Electric Bicycles Gear Guide 101

Updated: Oct 26

Many of us are only interested in the visual appeal of a machine, though, deep inside we all know that the technical aspects also comprise paramount importance. It is the same case for any car, motorbike, or even an electric bicycle. Ebikes though technically simple, do have some noteworthy components whose specifications & details need to be known by every ebike owner. One such component is the gears that often get overlooked by the battery & the motor. This article explains the bike gears and their crucial role in your day-to-day rides.

Most Common Types of Electric Bicycle Gears:

The electric bicycles gear guide 101 starts by getting you familiarized with the common types of gears fitted to ebikes. Thankfully, the list isn’t long & bike gears have been explained in quite a lucid way, so you won’t have any difficulty figuring out which gear your ebike utilizes.

Derailleur Gears:

Image credit: Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media from Bike Radar

Derailleur gears may sound like a complex system of gears, but they are in fact the simpler type of gears used in bicycles & ebikes. Based on a mechanism of cassettes & cogs, the entire system is connected via a cable to a shifting lever on the handlebar. The adjusting lever increases or decreases the stress on the wire, which in turn shifts the gear.

Since derailleur gears are the most widely used type of gears, therefore, there’s a good chance that the most recent bike you’ve ridden or seen was equipped with derailleur gears. These gears comprise a set of gears attached to the rear wheel, which in turn are connected to the front main gear (crankset) through a chain. The crankset is ultimately propelled by the rider or an electric motor in the case of some electric bikes.

The number of gear ratios on a derailleur gear varies widely from bike to bike, however, ebikes usually utilize lesser gear ratios. The derailleur gear mechanism on ebikes is therefore simple as compared to bicycles, though the working mechanism of both is the same. The availability of different gears at the reach of the rider's hand allows him/her to customize the riding dynamics according to the terrain. The wide range of configurations & several other benefits has made derailleur gears a popular choice for both ebike & bicycle manufacturers.

Amongst several benefits of derailleur gears, the most significant is their cost. Derailleur gears are easy to install & their cost is significantly lesser than their counterpart. Their cost-effectiveness also makes them easier to replace. On the flip side, derailleur gears are prone to contamination which is why their service intervals are relatively short.

Hub Gears:

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Hub gear is a rather complex & relatively rare type of gear that is fully enclosed in a case and placed right in the middle of the rear tire. Despite being smaller in size, hub gears are easier to use than derailleur gears. A hub gear houses several cogs inside itself that work together to propel the rear wheel. One distinct feature of hub gears is they lack a series of external cogs, instead, they only utilize a single cog on the rear wheel which, in turn, is connected to the crankset. The cog on the rear wheel communicates with the internal hubs that are ultimately responsible for the rotatory motion of the rear wheel.

A hub gear provides several advantages over a derailleur gear. Unlike derailleur gears, hub gears can also be shifted whilst stationary. Also, they can be swiftly jump-shifted without having to worry about the integrity of the system since their overall geometry allows them to bear such stress. Lastly, hub gears are light on maintenance, which certainly cannot be said for derailleur gears.

There is a good reason why we don’t get to see hub gears on most ebikes & bicycles. To begin with, their production cost is significantly higher than derailleur gears since integrating such small & rugged gears inside a hub is a challenging task. Hub gears may be compact but their complex geometry wastes energy thus forcing the rider to exert greater force. Repairing these gears requires a certain level of expertise which unfortunately most ebike or bicycle mechanics don't possess.

Why is Cadence Important?

Cadence is usually an alien concept even for some seasoned cyclists & ebike users, though, its importance cannot be neglected. In simple terms, cadence in the cycling or ebike world means the number of revolutions per minute a rider achieves at any given speed. Cadence varies from cyclist to cyclist, but an experienced cyclist would have no problem attaining a cadence of nearly 60 RPMs or more. The 60 RPM is a benchmark figure that has been established for both ebike & bicycle users. Nevertheless, you can always push your boundaries if you are in the mood to do so, in which case, the cadence can surpass 60 RPM quite easily.

Best Ebike Riding Tips Suggested by Experts:

Just like there are several known tips on how to drive a car or a motorbike efficiently, there also exist some tried & tested ebike riding tips. Riding an ebike is rather different from riding a bicycle as both pedal-assist & electric-only mode come into play. The following tips will help you better commandeer your ebike:

· Don’t just rely on mechanical gears to change riding dynamics, use both pedal assist & mechanical gears in conjunction.

· Since most ebikes are fitted with derailleur gear, therefore, try not to shift gears when stationary.

· Frequently changing gears & pedal-assist levels is a rather cumbersome task, however, changing both depending upon the terrain can prolong the life of components & enhance riding pleasure.

· A cadence level of 60 RPM is best suited for amateurs as well as experienced riders. Therefore, try your best to achieve a cadence level of 60 RPM.

· Ergonomics are an important part of day-to-day rides. Adjust the riding controls at a position that you feel is most appropriate according to your needs.

About Shifting Mechanism:

The shifting mechanism, in our context, refers to the process of changing gears on an ebike or a bicycle. Shifting or changing gears is quite simple in ebikes and all you need to do is to make an adjustment on that lever. The lever is connected via a cable to the gear cogs and an increase or decrease in cable tension translates into another gear. Another equally popular mechanism is to utilize twist grips to change the gears. This method is eerily similar to applying or reducing throttle on a motorcycle and is even more intuitive than learning how to use a gear lever.