Pedelecs Vs Throttle E-Bikes – How Does Each Work?

Electric Bike

A pedal assist (pedelec) or throttle bike; which one do you go for? There are many types of electric bikes with varying ways of activating the electric assist. There are also different types of pedelecs (cadence sensor and torque sensor) and different types of throttle (push button, thumb, twist grip).

Throttle Mode

The throttle mode operates in the same way as a scooter or motorcycle. When you engage the throttle, it powers the motor which pushes you and the bicycle forward. With a throttle, you can either pedal or rely entirely on the motor for propulsion. Most throttles have a sort of dial for adjusting throttle power.

To engage the half-grip throttle, which is the most common type of throttle, you twist the throttle is the same way as in a scooter or motorcycle. You engage the thumb throttle by using your thumb to push the throttle ‘paddle’ forward.

Other thumb throttles are engaged by pushing a red button forward with your thumb. The push button throttle is usually a simple on/off switch with no option for adjusting the throttle power.

Pedelec (Pedal Assist) Mode

The pedelec, also called the pedal assist, is a mode in which the motor is powered only when you are pedaling. Riding the pedelec is more intuitive compared to the throttle, especially if you are used to riding the traditional bike.

One of the main advantages in the pedelec vs throttle comparison is that with pedelecs, you only need to focus on pedaling without having to think about holding the throttle in a specific position. The pedelec provides you with more range than the throttle mode because you have to pedal. However, there are ways of increasing the range of your e-bike.

Many pedelecs offer different levels of assistance, such as low, medium or high assist. Remember, some pedelecs feature four or five pedal assist settings, but in this example, we will use the low/high/medium settings.

  • Low pedal assist – It provides a little electric assist, with the bigger share of the energy generated coming from your pedaling power in order for you to get more workout.
  • Medium pedal assist – The motor usually matches your pedaling power, giving you a sense of a nice tailwind as you ride.
  • High pedal assist – The motor typically provides a bigger share of the energy, helping you to move faster with little effort. You may want to engage this setting on your way back home after a long, tiring bike ride.

Pedal assists in the market come in two types; the cadence sensor and the torque sensor systems.

Torque sensors measure your pedaling power and based on this measurement, decrease or increase the electric assist. Riding pedelecs with torque sensors feels intuitive because they effectively emulate your pedaling power. They are usually found on more pricey e-bikes and e-bike kits.

Pedal assist systems with cadence sensors provide assistance when the bike cranks are in motion. They increase or decrease the assist based on your level assist settings and not on your pedaling power.

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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