Your relationship with the road enters a new era when you start logging miles on an electric bike. Riding with “pedal assist,” the mechanism through which the motor helps you pick up momentum, is like switching over to the express lane: Your pedaling efforts will take you farther—and faster.
Read on for more.
What is pedal assist?
Pedal assist, part of what puts the “e-” in “e-bike,” is what connects the motor with your movement. Sensors at the pedal mechanism pick up on your pedaling activity and communicate details about it to your bike’s motor. The motor converts those messages into a certain amount of power output that propels the bike forward.
When pedal assistance kicks in, you’ll feel that you start to move faster—even if you don’t make any changes to what you’re doing.
Why ride with pedal assist?
Even if you’re someone who likes riding a traditional (non-electric) bike, there are good reasons to go electric now and then. Among them:
- It’s fun. There’s something playful about picking up the pace.
- It can expand your riding repertoire. An e-bike can make challenging journeys—when the destination is far or requires riding uphill—totally doable.
- It can be “no sweat.” If you commute by bike or use it as your main method of transport, you’ll arrive at your desk or dinner party feeling fresher because you can rely on the motor to do most of the work.
- It’s accommodating to a range of abilities and agilities. People with mobility limitations can still enjoy biking because it’s not necessary to push so hard on the pedals.
- It caters to every moment. On many e-bikes, you can turn pedal assistance off, on, up, or down—so you can tailor every ride to your desired level of exertion.
Types of pedal assist
There are two types of pedal assist, cadence-based and torque-based, and each makes for a slightly different riding experience.
- With cadence-based pedal assistance, which all Jetson e-bikes have, the motor delivers regular boosts of power regardless of how hard or fast you are pedaling.
Any pedaling at all will activate pedal assistance, so in that way the pedal movement functions like an “on/off” switch. The boosts you get from the motor will be the same whether you’re putting a lot of effort into your pedaling or a little.
- With torque-based pedal assistance, the motor determines how much power to deliver based on how much pressure you are putting on the pedals.
If you’re pushing hard—trying to get up a hill or go really fast, for example—the motor will deliver bigger boosts of power to assist you in those efforts. If you’re taking it easy with your pedaling—riding downhill where gravity’s helping, or having a laid-back, leisurely ride—the motor will provide less assistance so that you can keep cruising along gently.
Riding with pedal assist
All Jetson e-bikes have cadence-based pedal assist. How much assistance you’ll get from the motor depends on a few other of your bike’s features. (If you need to consult the user manual for your Jetson e-bike to see which yours has, our user manuals always live online.)
- The maximum riding speed for your model
Pedal assistance will only ever kick in if you are riding below that maximum mph. As long as you’re riding under that threshold, the motor will deliver boosts of power to help you hit that maximum mph. If your own pedaling efforts take you beyond that speed threshold, the motor will no longer help power you along.
- Pedal assist levels (also known as “speed modes”)
If your bike does have multiple speed modes (usually indicated by a dedicated toggle switch on your handlebar, or “+/-“ buttons near an LCD screen), each of those speed modes has its own maximum mph.
The highest level will provide you power up until the maximum riding speed mentioned above. But the lower levels each have their own pre-set speed thresholds—so if you’re riding in one of those, you’ll get pedal assistance only up until its designated threshold. For example, the Jetson Haze offers three speed modes; at level 3, you’ll get pedal assistance as long as you’re riding under 15.5 mph; but in level 1 pedal assistance will only help you reach 8 mph.
Switching to a lower pedal assist level can help you control your speed to follow local speed limits, when riding in dense areas, or to provide comfort for beginner riders, for example. Here are a few other notes on using pedal assist levels on an e-bike.
- Some e-bikes offer the option of level “0,” in which you won’t receive any pedal assistance at all—no matter how fast you’re traveling or how hard you’re pedaling. Riding in this mode will feel more like riding a traditional bicycle.
- The more you rely on pedal assistance, the faster your battery will drain. So, if you change to a higher pedal assist level without increasing your pedaling efforts, the motor will have to pull more power from the battery in order to help you reach that level’s higher speed threshold. If you’re concerned about running out of battery charge on a long ride, pay attention to how much help you’re asking the motor to do.
E-bikes that also have gears make it even easier for you to fine-tune your riding experience so that you get exactly the effort level, amount of exercise, and speed that you want.
First, let’s remember how gears work.
- Lower gears make it easier to pedal. You’ll be met with less resistance—but you’ll also cover less ground with each rotation of the pedals. That means you won’t hit record-breaking speeds, but it will make it easier for you to pedal up hills and avoid over-exerting yourself.
- In higher gears, you will feel more resistance on your pedals but can cover more ground with every pedal rotation. This means you can pick up serious speed on flat surfaces or when riding downhill. It also means you’ll need to put more muscle into getting the pedals around—so if your goal is to get a workout, go with the high gears.
When you think about how to use gears and pedal assistance together to create the ride you want, think about them like this: Gears will most affect how the road feels under your feet—heavy/sticky (high gears) or light/slick (low gears)—and pedal assist is more about propelling the bike forward. It takes some time experimenting with the two to feel out how they “feel” when used together.
There are some other good reasons to familiarize yourself with the gears on your e-bike as they relate to pedal assist.
- Maximizing the use of gears so that you don’t rely as much on pedal assist can help extend and preserve your battery power.
- Depending on the strength (wattage) of your bike’s motor, pedal assist alone may not be enough to get you up an incline—so working the gears to your advantage can help with that.
- If your battery runs out of charge, you can still use the gears to change the ease and efficiency of your pedaling—so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them in case you ever need to get home without the help of a motor.
If your e-bike also has an acceleration throttle, it functions independently from pedal assistance. If you are using the throttle to accelerate and ride, the motor will do all the work to keep you moving. No pedaling is required, and there will not be any pedal assistance if you rotate the pedals.
Pedal assist on Jetson e-bikes
Each Jetson e-bike model has a slightly different combination of features that will contribute to how it rides with pedal assist. Here’s a helpful quick-reference chart.
|Type of Pedal Assist||Gears||Number of Pedal Assist levels||Throttle|
|Adventure||Cadence||Yes||5, plus “0” for “off”||--|
|Cadence||Yes||3, plus “0” for “off”||Yes|
|Journey||Cadence||Yes||5, plus “0” for “off”||--|
|Metro||Cadence||--||3, plus “0” for “off”||Yes|