Electric bikes are an evolution of a regular bike as they are installed with motors and batteries that allow you to get from one point to another quickly and efficiently. And just like a normal bike, different types of electric bikes are also built for diverse terrain.
The motor and batteries inside your e bikes are great if you want to travel on paved surfaces and where there are not many steep hills to climb, but this might not do the job when it comes to off road terrains like mountains and hills.
Some electric bikes have gears while some don’t. Some prefer electric bikes that don’t have gears because of their simplicity; however, people who love trekking outside would choose to have gears on mountain bikes to make climbing hills easier.
In this article, we will tackle the question do electric bikes have gears, the different types of gears on an electric bike, how to use gears on an electric bike, and many more.
Let’s get right into it.
What are ebike gears?
Now that we’ve established that e bikes have gears installed that adjust the pedaling effort passed on to the wheels, what are they, and how do they work?
E-bike gears work by meddling with your right gear shift, and these are the same as speeds. A bike with a 24-gear shift is called a 24-speed bike. Most electric bikes have 1, 3, 18, 21, 24, 27, and 32 speeds; high-end bikes can even go up to 40.
The 1-18 speeds are the low gear, the 21 speed is the middle gear, and the 24 and up speeds are the high gears.
Shifting gears simply means going from one speed to another. Shifting gears is essential even in cars and electric motors if your terrain switches from a flat to a steep one or vice versa.
You can change gears by pushing or pulling your right shifter, which is connected to a cable hidden in a protective casing. Once you click through the gears, you either apply or remove tension on the cables allowing them to tighten or loosen, moving your bike chain up or down.
These shifts transfer the bike chain onto a different-sized ring. Downshifting means going from a higher gear to a lower gear while upshifting means going from a lower gear to a higher gear.
How do ebike gears work?
Electric bicycle gears operate just like the bikes in the standard version. The lower you put the gear numbers, the more effortless pedaling becomes. However, lower gear means the battery will drain more quickly, and the motor has to work even more. As the gear numbers increase, the harder you pedal, but this reduces the power required by the engine.
Higher gears also mean that you will have to exert more effort to keep it moving; however, you will also find that maintaining higher speeds will be easier. Whereas for a lower gear, you won’t need much effort to get it moving, but you will have to pedal faster if you want to maintain a high speed.
There’s really not much difference between the gears between electric bikes and a normal bike; it’s just that an electric bike has a motor that will allow you to maintain speed without exerting too much effort.
If you are using a pedal assist electric bike, it will be tempting to select a higher gear since you won’t need to pedal or exert effort to maintain your speed. However, choosing the appropriate gear ratio is still recommended as it can ultimately damage your motor or your e bike.
The same goes for a throttle assist electric bike, where you turn the throttle or push a small button to get the bike going. It’s crucial to use the appropriate gear ratio; otherwise, once you release the throttle, you might have little control over your bike, which might cause accidents.
Why not just use pedal assist?
The speed boost provided by the motors inside your pedal assist and throttle assist bikes might get you thinking about why not use the pedal assist instead of constantly meddling with your gears.
One reason for the need for gears is that the pedal assists on your bike might not be powerful enough to overcome steep hills. Even if they were powerful enough, they would need to exert much effort, which could overheat the motor and damage the components.
Also, having gears on your bike will save battery life, as pedaling along and appropriately using the right gears for different terrains will allow you to cover longer distances.
When to change ebike gears?
Selecting the right gears can be quite challenging as it depends heavily on your situation. But here are some essential things you can keep in mind regarding changing gears.
If you are stationary, you should use the lower gears as they are more appropriate for your current speed, and you won’t need to exert much effort to get them going. Lower gear is also easier for climbing steep hills; lower gears use the most electric assistance from your motor and the largest cog on your rear wheel cassette.
However, when you get to the other side of the hill, you should upshift and go to a higher gear. The higher gears use the smallest cog on your rear wheel cassette. When going downhill, you will most likely encounter wind pushing back on you; that’s why switching to a higher gear is preferred, as cycling is made easier on high gears.
In addition, the terrain you are going through also contributes if you have to change gear on your e bikes not. If you are traveling on a smooth paved road, you can use a high gear; however, if you are cycling on a muddy or mountainous surface where there is a lot of friction between your wheels and the surface, you have to use a lower gear as you will need to exert more effort.
Basics: Derailleur and Hub Gears
There are two main types of gears, specifically the Derailleur and Hub gears. The majority of e bikes on the market are installed with a Derailleur gear system.
Here are the two main types of gears, their differences, and advantages and disadvantages.
The Derailleur are the ones commonly installed on most electric bikes. There are two types of derailleur gears on the market, mainly the front, and rear derailleur, the latter being the ones commonly used on e-bikes.
Derailleur gears work by being connected to a cable, and adding or removing tension to the cable via the handlebars allows the chain to either go up or down the cassettes. Adding tension to the cable means that you are going onto the more extensive and easier to pedal gears.
