The technology of electric bikes has advanced rapidly over the past couple of years. E-bikes come with an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery. It helps you pedal, but it doesn’t do all the work.
The fact that e-bikes have motors makes you wonder about gears. Gears on a bicycle make cycling easier and more fun. You get better speed, and hilly terrain is easier to handle. It’s easy to understand why you need this on a traditional bike. The motor on the e-bike offers some pedaling assistance, reducing the effort you have to put in.
So, do electric bikes have gears? Do you need gears on an electric bike? The short answer is that electric bikes can have gears. Whether they need gears depends on their intended use.
Let’s dive into the details.
- Electric bikes have an electric motor powered by a battery that helps you pedal. They can have gears like traditional bikes or be single-speed without gears.
- Electric bikes have different levels of electric assistance that you can control. The motor provides more or less help depending on the level you choose.
- You have to learn how to use the right gear and the right level of electric assistance for the best cycling experience.
- Generally, you need more electric assistance and a lower gear when going up a hill, and less electric assistance and a higher gear when going down a hill.
- Gears on electric bikes can make your cycling more efficient and comfortable. They can also help you conserve battery power and extend your ride.
What’s the Purpose of Gears on a Bicycle?
Bicycle gears allow you to paddle different terrain more efficiently and comfortably. Pedaling up a hill, for instance, is demanding. But shifting to a lower gear will make it easier. The same goes for cycling against the wind and any other situation where you find yourself struggling to pedal.
A higher gear, on the other hand, will help you cycle faster but requires more power to accelerate. Cyclists use it when cycling downhill, in the direction of the wind, or once they’ve gained momentum.
You change gears using your hands while riding, and you have to know when to change them for the best cycling experience. Exactly how you shift the gears depends on the mechanism you have on your bike.
Does an Electric Bike Need Gears?
Knowing what the purpose of gears is, do electric bicycles need them?
The motor on an e-bike offers electrical assistance as you pedal, and, in a way, it works like a gear system. You are able to paddle faster, and your cycling is much easier when on rough terrain.
You can often control the power level to determine how much assistance you get. Once you begin your ride, the electric motor generates the level of assistance you select.
The motor provides less assistance with a low pedal assist level, and the maximum assisted speed will also be lower. If you pedal above the maximum assisted speed, the motor stops helping. You have to rely entirely on your pedaling effort.
You’ll need to pedal below that speed for the motor to engage again.
The number of levels you have depends on your bike, but they aren’t that different. The Eco mode offers the lowest level. The High or Turbo mode provides the highest assistance level, usually one or more modes in between and an Off mode.
Other electric bikes have an Auto mode that automatically adjusts your level.
E-bikes are made with and without gears. Those without gears are single-speed electric bikes. They have a single chain and a single sprocket at the rear wheel.
Single-speed e-bikes are more affordable and easier to maintain. However, since you only have one gear, they are less efficient than geared e-bikes when going up a hill.
A single-speed electric bike wouldn’t be the best option if you often cycle up steep hills.
So whether or not an electric bike needs gears depends on its intended use. E-bike gearing systems can make cycling much easier when ascending hills, pedaling against the wind, or carrying a heavy load.
Are Electric Bikes Better With or Without Gears?
Many cyclists will find an electric bike with a gear system is better. Although the motor offers different electric assistance levels, you’ll have a better experience with gears, especially when cycling challenging roads.
A gearing system plus pedal assist gives you a wide range of options in every terrain, including hilly trails. Also, electric bike batteries can run out of juice while cycling. If that happens, you’ll find the gears on your e-bike quite useful when riding it like a traditional bike.
A fixed-gear electric bike will be limiting and doesn’t offer much variance. It’s best suited for riding short distances or on flat roads in the city.
Understanding Electric Bike Gears
Gears on an e-bike are no different from gears on a regular bicycle.
Most electric bikes have derailleur gears, and others can come with internal hub gears. The main difference between derailleurs and internal hub gear systems is their appearance.
With the derailleur system, there will be one or more chainrings on the front crank and a cassette on the rear wheel. On the other hand, the internal hub gear system has its components hidden in the rear wheel hub.
