting a bicycle, you are limited to the ways in which you can diminish its sound, one of these being that there are only a select number of motors you can use alongside your converter kit – and it is the selection of these motors that will determine whether or not your e-bike is noisy.

Different Kinds of Electric Bike Motors

In general, e-bikes are relatively quiet and no louder than a regular bicycle. However, the type of motor present in the bike will determine its level of noise. It’s helpful to educate yourself on these motor types as you shop for your new e-bike, as that will be the most effective way of ruling out which bikes you want to get, and which to avoid. 

Crank Drive Motors

A crank drive motor derives its energy from the crank part of the bicycle, between the two foot pedals, which is where the activity of the pedals is converted into energy. This type of drive motor was the first advanced motor of its kind, created in the 90s in Japan and is still a top choice of motor for an electric bicycle.

This style of electric motor is popularly used on bicycles in both Europe and North America. Some of its most predominant bicycle manufacturers are Panasonic and Yamaha. These two companies have really perfected this type of e-bike.

Advantages of Crank Drive Motors

  • The crank drive motor is very versatile, in that you can fit it to a bike with varying numbers of gears. It also guarantees a more smooth and efficient performance (beyond what simply the peddling of your feet can accomplish).
  • Where this motor really shines is in synchronizing with the bike’s gear systems, and blazing up hills. This motor can get a bike’s momentum going, so the performance aspect of the bike becomes outstanding. The motor is placed at the crank is also ideal due to the fact that it keeps the weight lower on the bike, further optimizing the performance of the bicycle. Another exceptional aspect of this device is that it contains a fan mechanism inside, to prevent the motor from overheating. 
  • Another pro to this type of e-bike is that, due to its remarkable level of efficiency, you do not require a large crank drive motor. A small 250 W motor, for example, may suffice, and this will keep costs down.

Disadvantages of Crank Drive Motors

  • Since we are concerned with whether or not this type of motor is noisy, this is where the crank drive motor can disappoint. Perhaps as a new motor, you may not detect any noisiness. However, as a crank drive motor ages, there is potential for an increase of noise. This is often due to the floating bearing mechanism located inside the motor itself, as well as the materials in which the motor is made of. 

Essentially, getting a brand new crank drive motor e-bike, you can expect a quiet and effortless ride. Just be aware that you may encounter an increase in noise as the bicycle wears with age and use. These problems, however, can be fixed at a repair shop – though do not necessarily count on a free repair.

Hub Motor

Our other type of most common electric bicycle motor is the hub motor. This type of motor is located on the wheel hub (hence, its name) and very cleverly keeps the design of the bicycle intact. This type of motor is most commonly used for converting bicycles into e-bikes.

Advantages of Hub Motors

The hub motor performs beautifully, and due to its position on the wheels, it is super-efficient

  • The location of the motor also creates ease in performing simple repairs and also removing the motor itself without damaging or changing the structure of the bicycle. 
  • It’s location also creates a powerful sense of balance, which is obviously helpful when mounting your bicycle. 
  • The hub motor is also very well sealed, so that means it is generally impervious to changing weather conditions (including heavy rains, snow, etc.)

Disadvantages of Hub Motors

These motors can be on the noisier side (for an e-bike.)

It feels important to reiterate that the noise level on a hub motor e-bike is still going to be relatively soft, yet, as compared to other motors, it might seem slightly louder.

  • There are other concerns with this style of motor as well. While the sealed off motor is great for keeping out rain and silt – it can cause overheating issues. 
  • This motor is also more expensive than other e-bike motors, as it is a more complicated piece of machinery. In addition to this, the motor is heavy. 
  • Unlike the lightweight crank drive, the hub motor can add up to 5lbs, which can be significant. 

If you are converting your bicycle with this type of motor, be sure to place the motor on the rear wheel as opposed to the front wheel. This should help reduce noise and balance the weight distribution better.

If you are purchasing an e-bike from a store, with this type of motor, it is vital to purchase from a quality brand, to ensure the motor is one to receive top marks. There are some poorly constructed hub motors out there (even considering its higher price range). 

Ways to Quiet an Electric Bike

Regardless of the kind of e-bike you decide to purchase, it is helpful to know in advance what to do if your bicycle becomes noisy. Aside from actual motor itself, and any pertinent issues it may have, the goal of a noiseless bike is to reduce the amount each part is vibrating. To do this, you will tighten any and all loose nuts and bolts.

Additionally, cleaning your bike and keeping its’ chains well-oiled is equally essential to ensure a quiet ride. If your electric bike suddenly starts making a significant amount of noise, than you may want to have it inspected by your local bike shop repairman. They really shouldn’t be that loud.

How to Discern for Yourself Which E-bike is Noisy or Not

Since you are reading this article, you are obviously a person who likes to do their research. You can avoid most out-the-door blunders by simply reading reviews and articles such as this.

However, there really is no comparison to seeing, feeling and hearing the product in question in person. If you want to know if a specific model of e-bike is noisy, the best possible thing you can do is go into a reputable bicycle store and test ride it. Speak with your sales representative honestly and voice your concern about the noise of the motor – and how easily it will be to upkeep the motor health to prevent further noise in the future.

As said earlier, many of the popular models of pre-made electric bikes are relatively quiet. You won’t find them to be much louder than a regular bicycle. The louder e-bikes are often the ones that riders have created with a self-installed motor.

Occasionally, people confuse an electric BICYCLE with a moped or motorcycle. It should be stated that an electric bicycle is significantly more quiet than a motorcycle or moped as it’s not utilizing a gas motor. It will never make the BWAP BWAPPP BWAPPP noise that you’ll hear from a motorcycle revving the throttle. If you’ve ever driven or rode in an electric car you know that there’s a vast difference in noise compared to a gas vehicle.

You can check out more articles to understand and familiarize yourself with electric bikes here. Everything from buying guides to understanding how they work!

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