Electric bikes are a great way to move around from place to place. They are very economical, safe, and environmentally friendly. But before spending $1500 for a new bike, you should know the two different types of electric bikes available.
The main types of electric bikes are the pedal assist and throttle mode bikes. The big difference between the two types is that pedal assist electric bikes require you to pedal in starting and operating the motor. In contrast, throttle bikes use throttles to move the bike forward, just like how a motorcycle runs.
And there’s no definitive answer as to which one of the two is better when it comes to performance as both have their advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll touch on in this article.
Throttle assist E-bikes
Throttle assisted electric bicycles operate by pushing a button or twisting the throttle that allows you to move the bike forward; this type of electric bicycle does not require you to pedal continuously but gives you the option to pedal if you want. Most models with a throttle assisted bike typically have a motor on the back wheel and can travel up to 20mph.
There are two types of throttle-assisted electric bikes: the twist throttle mode and the thumb throttle mode. The twist throttle assisted electric bikes operate similarly to scooters (see here which of the two is better) or motorcycles that move forward by twisting the handlebars towards the rider.
On the other hand, the thumb throttle assist e bikes move forward by pressing a small button. Once you stop pressing this button, the e-bike will halt.
Pros of Throttle Assist Electric Bikes
A throttle-assisted electric bicycle offers a variety of advantages depending upon your needs and where you live. The throttle-aided electric bikes is able to get you going very quickly.
Generally, acceleration is helpful when climbing steep hills. Sometimes, power from motors may not be enough, and often it is possible to push yourself by pedaling the bike. Also, if you live in cities and commute daily, then they are great as their faster speeds will get you to your destination much faster.
Throttle assisted e-bikes are also an excellent choice for people who have existing medical conditions who get quickly tired from basic physical activities because you don’t need to pedal to get the bike moving; you just have to rely on its the throttles to keep moving forward.
Throttle-assisted e-bikes are also safer when crossing intersections and busy streets than traditional bikes. Because you are competing with cars, motorcycles, and buses, it is necessary to travel at fast speeds.
Throttle assisted e bikes can still offer you a great workout because you don’t necessarily need to rely on the throttles; you could also pedal if you feel like it. In fact, most e bike users only use the throttle assist in climbing hills or if they are in a hurry.
Cons of throttle assisted bicycles
If you want to avoid getting a throttle assisted bicycle, you may have several reasons why you shouldn’t. One of these could be that throttle assisted bikes have their motors placed in the front or rear wheel and not in the middle, which could be problematic.
The extra weight on the front or rear wheel can present balance problems, which could lead to accidents, especially on busy roads. Also, if you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, mastering the throttle assist e bike can be quite hard.
Another reason to avoid a throttle assist bicycle is that it does not give you much of a workout compared to a regular bike or the pedal assist electric bike; this could lead to sedentary behavior as you only rely on the throttle assist to keep moving.
The battery life of throttle assist e bikes is also relatively shorter than pedal assist e bikes. Since throttle assist e-bikes are faster, they tend to consume more power and allow you to travel shorter distances.
In many areas, the throttle assisted electric bike was considered a motorized vehicle which meant it had to be licensed to operate a bike. And because of this, certain places have banned throttle assist e bikes on specified bike lanes.
Also known as pedelec, pedal assisted e bikes moves the bike forward by pedaling, just like a traditional bike. Because of this feature, you have to keep pedaling the bike to keep the bicycle moving with the addition of a speed boost. And once the rider stops pedaling, the bike also stops.
There are three to five different assist modes currently in place in most pedal assist system electric bikes. A low mode means that the bicycle operates very similarly to a conventional bike where you do most of the work and the motor only helps a little bit. The medium mode gives a bit more power assistance, allowing you to travel at faster speeds. And lastly, the high mode that provides a lot of the motor’s power assistance that is great for steep roads and on the streets.
It is possible to make pedal-assisted electric bikes in two different forms. Some have torque or speed sensors.
Torque sensing-type bikes utilize torque sensors to tell the motor how much power they have to output based on how fast you pedal and at which speed. These sensors are highly responsive and accurate because they will automatically increase or decrease the motor’s power output based on your pedaling.
The more you pedal, the more torque the motor has, and the more the engine will give you the additional assistance you need. When pedaling lightly, the engine will not have the necessary torque. Because of this, the batteries tend to last longer because they only deliver the energy required depending on how hard you are pedaling the bike.
Torque sensor electric bikes are also safer because they don’t give out excessive speed boosts that might catch you off guard, which can be dangerous in the streets.
Unlike torque sensors, cadence sensors operate by determining the speed at which the chainring magnets pass through the sensor; this might seem more complex than the torque sensor-type e-bikes but cadence sensors are integrated for less expensive pedal assist electric bikes.
These e bikes will not adjust their power output based on how hard you are pedaling; you set the level of assistance on your bike, giving out the same level of assistance throughout your biking adventure.
Pros of pedal assist electric bicycles.
A pedal assist e bike has many advantages over the throttle assist electric bike. Below are some pros of pedal assist bikes.
Because pedal assisted bikes has its motors placed in the middle, a pedal assist electric bike is far easier to control and balance when compared to the throttle type electric bicycle, which has its motors placed either in the front or rear wheels.
Since you have to keep pedaling to move the bike forward, a pedal assist e bike will make you lose weight as they offer you a better workout, just like a standard bike would. But contrary to a regular bicycle, the pedal assist electric bike will allow out-of-shape people to be more comfortable because it provides them with a little bit of a speed boost assistance.
