Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?

We cover the different types of gears an e-bike can have and the benefits of using them effectively
John Watson
John Watson
John is an experienced cycling enthusiast and a great asset when it comes to writing skills. He's a Bachelor of Arts and a talented journalist. John is in charge of our blog read more
Reviewed By
Jessica Kingston
Jessica Kingston
Expert Consultant
Jessica is our expert consultant on all things connected to biking - gear, technique, you name it. Being a pro cyclist in the past, she knows exactly how things work in and read more
Last updated: August 28, 2023
Bike The Site is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

If you have cycled uphill before, you would know the essence of gears. A bike with gears is much easier to ride up steep hills and allows you to conserve energy. Do electric bikes have gears? Electric bikes are popular for features like pedal-assist, throttle, and powerful motor that make riding easier, but you almost never hear anything about gearing. E-bikes feature gears, and they work the same way as those on a regular bike.

Some models come with handlebars on the e-bike that you can twist to shift the gears up or down, while others have electric gearing that only requires you to click a lever to gear up or down. Not all e-bikes have gears, but if you live or like to drive on steep hills, you need the gears. In this article, we delve deeper into electric bike gearing. Read on to find out if it is really necessary to have gears on an e-bike and how to use them.

What Kind of Gears Can e-Bikes Have?

E-bikes are equipped with either Derailleur gears or hub gears. Both gearing systems were invented decades ago and have undergone various advancements.

Derailleur Gears

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?These are one of the most common gear shifting systems used on e-bikes. With derailleur gears, a shift lever operates a derailleur which controls how the chain moves over the chainrings. The gearing system only allows you to change gears when pedaling forward.

The derailleur gearing system is popular because the gears are lightweight and affordable. They are also more efficient than internal hub gears and they give a wider range of gearing options. You get very low gears for climbing hills easily and high gears for speed on the flat and downhill.

The downsides of derailleur gears are that you cannot change them while stationary or change through many gears in one shift. Also, since they are external and exposed to environmental elements, they are more prone to getting dirty, thus becoming noisy and harder to shift.

Hub Gears

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?These come fully encased in the rear hub, in either 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, or 11-speed options. Most e-bikes have the 8-speed option. Hub gears are abbreviated as IGH (Internal Gear Hub). Hub gears are a better choice than derailleur gears if you are looking to get a belt drive e-bike rather than a chain drive model. Derailleur gears don’t work with belt drives. Hub gears are also low maintenance as they are internal and not exposed to environmental elements. Moreover, you can shift them over several gears simultaneously and when stationery which is perfect if you would like to stop-start ride in town.

The downsides of hub gears are that they are heavier and more expensive than derailleur gears. They are also harder to remove than derailleur gears when mending a flat or performing maintenance practices.

Do You Really Need Gears on an e-Bike?

Many people assume that gears aren’t necessary on an e-bike, but that is far from true. Gears are crucial unless you intend to ride on flat roads over short distances. The throttle and pedal assist on your e-bike may not help you ride up the steep hills on your way to work. The pedal-assist will give you enough power to get to where you want to go, but there are times when you will need to switch to low pedal-assist and use gears.

If you are in the market for e-bikes, check out our in-depth articles on the best class 1 e-bikes, best electric bikes under $500, and best class 2 electric bikes. From the reviews, you will get an e-bike that suits your cycling needs with ideal mechanical gears and a pedal-assist system that allows a smooth transition from your traditional bike.

How to Use Gears on an Electric Bike?

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?Using gears on an electric bike is pretty similar to using gears on a traditional bike. First, you need to understand how the gear works. According to an article by REI co-op, understanding how your gear works will help you ride faster and farther.

In an electric bike, the gear number directly impacts how hard the motor will work. the lower the gear number, the easier pedaling will be as your bike will rely on the motor, which will use up the battery extensively. On a higher gear number, you will have to put in more leg power which will save your battery.

Most e-bikes allow you to control the gears and pedal-assist system with the handlebar. In most models, the right handlebar usually has the gear shifter that you can use to adjust the mechanical gear level that allows or prevents easy pedaling, while the left handlebar allows you to change the power level of the pedal-assist system, which control the amount of battery power your e-bike uses.

When using gears on an e-bike, you will want to ride as fast as you can and preserve the battery to last you as long as possible so you can go farther. That said, the gears you choose when riding your e-bike will impact your battery life significantly.

If you choose a high gear, you will use more effort when traveling at low speeds and less effort at a faster speed. A lower gear will require you to use less effort at lower speeds and more effort at higher speeds.

