If you’re in the market for a new e-bike, you might wonder if one that makes use of pedal assist is worth it.
A pedal assist e-bike basically offers you electric power to enhance or boost your cycling, thus taking the edge off if you don’t have the physical energy to make it up a hill.
How does a pedal-assisted e-bike work?
A common type of pedal assist makes use of magnets that are attached to the pedal crank and a sensor on the bike’s bottom bracket. When the pedal crank rotates, the sensor monitors the pedaling rate.
It then gives you a boost to make pedaling easier. But that’s just one type of pedal assist system.
Here’s everything you need to know about pedal-assist e-bikes and if they’re worth investing in or you should choose a throttle e-bike instead.
- 1 How Pedal-Assist E-Bikes Work
- 2 Is Pedal Assist “Cheating?”
- 3 What Are The Different Levels Of Pedal Assist?
- 4 What To Know About E-Bike Power And Range
- 5 The Two Sensors Used In Pedal-Assist E-Bikes
- 6 Pedal Assist Vs Throttle Bike
- 7 Can You Charge Your Pedal-Assist Bike While Using It?
- 8 Why Pedal Assist E-Bikes Are Worth It
- 9 Related Questions
- 10 Conclusion
How Pedal-Assist E-Bikes Work
Pedal assist, sometimes called a pedelec bike, is basically when you use the motor of the bike’s power to help make pedaling the bike easier.
You can do this at any time of your ride, such as if you have to move faster or you don’t have the fitness to navigate trickier terrain.
Your e-bike will have different levels of assistance, based on how much power you want the motor to give you.
The big difference between a pedal-assist e-bike and a throttle bike is that you need to pedal with a pedal-assist bike – you can’t only make use of the bike’s motor.
This makes a pedal assist e-bike much more similar to a regular bicycle, which is a bonus if you love your bicycle but don’t want to use your leg power throughout every ride.
Is Pedal Assist “Cheating?”
Now, this is something that we need to clear up because it seems to come up a lot when people speak about pedal-assist e-bikes.
Some bike fans will criticize riders who use pedal assist because they think it means those people aren’t really getting exercise on their bikes, but this is not true.
Pedal assist can actually help you get more exercise because you won’t run out of energy! It can also prevent you from over-exerting yourself.
One of the main reasons why pedal assist e-bikes aren’t cheating when it comes to exercise is because you still have to pedal – you can’t just let the motor take over, even if you are tired!
You’re therefore always guaranteed of getting in your daily bout of exercise when you use a pedal-assisted e-bike.
What Are The Different Levels Of Pedal Assist?
Generally, e-bikes that are pedal assist models will come with three pedal assist modes: high, medium, and low. There is a difference between Pedal assist vs Throttle. Here’s what each one does.
- High pedal assist is when you don’t want to pedal much, but instead want the motor to take over more. This is a good idea if you want to get to work faster on one particular morning or you don’t want to work up too much of a sweat during your ride. You can ease off on the pedalling and let the motor do all the hard work for a while.
- Medium pedal assist is when you strike a good balance between using your leg power and using the motor’s power. You can make the most of that extra boost of power when you need it, such as when you’re climbing a hill, and then the rest of the time mainly use your leg power because it’s not too taxing, such as on flat roads.
- Low pedal assist is when you’re getting more of a workout on your bike because most of the power is being produced by your legs. You only use the pedal-assist feature when you really, really need it. If your daily commute doesn’t really require much in terms of exercise, you might find that you don’t even need much of the e-bike’s motor power – but it’s nice to have it there in case you do!
Now, to make things a little confusing, different e-bikes will have different speeds for the rider.
These are basically the same thing as levels. It’s important to choose the speed number that will make the most sense for you, based on how you like to ride and how much you’ll need assistance from the e-bike’s motor.
How many levels do you really need?
- Single-speed e-bikes are a good option for you if you’re fit and you use your bike casually. They’re also suitable if you tend to use your e-bike on flat roads or if you’re only going to need the power assist 10 percent of the time, such as when getting up a steep hill.
- Three-speed e-bikes are better suited for you if you regularly need a power boost from your bike. They’re also good if you use your bike regularly, such as for your daily commute, as you might find that you want to use more power on some days.
You can find e-bikes that have five or more speeds, so if the above aren’t enough for your riding needs then those are worth considering!
What To Know About E-Bike Power And Range
When you make use of your e-bike motor’s power on a pedal assist bike, it’s worth knowing that the higher you set the power setting, the shorter your bike’s range will be.
This is because you’ll be using more of your bike’s power, which will drain the battery faster than if you use your leg power to get around.
You will probably be able to view the mileage range on your e-bike’s screen so that you can monitor it during your journey.
The Two Sensors Used In Pedal-Assist E-Bikes
Pedal assist bikes make use of sensors to measure how much power you are putting into the pedals.
Earlier, we talked about how a pedal assist e-bike system works with the use of magnets. The name for this type of system is cadence.
But it does have an important drawback to know about: you won’t always be able to get the power you need from the e-bike because it delivers power based on your speed.
So, to understand what this means for you as a rider, let’s look at an example. You’re riding on flat terrain and pedaling fast because you’re fit.
By matching your speed, your e-bike gives you a boost of extra speed and power. Suddenly, uneven or sloped terrain appears on your journey.
When you pedal to get over it, you’ll need more power but you won’t get it from the bike because your speed will be decreased – you wouldn’t want to speed over bumpy terrain, after all.
Your e-bike will match your lower speed, with the result that it will lack power when you really need it.
To deal with this problem, e-bike manufacturers have made use of torque sensors instead.
How a torque sensor works is that it’s attached to the pedal crank or the rear dropout. It measures how much torque is being used while you pedal.
