Ebike pedal assist explained. Pedal assist and hand throttles; Capulets and Montagues

Deciding Between Pedal Assist or Throttle on an Electric Bike

Electric Bike Place (powered by MACkite) receives a lot of questions about assist levels on e-bikes. One big question that comes up in conversation is, “Do I want a bike with a throttle, pedal assist, or both?” Thankfully, your local electric bike experts are here to help break down the differences between pedal assist and throttle.

First, we like to explain the three classes of electric bikes: Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3.

  • Class 1 electric bikes offer pedal-assistance up to 20 mph.
  • Class 2 electric bikes offer pedal-assistance and throttle-assist up to 20 mph.
  • Class 3 electric bikes offer pedal-assist up to 28 mph.

Your electric bike class will help determine your need and where you can ride. Often, Class 3 e-bikes are for commuting and riding on the road. Most manufacturers provide the class level on the bike frame. Many bike trails allow Class 1 e-bikes. You will want to check your local ordinances before riding.


Pedal-assist is a great option for riders who want optional assistance and the feel of a traditional bike. Simply put, turn on your assistance and pedal!

There are three to five modes of pedal assist available, depending on the model. Each mode affects your trip by providing more or less power, thanks to the included sensor. You will receive assistance up to the bike’s top speed. You can adjust your assistance using the display or a separate controller.

Another benefit to pedal-assist is that the system helps with battery life. Biking on the lowest assist setting can increase the battery’s longevity, especially compared to throttle-assist.

So, which should you choose?

Ultimately you will want a bike that fits your needs. If you need minimal assistance, perhaps having a bike with throttle-only is a good option. If you are traveling farther distances or want more consistent, nearly-thoughtless power, then the pedal-assist may work well. Some bike brands are offering both throttle and pedal-assist to make that decision easier.

Some good questions to ask yourself about your needs:

  • Where am I riding (hilly or flat terrain)?
  • How long do I planning on riding?
  • What do I need my bike for (errands, commuting, cruising)?
  • Where am I able to ride?

Choosing the proper e-bike can be confusing, so asking yourselves these questions will make your visit in-store more beneficial and tailored to your wants.

If you would like to lean more about electric bikes, visit our store, give us a call at 800-622-4655, reach out to us on our live chat.

How does Pedal Assist Work?

Our entire lineup of E-bikes are pedal-assist; in order for the E-bike to provide assistance to the rider, the rider has to be pedaling. When force, or power, is put on the pedals, the E-bike motor activates and provides assistance; how much assistance is dependent on the support mode you select on the control unit. Once you are riding, you can change gears just as you would on any bicycle, and as long as you keep pedaling, the E-bike motor will help to move you forward.

How do you Operate an E-bike?

Operating an E-bike is simple, it’s just like riding a bike!

EBike 101. Know These Pedal Assist Advantages Before You Buy!

Locate your control unit. normally found on the handlebars or top tube, turn on the E-bike by pressing the power button, and select a “support mode”. Support modes range from Eco (low) to Power (high). and often includes an automatic, Smart Assist mode that automatically determines the best support mode for your ride. The lower the support mode, the less assistance the motor will provide. The higher the support mode, the more assistance the motor will provide. The support mode you choose is up to you and depends on the terrain, the effort you want to put out and how fast you want to travel. You can also adjust the mode during your ride depending on the terrain and your energy level.

Download the RideControl App onto your mobile phone to customize your ride experience with functions such as support mode tuning, navigation, fitness tracking, and social notifications, as well as firmware updates.

How the battery fuels your E-bike

The battery on your E-bike plays a number of essential functions. It not only provides power to the motor, it also supplies power to the control unit, display, and sensors. Once turned on, the battery powers the bike’s electric components, so you can select a support mode on the control unit, see and track riding data on the display unit, and activate the motor, as soon as you start pedaling.

How many electric assistance levels are needed?

This is a great question and the answer is – it depends. And it depends mostly on how you intend to use your e-bike, how well trained you are, and what terrain you plan to mostly be riding through. Here are a few rules of thumb, I would use.

Single-speed electric bicycles

  • you are riding mostly on flat streets,
  • you are quite fit and
  • you mostly use your e-bike for shopping or other casual trips in a city.

Having one electric assistance level works well with the motor that can produce high rotating power (or torque). It will turn the wheels of your e-bike faster with the same pedaling effort from you.

Do you feel like using your e-bike more like a regular bicycle 90% of the time and only turn on the motor for hill assist or when you get tired? In that case, you will be OK with only one electric assistance level.

For this type of usage, it still makes sense to have multiple mechanical gears so you can have more variations for your pedaling efforts.

