If you're new to ebikes, it can be a little confusing how all the electronics fit together. We're used to charging lithium-ion batteries in our phones and other device, and we are surrounded by motors (lights, fridges, washing machines).
But the systems for controlling the batteries and motor on an ebike can be confusing for beginners.
In this article we are going to talk about throttles vs. pedal assist systems (PAS). Ok, first up, both the throttle and pedal assist system engage the electric motor. That’s their job. And neither of them have anything to interfere with the mechanical drive system or the pedals. You can still brake, switch gears, steer and pedal the bike without any interruption from the electrical system.
Throttles and pedal assist use different physical functions to perform the same thing, which is to ask the controller, for more energy to be sent from the battery to the motor. That all makes sense, right?
The purpose of the throttle and the pedal assist system is the same, which is to move the bike forward using electric power. The difference between the two is how the rider interacts with the system. With a throttle, the rider uses his or her hand to twist or press a switch to expressly engage the motor, just like a dirt bike or a motorcycle. In this case the pedals are completely optional. You can literally sit down, twist the throttle, and get the bike moving.
The mechanical drive system isn’t negated or halted by the use of a throttle, or the use of a hub motor for that matter. By changing into an appropriate gear, one can still pedal, to keep tension on the mechanical gearing, and help the bike to go along faster, up steep hills, or just to get a workout.
When the rider lets go, the throttle springs back to the off position, and the bike will coast. The amount of power can be adjusted by either a light or heavy twist or push of the throttle. Myself, I love to go full throttle at the end of a ride. It’s like riding a magic carpet.
Pedal assist works a little bit differently on the other hand, or the other foot. With pedal assist, instead of the electric system being given commands by the throttle, located up by your hands, the motor is told what to do based on commands given by your feet. The purpose is to replicate, as closely as possible, the natural pedaling movement of a conventional bicycle. This has the effect of the rider feeling like they have super strong legs.
With a little effort, the bike goes really far, really fast, and up really steep hills. When the rider stops pedaling, the bike will coast. Most of the time the amount of assistance can be adjusted with a small LED or LCD display screen mounted on the handlebar.
Ok, between the two, throttle and pedal assist, which one of them is better? Actually, in a lot of cases, you don’t have to choose. Most ebikes in 2020 have both features on the same bike. As of now there’s plenty on offer from companies like Bakcou, Revi, Eunorau, and Green Bike.
Between the throttle and pedal assist, I personally prefer pedal assist. Of the bikes we carry, the pedal assist options have plenty of power and plenty of range for most uses. And they have the added benefit of using a lot more muscle power than sitting down and pushing a button.
Throttles still have a really important function. I know that for myself, I use the throttle in combination with the regular gears to give me a little boost of small hills. And I use full throttle mode at the end of a vigorous ride when my legs are tired. And let’s face it, having a throttle is just lots of fun.
Ok, this is just my take on the whole pedal assist vs. throttle debate. But what do you think? What kind of system do you have on your electric bike, and how do you like it? You can sound off in the comment section below. And if you need help finding the perfect ebike for your unique needs, don’t hesitate to reach by phone, chat or email. I’d love to hear from you.