Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, are modern bicycles that come equipped with electric motors to help you along.
So, you will ride it just like you’d ride a regular bicycle, but with much less effort.
In addition to a motor, an e-bike has several other electrical components integrated in its design, like a controller and a battery.
An e-bike handles and pedals just like a conventional bicycle but the presence of electric components drastically amplifies the human power.
In other words, when you take you e-bike up a hill or when it’s very windy, you’d still have to pedal with effort but it will be manageable and you won’t get tired.
And like a conventional bicycle, e-bikes also have multiple gears that allow you to adjust your pedaling effort. But there are huge differences between the gears of an electric bike and a regular one.
What are electric bike multi gears?
Gears are equivalent to speed levels; a bicycle with 27 gears is a 27-speed bike.
E-bicycles often come with 1, 3, 18, 21, 24, 27, 32, or even as high as 40 speed levels.
The higher the number, the higher the speed of the bike, and vice-versa. So, the 1st gear is low gear while the 27th gear is high hear.
Going from one gear to another is known as shifting the gear, and you do it clicking or sliding the shifter that’s located on the handlebars. This way, you can decrease/increase the output of electric power, or shift the chain onto a different-sized ring.
Upshifting means going to a higher gear while downshifting means going to a lower gear.
Instead of upshifting or downshifting, you can also refer to it as shift up or shift down.
When it comes to electric bikes, the mechanic gears are shifted by the right shifter while the levels of electric assistance are shifted by the left shifter.
The right shifter is connected to a cable that’s covered in a secure frame.
When you turn or click through the gears, this cable becomes loose/tight, applying less/more force to the system that moves your electric bike’s chain on the chainrings.
Electric Assistance Levels
A control block, located on the handlebar, is responsible for controlling the level of electric assistance.
You will see an arrangement of Up (Plus) and Down (Minus) buttons on this control block.
It should be noted that the terminology varies across different electric assistance systems.
However, there is always a low, moderate and high levels of assistance with Down/Minus giving less electric assistance, and Up/Plus offering more.
For instance, the following levels are standard in a Shimano electric assistance system:
OFF > ECO > NORMAL > HIGH
On the other hand, the Bosch electric assistance system will have the following combination:
OFF > ECO > Tour > SPORT > TURBO
Whether it’s a Shimano, Yamaha, Bosch, or some other system, it will complement by offering you more electric power, depending on the assistance level you choose and how hard you are pushing on the pedals.
For example, if you have a Bosch electric assistance system, it will give you:
- 225% TURBO mode
- 150% SPORT mode
- 100% on TOUR mode
- 40% on ECO mode
Understanding Low and High Gears
Learning how to shift gears becomes easy once you grasp all the terminology and put in a bit of practice.
You will have to handle the practicing part on your own, but we can certainly help you understand the technical jargon.
First things first, low gear is perfect for climbing and it uses the largest cog on your rear wheel cassette (mechanical gears) and the most electric assistance power. When you use this low gear, you’ll be able to pedal with ease.
Even if you pedal uphill, you will experience little to no resistance. You have to downshift to get into this position.
High gear is good for sliding or descending.
This gear is when the electric assistance is completely switched off.
This gear uses the smallest cog on your mechanical gears, so pedaling will take maximum effort unless you are going downhill.
You have to upshift to get into this position.
So, all you need to remember is: highest electric assistance gear = little to no electric assistance at all.
How to shift your e-bike gears?
The majority of e-bike models have several mechanical gears for every electric assistance level.
These different assistance levels and gears are designed to suit every cyclist, whether they are a beginner or a pro. These gears are also suitable for pretty much any type of terrain out there.
Once you begin pedaling with electric assistance, the e-bike’s motor will quickly start supporting you at the preset level you have selected.
Then as your pedaling speed increases beyond a comfortable pace, you can shift your right-shifter (mechanical) gears to the next toughest setting while keep going. Just remember to continue pedaling when you are shifting gears.
When you change gears, you’ll hear the bike’s motor reduce power temporarily but it will restart itself.
The temporary shut-off is to protect the motor. Just keep pedaling and when your speed has increased significantly, change gears again. Repeat this process until you reach a pace that’s comfortable for you.
Which shifter to use?
Wondering which shifter to use – right or left?
The thumb of the rule is, you should use the right shifter (change the mechanical gears) if you need a small change.
But use the left shifter (change electric assistance level) if you need a big change.
Remember, practice makes perfect so as you become more comfortable with your e-bike and use it regularly, you’ll automatically become in tune with what type of change you need make.
Riding uphill and downhill
When you come to a hill, you will need to increase the level of electric assistance.
Your speed will most certainly start to decrease if you are in a lower assistance setting while climbing the hill.
Keep pedaling to overcome this slowdown and shift into a lower mechanical gear that allows you to pedal easily. Then later, increase the electric assistance level.
And when you start sliding downhill, lower the assistance level before upshifting mechanical gears. This will make it easy to pedal slower.
Come to a stop
If you need to stop your e-bike, begin changing into easier mechanical gears as you slow down your pedaling.