Read also: How not to sweat on your e-bike commute? Trip planning – in this article, on the road – in this article, when you arrive – in this article.

Up to three e-speeds

It would be good to have, at least, three electric assistance levels if

  • you plan to use your e-bike for commute and/or
  • you plan to tackle moderate or even some steep hills.

Three levels of electric assistance will also serve you well if you are thinking about a utility-type e-bike.

Up to five e-speeds

If you are thinking about daily exercise on mixed terrain, or about recreational rides in the countryside, it is best to consider an e-bike with five levels of electric assistance. This e-bike will also serve well for your guests, who may not necessarily be regular cyclists.

than five e-speeds

There are quite a few models on the market, that have up to eight/nine electric assistance levels. These models will serve you well for fast riding – over 40 km/h (25 miles/h) limit of most pedelec e-bikes, on mixed terrain or on steep or long hills.

You will need to learn how to use each of those multiple e-speeds though, and whether they make any sort of difference in your rides. Eight or nine electric speeds sound like a bit too many to me. This is just my personal view.

Riding on the highest level of electric assistance

As this is an electric bike, why cannot one just ride at the highest or at the lowest level of electric assistance all the time and forget about shifting the assistance levels altogether? As if it was a single-speed e-bike, but using max electric power, for example?

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with riding this way. And you may well choose to do so until you decide to use other electric assistance levels. There are some points to consider, however:

Reduced battery life

Using a constant high level of electric assistance will dramatically reduce the range of the battery. fun, faster speed equals less battery life.

To give you an example, on an e-bike my wife is using, ECO mode estimated battery life is 100km (62 miles), and SPEED mode (maximum level of electric assistance on this model) estimated battery life is only 36km (22 miles). Sure, feel free to use SPEED mode, if your battery is fully charged and your journey is around 35km (20 miles).

ebike, pedal, assist, hand, throttles

Starting speed

Taking off from a standing start on a loaded bike (such as a utility bike, for example) can be hard work. Consider, for example, that you are starting in front of other road traffic.

ebike, pedal, assist, hand, throttles

It would be best to accelerate as fast and as safely as you can. Staying at a low assistance level means you will have to pedal much harder to get going. And this then defeats one of the major benefits of riding an e-bike. E-biking should be easy!

Bike control

When you are pedaling nice and slow (low cadence), you may find your balance is not as good as when you are pedaling faster. This is especially true as you set off from a stopped position.

Try launching at a higher electric assistance level. Otherwise, you may find yourself wobbling over the road until you gain momentum.

PEDAL ASSIST EXPLAINED, electric bikes make it easier to ride and help with long rides.Pedal assist

ebike, pedal, assist, hand, throttles

Riding smoothness

When riding on the highest power level, you will find the bike will accelerate very quickly. It will then reach its cutoff speed limit. The motor will then either immediately stop all electric assistance (for Shimano models) or quickly reduce electric assistance (for Bosch models).

Depending on how hard you are pedaling at that moment, your speed may then start to reduce until you fall below the speed limit cutoff. At this point, the motor will again start providing full assistance immediately. You will speed forward again until you again hit the speed limit.

Read also: Best city e-bikes for women, reviewed and compared. And, Best folding e-bikes for women, reviewed and compared.

This brisk acceleration/deceleration of power is not best for an e-bike’s power system. It is also not the most comfortable way to enjoy an e-bike ride. On top of that, the motor noise raising up and down to full power can be pretty annoying.

Consider that you will likely be bypassing the speed cutoff limit when riding on the highest level of electric assistance. Jumping above and falling below this cutoff speed limit will not allow you to maintain a smooth ride.

Motor efficiency

Similar to petrol engines, electric motors have their optimum range. For example, using a mid-drive motor at low motor speeds will make it run at suboptimal levels. Try moving off from a traffic light in a high electric assistance level, compared to a low electric assistance level. Follow up with shifting electric assistance levels and you will see the difference.

Power system wear

Using the full range of mechanical gears and electric assistance levels will help even out the wear on the power system (drivetrain), especially the rear cassette of your e-bike.

Mid-drive motors, for example, do create more wear on the drivetrain due to the torque being applied. Using all the cogs on the rear cassette means they all wear evenly, along with the chain.

Maintaining a steady pace when going uphill

Do not forget that you will need to pedal faster when going uphill on an electric bike. This does not mean that you will have to pedal harder. Use mechanical gears to adjust your level of effort for each level of electric assistance.

As you pedal faster, you will receive more power from the motor, which will make it easier for you to climb the hill.

