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How Do Electric Bikes Work 

Man riding an electric bike

Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, have been gaining popularity in recent years as a greener, more efficient mode of transportation. While they may look similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes are powered by an electric motor assisting the rider while pedaling. 

If you’re considering buying a power-assisted bike, understanding how electric bikes work, including different types of motors and batteries, can help you make the right investment. 

Key Parts of an Electric Bike

Electric bikes are composed of several key parts. These parts work together to provide motor assistance, increase efficiency, and enhance the overall riding experience.


The battery powers the motor of the e-bike. It stores the electric power that drives the motor, allowing the rider to travel further and faster than with just pedal power alone. Most e-bikes use lithium-ion batteries, which are lightweight and long-lasting.

The battery can be found at different locations on the bike. Integrated batteries are built into the bike’s frame, providing a more balanced ride and better handling. Most high-end models from big bike brands feature integrated batteries. 

You can also find e-bikes with batteries mounted on top of the down tube. This is common in entry-level e-bike models and makes the bike more affordable. 

Electric Motor 

The electric motor powers the bike, providing extra assistance to the rider while pedaling. Electric motors are divided into three classes: class 1 and 2 are limited to 20 miles per hour, while class 3 bikes can reach up to 28 miles per hour. Hub motors and mid-drive are the two main types of electric bike motors. 

Hub motors are found on the bike’s rear hub and provide direct power to the wheel. Mid-drive motors are mounted next to the pedals and provide power to the chain, providing more torque. You’ll typically find mid-drive motors on electric mountain bikes because they are more efficient for steep hill climbs. 


The sensor allows the motor to kick in when the rider starts pedaling. Most e-bikes use a torque sensor, which measures the force the rider applies to the pedals and adjusts the motor assistance accordingly.


The frame of an e-bike is designed to accommodate the extra weight and torque of the electric components. It is typically sturdier and more durable than a traditional bike frame.

Road bikes are designed for speed and performance and are similar in appearance to traditional road bikes. Full size road bikes often have lightweight frames and larger wheels, making them ideal for longer rides on paved roads. 


E-bikes are designed to travel faster than traditional bikes, so they need strong, reliable brakes to ensure safe stopping. Many e-bikes, especially those with higher powered motors, use disc brakes, which provide better stopping power and require less maintenance than traditional rim brakes.

How Does an E-Bike Work?

E-bikes use the battery and sensor to activate the motor when the rider starts pedaling. As the sensor detects increased force being applied to the pedals, it sends a signal to increase power to the motor.

The motor draws power from the battery and applies it to the wheel, providing extra torque to help the rider pedal. You can adjust the motor power using a control on the handlebars when riding an electric bike. This lets you adjust how much assistance you receive depending on your incline, terrain, and pedaling speed.

Do You Still Have to Pedal an Electric Bike?

While you still need to pedal an e-bike when riding, the motor provides extra assistance to make pedaling easier. This is known as pedal assist. Some e-bikes also have a throttle, allowing you to control the bike’s speed without pedaling; however, these models are not as common and are subject to various laws based on your location. 

For example, the federal government limits e-bike speeds to 20 mph for class 1 and 2 bikes and 28 mph for class 3 electric bicycles. 

How Do You Charge an E-Bike?

Charging an e-bike is a straightforward process. To charge your electric bicycle, take the following steps: 

1. Locate the charging port on the battery of the e-bike 
2. Plug the charger into the port and the other end of the charger into a power outlet
3. Look for the indicator light to show that the battery is fully charged
4. Unplug the charger from the power outlet and the charging port

The charging time will vary depending on the size and capacity of the battery, but it typically takes 3 to 6 hours to fully charge an e-bike battery. Generally, the higher-powered motor your bike has, the longer it will take to charge.

Overcharging the battery causes damage and shortens the battery’s lifespan. Always check the manufacturer's recommendations because specific charging times and frequency can vary from product to product. 

How Do You Ride an Electric Bike?

Riding an e-bike is similar to riding a traditional bike but with the added benefit of motor assistance. To start, turn on the bike by pressing the power button or turning the key to the on position. Adjust the level of motor assistance using the control panel. 

Start on a level surface and begin pedaling; the motor will kick in to provide extra power. Ensure that you start pedaling using level 1 pedal assist. Use the brakes to slow down or stop. You may need to start braking slightly earlier than with a traditional bike due to the e-bike’s heavier weight. You should also shift gears to adjust your speed and pedaling effort.

Purchase Your Own Electric Bike

Electric bikes are an excellent option for anyone looking for a more efficient, eco-friendly mode of transportation. With proper maintenance and care, an e-bike can provide years of reliable transportation, making it a worthwhile investment for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their overall health and well-being. 

For e-bike speeds to 20 mph for class 1 and 2 bikes, shop Upway’s selection of certified pre-owned e-bikes. We have a wide collection of refurbished electric bike, including city e-bikes, electric mountain bikes, and cargo and folding electric bike options. Our bikes are guaranteed for one year, making them a great, affordable option to get into a more sustainable mode of transportation.

Ready to choose?

Upway offers the widest range of certified pre-owned electric bikes, reconditioned by professional mechanics. Thanks to Upway, you'll get a great electric bike at a price that's 20-60% off retail, with a one-year warranty!