If your e-bike has a pedal assist, choose a lower gear when traveling at lower speeds, as the motor wouldn’t need to put in too much effort. The motor on your pedal assist bike will turn the drivetrain on like you do on the pedals. Similarly, when traveling at high speeds, choose a high gear because the motor wouldn’t have to put in much work either.

You can invest in an e-bike pedal-assist sensor like the Yosoo Health Gear bike power pedal assist sensor to help you detect forward pedal rotation or a certain rotational speed. After detecting rotational speed, the sensor will activate your motor to power your ride.

What Are the Benefits of Using Gears?

Many people believe the common misconception that e-bikes don’t really need gears. They argue that with pedal assist, gears are unnecessary. Using gears on e-bikes has a few benefits.

#1. Easy Uphill Climbing

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?Gears make climbing hills a tad easier, saving your bike from having to do much work. Depending on the size of your e-bike’s motor, the pedal-assist system may not be strong enough to climb a steep hill. Even if your motor was stronger, you would climb hills slower without gears.

#2. Longer Battery Life

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?You can extend your e-bike’s battery life by pedaling along with the motor and using the right gears. It is the easiest and cheapest way of getting more mileage out of your bike.

#3. Good Cadence

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?Essentially, cadence is your pedaling rate. bikeradar Trusted Source What is cycling cadence and how fast should you pedal? - BikeRadar How fast should you pedal on the bike? defines cadence as the number of revolutions your pedals make every minute as you ride. Efficient cadence is anything between 70 and 90 revolutions per minute. If the cadence is too low, it will feel like you are grinding, and if it is too high, it will feel like you are pedaling air. Cadence directly impacts your cycling efficiency, affecting how much battery power your e-bike uses. Gears will help you keep a good cadence for maximum cycling efficiency.

#4. Fine-tuned Workout

Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? And How Can You Use Them?If you need an e-bike for exercises and long-distance riding, you will need gears to supplement the battery with leg power. Choose a model with 5 to 8 speeds on the rear cassette. Alternatively, you can get a speed freewheel separately like the popular Drift maniac 7-speed freewheel. It features a ratchet mechanism that is high-strength and durable and is compatible with both e-bikes and standard bikes.

When to Use Gears?

Experts advise that the best time to change gears is right before you know that you will need to change them. For instance, if you are approaching a stop light or a hill, you should switch to lower gear before you get there so that you won’t have to put in much effort when you are there already.

In essence, it is best to gear up gradually when riding an electric bike because it is unlikely that you will need a sudden change.

Can You Go Farther Using Gears on Your e-Bike?

Gears can help you travel farther distances on your e-bike. If you put on high gear on your e-bike, you will be forced to pedal more, meaning your motor will take a break, saving your battery. A longer battery life means you can go longer distances cycling.

Proper regular maintenance will also help you make the most out of your gears so you can go farther with your e-bike. Always check your tire pressure before starting a ride. A flat wheel slows down the rotation of the tire because there will be a higher surface area touching the road. In addition, consistent chain lubrication is crucial as it prevents a rusty or degraded chain that would be problematic when shifting gears, slowing you down.

Can You Ride an Electric Bike as a Standard Bike with Gears?

Yes. All electric bikes function like traditional bikes when the motor is off. However, you can still make the most out of the gears with the motor on. You only need to know how to efficiently adjust the gear and the pedal-assist system.

To ride an electric bike like a standard bike, you would have to switch to high gear so that you give the motor a rest. You will experience more resistance which will require you to put in more leg work in pedaling like you would on a traditional bike.

Final Thoughts

According to an article by CNN, e-bikes are the new commuter cool with a steady rise in popularity. Science focus Trusted Source Electric bikes tried and tested | BBC Science Focus Magazine Electric bikes give pedal power new meaning. Rob Banino saddles up and rides out on three. , claims they have become a top commuter option because they are more eco-friendly than other vehicles and are highly convenient. Do electric bikes have gears? Yes. Most electric bike models have gears that offer a better cycling experience. Like traditional bikes, you don’t necessarily need gears to ride an e-bike but the benefits they come with make them a worthy consideration.

With gears, you can ride longer distances with your e-bike and climb steep hills easily because they reduce your reliance on the motor, which in turn saves battery. Unless you only intend to ride your e-bike on flat roads for short distances, gears are a necessity. Also, gears are a must-have if you love to cycle for exercise.


What is cycling cadence and how fast should you pedal? - BikeRadar
How fast should you pedal on the bike?
Electric bikes tried and tested | BBC Science Focus Magazine
Electric bikes give pedal power new meaning. Rob Banino saddles up and rides out on three.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *