Do You Need to Pedal an Electric Bike? (E-Bikes Explained)

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The Short Answer

Electric bikes have two types: pedal assist and throttle. Pedal assist requires pedaling to activate the motor, while throttle e-bikes don’t require pedaling. Pedaling is often necessary for safe and legal operation, and the distance and uphill capability depend on the type of e-bike.

Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have become ever more popular in recent years as a winning combination of tradition and technology. But, with all the tech packed into these bikes, many cyclists ask: do you need to pedal an e-bike, or will the motor do all the work for you? 

Join us as we delve into the world of e-bikes and answer this most frequently asked of all cycling questions. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newcomer to the world of electric bikes, this article will help you to see your bike in a new light.

Electric Bike: Pedal Assist vs Throttle

More traditional experienceNo need to pedal
Better for getting fitConquers hills easily
Usually (but not always) cheaperPerfect for people with mobility issues
Longer rangeOften more expensive
LighterDecreased range

Electric bikes come in two main types: pedal assist and throttle. Pedal assist e-bikes require the rider to pedal in order to activate the electric motor, giving them a boost to complement their pedaling. This allows the rider to control the level of assistance that they receive according to their level of exertion. 

Throttle e-bikes, on the other hand, have a throttle mechanism, similar to the kind you would find on a scooter. This controls the electric motor. This type of e-bike can be powered without pedalling, making it ideal for anyone who wants a more relaxed ride or who has limited mobility.

Many cyclists also favour throttle e-bikes because they make short work of hills and difficult terrain. The choice between a pedal assist and throttle e-bike will ultimately come down to personal preference and intended use.

Are You Supposed to Pedal an Electric Bike?

Yes, you are supposed to pedal an electric bike, but the level of pedaling required will vary depending on the type of e-bike that you have: pedal assist or throttle.

Some e-bikes are equipped with a pedal assist feature that provides additional power when you pedal, making it easier to ride uphill or against strong headwinds. These are fantastic for cyclists who want to combine tradition with technology and keep fit as they cycle.

Other bikes have a throttle mechanism that allows you to control the electric motor without pedalling. However, even on throttle-based e-bikes, pedalling is still required by law in many countries. That’s because e-bikes are classified as bicycles and not as electric vehicles.

So, even though pedalling is not always necessary to power the bike, it is often a requirement for safe and legal operation.

How Far Will an Electric Bike Go without Pedalling?

The distance an electric bike can go without pedaling depends on several factors, including the battery capacity, the power of the motor, and the terrain. On average, e-bikes with a fully charged battery can travel between 20 to 60 miles, depending on the level of assistance used. 

It’s not quite as simple as that, though. The range can be reduced if the rider is carrying a heavy load or if the bike is used across hilly terrain. When the battery is depleted, the e-bike can still be ridden as a traditional bicycle, but the rider will have to pedal without assistance from the electric motor. 

Range can be increased as well. To maximise the range of an e-bike, it’s important to use pedal assist mode judiciously and avoid excessive throttle. That’s why so many cyclists limit pedal assist and use their bikes more traditionally.

Can You Go Uphill on an Electric Bike without Pedalling?

E-bikes with a throttle mechanism can often be ridden up hills without pedaling, but this will naturally depend on the power of the motor and the incline of the hill. Many people choose these e-bikes because they make hill climbs a breeze.

E-bikes with a pedal assist feature will require some level of pedalling to go uphill, though. The electric motor only provides assistance that is proportional to the rider’s effort (although some e-bikes can reach extremely high speeds).

Even so, the amount of pedalling required will be significantly reduced compared to riding a traditional bicycle. Ultimately, the best way to tackle hills on an e-bike will depend on the specific bike and the rider’s preference and fitness level.

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