Do E-Bike Riders Switch the Power Up and Down as They Ride?


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An electric bicycle, commonly known as e-bike is a bicycle integrated with an electric motor for propulsion. E-Bikes come in various types around the world – from powerful e-bikes with moped-style functionality (throttle e-bikes) to e-bikes that assists rider’s pedal-power.

E-bikes are gaining popularity worldwide. They serve as an affordable way of commuting to school, college, and workplaces. In Germany, for example, e-bikes are even taking the place of conventional bicycles. In China, e-bikes are replacing fossil fuel charged motorcycles at a fast pace. 

E-bikes with small electric motors use rechargeable batteries and one can travel up to 32 km per hour. High powered speed e-bikes can travel up to 45 km per hour. 

Read also: What is the difference between traditional and speed e-bikes? – in this article.

How do e-bikes riders use electric power? Do e-bike riders switch the power up and down as they ride? The answer to this question varies from rider to rider. It is all about preferences in the end. While some riders are tempted to put electric power on max assist all the time, others do just the opposite. Riders tend to adjust their bikes’ assist levels per the road they are taking, their weight, battery charge left, and other factors. 

Let’s start by highlighting the main factors concerning the e-bike’s speed and power consumption.

Understanding e-bike power, range, and energy consumption

When it comes to an e-bike, 1000 watt power seems like a lot.  Those super powerful e-bikes work a lot like cars. Just as cars with more power can accelerate quickly, e-bikes with maximum power could also accelerate fast and  carry more weight up a steep hill.

Read also: Can e-bikes go up steep hills? – in this article.

Another important concept in e-bikes is energy. While acceleration is all about power, energy is all about range. E-bikes are direct when it comes to energy, unlike cars that use stored electric power to get energy to move forward. Energy is stored in the e-bike’s battery and an e-bike usually feeds on the batteries to create energy to carry weight of its rider. 

What is e-bike mileage?

Just like for cars, mileage varies from e-bike to e-bike. Most e-bikes demonstrate 2000 MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent). MPGge is a measure of the average distance traveled per unit of energy consumed (source). This makes most electric bikes more efficient with using their electric charge than a Tesla Model S. 

But If you want to calculate your range, you need to keep in mind your travel speed, the distance, e-bike type and lots of other factors. A typical number is between 15 to 20 miles per hour. This means that on an average e-bike (a low end city model, for example) you would not go much further than 30 miles on a full charge. 

So, if you are planning to do long rides on your e-bike with full power, you will need to accurately plan your trip. To travel far, you will likely have to pedal along the way and not just use your battery on full power all the time.

Read also: How far can e-bikes go? – in this article.

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What are PAS levels in an e-bike?

PAS (or pedal assist) levels are electrical speed limits. While riding your e-bike, you would find that speed goes up with each mechanical speed level change, while electric power remains the same. And visa versa, you can change electric power levels without changing mechanical gears.

NORMAL and ECO modes, which we would discuss in detail, are electric power levels. When you change the setting from ECO to NORMAL to POWER mode on a PAS, the power increases. Whereas, the speed remains constant. To increase the speed, you need to regulate mechanical speed levels. For example, if you are on PAS POWER mode on mechanical level 6, you would get the maximum speed at this eclectic assistance level. 

Read also: How to use gears on an electric bike, mechanic and electric? – in this article.

Read also: How to switch electric assistance levels on an e-bike? – in this article.

The difference between power NORMAL PAS level 3 and POWER PAS level 6 is in speed. PAS level 6 is supposed to give you more speed. Similarly, mechanical levels 2 and 3 give you only moderate speed at the same power level. 

Quality of PAS control buttons

Even though this factor might seem trivial to some but some PAS control buttons give better feedback and ease to the riders. 

Weak (easy to push) PAS control buttons cause the rider to jump multiple PAS levels, causing an inexperienced or a novice rider to lose control. This is the main reason why many riders tend to avoid using them, especially when those buttons are most needed. 

Do e-bike riders use maximum power all the time or switch the power up and down as they ride?

The first thing to understand whether bikers switch electric power up and down or keep it constant is that not every e-bike is created equally. Even two e-bikes which claim to have the same wattage level and power can fairly vary from each other in terms of power output.

The higher the wattage, the more power you can use while riding your e-bike. But how much power do you need to commute and how should you use it?

This mostly depends on your trail and your weight. The lighter you are, the less power it would take for the bike to get you up the hill. Similarly, the longer and steeper the hill, the more power you will require to get up the hill. 

Overall, the answer to the question of how much electric power to use and when varies from rider to rider. There are as many answers to this question as there are e-bike riders out there. It is all about your preferences in the end. While some riders are tempted to put their e-bikes on max assist all the time, others just the opposite. They adjust their e-bikes’ assist levels per the road they are taking, their weight, remaining battery charge and other factors. 

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How battery power is used at maximum speed

Putting your e-bike on full power setting does not only discharge your battery faster but also overheats the rechargeable battery cells. The distance of the trip as well as capacity of the battery, determines the ideal power settings.