Because pedal assist systems don’t require much energy and don’t put out breakneck speeds, their batteries tend to last longer and will allow you to cover longer distances.
Lastly, since they operate more closely to a bike than a motorcycle, you won’t need to have a license to use them, but specific laws have been put in place that requires a rider to be 14 years or older and must wear helmets at all times (see here if you want to know if you need a special helmet).
Cons of Pedal Assist E-bikes
The main drawback of pedal assist system bikes is that they are harder to move than the throttle assist electric bicycle. With all the additional weight of the motor and electrical components, pedal assist bikes or e-bikes, in general, can be far heavier than the conventional bike and require more energy to keep moving if you are not using the assist.
Also, since their motors output less power, a pedal assist e bike is comparably slower than their counterpart which can be pretty problematic in steep hills and for commuters weaving around in traffic and crossing busy roads and intersections.
Electric Bike Pedal Assist vs Throttle
There is no definitive answer as to which one of the two types of electric bike is better. They have their advantage and disadvantages that are huge factors to keep in mind when purchasing an e-bike.
If you are more into riding and having a great workout, then the pedal assist system is better. Not only do they encourage a more healthy lifestyle, but they can also travel longer distances. Pedal assist systems also don’t require a driver’s license, which can be very useful as it allows you to go on specified bike paths.
But if you like fast speeds ebikes for commuting, then the throttle-type e bikes might be more your choice as they can travel to a top speed of 20 mph or 32 kmh. They are great for people who don’t like exerting much effort when traveling and is great for commuters. And they are also far safer on city streets.
Can you use throttle and pedal assist at the same time?
If you still can’t decide which type of electric bike to get, it’s advised to purchase one that offers both the features. Generally speaking, you may be able to use the pedal and the throttle simultaneously; this feature can be found mostly on road e-bikes.
One e-bike that offers both throttle and pedal assist is the IZIP E3 Zuma 26 electric bike. This step-over beach cruiser-type e bike has its frames made with strong and lightweight aluminum alloy. It has mechanical disc brakes and is powered by a 350W engine that allows you to travel a distance of over 50 miles.
It allows you to choose between a cadence-type pedal assist and a thumb throttle system for assistance, but you can use both features simultaneously. However, you can also add another $50 if you prefer the twist throttle; this allows the bike to travel at a maximum speed of 20 mph.
Another is the Magnum Premium 48; this foldable premium is made with 6061 aluminum alloy and a front and rear mechanical disc brake system. A long-lasting 8V/13A lithium battery that allows you to travel a distance of over 55 miles on a single charge. And the fast-charging feature of the Magnum Premium 48 means that you can get up and ride your bike again after just 6 hours of charging.
Its rear-mounted geared hub powerful 500-watt motor allows you to travel at speeds of up to 24 mph. The bike also allows for cadence sensing throttle assistance and the thumb throttle system that you can use when riding.
But not all bikes have this feature though, most pedal assist bikes are made with only pedal assist, but you can add in a throttle system to make your bike faster. The $2,599 IZIP E3 Dash 2017 was explicitly made for urban commuting. Its long-lasting lithium-ion battery allows you to travel distances over 40 miles away.
It has a cadence sensing pedal assist integrated into the bike. However, you can add on a thumb throttle and partnered with a powerful 350 W motor; you can go to speeds of up to 28 mph.
You can also go the other way, where you can add on a pedal assist to throttle assisted e-bikes. Such as the Vintage Electric Scrambler that has its frames made with hydroformed aluminum and a removable 72v 15.6 Ah battery (see also best ebikes with removable batteries) that allows you to cover a distance of 40-75 miles in just 3.5 hours of charging.
If you add a pedal assist system to this premium e-bike, you can potentially travel at a maximum speed of 40 mph.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pedal-Assist e-bikes worth it?
Generally, a pedal assist bike is worth every penny because pedal-driven electric bicycles offer many different advantages.
The pedal assist electric bikes offer you a great workout every time you go out biking, and they are also generally easier to get used to as they work very closely to that of a standard bicycle.
Another advantage they have is that they can travel distances farther than their counterpart as they don’t rely on the motors that often.
How fast can electric bikes go?
The speed of electric bikes varies from one type to another. Also, it depends on the bike’s motors and power outputs. But generally, electric bikes travel at maximum speeds between 20-28 mph.
How long do electric bike motors last?
Electric bike motors are incredibly durable, and they can last for a significant amount of time if properly taken care of. In general, most electric bikes have motors that can last to a minimum mileage of 10,000, which means you can travel almost half the globe’s circumference before ever needing to worry about replacing your e-bike motor.
Can you ride an e-bike without pedaling?
Yes, this is one of the main features of a throttle assist e-bike, as it does not require you to pedal to get it moving forward; you twist the throttle or push a simple button that will automatically give you a speed boost.
But the same cannot be said for pedal assist mode bikes.
Are all electric bikes water-proof?
Every electric bike ever made has water resistance. However, their water-resistance levels vary from one brand to another.
Rain is something that manufacturers of electric bikes have taken into account because they have to protect all the electronic equipment installed on the bike. So there’s no need for you to worry about your electric bike getting occasionally wet, but it’s advised to store your bike in dry conditions as much as possible.
Electric bikes are indeed the new way to get around safely and efficiently. They are far more reliable, faster, and safer than conventional bikes on off-road terrain and in the busy city streets.
Whether you are an experienced e bike user, or a newbie trying to get your feet wet in the electric bike world, we hope this informative article has helped you be more knowledgeable about throttle assist and pedal assist e-bikes and their differences.
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.
When you purchase through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.