Derailleur gears are lighter, more affordable, and more efficient. They are, however, exposed to dirt and the elements. You have to be keen on their maintenance.
Since hub gears are not exposed, they won’t get dirty and are protected from the elements. Also, you can shift when stationary. But they can be heavier, more expensive, and less efficient.
How to Use Gears on an E-Bike
The exact method of controlling your e-bike’s gears depends on your bike type. But generally, a gear shifter on your bike’s handlebar is connected to the derailleur using a cable.
Tightening and loosening this cable causes the derailleur to shift the chain from one sprocket to another. Shifting the chain to a bigger cog on the cassette moves the bike to a lower gear, and shifting it to a smaller cog moves the bike to a higher gear.
The lower gears make your bike easier to pedal and are more suited for when you want to climb hills, and there’s more resistance. You can switch to a higher gear when you begin descending.
In addition to changing gears on an e-bike, you have to adjust electric assistance levels. Balancing these two helps you get the best experience with your electric bike.
As previously mentioned, when cycling up a hill, you’ll want to shift to a lower gear to make your work easier. You might also want to increase the power assistance so you don’t struggle much.
You should shift to a higher gear when riding down a steep hill to help you go down safely. You should lower the level of electrical assistance that your motor provides too for added safety. It will conserve your electric bike battery power as well.
Middle gears are best for cruising flat roads as they offer just enough resistance, not too much or too little.
Usually, you can tell by your cadence whether you need to shift to a lower or higher gear. So you must spend time riding your bike to know your sweet spot. With time, changing gears will be like second nature to you.
Shifting Gears on an E-Bike
On many e-bikes, you’ll have a right shifter for the mechanical gears and a left shifter for electric assist levels. You have to learn how to work with both of them for maximum efficiency.
All of it comes down to personal preference and experience. As you get to know your bike more and your riding style, you’ll be able to find that perfect balance.
Generally, however, you’ll need more electric assistance and a lower mechanical gear when going up a hill. When descending, you’ll find it more comfortable to reduce the electric assistance and shift to a high gear.
Note: the higher the electric assistance, the easier and faster your ride will be. But it’s not the best for your battery life because it will run out of juice much quicker. This is why it’s important to find the right balance.
Frequently Asked Questions About E-Bike Gears
Which Electric Bike Has Gears?
Most electric bikes come with gears, playing the same role as traditional bicycles. You can also get e-bikes without gears, just like regular bikes without them.
These are single-speed bicycles. They only have one sprocket on the rear wheel and no gear shifter because you don’t have to switch between multiple gears.
E-bikes with gears and those with only one both have their pros and cons.
Can Using Gears Make Your Battery Last Longer?
Using the e-bike gearing system properly can make your bike battery last longer. Balancing the mechanical gears and pedal assist levels prevents your bike battery from running out too fast. As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy smooth rides for longer.
Do Electric Bikes Work Without Pedaling?
Electric bikes will not work without pedaling. You have to exert some pedaling effort for the motor to engage and assist you. So if you stop riding, the motor won’t work. This is for what legally classifies as an e-bike.
Some electric bikes have a throttle, and you don’t need to pedal for it to move forward. They don’t legally fall under electric bikes in many places, and you may even require a license and insurance.
So, do electric bikes have gears? Yes, just like traditional bikes, electric bicycles can have gears, and many do. Those that don’t are single-speed bicycles, and they only have one gear.
Most e-bikes have derailleur gears, while others have internal gear hubs. The derailleur gear system includes a cassette–a set of sprockets–on the rear wheel. Moving the chain up and down the cogs changes gears. The hub gear system has its components tucked inside the rear wheel hub.
In addition to their gearing systems, electric bikes have an electrical assist, where the motor helps you pedal. This is what makes them e-bikes. You have to learn how to use the right gear and the right level of pedal assist to get the best out of your bicycle. If you rely too much on the motor, your battery will run out fast.
With practice, changing gears and adjusting the electric assistance levels becomes easier.