For steeper hills, it helps to maintain 80 to 90 rotations per minute. When you pedal at this speed, you will feel that your overall level of effort is actually much lower. You will feel that you are getting significantly more power from the motor, as compared to when you pedal slower.

Torque sensor pedal assist systems

A much more recent system which has improved on the older pedal assist system is a torque sensor PAS. The torque sensor is usually mounted on either the pedal crank or near the rear dropout and measures the amount of torque being applied during pedaling.

The amount of torque being applied nearly exactly matches the amount of power needed at any stage of bicycle pedaling, including acceleration, steady cruising and hill climbing. This means that a torque sensor PAS works much better than an old fashioned magnet sensor PAS. The difference you’ll experience during riding is like night and day. Not only will it make your bike feel a lot lighter on hills, it will make your wallet feel a lot lighter as well.

A torque sensing bottom bracket

Ebike pedal assist advantages

But why would someone choose a pedal assist system over a throttle or vice versa? One reason could be if you live in a country where ebikes with hand throttles are not allowed. I’ve spent a few years living in Israel where the laws forbid ebikes with hand throttles from being imported. All the ebikes that come into the country come with the old fashioned cadence sensor PAS. Humorously, a lot of them come with a hand throttle in the same box but not connected to the bike. Even though it is technically illegal, the user can easily slide the hand throttle onto the handle bar and plug in the supplied wire, allowing use of both the PAS and hand throttle.

Another reason for using a pedal assist system would be for some who wants to ensure that he or she are getting exercise while using an electric bicycle. Due to the power and speed of most ebikes, many people find themselves rarely needing to pedal their ebike. In fact, unless I make a conscious effort to provide some good old fashioned assistance to my ebike, I often forget the pedals are there and simply use them as foot rests.

A pedal assist system ensures that you always have to pedal, though not very hard, to get your bike moving. This keeps you from relying 100% on the motor and throttle, giving you some healthy exercise every time you use your ebike.

Pedal assist: trouble in paradise

Many people, including yours truly, find pedal assist systems frustrating and annoying. I don’t use my ebike for exercise. I have running shoes for that. When I’m on my ebike it’s because I have somewhere I’ve got to be. I’m heading to work, making a delivery, running an errand or doing something that means I’ve got to be moving. That’s not the time that I want to worry about pretending to pedal in order to trick my bike into working for me. I want a simple, responsive and fool-proof system that is going to power my bike exactly when and how much I want, and that’s what a hand throttle is for.

Often times pedal assist systems fail to operate smoothly, resulting in quick, jerking movements. If you just want to start rolling slowly, you can easily control your acceleration with a hand throttle. But if you try to use pedal assist, you wind up with a few seconds of delay from the time you start pedaling, then a jolt as the motor kicks in abruptly. Not ideal under any circumstances.

So if you feel like you want to get some exercise, and you’re afraid an electric bicycle can be counterproductive to that goal, a pedal assist system is likely a good choice for you. If you want to use your ebike like a motorcycle for some thrill-riding fun or utilitarian transportation, a hand throttle will make your life much easier.

Note: while a compromise of having a hand throttle and a PAS together on a single electric bicycle may initially seem nice, please allow me to nip that idea in the bud. There certainly do exist ebikes like this, but I’m not a fan. The problem is that when you want to pedal a short distance, such as needing to scoot up or over at a red light, or maneuvering your electric bicycle while walking it through a door or gate, operating the pedals for a turn or two can cause the ebike to suddenly accelerate when you aren’t expecting it. Premature acceleration isn’t fun for you or anyone around you.

About Micah

Micah is a mechanical engineer, tinkerer and husband. He’s spent the better part of a decade working in the electric bicycle industry, and is the author of The Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide. Micah can usually be found riding his electric bicycles around Florida, Tel Aviv, and anywhere else his ebikes wind up.

Комментарии и мнения владельцев

I elected a hand throttle because I only want power when I’m too tuckered out to pedal under my own steam. I love cruising around town using my own two legs. But sometimes I ride a little too far, or I come to a hill that’s just a little too steep; that’s when I give myself a little boost. Needless to say, my battery rarely runs out of juice while I’m out riding.

I have a pedal assist that has a disk with 5 magnets that pass over a fixed sensor. Does anyone know where I can find any information on how the how and why it actually works. I am looking for information on the spacing of the magnets, the north/south polarity of the magnets. The reason it only works in one direction. If you reverse the disk with the magnets it only works backwards.

Hall Effect Sensor. If you want to mount the ring on the other side, just flip the sensor over so the “back” of it is towards the magnets. https://endless-sphere.com/forums/download/file.php?ID=194123sid=2aac83cee0ef5943bac8064e1aba8e25

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How do you ride an electric bike?

