There are lots of things to consider when buying an e-bike and how effective it will be is probably high up there! With that thought, you most likely ended up thinking about gears as they are important in the cycling world.
So do e-bikes have gears? E-bikes do have gears and they work in a very similar, if not identical way to gears on a regular bike.
Depending on the model of your e-bike, where you change gear may vary. The most common way to change gear on an e-bike is a simple twist and shift or lever on the side process.
Another option on the higher end e-bikes is electronic shifting, it may be known as ‘Di2’ or ‘eTap’. This works with a button on a lever. The gear changes are gloriously smooth!
There’s no complicated answer here, thankfully!
E-bikes are very similar to regular bikes in the way the gearing works.
To be honest, everything about an e-bike is very similar to a regular bike, there is just the addition of the motor!
As everything is very similar, the design of the gears is the same as a regular bike.
Choose a higher gear on your e-bike, you’ll have to put more effort in to move. Though you will find it easier to maintain a higher speed and once you’re there, you won’t be working as hard.
Speaking as a cyclist, when you start to find yourself using the ‘big ring’ with increasing regularity, it’s a very nice feeling. You can sense that you’re getting fitter, stronger and your average speed is higher!
If you choose a lower gear on your e-bike, you won’t need to put as much effort in to get your bike going. However, once you are going you will find that your legs are spinning like crazy so you’ll soon need to change up.
Having said that, you may want to consider certain gearing factors, this will depend on the type of e-bike you go for.
Pedal-assist e-bikes, which are the most popular type of electric bike can be used in the same way as a regular bike.
With pedal-assist bikes, you get the boost of power when you are pedalling. The amount of power the motor gives you will depend on how quickly you are pedalling.
If you are pedalling slowly, you will receive a smaller amount of power.
There can be a temptation to cycle in higher gears when using this type of e-bike on the basis that it will provide you will greater assistance and you won’t need to work as hard.
While I like your theory, there are some drawbacks to this, the main one being you will be causing the motor to work harder so you can forget having such a good range on the battery.
If you have a throttle-assist electric bike, there is greater importance at getting the right gear for your speed.
Throttle assist bikes don’t require you to pedal to get any power from the motor. All you have to do is turn the throttle and the bike will go.
You can still pedal (and you should!) as normal. If you don’t have the e-bike in the right gear when you let go of the throttle, you may find that it is difficult to control the bike, which obviously nobody wants!
There is nothing worse than being ou on your electric bike and it runs out of power (What to do if your e-bike battery dies). You’re then faced with a slow ride back on a heavy bike.
That’s why it’s important to get the most out of your battery!
Being mindful about which gear you’re using can have a big impact on how long your battery will last on your ride.
Remember, the higher the gear when it’s not needed, the harder your battery is working. Your range will decrease!
For those using a pedal-assist electric bike you should opt for a lower gear when you’re going at a slower speed. This means that the motor won’t be working as hard and therefore maximising your battery life.
As we now know, the motor on a pedal-assist e-bike turns the drivetrain as you do when you turn the pedals.
So when you select a higher gear, you have to work hard, your motor does too. However, a higher gear when you’re at a higher speed will mean your motor isn’t working too hard.
It’s a balance that over time will become natural to you, exactly in the same way as knowing when to change gear in a car.
Throttle assist e-bikes are different in the way they work but the same applies, incorrect gear choices impact the battery life.
This can be a bit of learning curve but something that will become second nature to you, without you even realising it.
The right gear will depend on the situation but there are some general indicators that you’re working with the right gears.
When you know you’re going to be stopping, a good habit to get into is, start changing down as you start slowing.
You should be aiming to be in a lower gear as when you start up again, this will make it much easier to get moving again.
Trust me, I’m speaking from experience. Trying to get started when you’re in the big ring/higher gear is much tougher and honestly, not that dignified!
Going uphill will also require a lower gear as you’ll be putting more effort in.
To give you the best chance at hills, you should change your gear down before you find yourself on the hill. If you don’t, this will break your momentum.
Once you reach the top, you can switch to a higher gear and enjoy going back down again!
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself with a tailwind then pop your bike into a higher gear.
Not only will you be getting assistance from the motor on your bike but the wind will be pushing you along so things will be much easier!
However, a headwind is another story. Headwinds can be tough. I don’t like them, at all!
If you fnd yourself with a headwind, you should shift down to a lower gear. You and your bike are going to be working harder.
Terrain is also a factor to consider.
Being on a rougher terrain will make things more difficult and will require you to put in more effort and you will most likely want more from your bike too - I would!
Smooth terrain means you can afford to go for a higher gear. Rolling resistance will be less and it will be easier to get up to a greater speed.
I can’t stress this enough, change gear before they need to be changed.
Can you see a hill coming up? Get yourself in the right gear to deal with BEFORE you reach it.
Are the traffic lights changing to red and you need to stop? Change down into a lower gear so getting started again will be so so much easier.
Honestly, it can be quite embarrassing if you’ve got cars behind you and you can’t turn the pedals. Yes, this is me speaking from experience, sadly!
When you changing gears into a higher gear, this can often be done gradually as it isn’t often you find yourself in a situation where it needs to be done quickly.
Though it can be tempted to start your ride off with a fast pace, the best way to approach it is to complete the ride at a conistant speed, or a consistent effort.
This way you won’t burn out, or experience a ‘bonk’ (when you suddenly find yourself without any energy due to depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles).
I’ve bonked once in my life. It was horrible. I couldn’t go any further for a long time. Please learn from my mistakes and keep yourself at a pace that is consistent and one you can manage!
Changing your pace and effort a lot during a ride just means that you will wear out more quickly too. Exactly the same for your battery too!
One way to help with this is to always be looking and planning ahead.
If you see that you’re about to find yourself in a headwind, you probably want to increase the level of assistance you want from the motor.
This means you’ll be able to maintain the same level of effort, rather than having to fight a headwind all on your own.
In the same way, if you see that you’re about to head downhill, you may want to reduce the level of assistance you get.
So there we have it, your guide to getting the best out of your gears on your e-bike.
How far will your e-bike take you?