Can an Electric Bike Go Uphill?
As more and more of us seek to get active, live better, increase our overall fitness, electric bikes are becoming a popular option. Similar in size to a traditional bike, best electric bikes have the added advantage of giving the rider extra power while riding, allowing one to either ride with full electric motor power, or assist the motor with pedaling. Either way, the e-bike saves the rider energy, effort, and time.
So what limits, if any, exist for the electric bike? Can an e-bike tackle your biggest hurdles as a cyclist, how powerful are they, and perhaps most importantly for those considering purchasing one, can they actually make it up a hill on their own?
The first thing to consider when answering this question is to consider the power output that your e-bike delivers. The amount of power is dependent on the size and strength of the battery, as well as the build of the bike, and the motor. Batteries that supply more power can better tackle the strain of going uphill. Keep in mind that the more strain you put on the battery of your e-bike, the faster you’ll need a recharge, and sooner your battery may need to be replaced.
E-bike batteries generally begin at 250 watts of power output, and some exceed 800 watts. The more wattage your battery has, the better equipped it is to tackle hills and mountains. If you are planning on using your bike’s motor to scale steep inclines, go for higher watt batteries that work with your particular bike model, as these will give you the power and advantage you’ll need.
Helping Your E-Bike Out
The e-bike is meant to be used as a something of a hybrid vehicle; you pedal, and the motor assists you, reducing rider fatigue and exhaustion. It is not as automatic as a motorcycle or a moped, and as you pedal your e-bike, the battery provides power to your motor to help you cruise along. Yes, the motor can be used alone, minus any human pedaling, but this will strain and drain the battery faster; a better and more practical way to use your e-bike is to combine pedaling with motor assistance.
Three Ways to Pedal
Your e-bike can be ridden in three ways; pedal only, pedal assist, and throttle only. Option one, pedal only means that you provide the full power to your e-bike and ride it like a traditional bike. Option two meaning that you both pedal, and get some help from the motor. Option three means that you are relying fully on the motor to supply all power to your bike, minus any work from you.
Option three will be toughest on the battery, and if employed often enough on a ride, may not leave you with enough battery power to make it home. Tackling any terrain, especially challenging terrain, will often require a combination of these three e-biking options to maximize battery life and this combination of biking styles is the best approach to tackling a hill.
Scoping Out the Hill
Low, gentler inclines hills can often be scaled using only your pedal power. This will help you get exercise out of your riding experience, while saving your battery’s energy for tougher climbs, or for spots where you just need a break.
Steeper and tougher hills may require some extra power from your motor, and this is where knowing your own physical limits is going to really help you get the most out of your bike. What can you reasonably handle? How much pedaling can you contribute to this escalation? Remember, the ride downhill will be relatively easy, allowing you to rest, cruise, and get your energy levels back.
Making the Climb
While the battery does supply power, the real power source behind the electric bike is still you! So as you tackle the hill, continue to pedal, while engaging pedal assist. This will give your bike the human muscle it needs, while giving your motor the room it needs to best assist you up the hill.
Relying only on the motor to get you the entire way up a steep hill may not work; the motor is built to assist you in biking and reduce fatigue, not necessarily scale a hill by itself. Attempting this will also kill your battery much faster, and put a strain on the motor it was not truly designed to handle.
As this video demonstrates, pedaling along with the motor as you climb the hill will help you maintain enough kinetic energy to keep your bike going, as the motor helps you with your task. Work with the motor, and you’ll be able to scale the incline with ease, reducing fatigue, going faster than with throttle alone, and putting less unnecessary strain on your e-bike.
And if you do engage only the motor during parts of your climb, temper this with bouts of assisted pedaling. This will allow you to get the most out of your motor when you truly need it, while conserving battery power and reducing motor wear and tear. So, yes, you can still use full-throttle power to help you up the hill, but it is recommended that you engage the motor in cooperation with assisted pedaling as you make your ascent.
Other Factors to Consider
When seeking to be successful in climbing hills with an e-bike, take these factors into consideration, as well.
- Tire pressure; make sure your e-bike tires are properly inflated, and poorly inflated tires put extra strain on the motor. Check your bike tires to find the recommended maximum and minimum psi for your particular bike’s tires, and be sure to keep them properly inflated.
- Tackling the hill in the right gear is also key. In general, you’ll want to take on the hill in a lower gear, as this will give you the maximum amount of torque to climb the hill with the least amount of effort. This will give your body more of a break, as well as reduce what is needed from your bike’s motor.
- Body posture (your own), as leaning forward can help the front of your bike maintain firmer contact with the terrain, and climb easier.
- Position of motor. Motors placed in the middle of the e-bike (as opposed to above either the front or rear wheel hub) are often better at powering the bike uphill, and allow you to ride with more power and greater stability.
Yes, e-bikes can definitely make it uphill, but they work best at this task when given assistance by their rider! To maximize the performance of your e-bike select a bike that is optimal for the terrain and tasks you’ll expect it to handle, and make sure that it has the motor power to make steep climbs, if this is what you need your bike to do. Finally, relax, have fun, be safe as you enjoy your e-bike, and get ready to get fit, and enjoy everything that the outdoors has to offer.
Trevor Fenner is the founder of Electric Bike Paradise, the #1 online retailer of electric bikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards, mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs, electric golf caddies, solar kits, and trolling motors. Trevor has been selling bicycles, electric bikes, and electric scooters online since 2010 and eventually established Electric Bike Paradise in late 2013 when he happened to meet a car enthusiast that introduced him to electric bikes. Trevor spent time searching for electric bikes online but couldn’t find a website that offered a wide selection of electric bikes, scooters, and informational articles. That is why he decided to start a website where everyone can shop conveniently, browse buying guides, and read educational posts. The website is called Electric Bike Paradise.