This is a debate that has been going on for a while now. Which is better; a pedelec (pedal assist) e-bikes or throttle e-bikes? Of course there is no correct answer because it all depends on how you plan to use the e-bike and what your preferences are.
Pedelecs and hand throttles
Each of these e-bike types have advantages and disadvantages. Before making your final decision on which one to buy, you need to learn about the similarities and differences of each e-bike system.
Pedelecs and hand throttles both offer a means of controlling the speed of your bike. Pedal assist systems in pedelecs are equipped with a torque sensor or cadence sensor which engages the e-bike’s motor as soon as you start pedaling. Hand throttles operate a lot like traditional motorbike throttles; they are mounted on the handlebar and are engaged with a twisting action or the push of a button or lever.
Both pedelecs and hand throttle e-bikes come in varying styles. The varying types of hand throttles are usually different in physical appearance, whereas pedal assist systems come in a number of forms and accompanying qualities.
Hand throttles were the initial method of propulsion when electric bikes were first developed. However, some European countries put laws in place regulating the usage and function of e-bikes, including the requirement that the motor only be engaged when the cyclist is pedaling.
Some countries even went as far as making hand throttles illegal, bringing forth a new era of electric bikes with pedal assist systems designed to adhere to regulations and make it possible for the pedelecs to be imported into as many countries as possible.
The most common type of pedelec or pedal assist system features a ring of magnets positioned on the pedal crank and a sensor attached to the bottom bracket. The sensor reads the rate at which you are pedaling as the pedal crank rotates. As you increase your pedal power, the controller increases the speed of the motor accordingly.
Torque sensor pedal assist systems
The torque sensor is typically located near the rear dropout or on the pedal crank. It measures the amount of torque you are applying as you pedal. The amount of torque you apply at any given time usually matches the amount of power required at that stage of cycling, including acceleration, cruising, or hill climbing.
Therefore, a torque sensor pedal assist system operates more effectively and efficiently than a traditional magnet sensor pedal assist system. This results in a significant improvement in the cycling experience. In addition to being less costly, the torque sensor pedal assist system will make it a lot easier to climb hills.
Health benefits – exercise
The pedelec is great if you want to also get a workout from riding your electric bicycle because you always have to pedal for the pedelec to move. This prevents you from relying solely on the throttle and motor, ensuring that you get some healthy exercise every time your ride your electric bicycle.
Edward H. Rodriguez is an electrical engineer, tinkerer and father of four. He’s spent several years working in the e-bike industry and has also written a guide explaining, among other things, ‘how does pedelec work?’