Do I Need Gears on My Electric Bike?

Published on January 22, 2023

If you’re a mountain biker or have ridden a bike up a steep hill, you know exactly how useful and important gears can be. By shifting gears, it takes less energy to get up inclined planes, improving your overall biking experience while ensuring you don’t get exhausted before you reach the top.

While having gears on standard bikes makes sense, you might ask yourself if you really need gears on your electric bike as it already has a motor. Although gears are essential on standard bikes, electric bikes are built differently–they don’t necessarily follow the same engineering and design philosophy as traditional bikes.

When Gears Make Sense

Electric bikes come with battery-powered motors that offer an automatic assistance system–this is what performs most of the tasks or functions that gears do on a standard bike. This automatic assistance system ensures that you have a smooth translation from one speed to another without fumbling to adjust your pedal intensity.

That said, if you live somewhere with super-flat roads, you might choose to ride a fat tire cruiser e-bike. If there are a lot of hills or steep inclines where you live, you may indeed want gears on your electric bike. Although most electric bikes have pedal assist, many riders keep their pedal-assist set on low using their gear settings.

Technically, you can go without gears, but this isn’t always the best option. Electric bikes have components, including gears, that make riding easy and help the rider manage their speed on hilly terrains. In addition, the motor also boosts the bike’s torque output, which helps you cross rugged inclined terrains easily. Even though the automated assistance system drastically increases your bike’s power and enables you to cruise around comfortably, having gears does sometimes become rather handy. 

Running solely on motor assistance will drain the bike’s battery significantly faster, so using your gears intelligently is a good idea. Some bikes may not have batteries powerful enough or with enough juice left to climb that last hill–this is where pedal assistance and gears can be helpful.

It should also be noted that electric bikes are heavier than standard bikes–so, if your battery dies in the middle of the road, you’ll want to know if electric bikes can be used manually. They can, and if you find yourself in this position, having those gears can really save the day.

When to Shift Gears on an Electric Bike

While it is perfectly fine to shift gears while using pedal assist, it helps to know how best to shift them on an electric bike. Otherwise, you won’t have a smooth ride and can risk damaging your bike.

Some electric bikes have electric shift systems that help you shift gears while pedaling. Just like with standard bikes, you should shift to a lower gear while coming down a hill–this will increase your gear ratio and allow for higher speeds and pedal resistance.

Final Thoughts

So, are gears necessary for an electric bike? Because electric bikes have powerful motors, they don’t necessarily need gears. Shiftable gears, however, have several advantages that can be extremely useful, particularly for trail riders. By conserving energy and improving your riding, you can travel farther and more quickly with less effort, making your overall ride more pleasurable. 

Ready to find your first e-bike and wondering how to choose an electric cruiser bike? Take a look at our recent article.