Your Guide to Electric Bicycles and Gears

When you think about an electric bike, what is the first thing that you think of? Electricity? You looking cool with the wind blowing through your hair? Gearing? Although gears may not be what you think of, they are actually a crucial part of your electric bike in many ways!

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? The short answer is yes, they do! Not only do they work very similar to how gears work on a regular bike, but they have a lot of great features that your standard bike might not actually have, and gears on your electric bike even have benefits for you!

  • The gears make the battery of your bike last longer
  • Electric bikes let you travel faster for longer
  • It makes it a lot easier on the cyclist

If you have ever considered renting an electric bike, buying one for your commute home, or maybe are looking to get one for recreational use, then let’s talk about why electric bikes and gearing.

Electric Bikes Have Gears, But Why?

For most of us, when we think about electric bikes, we are not thinking about gears. Contrary to popular belief, gears play a huge role in the battery life, ease of travel, efficiency of pedaling, and can ease the stress on the rider as well.

Electric bikes are basically a combination of a traditional bicycle and a motorcycle. You are getting the experience of riding a bike, but with just a little extra boost. The big difference is that an electric bike has gears and requires you to pedal while a motorcycle is propelled forward completely by the motor.

Gears on electric bikes work just like the gears on a traditional bike. The difference is that on an electric bike there is an electric motor that helps you shift into higher gears without increasing the stress on your body.

For most electric bikes, one side has a throttle or button to increase the input from the electric motor while the right has mechanical shifters. This keeps your hands on the handle, and it makes it easier for you to shift when your terrain or speed may change.

The gears provide a ton of benefits which can make your next bike ride a lot easier. These gears actually help the battery of your electric bike last a lot longer. Since you have the assistance of a motor, you travel much faster and further than you would on a traditional bike.

Electric bikes also have increased the amount that cyclists actually use their bikes. Since the motor takes some of the pressure off of your body, you are able to continue your rides longer than you may be used to. It also still acts as a form of exercise since you are going to do some pedaling every now and then.

What Are the Pros and Cons of An Electric Bike?

If you are new to the world of electric bikes, then you are probably wondering what they could offer you as the rider. As with anything, knowing the pros and cons of something is a quick way to see if it fits into your lifestyle, let’s talk about the pros and cons of electric bikes.

Pros of Electric BikingCons of Electric Biking
Great for traveling up steep inclinesMore expensive than traditional biking
Eases knee joint pain and even asthmaWeight can cause storage problems
Cheaper than maintaining a carThey can be quite noisy due to the motor
No license is required for operationHigher maintenance costs than a bicycle 
More difficult to steal due to weightLess of a workout than traditional biking
Great for the environment Battery replacement can be expensive 

As technology moves forward, the pros and cons of using an electric bike will change. There are also a variety of bikes that have basic features as well as options that have more features, but they come at a much higher cost.

Now that we know a little bit about electric bikes, it is time to talk about the gears! So, what exactly do these gears do? Let’s talk in detail about why electric bikes have gears, and what the benefits of those gears are for you as a cyclist!

What Do the Gears Do on Electric Bikes?

If you are an avid cyclist, then an electric bike is going to change your life. Gears on electric bikes are perfect because they make your ride so much easier. Gears work pretty much the same way as they do on a traditional bike.

Once you start going into the higher gears, it can be tiring on your body, and just difficult overall to maintain that speed. Gears on traditional bikes are a way to get the most out of your pedaling, and gears do the same thing on electric bikes.

There are two main types of electric bikes that are the most popular. Depending on which style of bike you use, your gears may work a little bit different. Let’s break down the difference in pedal-assisted electric bikes and throttle assisted electric bikes.

  • Pedal Assist: This is one of the most common types of electric bikes you can find. It works mostly like a traditional bike, but it has a torque sensor that senses how slow or quickly you are pedaling. Some electric pedal-assisted bikes come with regenerative braking or pedaling, which helps to recharge the battery.
  • Throttle Assist: If you’re looking to use a bike, but you are not looking forward to the effort, then a throttle assist is perfect for you. These bikes feature a throttle that you simply have to press or turn a button or knob in order for the gear to raise or lower. You can still use the pedals to move the bike, but it is not necessary.

These are further broken down into three individual classes.

  • Class 1: Low speed, pedalassisted. Only provides assistance while pedaling once the bicycle reaches twenty miles per hour.
  • Class 2: Low speed, throttle assisted. Uses a motor to propel the bike, but has no assistance after twenty miles per hour
  • Class 3: Speed pedal-assisted. Provides assistance while pedaling until the bike reaches twenty-eight miles per hour.

Depending on how hard or quickly you are pedaling, the electric assistance will come in and help you travel at the same speed, but without the extra resistance that you may experience on a regular bike.

Figuring out which style of electric bike is best for you boils down to figuring out what you are using the bike for. There are a wide variety of models and makers that have different attributes suitable for different riders.

How Do the Electric Gear Shifts Work?

The gears on your electric bike work together with the battery of your bike, as well as the drivetrain. This is done by using switches or levers that are connected to a battery pack and a small motor. Since this system can change gears faster and calibrate itself, it requires much less maintenance than you may think.

What Are Some of The Advantages of An Electronic Gear Shift?

  • There is no need to switch hand positions if the rider needs to shift gears
  • Creates a smoother shift even in difficult terrain or situations
  • There are no cables to replace over time with wear and tear
  • Many bikes allow the user to manage the front and rear of the bike differently
  • The smoothness actually reduces damage to the drivetrain and other parts

What Are Some of The Disadvantages of An Electronic Gear Shift?

