Pedal assist and throttle are the two primary drive modes on eBikes. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of pedal assist and throttle, and how they affect speed, range, and trail access on electric bikes.
What is electric pedal (PAS) assist?
EBikes that feature pedal assist use an electric motor which turns on when the rider is pedaling, allowing the rider to travel faster and further than on the rider's pedal power alone. The rider's pedaling input, monitored via a cadence or torque sensor, sends a signal that turns the motor on. When you stop pedaling, the motor turns off.
Pedal assist mode is sometimes abbreviated as "PAS" - for example, eBike models commonly offer PAS settings of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, with 0 being no assist, and 5 being the maximum amount of assist. Most eBike models allow the rider to select the level of pedal assist using button on a handlebar-mounted remote.
What is throttle?
In throttle mode, the electric motor on an eBike can be used without the rider pedaling at all. The rider turns the electric motor on and off using a thumb lever, button, or twist grip. The rider can pedal if desired, but doesn't have to in order for the electric motor to turn on.
Do eBikes have both throttle and pedal assist modes?
Some eBikes have both throttle and pedal assist modes, for example, our Denago City Model 1 has both these capabilties included.
Other eBikes may have only pedal assist mode, and lack a throttle mode. This arrangement is common on eBikes labeled "Class I" which are offered from some brands.
Pros and cons of pedal assist eBikes
Buying an eBike with pedal assist has some important pros and cons to consider:
Pros of pedal assist
- The electric motor turns on only when the rider is pedaling, forcing the rider to work, which may be desirable.
- EBikes that have pedal assist but not throttle may have access to more trails (on some eBike models, you can temporarily remove the throttle if desired to meet local rules).
- The eBike is simpler with less complexity.
- Battery life will be improved, since the rider's leg power is combined with the electric motor. This means you can travel further on a single charge.
Cons of pedal assist
- The rider must pedal at all times for the electric motor to turn on. If the rider is injured, fatigued, or has some other limitation, keep this in mind. In those circumstances, a throttle-equipped eBike, which allows breaks from pedaling, may be desirable.
Pros and cons of throttle eBikes
Buying an eBike with a throttle, consider these pros and cons:
Pros of throttle
- An eBike equipped with a throttle can help people with injuries or limited fitness get over hills - without pedaling at all, if needed.
- More options - since almost every eBike equipped with a throttle has pedal assist as well, the rider has more choices about how to ride.
Cons of throttle
- Using a throttle means the electric motor provides 100% of the power, so battery life (and thus, the eBike's range) is lower than using pedal assist mode. You can't travel as far on a charge.
- You may have access to fewer trails when riding an eBike with a throttle. Ebikes without throttles (or eBikes with the throttle temporarily removed) have access to a larger variety of trails, due to state and local rules around eBikes.
Now that you understand the differences between pedal assist and throttle eBikes, you're better informed to shop and ride confidently!