Riding an electric bike is pretty much like riding a non-motorised bike of the same type.

You switch on the motor, select the assistance level you want using the controller, and then pedal. The motor will make initial acceleration much easier and then help you keep up to speed, particularly when you need to climb a hill.

However, because of the extra weight from the motor and battery, an electric bike may handle a bit more sluggishly than a non-assisted bike.

It may also have wider tyres to carry the extra weight and provide more grip, and it will usually have disc brakes because there’s more mass to slow down and stop.

What range will an electric bike have?

The motor type and battery capacity, plus your riding style and the terrain, all influence the range. Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Batteries on electric bikes can give you a range of anything from 20 to 100 miles or more on a full charge, depending on their capacity (measured in watt-hours and abbreviated to Wh). Batteries are expensive, so an ebike with a longer range will, in general, cost more.

You’ll usually get a battery-level indicator, while some control systems will give you an estimated range as you ride or regulate the power output to let you achieve your planned ride distance.

Some ebikes let you plug in a second battery, which might fit in a bottle cage, to up range. You can also lower the assistance level during a ride to help conserve the battery and extend the bike’s range.

While many brands will offer an estimated range for a particular model of bike, and it is possible to gauge a bike’s theoretical range based on its motor power and battery capacity, ultimately it depends on the level of assistance you’re using and the terrain.

Fully recharging the battery from the mains can take anything from around three hours up to nine hours, or more depending on the model, charger and battery capacity.

What types of electric bike are there?

We’ve got a separate guide to electric bike types, but you can find almost any kind of bike with a motor.

The most common types of electric bikes are hybrids and mountain bikes.

The best electric hybrid bikes have flat bars and chunky, puncture-resistant tyres, useful for biking to work, shopping and more leisurely rides.

They may also have mudguards (or the eyelets to add full-length mudguards), a rack and lights, and sometimes have a step-through frame design to make it easier to hop on and off the bike.

Electric mountain bikes normally have a beefy motor with a high torque output to help you get up loose off-road climbs and over obstacles. Once you get to the top, the motor can be turned off to enjoy the downhill ride.

There’s also a growing number of electric road bikes. With drop handlebars, they’re designed to ride fast and are usually relatively lightweight (as far as electric bikes go), to help with handling and hill climbing.

Electric gravel bikes are designed to be capable off-road and fast on tarmac. Russell Burton / Our Media

There’s an increasing number of electric gravel bikes, too. With wider tyres to enable you to ride off-road with confidence and drop handlebars for road speed, e-gravel bikes are designed to offer the versatility to really broaden your riding.

The best electric folding bikes will be designed for versatility and compact size. They can be folded up to take on public transport or for easier storage at home/work, so they could be the best bike for commuting for many people.

There are also electric cargo bikes, designed to carry loads for deliveries around town and other day-to-day tasks where they can replace a car or van.

Whichever electric bike you choose, we suggest you read our guides to electric bike insurance and electric bike maintenance to look after what’s likely to be a sizeable investment.

In short, if you want a helping hand on your ride, you can find an electric bike to suit your needs.

Can you convert a bike into an ebike?

Yes, you can convert a bike into an ebike. There are an increasing number of electric bike conversion kits available, which enable you to add a motor to a non-assisted bike.

These kits are often a more affordable way to electrify your riding, compared to buying a whole new electric bike.

Electric bike conversion kits will include a motor as well as a battery to power it. They will also have controls so you adjust the power output on the motor. The controls often mount to the handlebar of a bike.

Conversion kits tend to come with sensors to detect speed and the level of power input required to ensure the motor matches your needs.

One of the most popular ebike conversion kits in the UK is the Swytch kit, which uses a hub-mounted motor.

Other kits use ‘mid-drive’ motors but some of these kits are compatible only with specific bottom bracket standards.

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Paul Norman

Paul has been writing about bike tech and reviewing all things cycling for almost a decade. He had a five-year stint at Cycling Weekly and has also written for titles including CyclingNews, Cyclist and BikePerfect, as well as being a regular contributor to BikeRadar. Tech-wise, he’s covered everything from rim width to the latest cycling computers. He reviewed some of the first electric bikes for Cycling Weekly and has covered their development into the sophisticated machines they are today, on the way becoming an expert on all things electric. Paul was into gravel before it was even invented, riding a cyclocross bike across the South Downs and along muddy paths through the Chilterns. He dabbled in cross-country mountain biking too. He’s most proud of having covered the length of the South Downs Way on a crosser and fulfilling his long-time ambition to climb Monte Grappa on a road bike

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