Throttle or pedal assist for electric bikes: which would you choose?
For the moment, there is a plethora of terms surrounding e-bike throttle and pedal assist, such as PAS, torque and other terms which are one way of categorising e-bikes, and these terms then relate to the power of the e-bike, all in order for the e-bike to provide power through the motor.
How do you power an e-bike? You need to use some sort of handlebar mechanism (throttle) or provide power by pedalling (pedal assist) so that your e-bike can provide you with more power. Typically, e-bikes have both of these ways of providing you with power, and we'll explain them in more detail for you next. This article will help you to better understand the information on throttle and pedal assist in order to facilitate better decision making.
Overview of e-bike throttle and pedal assist
Overview of the e-bike throttle
The e-bike throttle mode is similar to the operating mode of a motorbike or scooter. The e-bike throttle is usually located on the handlebars or handgrips and provides power directly to the motor to bring it up to top speed. When you twist or push the throttle, the motor provides the power to propel you and the bike forward. The throttle can help you pick up speed when you are stuck in traffic or don't have the strength to pedal.
Overview of e-bike pedal assist
E-bike Pedal Assist is a mode that provides power only when you pedal. This mode has found overwhelming favour in Europe, especially in countries where there is a very pronounced cycling culture.
Extra power assistance is available when the rider pedals, but it is worth stating that pedal assist bikes are not heavy, but if your pedal function is not on you may feel a relatively heavier ride than normal riding. When you have pedal assist on, the rider will feel relatively relaxed as pedal assist provides you with the power to get up to speed. However, as a rider beware of injuries, which is why it is not recommended in bad weather. But if you are climbing a hill, then Pedal Assist will be an enjoyable experience for you as it will provide you with enough power to assist you in climbing the hill.
Pedal Assist is classified as Level 1 and Level 3 in Canada and the USA, with Level 1 and Level 3 e-bikes achieving a maximum speed of 20 mph and 28 mph respectively.
Advantages and disadvantages of electric bicycle throttles
Advantages of e-bike throttle:
- E-bike throttles are easier to navigate, making them a better choice for congested roads. Many throttle e-bikes have a boost button that helps the rider to change speed quickly.
- Throttle e-bikes are better suited to climbing hills without the need to pedal hard when you are suffering from resistance.
- The throttle system has a faster response time and if you are riding fast on back country roads can quickly help you pull out of traffic and make you feel safe.
- Better suited to people who have difficulty pedalling or those who are not quite in shape.
Disadvantages of e-bike throttles:
- The throttle looks simple but is less adjustable for sudden changes in speed or power, so it's not very friendly for novices.
- Throttle e-bikes will drain more quickly, which means that the battery charge will probably not last the whole ride. But you can avoid this problem to a large extent by choosing a battery with a high battery capacity, and GreenPedel accepts custom-made high-capacity batteries, which can be a good solution to this problem.
- The gears are not flexible enough to adjust to local conditions and tend to be suitable for high speed cruising and hill climbing.
Advantages and disadvantages of e-bike pedal assist
Advantages of e-bike pedal assist:
- If you are used to riding a conventional bike, pedal assist gives the rider some of the most intuitive feelings compared to throttle mode.
- Pedal mode allows you to focus purely on the ride and you don't have to keep the throttle in a specific position. Once you have depressed the pedals you are free to ride.
- Although pedal assist is often thought of as a heavy e-bike, the high quality torque sensor concentrates the weight of the e-bike at the bottom. If you want a lighter weight e-bike, you might consider GreenPedel's products, which do a good job of controlling the weight of the whole e-bike and making it easier for you to go for a ride.
- Compared to throttle e-bikes, pedal assist can cover more miles without worrying too much about the battery running out of power quickly.
- There are different rules about pedal assisted e-bikes in different countries and to make sure you can ride on most roads, a Class 1 (limited pedal assist at 20mph only) e-bike is the best choice.
Disadvantages of e-bike pedal assist:
- In most countries there are restrictive rules that do not allow residential use and only Class 1 pedal-assisted is allowed to be used.