Removing tension from the cables allows the chain down the cassette and onto the harder-to-pedal gears.
What makes a derailleur gear great is that they are very lightweight and relatively easy and cheap to replace if ever they get damaged. There are also more options regarding gears for easy hill climbing or fast speeds on flat surfaces. Lastly, they are also said to perform more efficiently than internal hub gears.
However, they have issues regarding changing gears while stationary and don’t perform well in shifting to different gears in one single shift. Also, since they are not covered like internal hub gears, they are prone to get exposed to mud and dust, making them harder to shift and are relatively easier to get damaged.
Hub gears work by utilizing small pinions to mesh together, allowing the rear wheel to rotate at a different speed than the sprocket. Internal hub gears allow up to 11 speeds. However, the most common type of hub gear is the 8-speed option.
Some people choose hub gears over the derailleur as they require low maintenance and are not exposed to outside elements like mud and water, so you can go for a long distance without paying much attention to them. In addition to this, hub gears allow you to shift gears even when you are stationary.
Lastly, you can use hub gear-type bikes in any terrain as they are protected with a sealed casing.
However, hub gears are much heavier and can be more expensive than a derailleur gear. They also don’t offer as wide of speed options as a derailleur gear.
Lastly, and perhaps the most significant drawback to a hub gear is that if something goes wrong with your chain or gears, then you are most likely not able to fix them yourself because they can be pretty complex to open, which means you might need to call an expert.
Which is better: Derailleur or Hub Gear System?
There is no objective better gear system; it depends on which terrain you plan to ride your e-bike. If you plan to ride your bike on paved surfaces, then a hub gear system might be the better choice.
However, if you plan to go on rough terrains, the derailleur gear system might be more your speed.
What are electric assistance gears?
The other type of gear present on your electric bike is the electric assistance gears. You can control the level of assistance you need on your pedal assist or throttle assist electric bike. There is no standard for the different levels of electric assistance gears; however, there will always be low, medium, and high options.
For a Bosch electric bike, you can have the off, eco, tour, sport, and turbo assistance levels. The ECO option adds about 40% power, and the TOUR provides you with 100% additional power, the SPORT option will give you 150% extra power, and the TURBO mode will add about 225% of power.
When starting, you should keep your level of assistance low and then increase it while traveling. Once you have a good cadence, you can adjust to the level of assistance you need. The electric assistance gear can be adjusted with your shifter on the left side handlebars.
If you are going uphill, you can increase the level of assistance you need to cover the steep incline comfortably. And if you are going downhill, you can decrease your level of assistance to minimize your motor speed and maintain battery power.
If you are about to turn into a headwind, then it’s an excellent choice to increase your level of assistance, as the drag from the wind can slow you down drastically. However, if you plan to go on a cruise in your local park, it’s best to keep your level of assistance to a minimum.
Getting the most out of your ebike gears
The proper pedal assist and gear ratio level will allow you to find your best cadence. However, this will take time, and some practice so don’t expect to find the right combination immediately.
The perfect combination between your two gears will not only allow you to travel longer distances, but it will allow you to have more battery power saved up and will allow you to reach your desired top speed.
Another tip you can use to travel farther distances is checking your tire pressure, as a flat wheel will have a bigger surface area in contact with the ground, slowing you down. Lubricating your chain will also make your electric bike travel farther and faster.
Lastly, check your wheel alignment, electric motor, and brake pad condition, as these will help tremendously if you want to cover longer distances from one full charge.
Do you really need gears for your electric bike?
Despite gears being great for people who love to go outdoors, if you do not live on off-road terrain and only want to ride a short distance, you will most likely not want gear on electric bikes. Some riders have argued that automatic gears are far more straightforward than gears that you must adjust manually.
In addition, the automatic electric assistance on your e bike gives a better experience, especially for those who have not ridden bikes for a long time. In addition, gears installed on your e bike are the most likely parts that will get damaged and replaced constantly, so if you want to reduce your waste output, you should opt for a bike with no gears.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many gears does an ebike need?
E bikes don’t necessarily need a lot of gears because of their motors; 6-9 gears on your bike will do just fine.
Does an e bike charge going downhill?
This is a rare feature that only a few e bikes have, but some can charge their batteries by converting the energy the brakes produce when you are braking downhill.
Can I ride my electric bike in the rain?
Yes, you can ride an electric bike in the rain as all the electronic components inside your bike are well protected from outside elements.
Getting the most mileage from our electric bikes is something that most of us would want, and it’s great that manufacturers have installed mechanical gears to pair up with the electrical assistance provided by the small electric motor that will allow us to do so.
We hope this informative article has helped you understand if electric bikes have gears.
Andrew Strider is an electric bike enthusiast. He currently owns 5 electric bikes and is an active member of his local electric bike club where he is able to test many other models/brands a few times a month.
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