Make sure you are always in the right gear before stopping.
It’s also recommended to change the assistance level before stopping your electric bike (or you can do it when the bike has already stopped).
And finally, just apply the brakes!
Things to Remember while Shifting Gears
Shift to a mechanical gear before stopping
Does your electric bike have a gearbox in the rear? If yes, then you’ll need to shift into an easier gear before stopping your bike.
When adjusting down your gear, you also need to continue pedaling to ensure the gears are completely engaged. As long as your pedals are being turned, you can also do this while you are coasting to a stop.
Don’t shift mechanical gears while the e-bike is immobile
You will need to start off in a higher gear if you don’t have enough time to change to a lower gear before coming to a stop.
It’s not a big deal. You can reduce your pedaling once your start rolling, and then shift down to an easier gear.
It’s possible to change electric assistance levels when the e-bike is stopped
You can easily shift the level of electric assistance while the bike is stationary.
For example, you can start off at a more comfortable speed or downshift to ECO if you are stopped at a road light while bicycling on the SPORT mode. Or, if you want to accelerate as fast as possible just as the traffic light turns green, you can keep the assistance level to TURBO.
Useful Tips for E-Bike Gear Shifting
Some useful tips:
Know your rhythm
Take you time to find the cadence you are most comfortable with.
For most electric bicyclists, it’s somewhere between 70-90 rpm for descending and sustained climbing. Biking at too low of a tempo can put extra stress on the rear derailleur and chain, resulting to poor shifting performance when the rear can’t tug the chain between different cogs.
But riding on a higher cadence will put less tension on the drivetrain and that will allow it to hit the gears more effectively and accurately.
Find your groove with the shift lever
You should take your time setting your shift lever into a comfy position where you only need to move your thumb to change gears, especially when you have to go downhill.
Try to keep your shifter and brake levers closer to you.
Perfect your timing
When it comes to shifting the gears properly, timing is crucial.
Make sure you shift when the load is lightest on your gears, i.e. during the upstroke of your pedaling. This way your chain will slide smoothly over the next cog.
Be careful while climbing
Climbing can be challenging, especially if your shifting technique is not up to the mark.
Keep in mind that it’s perfectly okay to shift when you are in the middle of a steep climb.
However, it is judicious to plan for the climb if possible. If you are going to be climbing for longer durations, find a gear that lets you spin and relax.
And if you see a sharper pitch coming up, change into an easier gear right before the grade begins.
If you plan ahead, you won’t miss any gears and thus, will feel less stressful.
Have a clear strategy for descending
Similar to climbing, you should also plan in advance for any descents on your way since it requires a different gear.
If you see a turn coming, shift into an easier gear so you can accelerate out of the corner swiftly.
And when you hit G-outs or steeper drops, simply rely on the gravity to carry you through and change into a gear for the ‘exit’ feature.
You may think that since you are coasting downhill, you won’t need to shift – wrong!
Use the drop to upshift and then plan ahead for the right cadence you’ll need once you are done descending.
Make sure you spend enough time practicing on your e-bike.
You don’t have to go far away, just pedal up and down the street you live in.
The more time you put in pedaling, the faster you’ll get used to all the shifts and gears. Just like car drivers, e-bike riders also depend a lot on their intuition regarding the gears.
EXPERIMENT WITH BOOST IN SPEED
We wanted to test what kind of a boost in speed our electric bikes can achieve.
To achieve this, we kept the output pedaling power at constant 50 watts. We did the experiment on a straight road, with no slopes or wind. With different electric bike settings, we looked at the speed, and these are our findings:
- Electric bike turned off: 11-12MPH
- At level 1: 14MPH
- At level 2: 16-17MPH
- At level 3: 20-21MPH
- At level 4: 22-23MPH
Keep your e-bike clean and lubricated
Maintenance is the key when you are using a machine regularly, and the same goes for your bike.
If your drivetrain full of dust and other buildups, you will find it extremely hard to shift well. So, clean it and lubricate it often.
Check the cables and housing after every couple of rides to ensure no dirt or grit has built up, otherwise it will restrict the movements of the rear derailleur.
Even a tiny tweak in cable tension can disrupt the shifting systems. To keep the wear-and-tear minimal, replace your chain at regular intervals.
E-Bikes are the Future
Thanks to the several technological advancements within the last few years, many bike manufacturers are now making electric bikes.
In fact, many car companies have also realized that bikes are much better suited to high-density urban areas than cars.
And whether it’s for the environment or due to the rising epidemic of obesity, many office-goers and city dwellers have also started choosing bikes over 4-wheelers.
With city governments looking for ways to alleviate traffic congestion and ride-haling giants like Lyft and Uber enjoying major success with electric bikes, it’s safe to say that e-bikes are here to stay.
If you a beginner and new to the electric bicycles scene, it’s important to understand that even though they may look a lot your standard bicycle, e-bikes are a whole different ball game.
You should practice caution while riding an electric bike since it is faster and heavier than a conventional bicycle.
As long as you follow the rules and ride safely, you’ll come to see why so many bicyclists are loving their e-bike rides.