How to Use Gears on E-bike
It’s no secret that most e-bikes are similar to conventional bikes in that they have multiple gears that adjust the amount of pedaling force transmitted to the wheels. While the principles of using gears are similar, there are some details that are not exactly the same for conventional and e-bikes.
How to use gears on an electric bike? Use the left shifter to change the electric assist level. Replace the mechanical gear with the correct shift lever. Leading the ever-changing level of electric assist. Then follow with changing the mechanical gears for the best pedaling force.
What is e-bike gear?
Gears are the same as speed – a bike with 24 gears is a 24-speed bike. Electric bikes usually come in 1, 3, 18, 21, 24, 27, 32 and even 40 speeds. Lower numbers are low gears and higher numbers are high gears. The first gear is low gear. Twenty-fourth gear is a high gear. Easy so far.
To shift is to change from one gear to another. You can change gears by swiping or clicking the shift lever on the handlebar. This will move the chain to rings of different sizes (or increase/decrease power output). Downshifting means entering a lower gear, and upshifting means entering a higher gear. You can also say shift down and shift up.
On an e-bike, the left shifter is responsible for shifting the electric assist level, and the right shifter is responsible for shifting the mechanical gears.
For mechanical gears, the right gear lever is connected to a cable hidden in a protective housing. When you click (or turn) the gears, that cable tightens and loosens, applying more or less force to the mechanism that moves the e-bike’s chain up and down on the cassette or sprocket.
What is an electric assist gear?
The level of electric assist is controlled via a handlebar-mounted control block. Usually, on the left. This control block usually has a combination of up (plus) and down (minus) buttons.
There is still no single standard. Different electric assist systems have some different terms. In short, Up (or Plus) provides more electric assistance, Down (or Minus) provides less assistance, there are always low, medium and high levels of assistance.
Each electric assist system (Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, or others) can give you more power, depending on how hard you pedal and the level of assist you choose.
For example, Bosch offers you:
How to understand gear numbers?
One of the hardest things about learning how to shift gears is terminology. The rest is just practice. Let’s keep the terminology simple and straightforward from the start.
Low gear is easy, which is good for climbing. The low range uses the largest electric assist and the largest gear (rear or mechanical) on the rear flywheel. In this position pedaling will be easiest and you will be able to pedal uphill with the least resistance. To get into this position, you need to downshift.
High gears are hard and good for descents. Confusingly, the highest electric assist gear on your bike is with no electric assist at all. When the electric assist is turned off. This is counterintuitive.
The highest mechanical gear uses the smallest gear (rear or mechanical) on the rear flywheel. In this position, pedalling takes the most effort and you will be able to accelerate downhill. To get into this position, you need to upshift.
The reference rear gear applies to e-bikes with mid-drive and front-drive motors, which represent the majority of e-bikes made today.
Shifting gears on an e-bike
For each level of electric assist, most e-bike models have multiple corresponding mechanical gears. For example, my wife’s electric bike has eight mechanical speeds in each electric assist mode. Four electric assist modes and eight mechanical speeds provide 32 different speed combinations. Not a small amount!
For example, even in the first electric assistance level (ECO mode), when minimal electric assistance is provided, eight different speeds are available, which will suit the cyclist’s various terrains and training levels.
When you start riding with electric assist, the motor will soon start assisting you at the selected preset level.
Once your pedaling speed (also called cadence) has increased above your comfort level, shift your mechanical gear (right shifter) to the next most difficult setting while continuing to pedal. Remember to keep pedaling when changing gears.
When performing a gear change, you will hear the motor temporarily reduce power. The motor will then restart. This temporary power reduction protects the motor. It will then quickly resume its aid.
Keep pedaling, and when your pedaling speed increases enough, change gears again. Repeat this process until you reach the speed of your cooperation
Right or left shifter to use?
As you pedal along, which shifter to use when? When to use the left one and when the right one?
An easy rule is, if you need a big change, use your left shifter (electric), meaning change electric assistance level. If you need a small change (mechanic), use the right shifter, meaning change mechanical gears.
As you practice more and become more comfortable with your e-bike, you will get a better feeling for whether you need a big change or a small change.
Tackling hills on an e-bike
Naturally, you will find that you will need to increase the electric assistance level when you come to a hill. If you are in a lower assistance setting, your speed is likely to begin to decrease as you start climbing the hill.
To overcome this slowdown, keep pedaling and change into a lower mechanical gear first (one that is easier to pedal). Then increase the level of electric assistance (for example, from ECO to TOUR).
As you start going downhill, decrease the electric assistance level first (for example, back from TOUR to ECO) and then upshift mechanical gears (right control on the handlebar). This will allow you to pedal slower, but with more force.
Stopping on an electric bike
As you are riding along, changing gears, and adjusting assistance levels, how do you stop?
To prepare to stop, remember to start shifting into easier mechanical gears while pedaling as you slow down. It is a good practice to remain in the correct gear prior to stopping. Adjust the electric assistance level as well before you stop. Although, this can also be done while already stationary.
And, not least, do not forget to apply the brakes!
Dos and don’ts when switching gears
Change to an easy mechanical gear before you stop
If your e-bike has a rear gearbox, you need to change into an easier gear before you come to a complete stop. When shifting down you need to keep rotating the pedals to make sure the gears are fully engaged. This can also be done while rolling or coasting to a stop, as long as the pedals are being turned.
Do not change mechanical gears while stationary
If you forget or do not have enough time to change to a lower gear before stopping, you will have to start off in a higher gear. This is not a big trouble. Once you start rolling, you can then reduce your pedaling effort and shift down to an easier gear.
Yes, you can shift electric assistance modes when stopped
Contrary to mechanical gears, it is no problem to change the level of electric assistance while you are stopped. For example, if you are stopped at a road light while traveling on SPORT mode, you can downshift to ECO and start off at a more comfortable speed.
Or, you can keep the electric assistance level to TURBO, if you want to accelerate as quickly as possible when the light goes green.
Is there the best gear shifting technique?
Some cyclists decide to put too much power onto their pedals as they climb up a steep hill. Or use a gear that is too easy for the descent they are riding. For easy riding, your goal should be to keep your pedaling speed (cadence) as consistent as possible.
This requires balancing electric power and your own pedaling force in a smooth combination. This, in turn, suggests not using one electric assistance level and one mechanical speed but shifting often for increased efficiency while riding.
Begin to shift into easier mechanical gears with your right hand early in the process. This will help you keep a steady pedaling rhythm. Remember, your right hand is for small changes.
If you find that your pedaling pace is slowing significantly, you will likely need to increase the electric assistance level to tackle the big climb ahead.
When shifting mechanical gears, put a little more power into your pedal stroke right before you shift gears. Then, reduce pedaling effort as you shift. This will help your bike’s gear shifting mechanism with less pressure on your chain during the shift.
Hope this helps a bit. Happy shifting and learning to use the full potential of both electric modes and mechanical gears!
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