While some riders use NORMAL power and ECO modes, some conserve, and some rather save their battery power for the last half of their trips. Again, a rider’s behavior influences the way he or she switches power while riding. 

Is there “the right way” to ride an e-bike?

It is nearly impossible to find one generic answer to this question. Even if you ask this question to multiple riders (taking mostly those, who commute on their e-bikes every day), you will still end up having numerous strategies. 

Every rider has his distinctive way of riding. While some put their power at 50% to enjoy a good workout, others use maximum speed while commuting. 

E-bike power usage is also greatly affected by e-bike’s performance, style and the rider’s ability to manage control over the e-bike. 

Some more senior riders prefer to start with little to no power to assist as a part of their regular workout routine. But after their workout is done, they tend to increase the power to mid-range and ride while enjoying the scenery along their ride. 

Bikers usually decrease the power assist when they are going downhill and use the throttle or higher power setting to increase the assist if they are going uphill. 

When it comes to new and less experienced e-bike riders, those riders are likely to put their e-bikes on full power more often. There would almost always be a learning curve for each new e-bike rider. However, it is far to say that an e-bike is always more efficient with how it uses its electric power at 10 miles per hour rather than at 20 miles per hour.

Here are a few more considerations on e-bike power usage

As we have discussed above, e-bike type, the rider’s behavior, and riding styles are worth noticing when it comes to answering the power usage question. Here are several further considerations worth taking into account.

For instance, if you have a PAS torque-sensing e-bike, you may change the power up and down constantly as you ride. Applying force on the pedals of a PAS torque-sensing bike would increase the power to match your efforts even if you are not pedaling at a fast pace. If you tend to pedal lightly, the electric motor would barely turn on its assistance.

An e-bike’s setting plays a key role when using the maximum or minimum power. Some riders never set their bike to give out maximum power. While riding up the trail, it is best to use the maximum power. Still some e-bike riders would prefer to use LEVEL 2 of PAS out of a total of 5 levels to get the exercise and not go that fast. 

However, if the rider wishes to increase the speed and decrease the pedaling effort, the best option is to crank it up to PAS to the max level.

While riding on a trail, it is a good practice to keep switching the power up and down between PAS level 2 and PAS level 3. Keeping the PAS level 3 constant while riding on sand leverages the rider to maintain control and power easily. 

Another factor worth noticing is that riding a 350-watt e-bike at full speed all the time is not at all same as riding a 1500-watt e-bike at full speed. So, the choice of power assistance also depends on e-bike’s power available to the rider. 

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One e-bike power usage strategy you may want to use

Most of e-cyclists do not usually assist their e-bikes at full electric power all the time as this dries up the battery cells way faster as compared to adjusting level of assistance depending on the terrain, stage of the trip and other factors. 

Here is a strategy you may want to try if you would like to conserve battery charge for longer during your trip: 

  1. If you are up for a little workout and like to keep yourself fit and healthy, use ECO or lowest PAS level when getting started; 
  2. If you are fighting with the head wind, increase your pedaling power or increase the level of assist to NORMAL, TRAIL or even POWER mode. The increased power mode would help if you are in a hurry and want to reach somewhere faster.
  3. You can use TURBO or full power mode if you are riding uphill or you are very tired at the end of  your e-cycling trip and you are heading home. However, you need to ensure that you have enough battery power to still help you make it home.

How to use a derailleur?

To maintain your favorite cadence, set the gear before riding. You can manipulate your gears as much as you can to reach your favorite cadence. Typical cadence would be between 70 and 90 rotations per minute. 

To get an easier start from a standstill, release the chain by using low gear first and then switching to a higher one. 

Related questions

How fast an e-bike can go whilst it is at full speed? Most e-bikes in the United States get you up to 20 mph. In most cases, you would need to pedal fast to get to the top speed. 

How much power a typical e-bike has? E-bikes in the United States are typically equipped with 250 to 750-watt motors.

Pedal assist or throttle e-bikes – which one is the best? It solely depends on your riding preference. The throttle system allows you to move along with or without pedaling, just like you would do on a motorcycle. Pedal assisted e-bikes will require your pedaling power to move forward. Riders, who have used traditional bikes, would often prefer pedal assisted e-bikes (also called pedelecs). 

A few words in conclusion

Experts say that e-bike power usage depends on your personal preferences, riding conditions and the type of bike you have. An e-bike is usually harder to start from a stopped position if the motor is not turned on. So, it is always a good strategy to keep your e-bike on ECO mode by default while launching off on your ride. 

How you use your e-bike’s speeds and power depends on the trail you are going to cover. Most experienced bike riders keep the lowest PAS level while riding on smooth trails. They usually increase to mid-range if they have to climb steep hills. Novice e-bike riders tend to keep their e-bikes at maximum pedal assist level more often.

Take a look at this quick video of a 1500-watt e-bike ride:

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