Do Electric Bikes Have Gears? Yes. What To Know?


Updated on January 24, 2021
Electric Bike Gears

If you live in an area with inclined roads, you’ll know how important gears are. Most bikes and other vehicles have them, and rightly so! A gear train allows efficient energy management and gives you the most optimum output at all times.

E-bikes, however, are a little different. They come with many helpful features to improve their experience.

Usually, beginners interested in buying an electric bike don’t have much information and can get confused with so many types of e-bikes available in the market.

There are many important things they should know before selecting an e-bike. Do e-bikes have gears? If yes, what are the types? Are they important?

Let’s find out!

Do electric bikes have gears? The short answer to this question is yes. Most e-bikes come with a gearing system. However, the opposite is also true. Some bikes can operate without gears or any other transmission systems.

In the following sections, we’ll take a look at the need for gears and transmission systems in an electric bike.

Importance Of Gears In An Electric Bike

Gears are a crucial element for any vehicle, including an electric bike. Most electric bikes are heavier, and you’ll have to exert more power to move them around. Gears allow you to reduce that and fine-tune the way you handle the bike.

Chances are that you learned how to ride on a gearless bike. However, they are only suitable for flat areas or people doing short rides. e-bikes are the same. Gearless e-bikes are suitable for limited situations.

Gears improve power output, and that can conserve the battery. For electric bikes, efficient power maintenance is crucial.

There is a limit to the maximum power your battery can store, and gears can help optimize what’s available.

An Argument For Gearless Bikes

Some people have an opinion that gears are not too important in electric bikes. They believe that features like Pedal-Assist are enough for a comfortable ride. However, there are still many instances where you’ll be thankful for gears in your electric bike.

Consider a scenario where you have to use your e-bike without a battery. The battery might lose its charge, or there can be a fault. In both cases, you’ll end up with a traditional bike and would need gears to navigate tough and steep roads.  

A Brief Intro Of Gearing Systems In Electric Bikes

Are you seriously thinking of trying out an electric bike? You should know that the gearing system plays an important role in your overall experience.

Luckily, you are at the right place. We have collected the basic information about common gearing systems in electric bikes to help you make an informed decision.

Gearing systems in electric bikes are slightly different than traditional bikes. The gear type you choose can affect the overall design of your bike.

The position of your motor, the chaincase, and the maintenance requirements of a bike have a direct relationship with the type of gearing system.

While deciding which electric bike you should buy, you’ll have a choice between Derailleur gears, internal hub gears, and continuously variable gears. Each gearing system has different qualities and uses, we’ll take a look at each.

1. Derailleur Gears

The Derailleur gearing system is the closest system to regular gears in a traditional bike. The system relies on chains, sprockets, and levers to allow manual shifting. Derailleur gearing system remains on the rear wheel and is lighter than the other options available in the market.

The design for bikes with this system is quite simple as well. You can position the motor at any place as power is transmitted through chains.

These gears are a perfect choice for someone looking for a sporty ride with several gears and extra maneuverability.

Electric mountain bikes and high-torque bikes most exclusively use this gearing system due to its wider gear-range and simple maintenance operations.

There are, however, some drawbacks as well. The Derailleur gearing system takes some time to master and requires regular tuning. As stated before, the maintenance operations are quite simple, but you’ll have to do it regularly.

Another thing is that unlike other gearing systems for electric bikes, you can shift to a standstill. The gears change with pedals, so you can only do it during movement.

2. Internal Hub Gears

This is another common gearing system you’ll find in electric bikes. Internal hub gears are for users who prefer convenience and reliability over functionality. The system is almost maintenance-free and is perfect for urban riding.

The shifting mechanism in hub gears is intuitive, which makes it popular among beginners and light users. Moreover, you can easily change gears while at a standstill.

Despite their popularity, internal hub gears have some disadvantages that make them unsuitable for sporty applications and rough terrains.

The gear-range is not as wide as derailleur gears, and you might not find an accurate match for certain conditions (Too much power or too little).

As the entire assembly is enclosed, changing the rear tire is complicated as well. Lastly, the internal hub system is heavier than derailleurs, so the electric bike will also be heavier.

The design options in internal hubs are also limited as the motor can only be mounted on either the front wheel or in the middle frame.

3. Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT)

Continuously variable gears are relatively newer than other gearing systems for electric bikes. This system does not have a set number of gears, and you can control how much power you wish to exert.

Similar to internal hub gears, this system is also maintenance-free and have a closed chain case. The automatic variant in continuously variable gears can shift between the lowest and highest setting according to the situation.

Continuously variable gears have a lot of components, so the system is quite heavy. The design limitations of this gearing system are the same as internal hub gears.

You’ll also notice that shifting down from the highest to lowest gear takes up a lot of time, which can have a negative impact on your experience.   

The Best Type Of Gear System For An Electric Bike

Now that you know the gearing systems of electric bikes, the next question would be about the best one for you.

Just like many things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to electric bikes and gearing systems. It all comes down to your intended use and preferences.

When selecting an e-bike based on the gearing system, you must ask the following questions.

  • What is the general terrain you wish to ride your bike on?
  • Why are you getting an e-bike? Is it for commuting to work, leisure, or for a workout?
  • How good you are with tools and general maintenance? Do you wish to get your hands dirty?
  • What is your previous experience with gears on a bike?

Based on these questions, you can select a suitable electric bike with the best gear type for yourself.

If you have some experience with changing gears on a bike, have the time for regular maintenance, and intend to ride on rougher terrains, a bike with derailleur gears would be the best for you.

Similarly, hub gears are better if you wish to move around in a city and commute to school or work on an electric bike.

Your boss or teacher will not appreciate you coming late because you forgot to tune your bike. Internal hubs do not need any maintenance and are quite reliable so, you won’t have that issue.

If you do not like shifting gears on a bike and want to simply pedal, the continuously variable gears are for you. You might enjoy the scenery outside and want to relax your mind with a light workout.

Most CVT bikes come with automatic shifters that allow you to indicate how hard you want to pedal. The gearing system then automatically adjusts itself according to the terrain and keeps you comfortable.

No matter the features or the gearing systems, you can learn the ins and outs of an electric bike in a short time.

Sometimes, the only thing you are concerned with is the price. Having a low budget does not mean that you compromise on the quality.

There are many economical e-bikes in the market that give you the best value for your money.

Final Thoughts

Do electric bikes have gears? By now, you can give a detailed answer if someone asks you this question.

To ensure a comfortable experience with any product, you should always thoroughly research the available options in the market and choose one.

The gearing system is one of the many considerations for electric bikes. You have to decide on the features you want, check the range, and make sure you like the design.

If you are a novice and don’t know much about electric bikes, check our beginner’s guide on choosing an electric bike.