Electric Bikes

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears (and Do You Need Them)?

This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.

The Short Answer

Electric bikes do have gears, and they are beneficial for riding more effectively and efficiently over varying terrains and gradients. The number of gears needed depends on the intended use of the bike. Gears, combined with the motor, provide a versatile and accessible riding experience.

Electric bikes are becoming more and more popular, thanks to having the added benefit of a pedal assisted motor: you can get from A to B much faster for the same energy as a normal push bike.

Not only that, but electric bikes also benefit from having different speeds with regards to the motor which makes them a great option for everyone, whether you want to speed around or ride leisurely with the assistance of a motor. 

But, do electric bikes have gears, and if they do, do you need them?

Why Do Bikes Have Gears? 

Bikes have gears for two main reasons.

Firstly, gears are fitted to bikes in order to help you to ride more effectively and efficiently over varying gradients. Having a higher cadence than just churning the gear is much easier when ascending uphill, whereas when riding along the flat or downhill, gears are great for allowing you to pedal smoothly at a consistent cadence. 

Not only that, but gears are also used to travel along different terrain with ease, such as on tarmac, on bike paths or off road on trails that may include gravel or mud. All of which need a different gear to ride along. 

Therefore, gears are there to help you ride around with ease, no matter where you fancy taking your two wheeled companion. Which at the end of the day, is arguably the main benefit of opting for a bike: the versatility and accessibility it offers.

SOURCE: Unsplash.com

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? 

Electric bikes do more often than not have gears. However, there are some fixed gear electric bikes on the market that, as the name suggests, only have the one ‘fixed’ gear. But overall, most e-bikes have gears. 

A lot of electric bikes will have conventional gears, most commonly bikes will be fitted with Shimano gears and drive chains, which are widely regarded as the most popular and common component brand in cycling. 

But some electric bikes are fitted with belt drive gears, which are a little more straightforward in terms of maintenance, but often a tad more expensive when fitted to a bike. Although belt drive gears do have their benefits, as well as drawbacks, thus an electric bike fitted with a belt drive system is definitely worth considering. 

Do Electric Bikes Need Gears?

Electric bikes arguably do need gears for the most part as just because there is the benefit of a motor, the bikes will still be used in the same way regular push bikes are. How many gears an electric bike specifically needs will however depend on a few things. The main aspect being, the intended use of the bike.

For example, a road bike electric bike that will be used to tackle vastly different gradients will need more gears than a hybrid electric bike because as with standard bikes, a road bike will often be 11 speed with two chainrings. Whereas a hybrid bike will often be 8 speed with two or one chainrings on the front. 

However, as mentioned, you can get a fixed gear electric bike, but even though there is the benefit of a motor with different settings (usually around three) in terms of speed, a fixed geared road bike is somewhat limiting as most fixies are.

There are also some electric bikes that have throttles, meaning you don’t need to pedal, therefore gears aren’t needed. But these are illegal in some countries, such as the UK.

Therefore, although all of these bikes benefit from motors with different speed settings, gears are still very much needed with most and are useful in order to help you ride with ease along different gradients and terrains. 

Is It Better to Have Gears on an E-Bike? 

It is better to have gears on an e-bike if you are wanting to ride along varying gradients and terrains as having both the pedal assist motor and gears makes for a great range of choice.

Having gears is also useful if you accidentally run out of battery and therefore have to use your electric bike as a regular bike. 

This choice thus allows for an easier riding experience regardless of where your bike takes you. But, a fixie can be a good option if you ride on fairly flat routes.

SOURCE: Unsplash.com

How To Use Gears on an Electric Bike

If you were wondering how to use the gears on an electric bike then fear not: the good news is that it’s just the same as a regular bike. 

If you have a fixed geared electric bike then of course, changing gear will be changing the ratios of the front chainring and cog at the back, which cannot be done while riding along for obvious reasons, but it’s still technically do-able if you want another gear ratio. 

But, with a regular electric bike with gears, using your gears is thankfully straightforward. Whether you have your motor on or not, at all times you should feel that the gear is easy to maintain and that you aren’t pedaling too slowly or too fast: it should feel easy.

Therefore, when riding up a really steep hill, putting your motor in the strongest setting (often called turbo) and dropping into the smallest chainring on the front and to the highest cog on the cassette at the back will give you the easiest gear for pedaling which may still feel somewhat ‘tough’.

But hopefully with the combination of both the motor and gear, you should feel good. 

While riding along the flat, regardless of motor setting, being in your biggest chainring on the front and anywhere between the middle to the bottom of the cassette on the back, depending on your speed and how fast you are riding, should allow for comfortable riding, shifting into a lower cog at the back if you were wanting to ‘push on’ and ride a little faster but felt you were already comfortably on top of your gear.

Whereas if you are riding downhill, then any motor setting and being in the biggest chainring and lowest cog at the back of the cassette will help you to maintain the speed you’ve picked up thanks to gravity. 

But all in all, use your gears when you feel it is appropriate to, it will eventually become second nature as you find what works for you and what feels comfortable. 

Discerning Cyclist Store

Visit the Discerning Cyclist's Shop

Ride in style

Join our weeky newsletter to get early access to our latest discoveries.

Related reads