Monday, October 3, 2022

How to Ride an E-Bike Without Pedaling: Pedal Assist vs Throttle

Riding an e-bike is a truly exciting and new experience for many. And learning how to ride an e-bike can bring up so many questions about using the basic electric bike features like pedal-assist and throttles.

One of the first questions you might have is whether you can actually ride an e-bike without pedaling. Yes, you can, as long as your bike also has a throttle. A throttle will give you power with a simple twist of your hand or a push of the thumb, depending on which kind of throttle it is. Even if you’re not pedaling, the throttle will get power from the motor and propel you forward.

But the truth is that all electric bikes have pedals and only some have throttles. And how to ride using one or both features requires a little more understanding, which we’ll discuss in this article.

Should You Ride Your Electric Bike Without Pedaling

Truthfully, your electric bike wasn’t meant to be used without ever pedaling. Although it can be done, let’s first talk about “pedal assist” vs “throttle” and how they each will benefit your ride.

First, both of them get power from the electric motor on your bike. And the purpose of both of them is to move your bike forward.

How Pedal Assist Works

When using pedal assist, your feet give power to the motor by pedaling. Your feet basically tell the electric system to move the bike forward with a pedaling movement. It feels as though you’re getting help to move along easily and naturally.

On most e-bikes today, you also have the choice to increase your pedal assistance. My e-bike from Rad Power Bikes has 5 levels of pedal assist and boy do I fly when I increase the levels! But I do have to keep pedaling to make the bike go or it will eventually slow to a stop.

How a Throttle Works

Twist throttle on an Electric Bike
Twist Throttle

On the other hand, a throttle allows you to continue pedaling if you wish but engages the motor by an action from your hand. Some throttles can be twisted with your whole hand (like a motorcycle) or pushed with your thumb.

If you throttle your bike, you’ll go forward even if you’re not pedaling. However, gentle turning of the throttle will move you faster and faster. So, you don’t need to go zero to 20mph in a second! But it will get you started much faster than by just pedaling.

What Happens If You Don’t Pedal

The less you pedal, the more battery you will use. So, if you’re riding your bike using only the throttle to move you forward, then your battery will run out very quickly.

You’ll also hear more noise coming from the motor, making it sound more like a moped. And this can be a problem if you’re riding on a path that wasn’t meant for motor vehicles.

Yes, you may get some dirty looks when people think you’re riding a moped. But you might also get stopped by the authorities. And who wants a ticket for riding a bike?

So, you might think about riding your e-bike without pedaling only when you’re on a roadway or where there are no other bikers or walkers (if they’re the zombie kind, you’ll be thankful that you can pedal… and even more thankful if you have a throttle).

Just so you know, if you decide to pedal using pedal assist, this will decrease your battery further. So, using this also takes more energy from the motor, thus decreasing your battery power.

And, if you’re using pedal assist and the throttle, and going up hills or through rough terrain, your battery time will be cut even shorter. So make sure to plan ahead by fully charging your battery and knowing how far you can go on that charge.

Finally, here’s an option. If you don’t want to pedal ever, for whatever reason, you could just get a moped or motorcycle.

But I get that you might want something that doesn’t go as fast as a moped and that you can ride on bike paths and trails, or wherever other bikes can go. On a moped, you’re pretty much stuck riding on the road.

Can You Go Uphill Without Pedaling?

I’m just going to say this right now… if you want to ride up hills, you should plan on pedaling your e-bike or getting that moped.

As mentioned above, going up hills with only a throttle will drain your battery fast.

Further, you can go faster and climb steeper grades if you use pedal assist. A throttle may get you started but it won’t take you up a hill like pedaling.

You have to remember that electric bikes are much heavier than standard bikes. So don’t expect a throttle to be able to make a climb all by itself. You’ll end up slowing down more than you’d like and then wasting your battery.

The Best Way to Ride an E-Bike is By Pedaling

Older man riding in the city by pedaling

How you choose to ride your bike is really up to you. But it seems kind of pointless to buy an expensive electric bike and not want to ever pedal it.

How to Use Pedal Assist Effectively

So the best way to ride one is to use varying levels of pedal assist and your throttle if you have one. Pedal at a low-assist level until you need more power to get you up a hill or because you’re tired. It’s easy to power up one level just by pushing a button.

Turn down pedal assist when you’re goin down a hill. You don’t need it. You might also want to switch your bike into lower gear.

Then use your throttle when you need a quick start, like at a street intersection with other fast-moving vehicles. And use it when you’re tired and need to give yourself a “push”.

Spend some time riding in places without too many people or traffic. Then you can really check out the different levels of pedal assist and how to use the throttle if you have one.

Caution is advised when first beginning to ride. E-bikes are heavy. So, you need to learn how to use the brakes to stop quickly. And you should know that slowing down takes a bit longer than on a regular bike.

I almost ran into my daughters car on my first ride because I wasn’t prepared to stop!

You also need to be comfortable switching gears, adjusting pedal assist levels, and using your throttle.

Pedaling Your E-Bike is Great Exercise

No matter whether you’re riding a standard bicycle or an electric bike, pedaling one will be great exercise for any fitness level.

Not only will you strengthen your legs, but you’ll also get some great cardio if you take a long ride or find yourself pedaling up hills.

And, no, you’re not cheating by riding an e-bike. Instead, you’re giving yourself an excellent means to getting more exercise by riding longer and farther than you would on a regular bike.

Take a look at some of the research from the National Institute of Health. You’ll probably be surprised to find that even though riding an e-bike is less intense, it’s still considered moderately vigorous and can burn around half of the calories as compared to riding a standard bike.

This truly is not a bad thing if having an e-bike gets you out exercising more and for longer periods!

And as long as you don’t exclusively use the throttle and high levels of pedal assist during your entire ride, you’re going to get a workout.

Riding an E-Bike Without Pedal Assist or Throttling

Can it be done? Yes it can.

First option, just don’t turn on the electric system.

You can ride your bike manually by doing this and save your battery as well. But make sure to keep your key with you and your battery charged. Riding a very heavy e-bike manually can tire you out quickly. You might just change your mind in the middle of a ride.

Or, keep your bike on “zero” pedal-assist, if your bike has this option. This is a good choice because you’ll be able to increase power to the bike any time you need it, whether you suddenly get tired or you need to get away from those zombies fast.

Why It’s Still Great to Have a Throttle on Your E-Bike

Even if you plan on pedaling, you’ll love having a throttle if you want to have an e-bike that starts up quickly and goes fast when you need it to.

It’s especially helpful if you’re riding the roadways to work, school, or to run errands. Starting up quicker with other fast cars around will get you out of the middle of the street faster and get you to where you’re going quicker.

If you’re super adventurous, you can even use the throttle to help you jump rocks and bounce down bumpy paths without pedaling. Just don’t try this until you’re an experienced rider!

And did you know you can even get an electric bike that only has a throttle, like the Jetson Bolt?

And, honestly, having a throttle is just plain fun!

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