The amount of torque applied will be almost exactly the same amount of power that you need during various parts of your riding journey, such as when you’re navigating rocky terrain or are on a smooth riding surface.
This creates a smoother, more intuitive riding experience, and makes you feel that the boost you’re getting makes more sense when it comes to what you need during your riding experience.
Pedal Assist Vs Throttle Bike
Earlier we mentioned that the big difference between pedal assist and throttle e-bikes is that you have to pedal, at least a little, with a pedal assist in order to make use of the electric power of the bike’s motor.
With a throttle e-bike, you can use the motor’s power completely – look, Ma, no legs!
But what are other differences between these two e-bike types?
pedal assist vs throttle – 2 Differences
- Pedal assist e-bikes can be used in more places. Pedal-assist e-bikes are sometimes regulated differently than throttle bikes because the latter aren’t always allowed where pedal-assist bikes are. In some countries and cities, they’re illegal! So, choosing a pedal-assist e-bike can come to the rescue by being a lot more versatile because it’s more like a regular bike, whereas a throttle bike can be seen as being more along the lines of a scooter or moped.
- Pedal assist e-bikes save battery life. There’s another important factor to consider in the pedal-assist vs. throttle debate. When you make use of the electric power of a throttle bike, you’re draining the battery quicker than you would if you were pedaling sometimes. This means you’ll get fewer miles out of your e-bike as compared to using your pedal-assist. Alternating between using the electric power boost and pedaling without any assistance can help to keep your battery life intact for longer.
Pro tip: Your e-bike’s battery is mainly zapped when you accelerate, so make sure you pedal while accelerating. As E-Bike School reports, even just pedaling for a few seconds as you slowly accelerate can decrease your energy usage by as much as half! You can therefore save much more energy by using a pedal-assist e-bike.
Can You Charge Your Pedal-Assist Bike While Using It?
You know that you can pop into your local café and make use of their power outlet to charge up your e-bike (for more info on where to charge your e-bike, read “Eight Places to Charge Your Electric Bike On The Go”), but can you charge it while pedaling?
This is a really interesting idea because it makes the most sense – why not make use of your leg power to charge your e-bike battery, right?
It also means that you don’t have to stop somewhere for a few hours while your e-bike charges.
You’ll be using your bike and charging it at the same time, in the same way that you can charge your laptop while working on it.
But is it possible?
It really depends on the type of electric system in your e-bike as well as the type of bike you have, but generally you should be able to charge your e-bike by pedaling.
This is known as regenerative pedaling. How it works is that the bike produces an electric current that charges your battery while you cycle.
There is a catch, though. It will take you a lot of time to get a full charge by pedaling your e-bike.
Generally speaking, an e-bike battery will need between six and eight hours to get fully charged.
If you want to charge it by pedaling on your bike, you’d need to cycle for approximately 10 hours or more at a speed of 15mph!
That’s almost impossible, unless you’re on a road trip or taking part in a marathon.
That said, you shouldn’t completely right off charging your e-bike in this way.
Regenerative pedaling can be really helpful if you need a quick burst of battery, but it’s best used when combined with regular charging methods.
Pro tip: You can make the most of regenerative braking by learning to brake smarter on your e-bike. Take your time to come to a stop. Braking before you need to stop ensures that most of the braking is done by the e-bike’s motor. You want to squeeze the brake lever so that it activates the regenerative braking, but don’t press it so hard that it applies your bike’s brake pads to the rim or disc, as E-Bike School explains.
Why Pedal Assist E-Bikes Are Worth It
If you’re interested in purchasing a pedal assist e-bike, it’s useful to know some common advantages they will offer you.
Here’s the lowdown on pedal assist pros.
- Pedal assist e-bikes feel more natural. The bike’s motor enhances the power you have when you pedal, which creates the feeling of natural riding.
- You’re in control when using these e-bikes. You get to choose how much power you want the pedal assist bike to deliver, and how much you want to use your own leg power. You can change this from one day to the next.
- They can be safer. Pedal assist e-bikes can be safer than e-bikes which make use of throttles. With those types of e-bikes, the motor is engaged without you pedaling, which can make you feel like you’re in less control. This can be dangerous, especially if you’re riding in traffic.
- Pedal assist gives you exercise without the drawbacks. Maybe you’re not that fit or you’re recovering from an injury and you can’t over-exert yourself. Whatever the case, pedal assist e-bikes can help you to get some exercise without hurting yourself.
- They’re great for people of all ages. You don’t have to be young and fit to use these bikes. You can use them if you’re older and not as fit as you’d like. You can also use them if you have some mobility issues.
- They’re like two bikes in one. If you consider that you can use different levels of motor assistance from one day to the next, this can give you much greater versatility. It will feel like on some days you’re riding a regular bicycle and getting lots of exercise, and other days you’re on an e-bike.
- They’re great for bicycle lovers. If you transition from a bicycle to a pedal assist e-bike, you’ll probably feel that you’re still getting the same benefits of your bicycle. With a throttle e-bike, it will probably feel like you’re transitioning to a scooter because you don’t have to pedal. This can be a disappointment if you love cycling.
Can you have a pedal-assist and throttle feature in one e-bike?
Some e-bikes will have both. They allow you to use either one when you want, but some bikes will allow you to achieve more of a power boost from the throttle when you pedal.
Are pedal-assist bikes safe?
They’re very safe. Pedal assist e-bikes have a safety feature that prevents the electric power from being too strong. This prevents you from riding too fast or losing control.
If you like pedaling on a bike and you don’t want to lose that feeling on an e-bike, the pedal assist bike is a good choice for your biking needs.
In this article, we’ve looked at what pedal assist e-bikes are all about, showing that they’re definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for a new bike.
Pedal-assist e-bikes give you the perfect blend of exercise and electric energy to give you a boost – and save your leg power!