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You may have heard a lot about the benefits of riding an electric bike, but you may not be aware of how they work. In this post, we will answer the question of how do electric bikes work? Here, you will learn the basics of electric bikes to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. You will learn about their main components, how they feel and their capabilities.

To ride a regular bike, all you need to do is swing your leg over it and start pedalling to go and pull on the brake levers to make it stop. But when you add a motor and a battery, things are slightly different. Moving from a regular bike to an electric bike is not difficult, but there are a few things you should be aware of to make it a seamless transition. By knowing how electric bikes work in the early stages, you will be able to make the most out of an electric bike if you decide to buy one.

The Types Of Assistance

There are two types of assistance when it comes to electric bikes, pedal-assist and throttle assist.

To move forwards on a throttle assist bike, all you need to do is twist the throttle or push a button. The motor kicks in without any other input from the rider. A pedal-assist electric bike requires you to pedal before the motor engages. The motor magnifies the effort you put into the pedals, making it easier depending on the level of assistance you select.

Some electric bikes combine the two types of assistance, allowing you to choose between them. You can use the throttle to whisk you along with no effort at all or pedal to get in some exercise. Whichever you choose depends on your mood and energy level.

What Makes An Bike Electric?

How Do Electric Bikes Work? - streetAn electric bike has three main components that differentiate it from a regular bike, the battery, motor and control unit. Riding an electric bike feels pretty much the same as riding a normal bike. You push on the pedals, and you move forward, but the motor’s assistance gives you an extra push. The feeling of additional torque and acceleration makes setting off a little easier, and steep climbs effortless. The motor allows you to ride for longer before you start to feel tired, making electric bikes great for exploring or commuting.

The wave of torque you get from the electric motor is addictive. Once you have mastered the technique, you will want to ride up bigger and steeper hills. How these bikes climb is very impressive, and you will want to test your bike’s ability all the time.

Assistance Levels

You change your assistance level via a mode switch mounted on your handlebars. Most electric bikes have 3 or 4 assistance levels to choose from. Some controllers allow you to customise the levels, while most of them are set by the manufacturer.

You can ride an electric bike without any assistance from the motor. This is useful when your battery runs out of power. When you pedal with it switched off, your electric bike will feel like a standard bike but much heavier.

All electric bikes have an Eco mode. Eco mode gives you about 120% assistance. It is the lowest level of assistance, requiring you to put more effort into your pedalling than higher levels. You will use this mode on flat surfaces or if you need to extend your battery life.

The next level up will likely be called Standard or Tour mode. On an electric mountain bike, the middle mode is often labelled as Trail mode. The highest mode will be called something like Turbo or Boost. Depending on the bike’s brand, the highest mode can amplify your pedal power by 300%.

These different power modes affect your battery power and range. When you use higher assistance levels, you will deplete your battery much more quickly. Therefore, you need to be mindful of how you ride to ensure you can get home before your battery runs out.

Electric Bike Batteries

We go into all the details you need to know about batteries in this blog, but here is a little summary.

Manufacturers mount electric bike batteries internally or externally on their bikes. Internal batteries are stashed tidily inside the bike’s frame, creating a clean look. However, these batteries take a little more effort to remove for charging or swapping. External batteries are mounted on the outside of the frame. These are easier to get to, but sometimes they can make the bike look less attractive. Other than these characteristics, there are no significant pros and cons.

You can see how large a battery’s capacity is by looking at its watt-hours. The higher the watt-hours, the longer the battery will last before you need to charge it up. Batteries with lower watt-hours are lighter, but ones that hold more charge are much heavier. 

Charging an electric bike’s battery is as simple as plugging it into a charger, just like a mobile phone. You can either leave the battery on the bike or remove it and bring it indoors. 

How Far Can You Ride An Electric Bike?

How Do Electric Bikes Work? - off roadYou can ride an electric bike as far as your legs will allow. Of course, your bike’s battery and motor will only help you so far. How far you can ride with assistance will depend on many things. For example, your weight, how hilly your ride is, and the weather will make a difference. Lighter riders will be able to ride with pedal assist for longer. Also, flatter routes will use less battery power, as your motor won’t be working as hard.

What About Motors?

When learning how electric bikes work, understanding the motor configurations is essential. There are a couple of options for electric bike motors in the way they are mounted. Manufacturers will fit the motor into the rear wheel hub or between the cranks as a mid-mounted motor.

Electric bikes with hub-mounted motors are fine for commuting, light off-road use and for those who are new to electric bikes. However, if your ride consists of lots of uphill climbs or more technical terrain, a mid-mounted motor is the best choice. Mid-mounted motors power the cranks, bring the centre of gravity down low and create a more balanced ride. If you want to do some serious mountain biking on an electric bike, you need a bike with a mid-mounted motor. 

The Controller And Display

Electric bikes use an LCD screen to give you all sorts of information. The displays tell you about battery status, your speed, and which assistance level you have chosen. The displays vary between brands with regard to their quality and information. Some of these displays even have a Sat-Nav built-in.

You select your assistance level with a simple touch of a button. The selector buttons will either be on the side of the display or mounted separately on your handlebars.

How Fast Can You Ride An Electric Bike?

Most electric bikes have a limited top speed, which is determined by 3 classes:

  • Class1: As you pedal, the motor assists you to a limited top speed of 20mph
  • Class2: You can also reach 20mph, but these electric bikes have a throttle mode.
  • Class 3: You can reach a limited speed of 28mph while you pedal.

It is worth noting at this point that you can ride as fast as you want. It is just the pedal assistance that is limited. Therefore, you can still let it rip on fast downhill descents, as long as you don’t pedal.

The bike’s controller monitors your speed with a speed sensor on the rear wheel. It uses a magnet to determine how many revolutions the wheel is making. It uses this information to work out when the motor should kick in to assist you and when to disengage.

Often, inexperienced riders or those lacking in confidence will choose class 1 electric bikes. More experienced riders will ride class 3 bikes. However, before you buy an electric bike, you should find out which classes are legal where you ride.

Where Can You Ride An Electric Bike?

How Do Electric Bikes Work? - beachThe rules are different all over the world, and they are changing all the time. Therefore, you need to take the time to see what is allowed in your local area. You may be allowed to ride any kind of electric bike where you live. But, you need to be careful, as some governments restrict their use or only allow specific classes of electric bikes.

Some electric bikes are very powerful and have similar performance to motorbikes. These electric bikes require a licence and insurance in some places, while in others, they are entirely illegal to ride in public.

That Is How Electric Bikes Work

Now you know the fundamentals of how electric bikes work. For more information on electric bikes, browse through our blogs. We update our blog page regularly to keep you informed and up to date.

Alternatively, why not check out all the fantastic electric bikes in our online store? We have a great selection of electric bikes suitable for commuting, riding off-road and leisure time.

T. Fortune

Tom is now residing in France and writing full time, he enjoys the outdoor activity and is an MTB enthusiast!

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