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How Do EBikes Work? -The Basics

What to look out for when buying an electric bikeHow do ebikes work? Electric bikes are basically the same as regular bikes but come equipped with a motor & battery pack so when you start peddling, the motor will kick in and start ‘Assisting’ you making it much easier to climb hills or steep terrain.

Electric bikes still have gears like a normal bike and you use these in exactly the same way however 10 gears are usually plenty as you have the assistance levels so there really is no need for any more than this.


What is Pedal Assist?

Pedal Assist on an electric bike is the term used when you start peddling, the motor engages and works in tandem with the level of effort you are putting in. Usually ebikes have between 3 and 5 levels of ‘assist’ where the user can control while riding.

Levels of Assistance – How do ebikes work

Levels of assistance on ebikes usually vary depending on manufacturer but there are usually 5 optionss which the user can adjust while riding via a button near the handle grips – The higher the assistance level = the less effort is required by the user as follows:

 

Off – No Assistance/ Rides like a normal bikeHow do ebikes work

  1. ‘Eco’ – around 75% assistance (Low Assistance)
  2. ‘Eco +’ – around 125% Assistance
  3. ‘Normal’ – Around 175% Assistance (Medium Assistance)
  4. ‘Sport’ – Around 250% Assistance
  5. ‘Sport +’ – Around 350% Assistance (Full Assistance)

So the above is based on one of my Ebikes and I usually cycle in ‘Eco +’ or ‘Normal’ assistance modes switching up when required for the bigger hills, however the longer time you spend in the higher assistance modes will impact range/ distance as this uses more battery power. Riding an Ebike with no assistance is fine they can feel ‘sluggish’ without any assist, but still possible.

Some makes and models provide an app which enables the user to configure the level of assistance for each setting which can be handy if you want to adjust these to better suit your riding style.

Types of Electric Bike Motors – What’s the differences?

Electric Hub Motor –  Electric Hub motors were for a long time the standard with Ebikes which have the drive train integrated into the hub of the wheel and require little or no maintenance. The disadvantages of hub motors are they can be heavy and are not the first choice for serious hill climbs as they tend to lack the torque. Overall though, Hub motors are cheaper and most ebike conversion kits favour them as they can be easily adapted to fitting onto most bike frames and turn almost any regular bike into and electric one

Mid DriveMid Drive Ebike MotorMid Drive motors are located at the bottom of the frame incorporated into the crank, these can output huge torque vs the hub Motors and work in sync with the gears powered by the chain. Usually the chains supplied with these types of Mid Drive Ebike Motor are upgraded to cope with the extra power as a standard chain would not last 5 minutes. Beacuse Mid Drive Ebike Motors are located at the crank and not on the wheel, tyre changes are much easier.

Either of the above have their own good and bad points so it depends on the type of riding you will be doing, but as a rule of thumb the Mid Drive Ebike Motors tend to be on the higher priced end of the market, especially on the EMTB’s ( mountain bikes). If its just city commuting and light off-road use then the hub motors will perform just as well.

Battery and Usage – How far can I ride on a single charge?

So how do ebikes work when it comes to battery life? There are many variables that determine how far and how fast you can go on a single charge – This again all depends on rider weight, Level of assistance.

See the below example for a 400Wh ( Watt Hour) battery it shows on a low level of assist the rider could cycle up to 160KM and on a high level of assist may achieve around 50KM

battery range

This particular disclaimer states ‘The range figures are a guide and can vary depending on a variety of external factors, such as rider weight, riding style, conditions, weather, tyre pressure, set up and gear selection’

What is it like to ride an Ebike?

Riding an electric bike is like someone ‘Pushing’ you along as you pedal, usually you will feel a boost when you pedal which is great fun and you will never dread those hills again. I commute on my Ebike into London 2 -3 times a week which about 15 miles each way. On my traditional bike this would not have been possible with my level of fitness and I would have been a complete wreck upon arrival ( I tried it a few times and it was not a pretty sight) but now I arrive refreshed with no sweat and ready to start the day.

I also find that I cycle much greater distances than before as the hills are flattened. When I want exercise then I can select a low assist mode like ‘Eco’ to help burn the carbs.

When choosing my first electric bike I went for a mid-drive motor with a 500Wh Battery as I knew this would comfortably get me to work and back on a single charge, even if I had a long day and wanted to use higher levels of assist to get me home.

I also wanted to ride off-road so decided the extra torque output on mid drive motors would be worth the extra cost.

How Do EBikes Work – Conclusion

So hopefully the above provides you with better understanding on the basics of how Ebikes work, of course there are a plethora of options out there when it comes to motors, batteries and parts but overall the basic concepts are the same, its just up to your own personal preference on what will best suit YOUR needs.

What Ebike would be best suited to you? –>Check out our buyers guide here<–

If you ever need a hand or want some further advice please let me know as always happy to help.

11 Comments

  1. This is a very helpful information to have, ebikes have been around for a while now but it’s no doubt that a lot of people still don’t know about it and how it works, so this information will be a very helpful one and it’ll serve as guidelines to them. I’ve enjoyed reading through, it’s very thoughtful and interesting.

  2. This is a brilliant explanation on how ebikes work, giving the basics. I like the idea behind ebikes, having a motor to assist while pedalling will surely make it easier and give the necessary support for some terrain, like the example you included above. I think I will be getting myself an ebike soon enough.

  3. Hello, this is a very awesome piece and a very detailed one. I’m really happy I came across this as the information I’m getting from here is standard. I’m really scared of bikes because I feel when you get into an accident there won’t be much saving you from getting really hurt. Now, operating with an e bike would make me feel less safe, I don’t know but it’s just me. Like you said, stick with what suits you and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Thanks Dan 

    • Hi Lizzy, I guess the risks are the same with Ebike’s as they would be for a regular bike, however I think you will be surprised how easy they are to ride. I’m sure your local bike shop would be happy for you to give one a try – Ask for a ‘step through’ bike as these are much easier to get on and off. Dan

  4. I have been asking myself what’s it like to ride an ebike. And reading a bit about your experience has helped. I have to go up a couple of hills on my way home and dread those hills. Your post has encouragde me to buy my first ebike and thus it has encouradge me to exercise. SO thank you!

    • Hi Ann, glad you enjoyed the post. I would definitely try one out –  you will be amazed! Dan

  5. Going through this post all i can think of is how come i have never heard of ebikes before or i might have probably heard about it and not know the basis of how it works. I love riding bikes as it is a part of my workout routine, this one makes it much more easier and smooth to pedal along. It will be thoughtful to try it out, thanks for sharing 

  6. Good day. Thanks for this well written article on the basics of how an ebike works. I think those who are still not very familiar with ebikes and how it works should read this article to get to understand how they work and how they can be used. Reading this has been educating for me. Hoping for more of this.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post – let me know if you ever need some buying advice as I would be happy to help. Dan

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