In the past years, the dwindling price of gas and access to other means of transport may have reduced the number of people who made use of bicycles to get around their business and errands. Still, the concept and importance of bicycles are far from been erased or extinct in the world. Bicycles are economical to use, provide good exercise for the body, generally cheaper to purchase than a car. They are a pleasure to be used to stroll around the neighborhood especially in the countryside.
As technology and inventions will have it, today we have electric bicycles, which come in a variety of styles and sizes. E-bikes generally look very identical to the conventional bicycles but have their own unique features. There are different types of e-bikes and a lot of things to know about them. You are welcome to look around this site to find answers to your questions around e-bikes. In this short article, we will answer one simple question “do e-bikes make noise?”
So, do e-bikes make noise? Are e-bikes loud? E-bikes make light noise that comes from two sources – tires hitting the road and an electric motor producing electric power. The sound that comes from tires is similar to that of traditional bicycles. The sound of an electric motor resembles that of a city trolleybus that accelerates after a stop.
I will not be giving a fair judgment if I leave you at this point thinking that an electric bicycle sounds like a vehicle that has a ruptured exhaust port. So, let’s discuss a few more details that will give you a glimpse of the nature of noise to expect from an e-bike if you have not used or seen one before.
Why e-bikes make certain noise?
As we have talked about just above, an e-bike has more components than a traditional bike. One major component that contributes to this new light noise is an electric motor. E-bike electric motor usually is either a direct drive or a gear hub, or mid-drive motor. Want to know more about different types of e-bike motors? Take a look at this post.
Noise from a direct drive e-bike motor
A direct-drive motor is rather large and has a big ring of magnet connected to it. Such type of electric motor works by spinning the outer shell when you twist the throttle (for throttle equipped e-bikes) or accelerate on the pedals (for pedal-assisted e-bikes). This makes the wheel spin since the outer shell is part of the wheel itself.
A direct-drive motor would have been the fastest motor. The challenge is that a direct drive motor is quite heavy. It is nearly as big as the wheel itself. Due to this awkward size and weight, handling of a direct drive motor is not that easy. This type of motor also makes the e-bike slightly harder to move uphill without the assistance of throttle or pedals.
With a direct drive motor, an e-bike can become slightly more noisy, especially when the motor installed in the front wheel. This is due to the fact it will make the front fork to vibrate and add to the loudness of the e-bike itself.
To reduce this noise from vibration, it is recommended to install the motor in the rear wheel instead of on the front one. While shopping for e-bikes, just note that the ones that have their motor on the rear wheel will be generally quieter than the ones with their motor on the front wheel.
Noise from a gear hub e-bike motor
A gear hub e-bike motor is smaller in size. It is also more efficient because it has motor coils on the inside that spin faster than the wheel itself. This generates more torque and power to make the e-bike go faster. The engineering of the gear hub motor is such that you don’t experience drag from the motor.
As this type of motor is smaller and smoother in operation, from riding an e-bike with a gear hub motor installed, you generally have a feeling that is similar to that when riding a conventional bike.
Gear hub drive motors will produce this electric acceleration sound that you would normally hear from a city trolleybus, although, certainly the level of the sound will be much less loud. You will not hear this sound at all if you are riding on a busy city street. Still, if you are crossing a quiet country-side, you may hear this sound when you switch electric assistance on and accelerate.
Noise from a mid-drive e-bike motor
Mid-drive e-bike motors are probably the most advanced pieces of engineering design available today. They are more difficult to put together and integrate into an e-bike’s frame, as those types of motors are placed in the pedal section of an e-bike. At the same time, mid-drive motors seem to provide the most natural riding experience.
Mid-drive e-bike motors are also best as their center of gravity is placed low and in the middle of an e-bike. As a rider also sits in the middle of the e-bike, the center of gravity remains centrally placed, which helps feel more natural when starting and stopping your ride.
When comparing the noise level from a mid-drive and gear hub electric motors, my experience has been that gear hub e-bike motors produce slightly less noise. This may be due to the specific models that we have tested. Generally, the difference is negligible.
In case you are looking to compare different types of e-bike motors, take a look at this post.
Noise from e-bike tires
Just like for any other bicycle, when e-bike tires hit the road, this traction produces some sound. This sound will be the same for both regular bicycles and e-bikes. As you would imagine, there is no difference, as tires for both types of bikes are generally rather similar.
What could make a difference for the sound of the tires? This is generally the type of terrain you are riding and the size of tires that are installed on your e-bike.
If you are riding on asphalt and your e-bike is equipped with road tire tread, you will hear minimum sound from tires touching the road. In case you are riding a mountain electric bike that is equipped with mountain tires, you will hear more sound. This will be due to both tire size and tire tread.
Is there a way to reduce e-bike noise?
I did not find any chart that shows the exact decibels of sound that an e-bike makes. A practical way to determine how noisy an e-bike will be is by going to the shop where you want to buy it and requesting a test ride. This is definitely worth the while. You not only get to hear the sound of the bike, but you also have a feel of what the handling and accessories look like. You can also search for this e-bike model on trustworthy internet platforms and read what the earlier owners have to say about it.
With all the discussion above, it is worth noting that modern models of e-bikes do not really make any significant level of noise. When riding a new e-bike, you are likely to more hear the sound of the wind. And this sound will overshadow the sound of the motor and that of the tires.
Does it make sense to buy a new or used e-bike? Check for an answer in this post.
Just like we already know, maintenance is the key, make sure that all the nuts, bolts and clips are tight at all times. Do not add unnecessary third party accessories. Keep the moving parts of the E-bike greased and lubricated at all times.
My favorite selection of e-bike accessories in this post.
If one compares e-bike that has been converted using a conversion kit and e-bikes that are originally produced as e-bikes, the latter are usually less noisy. Buying a new e-bike or a conversion kit? Find out in this post.
Should I worry about e-bike noise?
Before you pay for a new e-bike, check out online reviews of selected models. Ask for a test run. Also, ask the sales rep to tell you about the kind of motor used on the E-bike. You can also inquire about the measures that have been taken to check the noise level.
Generally, especially for newer e-bike models, the level of noise is so negligible that you may stop worrying about it altogether. You can also be most certain that with the advancement of technology, upcoming e-bike models will produce yet less sound.