Most of the time, when consumers think about electric bikes, they imagine the pedal-assist function. This is probably the most common feature of most electric bicycles. As you push the pedals you get a boost from the electric motor.
Although there are a few e bikes manufactured without pedal-assist. They use a pedal-free throttle-only. By and large, most electric-powered bicycles have pedal-assist.
Test Ride to Feel Pedal-Assist
The best way to fully understand how pedal-assist works is to come into our Salt Lake City-area store and test ride an e bike. It's hard to imagine what it's like. It's one of those things that has to be experienced to understand.
At a certain point, most of us realize that riding a bicycle is hard. We no longer have the same kind of energy and resiliency of our youth, and we eventually stop riding bikes. It stops being fun.
Pedal-assist changes all of that. Ebikes bring back the joy of riding bicycles, the joy we remember as a child, feeling the freedom and thrill of going fast.
The best way to explain what it's like using pedal-assist is that it's like having bionic legs. You put forward a little bit of effort while getting a big boost, making you feel like a god. This creates an exhilarating experience, like being on a drug, without a downside.
There are two types of pedal-assist technologies that you'll see in electric bikes. Different brands of ebikes will have different types of pedal-assist technology.
The most basic type of pedal-assist that you'll see on the market uses a cadence sensor. This measures your cadence, or rhythm of pedaling, and increases the power, giving you more speed and torque as you increase your cadence.
Some less expensive brands of ebikes only use power-systems that have cadence sensors. As a general rule, most hub-motors use a cadence sensor. And most mid-drive motors use torque sensors, but there are exceptions to this rule.
How the Cadence Sensor Affects Performance
When you are climbing uphill with your ebike and you stop for some reason, continuing your ride will be somewhat challenging.
Cadence sensors can cause a problem when you change from uphill to downhill riding. Because the cadence sensors measure a sudden low speed of cadence, but they don't know that you've shifted downhill, the controller will give a sudden boost to help you go faster. This boost from the motor when you're not expecting it can be dangerous for beginners.
In traffic, if you want to pass a car, bicycle, or you need sudden acceleration, you won’t have extra power with a cadence sensor. You won’t get an extra boost from the motor when there's a greater need. The only way to increase your power is to increase your cadence, which can be difficult in some circumstances.
Brands of Motors that Use Cadence Sensors
More advanced electric motors use a torque sensor. They adjust the power going to the motor depending on a more sophisticated set of factors.
A torque sensor is connected to the chain or pedal, which measures the force you apply to the pedal. The e bike will turn into a smart machine, which will understand if you need a boost or not from the motor, depending on the riding conditions.
You start to climb uphill on your bicycle and you begin to pedal harder. The torque sensor will measure this increased effort immediately (especially the ones connected to the pedal) and give you the required boost.
There is an object or car that suddenly appears in front of you. You can’t break in time. If you need to suddenly accelerate, the torque sensor will make it possible. As soon as you pedal harder the sensor will send a message to the motor and will boost your power.
When you don’t need extra power the torque sensor will understand due to the force you are applying to the pedals. And the motor won’t waste any battery juice when it's not needed, making them more efficient power-systems.
Torque sensors will give you the exact cycling experience you want, giving you the feeling that you have stronger legs than you actually do. They create that bionic-legs-sensation.
This is especially the case for riders who use an electric bike for exercise purposes, commuting, or in places where they need to do a lot of stopping in traffic. In these circumstances, the torque sensor is a must-have when purchasing an e bike. The torque sensor used in pedals is regarded as the most problem-free. The torque sensors which measure the tension in the chain due to design are less sensitive. This can be an issue when climbing uphill from a steady position as you will need around 0.5 seconds for the system to respond.
Brands that Use Torque Sensors
Buy an Electric Bike with Pedal Assist
Interested in buying a bicycle with pedal assist? Electric bikes are amazing. Consult with an e bike specialist prior to buying. Making the smart choice, with smart technology, will make you love your electric bicycle.