E-bike sales are booming, in the last year sales have increased by 31%, with more and more people choosing the attractive electric motor (source).
But can e-bikes go uphill? Yes! Today's e-bikes are designed to tackle even the steepest of climbs and it shouldn’t be too difficult for the rider either. There has been some serious development in the gearing system of e-bikes to ensure that hills aren’t a problem.
Having said that, steep climbs will affect the range of the motor but it makes hills that wouldn’t be possible on a traditional bike, possible and even enjoyable.
An e-bike will make hill climbing much easier for you in terms of effort, whilst still giving you a fantastic workout and puts a huge smile on your face!
I’m a cyclist and I actually like hills but I have no shame in saying that when I went to Mallorca last year, I hired an e-bike.
Why? Because it’s hilly. The climbs (that I did) go on for miles and miles and at an average of 7 or 8%, I wasn’t confident I would be able to tackle them in the way I wanted so e-bike it was.
Despite being assured by the hire shop, I was worried that I’d burn through the battery on the e-bike by going up these hills and find myself having to pedal a heavy bike all the way back to the hotel - we’re talking 30-50 miles so I feel like my worries were valid!
Well, I’m happy to report that the e-bike did everything I asked of it and never once ran out of juice.
An e-bike took away the worry and stress about climbing the hills so I could enjoy it and that’s the important thing, I enjoyed my rides.
I saved the power for the climbs so I got some decent exercise in and it’s worth saying, that just because an e-bike has a motor, it doesn’t mean you get off scot-free.
A lot of the good quality e-bikes are ‘power assist’, meaning you will still have to pedal.
If you don’t put the work in, neither will your bike. Fair enough though, right?
So it’s safe to say that gradients of 7 - 10% are more than doable on an e-bike, in fact, you shouldn’t find them too difficult at all.
You can even stretch that to 14% and you’ll still be powering up those climbs.
After that, things get a little harder work but still, you have a motor so it’s possible but your legs will feel it.
The phrase “Hills for thrills” has never been so true as when you’re on an e-bike!
Exactly like climbing a hill on a traditional bike, there is a technique to doing so on an e-bike.
It’s important to get it right so that you enjoy the climb and also most importantly, make it to the top!
There are three things to consider when you’re faced with a climb on an e-bike - do these and your life will be a lot easier.
Remember, hills don’t get easier, you just get quicker.
Body Position - This will vary for some people and depending on how long the climb is, you may find yourself switching things up a bit.
For example, if the climb is quite a long climb, I will occasionally get up out of the saddle for a few pedal strokes.
This changes which muscles are in use. Being out of the saddle is generally less efficient and harder on your legs but it can be the change you need.
However, the best thing to do is stay seated as this will maximise the power to the pedals, meaning you will get up the hill not only more quickly but more efficiently.
Tip: If you want to make the most of each pedal stroke, consider using clipless pedals.
As the gradient starts to go up, shift your body weight slightly forward. You will find how far works best for you.
Cadence and Line - Line choice is mostly relating to mountain bikers but road cyclists do need to consider their line too.
Try to take the outer line on a bend as this will usually be less steep.
Cadence is how many revolutions your pedals make while you’re riding (rpm).
If you want to get into tracking your cadence, you should be aiming for around 60rpm when climbing a hill.
What you don’t want to do is to stop pedalling. This will cause you to lose your momentum.
If you stop on a hill, it can be very difficult to get going again. Trust me, I’ve been there far too many times.
This is where e-bikes come into their own, they make it possible for you to keep your momentum.
Tyre Pressure - This will vary greatly depending on the terrain you’re on but getting the right tyre pressure can make your life much easier.
A tyre pressure that is too low will increase the rolling resistance, meaning that the motor on your e-bike is working harder to get you up those hills.
This will impact your overall range and make you work harder.
Tip: Check your tyre pressure before every ride. Tyre pressure does go down gradually so will need topping up.
A lot of people want to be able to go up a hill as quickly as possible and an e-bike certainly helps to increase your average speed up a hill.
Depending on the model of your e-bike and how steep the climb is, you can expect to achieve speeds up to around 18mph.
This is without putting a whole lot of effort in.
Put more effort in and you’ll be up those hills in no time.
There is one snag, the vast majority of e-bike motors will stop assisting you when they reach a certain speed so you’ll be on your own for power.
The good news is, you won’t be working as hard as you would without a motor!
Different e-bike motors will work in different ways.
Some will work out the power you need based on how you are pedalling, this will change as you go along. The outcome of this is that you pedal just as you would normally.
The majority of e-bikes these days have power-assist modes. Depending on which mode you have it set to, will determine how much assistance you get.
Eco mode will focus on giving you the extra range so you will have to work harder. The upside is, providing your legs can take it, you can go further before the battery runs out!
Turbo mode, is quite self-explanatory and speaking from experience, a whole lot of fun!
There is more emphasis on giving the rider power. You won’t need to pedal as much and your speed will increase. The downside is that the battery will run out more quickly.
However, if you know how far you’re going, then you can judge it to perfection.
Turbo mode is great when you’re faced with a hill that you really need some help on, it will get you up the hill and possibly even with a smile on your face!
There are three different ways to power an e-bike. Each has its own benefits, but let’s see which one is best for hills!
Mid-drive or Crank - These are quite popular and ideal for taking on hills.
The motor is low down in the centre of the bike, think where your pedals are.
This type of motor works well on hills because they have a high torque rating. They also benefit from a better centre of gravity.
Better centre of gravity means that you are able to ride more naturally and maximise power delivery.
Front Hub - Bikes with a front hub motor are usually folding bikes.
They are compact and the power delivery is representative of that.
However, they can be the ideal e-bike if you need a compact folding bike that can take on some hills.
Rear Hub - A rear hub motor will look very similar to that of a front hub.
There are stark differences though and that is how the power is delivered.
A rear hub motor is able to deliver the power directly to the rear wheel. This ‘pushes’ you and the delivery of power is much greater.
If you’re after an e-bike with speed, then a rear hub motor should be on your radar!
When you ask a cyclist, “how do I get better at hills?”, they often say, “hills. Just do them”.
Well, now you can on an e-bike!
No doubt passing any cyclist who has given you that advice. What a satisfying thought!