  • If the battery runs out, then it could pose a problem
  • Some electronic systems have not been as reliable as they should be 
  • Initial costs are significantly higher than a traditional bike, as are repairs
  • Electronic bikes are heavier which can make them difficult for travel and storage

It is also interesting to know that you actually can upgrade your existing bike to become an electric bike. Knowing the time and costs that it is going to cost you is something you need to be aware of. If your bike is older than 2005, it is probably easier to get a new bike.

There Are Four Main Types of Electric Bike Motors

If you are looking to get into electric bikes, then there are four motors that are the most common and that you need to be aware of.

  • Hub Motors: This is the first type of motor that became popular when electric bikes hit the market. They keep the motor and the drivetrain of the bike separate. It utilizes electromagnets to rotate the hub forward or backward. 

These are typically found in the middle of the wheel, but it does add additional weight, which can cause issues with repairs and flat tires. They also have an issue with throwing the balance off of the bike, as well.

  • Geared Hub Motors: Geared hub motors are typically lighter, but they can also be much noisier and damaging. They are built quite well, but as with all things over time, the damage will eventually catch up to the motor. 
  • Gearless Hub Motors: If you are looking for a motor that is on the quiet side, then this is the best option for you. These motors rely on electromagnets, and unlike the geared hub motors, they do not contain a freewheel. 

One negative is that due to the motor using magnets, it is often usually heavier and larger than you may be wanting.

  • Mid-Drive Motor: This is a great motor if you plan on doing quite a bit of uphill travel. It actually drives the chain forward instead of the wheel. This also is on the heavier side but is quite efficient if you’re looking to climb or do long-distance biking. 

Why Are Gears Used on Electrical Bikes?

Let us get into the benefits of gears on electrical bikes, and why they are essential for getting the most out of using electric bikes.

Gears on Electric Bikes Can Save the Battery

One of the biggest benefits of gears on electric bikes for most users is that they make a huge difference on the life of the battery. Most electric bikes range anywhere between twenty to sixty miles depending on where you live, when you are riding, and how hard you are riding.

There are actual steps you can take to enhance the livelihood of your electric bike and the range. These include everything from the actual terrain that you are using it on to the air pressure in the tires.

The gear that you are riding in has everything to do with how long you are going to be able to continue to ride the bike. The higher the gear you are riding in, the quicker your battery is going to drain. Some bikes have features that allow you to select what kind of boost you want, and this can also help your battery last longer!

One of the main benefits of pedal-assist motors is that you are relying mostly on yourself to propel the bike. However hard you are working to pedal is reflected by the motor, but it not as using as much power as a throttle assist motor might use.

Although it may be tempting to use the motor as much as possible to lighten the amount of pedaling you have to do, it is a quick way to run down your battery faster than you wanted to.

Electric Bikes Let You Travel Faster for Longer

Electric bikes have become one of the most popular forms of transportation in cities. Not only are they typically easier to use, but they are often quicker than other forms of public transportation.

You can help the battery out by working on learning when and how to shift gear, but it also physically lets you save energy by having the gears. The harder you work, the harder the motor works to keep you going at a quick speed, but it is not tiring you out.

Although you may be able to travel faster than with a traditional bike, you’re not going to be hitting the interstate any time soon. Most motors only allow you to go a certain speed, and that usually clocks in anywhere between twenty to thirty miles per hour.

It is Much Easier on the Cyclist 

The main reason people are so interested in electric bikes is how easy they are on the cyclist. The assisted pedaling that an electric bike provides is every cyclist’s dream. If you have ever spent any time riding bikes, then you know how tired you can get going up a hill, or just on a rough ride. You still get the same feeling of riding a bike, but with just a little extra push!

At the end of the day, you are still getting a certain level of exercise from riding a bike, as well. Although you are not going to burn as many as if you were on a traditional bike, you will still burn calories. Some riders have even said that it has actually made them ride more often because it takes the pressure and exhaustion out of riding.

Electric bikes are also great for riders who may have joint issues or asthma. You can still get the benefits of riding, but without the stress on your joints, or pushing your lungs to their capacity.

Both of the motors give the cyclist a bit of a boost, but pedaling is not required with throttle assist bikes, but you are still able to use the pedals if you choose. One of the negative aspects of a throttle bike is that not all cities actually allow them.

One quick note about using a throttle assist electric bike is that you need to make sure the speed you are traveling is something you can control. One of the biggest issues with an electric bike is moving too fast, resulting in damage to the bike or the rider.

How Do You Know What Gear You Should Use?

Knowing what gear to use in certain situations is going to take some practice. As we know, where you are riding, when you are riding, and how you are riding are all factors to think about when you get on your electric bike.

If you are new to the cycling world, then gears are basically just another way to adjust the speed of the bike. Electric bikes can have anywhere from one to forty speeds depending on the bike you get.

A quick way to remember what gear is which, then the lower the number, the lower the gear. The higher the number, the higher the gear. Lower gears are typically great for uphill since it has the lowest amount of resistance. Higher gears are great for downhill rides.

On most electric bikes, the level on the left is going to be the shifter that is responsible for electric assistance. The shifter on the right is for the mechanical gears. Depending on the bike that you get, there could be different settings. Some have low, medium, and high settings. Others may have modes such as eco, tour, or sport.

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