Electric Bikes: Pedal assist vs. Throttle

The ordinary bicycle has outlived its utility. Riding a traditional bike has become no fun compared to the new opportunities that have arisen nowadays. The good news is that you can decide when it is high time to switch to an electric bicycle to have more pleasurable bicycle rides. But which one should you choose: a throttle bike vs a pedal-assist bike? Pedal assist and throttle e-bikes are two different classes of cycles, and each is definitely worth your attention. In this article, you will discover the difference between electric bike pedal assist vs throttle modes and make a choice based on your needs and individual preferences.

Pedal assist vs throttle: Essential things you should know

If you are stuck riding a regular bike, you will love how an e-bicycle will improve your riding experience. Along with boosting you when you are exhausted and need to take a rest during a long ride, an e-bike can also save you money (if the alternative is gas) and can help protect the environment.

There are three classes of electric bicycles, with different electric bike assist modes for each:

  • Class 1: pedal assist electric bike with a top speed of 20 mph
  • Class 2: throttle assisted electric bicycle that works without pedaling
  • Class 3: speed pedelec or speed pedal-assist electric bicycles provide assistance for up to 28 mph

We will group classes 1 and 3 into pedal-assist types and will refer to them as the bikes with pedal assist modes. Let’s take a closer look at the two basic modes then: pedal assist vs throttle and uncover the differences between them.

Pedal assist mode

Bikes with pedal assist, also known as pedelec bicycles, need pedal power to get going — in other words, the vehicle accelerates only after the cyclist begins to pedal. They are similar to conventional bicycles and have a more intuitive feel compared to bikes that use throttle mode. Equipped with a sensor, pedal-assist bicycles give you a small boost so that you can accelerate and move easier. As a result, it feels like you are riding a regular bike with slight support whenever you need it. Therefore, it becomes much easier to master this type of e-bike.

If you would like, you are able to regulate different levels of pedal assist power: lower level assist, middle, and full power — for most models of e-bikes. You can help yourself ride in the most convenient and bearable manner for you, choosing any level of help that is acceptable to you. The less power you consume from the motor, the more you will exercise.

As all e-bikes come equipped with a battery, getting a bike with a pedal-assist system is a smart idea if you have the intent to cover long distances. You can even still use your electric bike as an ordinary bicycle if the battery is discharged to get to your destination. When you combine manual pedaling with pedal assist, you go even farther — as can rely on the battery to help you.

There are two basic systems: the cadence sensor pedal system and the torque sensor system.

Cadence sensor system

Cadence sensor systems are used in most e-bikes. They use a magnet on the crank, which gets the motor going, and turns it off as you stop pedaling. With a cadence sensor, you need to adjust the speed and boost levels manually. A great example of a cadence sensor e-bike is the Aveny city commuter electric bike under $500.

Torque sensor system

A torque sensor system is a different story. It uses a precision strain gauge to measure the force you apply to the pedals. The harder you try, the more power gets sent to the motor. More advanced electric bicycles are equipped with torque sensors. As an example, consider a Vintage electric bike.

Throttle mode

Speaking about throttle electric bikes, they slightly resemble motorcycles more than they do regular bicycles. As you turn the throttle, the motor will provide power, without any motions from your side. You move forward while having your legs in place. Having a throttle allows you to use these electric e-bikes as regular bicycles when it is off. You can use them to exercise at your leisure when the throttle is off, but if you turn it on, you will enjoy a completely effortless ride.

Some vehicles are equipped only with a throttle, and some models combine both a throttle and a pedal-assist system—like the easy motion neo jumper electric mountain bike.

Depending on their configurations, there are a couple of types of throttles: a thumb throttle and a twist throttle. The thumb throttle is easy to use. There is a red button which you need to push to activate the added power. The twist throttle requires you to twist the throttle to accelerate the vehicle. If you are considering a full throttle electric bike, keep in mind that they are forbidden in some states, cities, and countries. Check your local laws before you make any purchases.

What mode will suit you best?

Many consider electric bikes as vehicles of the future. They are, however, in their infancy stage to our relative perceptions. Regardless, we can’t but notice that more and more cyclists, adventure seekers, and urban dwellers are switching to this type of commuting.

If you do not want to spend hours in traffic jams, have the desire to exercise without feeling stressed or pain, and if you enjoy long rides but can no longer come up with enough of your energy to go on one, an e-bike is the best option for you.

When taking electric bike pedal assist vs throttle modes into consideration, think of where and how you are going to use one. If you appreciate effortless rides and there are no legal limits set for bikes with throttles, pick an e-bike that has a throttle mode.

In case pedaling is important to your lifestyle and you just want to get a little bit of support to cover longer distances or climb hills, your best bet is to pick an e-bike with a pedal assist mode.

But, some models combine the best of both worlds. If you think that you can reap the benefits of having both modes, buying an electric bike that combines a pedal assist and throttle will help you enjoy your bicycle experiences to the fullest.

In any case, the best way to solve the battle between picking a pedal assist vs throttle is to visit your local e-bike dealer. You will be able to clarify anything you have doubts about and be able to take a test drive to judge from your own experience which mode is best for you.