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How to choose e-bike electric assist level

How to choose the electric assist level of an electric bicycle?

For e-bikes with multiple levels of electric assist, maintaining a consistent riding speed is key. Use different levels of electric assist combined with mechanical gearing to maintain a steady pace and tackle a variety of terrains.


Most models of e-bikes may have three, four or even five different levels of electric assist. When is the best time to use them? What electric assist level saves more battery power? What if you decide to use the highest level of electric assistance for the entire journey? Have e-bike riders ever used all available levels of electric assist?


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In this article, I am mainly referring to pedelec electric assist bicycles. Pedelec e-bikes are electric bikes that you have to pedal to move forward and activate their electric motor. There are also throttle e-bikes that you can ride as a scooter. No need to actively pedal an electric bike with a throttle.


What is the electric assist rating of an electric bike?

The level of electric assist, or electric speed, on an e-bike defines how much the electric motor helps you pedal. On currently available models, there may be at least 1, and as many as 7 or even 8 levels of electric assist systems on an e-bike.


For example, the Bosch electric assist system has five levels, OFF > ECO > TOUR > SPORT > TURBO, while the Shimano powertrain uses only four: OFF > ECO > NORMAL > HIGH.


Each electric assist system (Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, or others) supplements your pedaling effort by giving you more power, depending on the level of assist selected.


How many levels of electric assist are required?

That’s a good question, and the answer is — it depends. It mostly depends on how you plan to use your e-bike, how well you train, and what terrain you plan to traverse primarily. Here are some rules of thumb that I would use.


single speed electric bike

One level of electric assist (or speed) may be enough for you, if


You ride mostly on flat streets,

you are healthy

You mainly use your e-bike for shopping or other leisure trips in the city.

Having an electric assist level works well with motors that can produce high rotational power (or torque). It turns the wheels of your e-bike faster with the same pedaling force you have.


Do you feel like using an e-bike 90% of the time is more like a regular bike and only turn on the motor for hill assist or fatigue? In this case, all you need is one level of electric assist.

buy electric bikes


For this type of use, it still makes sense to have multiple mechanical gears so you can get more variation when pedaling.


Up to three electron speeds

have at least three levels of electric assist, if


you plan to use an e-bike to commute and/or

You plan to tackle moderate or even some steep hills.

If you’re considering a utility e-bike, three levels of electric assist will also serve you well.


Up to five electron speeds

If you’re considering a daily workout on mixed terrain, or a recreational ride in the countryside, it’s a good idea to consider an e-bike with five levels of electric assist. This electric bike will also serve your guests well, who may not necessarily be regular cyclists.


Over five electron speeds

There are quite a few models on the market with up to eight/nine levels of electric assist. These models serve you well for a quick ride – most e-bikes exceed the 40 km/h (25 mph) limit, on mixed terrain or on steep or long hills.


You’ll need to learn how to use each of these multiple electronic speeds, though, and whether they’ll make any difference to your rides. Eight or nine electric speeds sounds a bit too much to me. This is just my personal opinion.


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Ride on the highest level of electric assist

Since this is an e-bike, why not just ride at the highest or lowest electric assist level all the time and forget about changing the assist level entirely? As if it were a single speed e-bike, but using max power, eg?


Generally speaking, this ride is no problem. You may choose to do this before you decide to go with another level of electric assist. However, there are a few things to consider:


Reduced battery life

Using a constant high level of electric assist will significantly reduce battery range. More fun, and faster speeds equal less battery life.


ALSO READ: What is the difference between an e-bike battery? – in this article. And, how far can an e-bike go? What is the range of electric bikes? – in this article.


As an example, on the electric bike my wife uses, ECO mode has an estimated battery life of 100 kilometers (62 miles), while SPEED mode (the maximum level of electric assist on this model) has an estimated battery life of only 36 kilometers (22 miles) . Of course, if your battery is fully charged and your range is around 35km (20 miles), feel free to use SPEED mode.


startup speed

Starting from a standing start on a heavily loaded bike, such as a utility bike, can be tough work. For example, let’s say you start with other road traffic.


