The best ebike motor will balance the scales between power and weight, to offer maximum pedal assistance without weighing the bike down and holding it back. Of course, e-bike motors come as part of the bike itself and aren’t yet a component that you can swap out and upgrade, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into when choosing from the best electric bikes.
The e-bike has well and truly established itself as a valuable part of cycling’s future. Where once the market was dominated by electric bikes for commuting, it is now rich with the best electric road bikes and the best electric gravel bikes as well.
For all the benefits of e-bikes, they can also create confusion and ownership anxiety, triggered by the steep technology curve powering these bikes along. As with all things electric, the logic is that a delayed purchase is best, allowing you to benefit from capturing the latest technology.
How EBike Motors Work
Fundamentally speaking, electric motors translate electrical energy into mechanical energy. E-bikes use brushless DC motors, or BLDC motors, meaning they don’t use brushes to alternate the direction of current flowing to the motor, as older electric motors did. Those brushes made the motors less efficient and tended to wear out over time, so brushless motors have been the standard for more than a decade.
Open up a BLDC motor and you’ll see a bunch of wires wound around a circular series of poles. That’s the stator; it becomes an electromagnet when the motor controller draws current from the battery into the wires.
You’ll also see a circular series of permanent magnets, either directly inside or outside the stator. The orientation of the magnets relative to the stator depends on the type of BLDC motor, but either way, that’s the rotor.
Grasping the interaction between the rotor and the stator is crucial to understanding how e-bike motors work. When current runs through the stator’s electromagnets in a circular sequence, those electromagnets repel and attract the permanent magnets on the rotor, causing it to spin. The stator is attached to a shaft.
On a mid-drive motor, the shaft spins to generate torque, and that torque gives you pedaling assistance via a small chainring connected to the shaft. On hub motors, the shaft becomes the axle and therefore doesn’t spin. Instead, the rotor itself spins, causing the entire motor (hub) to spin, thus creating torque to spin the front or rear wheel.
How EBike Motor Work With the Rest of the E-Bike
In addition to the motor, all e-bikes have motor controllers and batteries. The controllers modulate the amount of power flowing to the motor, which uses your input to transfer the desired amount of current from the battery into the motor.
Pedal-assisted e-bikes might use a speed (a.k.a. cadence) sensor, which regulates e-assist by detecting the rider’s pedaling cadence, or torque sensors, which sense how much torque the rider is putting into the pedals. Some e-bikes have throttles that allow you to use the motor independent of your pedaling, although regional laws define where you can and cannot use throttle-equipped e-bikes.
What Is Right EBike Motor For You
So looking at eBikes, there are generally speaking 250 watts, 350 watts, I’ve seen 400-watt, and I’ve seen 500-watt motors. Those are sort of the most common. You may see some larger motors. In the US, they approve them up to 750 watts. Now really identifying what motor is right for you can be challenging.
So let’s focus on recreational riding. And when I say recreational riding, I mean you may just be going around the neighborhood, down to the local beach, or maybe to a local store, you want to ride to yoga, you want to ride with friends, things of that nature. And you may use the pedal assist here and there.
You might do full throttle. So for that type of rider, I would most likely recommend a 250-watt motor. Now, I wouldn’t say stay away from 500-watt because I personally enjoy the power of a 500 watt. Now, but it’s not necessary.
If you’re gonna be doing shorter rides, maybe less than let’s say 15 miles or even 10 miles 250 watt is a great option. Especially on the pedal assist side. It’s gonna kick in and give you extra power. Make it really easy for you. But it’s not gonna be an excessive amount of power.
And your top speed on something like that with pedal assist could be really 20, 25 miles an hour. Now it can be more depending on how fast you pedal. But you could pretty comfortably hit about 20 miles an hour with a 250-watt pedal assist. And you could go about 15 miles an hour full throttle.
Recreational: 250-watt ebike motor
So I would say for really recreational, it’s not about exercise. It’s just about short jaunts, things of that nature, 250-watt. No reason to add the extra power and the bigger batteries because it’s gonna cost you more money.
So save yourself some money. Get the 250-watt short range. It’s perfect. Now let’s talk about exercise or longer exploration. Things like that.
Now, actually, let’s leave exercise out of here because if you want to exercise, eBikes not necessarily the best option. Although you can do pedal assist. But let’s say that you really like exploration on your bike and you might go 20, 30, 40 miles.
And you really want to have power. And you want to get places fast, I would say 500 watt’s a great option. So longer range exploration, I would say look at anything 350 and above. So 350, 500 would be really great for that.
Commuting: 400-watt motor/500-watt motor
I would roll into this like commuting as well. So if you’re gonna be going 10 plus miles one direction and you want to get there fast or you’re not sure how much energy you want to use and you want to let the bike do the work but still get there in a quick manner, 400-watt motor, 500-watt motor, those are great options.
In full throttle, you’re gonna be able to hit about 20 miles an hour. In pedal assist, you should be able to comfortably hit 28 miles an hour on that 500-watt. So if you really want to get to work and you’re riding 10 plus miles, but you don’t want that ride to work to take 20 plus minutes, the 500-watt, 400-watt motors are gonna be great for that.
Uphill Mountain: 500-watt ebike motor and above
And going back to it, actually, if you’re looking for exercise on an eBike, I just kinda said that eBikes wouldn’t be a great option. But if you are looking for exercise, then I would say stick to a 250-watt motor. Your best bet is to get the smallest motor. But let’s say you’re gonna exercise on the way out on your ride. Right?
So you’re gonna do all the pedaling yourself and you’re gonna go 20 miles. And you want to just explore somewhere but then you want to come back. So you give yourself a 250-watt motor, it’s not gonna be as heavy as a 500 watt. So it’s not gonna require as much energy for you to pedal. But it’s still gonna give you some power to get home.
And it’s gonna make it easier for you because you already got your workout on the way there. You can relax on the way back. So that’s also pretty common for guys that … Guys or women that do mountain biking and they want to do the downhill aspect, but they don’t want to do the uphill aspect.
So they need a 500-watt motor or 750-watt motor mid-drive that’s gonna get them up that hill. And then they can let gravity take them down then let the motor take them back up.
So that kinda segues in that if you’re gonna be doing any sort of aggressive uphill mountain biking or any kind of off-roading, I would really recommend 500 watts and above. And specifically, I’d recommend a mid drive motor.
Those are gonna provide a lot more torque. They’re gonna be able to get you up the hills quite a bit faster. With a smaller motor, it’s just not gonna cut it. Especially a 250 watt rear drive motor, it’s just not gonna work in any kind of mountain biking condition.
So please don’t try. Mid-drive, 500-watt, or above, that’s gonna be ideal for off-roading, up hills, things like that.
So the motor size really depends on the type of riding your gonna be doing. Hills, no hills, things like that. The last thing I’ll say is if you’re gonna be doing something like college campus riding and you know your classes are maybe a mile to two miles away, I would suggest that you really don’t necessarily need a 500-watt motor.
Although it’s gonna get you there really fast. So if you have enough open road, and you can go 20 miles an hour, and you’re not gonna be on the sidewalk running into people, you can go on a bike lane and be safe, 500 watt’s a good option. But if you’re in a small campus and you’re only going, like I said, a mile or two, a 250 watt is enough.
You can put it in pedal assist mode and start pedaling. It’s gonna take a lot of the strain off of your body. And you’re gonna get there fast. So again, 250 watt is good for a lot of the recreational needs. 500 watt really is a lot better for longer explorations or commuting. And 500 watt and above for any kind of off-road, mountain biking, things like that.
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