- Pedal assist is not suitable for instant acceleration, so it is not suitable for riding in cities with heavy traffic or for people with weak pedalling ability.
- Although the price of e-bikes varies depending on the model and brand, pedal assisted e-bikes are usually more expensive than throttle e-bikes.
- You will want to choose a high quality pedal assist sensor where possible, as inferior products are likely to disrupt your ride.
Laws and regulations on throttle and pedal assist
Legality of throttle e-bikes
Throttle modes that can be completely independent of pedal assist and legal in the USA can be found on Level 2 and Level 3 e-bikes. Class 2 e-bikes are described as low-speed throttle-assisted e-bikes, where the electric assist is set to 0 at around 20 mph and beyond this speed they can only be ridden like a normal bicycle.
In continental Europe and the UK it is usually illegal to run a throttle independently (independent of pedal assist) on an e-bike, or if there is a throttle, then to ride on public roads, these would be called mopeds, which means you would need to have some brand new equipment such as: a helmet that meets motorbike standards, a number plate and vehicle tax documents etc. Not to mention insurance and type approval documents from the relevant authorities, both of which can be difficult to obtain. However, in continental Europe and the UK, operating the throttle while the pedal is turned is permitted, it is just not particularly common.
Legality of pedal assisted e-bikes
In the United States and Canada, if an e-bike has only pedal assist (no throttle at all), it will be a Class I or Class III e-bike, both depending on whether the pedal assist stops at around 20 mph or 28 mph. e-bikes that go around 28 mph are often called high pedal bikes and can only be allowed on public roads in private development jurisdictions and are not allowed to be used in mobile slower moving cycle lanes etc.
However, it is important to note that e-bikes may be described as Class 2 and Class 3, where the throttle powers the e-bike up to 20mph and you can only use pedal assist when reaching 20-28mph. That said, a Class II e-bike may also not have pedal assist, but will certainly have some form of throttle that will allow you to give the e-bike a boost.
In the UK and Europe, all legal e-bikes have some form of pedal assist, and if they also have a throttle, they can only power the e-bike when the pedals are in use.
Throttle or pedal assist, which is the safer riding mode?
There is an ongoing debate as to which is safer, throttle or pedal assist. In general, pedal-assisted e-bikes run faster than throttle-assisted e-bikes, but this is hardly a significant deciding factor. In the long run, the rider determines the riding dynamics of the e-bike, and whether you can get throttle or pedal assist or not, the rider will mostly ride at his or her favourite speed.
Riding at the same speed under exact conditions, both types of pedal assist and throttle assist will produce the same rate of safety. In realistic riding, the crash rate is also the same. Engineers build e-bikes with a maximum speed level in mind, and this is usually a reflection of the regulations for e-bike use among the target audience.
It is therefore not possible to determine whether a throttle e-bike or pedal assist is safer; safety is more dependent on the influence of factors such as the rider's riding habits and the road on which they ride.
Which is better for you, throttle or pedal assist?
As you can see from our list of pros and cons above, there is a clear difference between throttle assist and pedal assist. Those who have difficulty pedalling for external reasons will find pure throttle assist very valuable, while for those who want to ride like a bicycle very much and for those who want to get the best range from the battery choosing a quality pedal assist is essential. If you can, you can check out a good quality e-bike shop that has a range of e-bikes and can offer you a test ride where you can experience how the different assists make you feel.
So, which one is better for you, you'll need to check the points outlined in the article above against your own needs and I'm sure you'll be able to make a good choice.
Most of the differences between throttle and pedal assisted e-bikes tend to surface quite clearly when you are riding. People who ride on hills with throttle-assisted e-bikes may help you save energy to some extent, but chances are it won't last as the battery drain will be more severe. As you can see, each type of e-bike has its most suitable type of road and also has advantages and disadvantages at the same time. They can both be ridden on any road as long as you start the engine, but for specific routes, the two types are different. You can choose the most suitable e-bike mode for you based on your usual riding preferences and the information presented to you in this article.