It’s best to accelerate as fast and as safe as possible. Keeping assist levels low means you’ll have to pedal harder. This, then, destroys one of the main benefits of riding an e-bike. Electric bikes should be easy!


bike control

When you pedal fast and slow (low tempo), you may find that your balance is not as good as when you pedal faster. This is especially true when you start from a stop.


Try starting with a higher electric assist level. Otherwise, you may find yourself rocking the road until you gain momentum.


smooth ride

When riding at maximum power, you will find that the bike accelerates very quickly. Then it will reach its cutoff speed limit. The motor will then immediately stop all electric assist (for Shimano models) or quickly reduce electric assist (for Bosch models).


Depending on how hard you are pedaling at the time, your speed may start to decrease until you get below the speed limit cutoff. At this point, the motor will immediately begin to provide full assistance again. You will accelerate again until you reach the speed limit again.


Also read: The best urban electric bikes for women reviewed and compared in this article. And, the best folding electric bikes for women reviewed and compared in this article.


This kind of quick power acceleration/deceleration isn’t the best for an e-bike’s powertrain. It’s also not the most comfortable way to enjoy riding an e-bike. On top of that, the motor noise going up and down to full power can be very annoying.


Consider that when riding on the highest level of electric assist, you might be able to bypass the speed cut-off limit. Jumping over and under this cut-off speed limit will not keep you riding smoothly.


e bike motorcycle


Using a full range of mechanical gears and electric assist levels will help balance wear and tear on the powertrain (drivetrain), especially the rear cassette of an e-bike.


For example, a mid-drive motor does put more wear on the drivetrain due to the torque applied. Using all the gears on the rear cassette means they wear evenly with the chain.


Maintain a steady pace when going uphill

Don’t forget that you need to pedal faster when riding an e-bike uphill. That doesn’t mean you have to pedal harder. Use mechanical gears to adjust how hard each level of electric assist is.


When you pedal faster, you will get more power from the motor, which will make it easier for you to climb hills.


For steep hills, it helps maintain 80 to 90 rpm. When you’re pedaling at this speed, you’ll feel like your overall effort level is actually much lower. You’ll feel a noticeable increase in power from the motor compared to when you pedal slowly.



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Will I use all electric assist levels?

It is a good practice to use all available electric speeds. This practice helps maintain consistent pedaling effort (meaning no sweating on commutes, for example) and transfers more power from the motor during steep climbs.



You end up pedaling on any terrain with far less effort. For me, that’s the whole point of having an electric bike compared to a traditional bike.


So yes, use all available levels of electric assist.


Will I use all mechanical gears on my e-bike?

If your e-bike has more than seven mechanical gears, you probably won’t be using all the available mechanical gears very often. You shouldn’t do this.


The growing number of mechanical gears on bikes is mostly marketing hype. All you really need is a good set of mechanical gears. You need mechanical gears low enough to climb rough hills to complement the electric assist.


And you need a high enough mechanical gear to keep pedaling on slow descents with the electric assist off. If you have a good range of mechanical gears, and enough range, then the number of mechanical gears doesn’t matter.


The only way to know a bikes mechanical gear range is to take a test ride. Test it out by going up the hardest hills you’ll ever climb, and go down gentle slopes as fast as you can.

Similar to knowing the range of mechanical gears required, choosing the right level of electric assist on an e-bike, as well as choosing the right combination of electric assist level and mechanical gear, requires practice.


Start with a wide range of electric assist levels and just a select number of mechanical gears. As you become more experienced, you will naturally increase the use of electric speed and mechanical gear combinations. This, in turn, will give you more flexibility and more fun using your e-bike on whatever terrain you choose to ride.



If you are looking for a new way of commuting or want a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help you. Visit our website to learn more about electric bikes and electric scooter or please leave information to us.


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