What is Pedal Assist and How Does it Work?

By Sam Hartman

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Are you an ebike owner or curious about the workings of electric bikes? Either way, you’ve probably heard the term “pedal assist.”

In this article we’ll discuss the pedal-assist system and its benefits for ebike riders. Go Ride Bikes is your go-to for everything electric bike-related – with our help you’ll be an expert in pedal-assist bicycles by the time you finish reading.

What is Pedal Assist?

Pedal assist is the operating mode on an ebike that, once activated, starts the motor to boost your speed and reduce effort while pedaling.

The system enables you to cruise along at your preferred speed without taking too much strain. Once you switch it on, you’ll feel a slight bump in speed and power, letting you go further and faster without getting tired.

Modern ebikes have different levels of pedal assist. A higher level will make pedaling very easy, while a lower level allows you to get a moderate workout, extend your ebike’s battery life, and increase your range of distance.

We’ll soon get into the nitty-gritty of how these bikes work, but, in basic terms, the bike uses sensors that monitor your pedaling power. The motor kicks in accordingly to provide you with assistance based on your chosen level.

How Does Pedal Assist Work?

Electric motor

The electric motor is the heart of the ebike. It assists the rider when pedaling to reduce the load.

The motor can either be on the wheels or centered on the frame. On the rear wheel, the motor interacts with the gears to provide traction. When it is centered, it interacts with the pedals, offering stability and power.


The sensor is responsible for activating the motor to provide pedal assistance. There are two kinds of sensors: a cadence sensor and a torque sensor.

Cadence sensors

A cadence sensor works like a switch, turning on the pedal assistance motor when you begin pedaling, and turning it off when you stop.

Most ebikes have this kind of pedal-assist sensor, as it’s straightforward and relatively affordable.

Torque sensors

The H6 MAX has a flexible hydraulic front fork that takes the worst sting out of bumps, even when taking the bike off-road. You can adjust the stiffness, depending on how much you weigh and your riding style. We loved this customizable feature as it always ensured a comfortable ride.

It also comes with double rear shocks which are designed for urban and rural environments, ensuring a stable ride no matter where you go.


The battery is the power source for the motor.

Most ebikes make use of lithium-ion batteries, as they are sustainable and lightweight. The voltage of the battery will determine how far you can ride on a single charge, ranging from 25 to 65 miles – although some ebikes do go further.

Control Unit

The control unit is fitted on all modern ebikes. It monitors the battery, motor, and charging efficiency, as well as allowing you to set your level of pedaling assistance.

Benefits of Pedal Assist

1. Reduced physical effort

If you want to get a mild workout without working up too much of a sweat, then an ebike with pedal assist is perfect.

You can easily cycle to work or the shop without becoming hot and bothered. By adjusting the pedal assistance level, you can decide how much of a workout you get.

Find yourself pedaling into a headwind or uphill? With pedal assist, this isn’t a problem, as the bike will give you that oomph you need.

2. Extended range

Having bike pedal assist means you can go further without getting tired. The boost from the motor will take some of the strain off of your legs, meaning that instead of getting tired after, say, 20 miles, you’ll be able to go twice as far.

3. Great cardio workout

You may not be pedaling very hard, but even with pedal assistance, you’re still getting decent, low-impact cardio exercise, which benefits your health and wellness.

Ebikes work your core and legs, and give your heart and lungs some exercise, making it ideal for those who want to get the blood pumping. By selecting your pedal assistance level, you can adjust how tough your workout is.

4. Eco-friendly choice

This mode of transport has almost zero impact on the planet and is a great solution for environmentally conscious commuters.

5. Great for all terrains

Whether you’re commuting to work in an urban setting, or want to hit the mountain trails, an electric bike is the ideal option.

These bikes do well on paved roads, and certain ebikes with fat tires can give you a boost when you’re off-roading as well.

Pedal Assist vs. Throttle Activated Electric Bike

people facing each other on bikes

Both throttle-activated and pedal-assist ebikes are able to push the ebike using an electric motor, but there is a slight difference.

Throttle-activated bikes are for when you want a relaxing ride. By using throttle mode, you can cruise without the use of the pedals at all.

An electric bike with pedal assistance still requires pedaling to keep you going.

Some electric bikes have both throttles and pedal assist.

Pros of a throttle-activated electric bike

  • Immediate acceleration
  • Precise speed control
  • Very versatile, especially for beginners
  • Requires less effort

Cons of a throttle-activated electric bike

  • Not much of a workout
  • Shorter range due to battery use
  • Feels less natural

Pros of a throttle-activated electric bike

  • Provides cardio exercise
  • Efficient battery use resulting in longer range
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Smooth riding experience

Cons of a throttle-activated electric bike

  • More expensive
  • Reduced speed control
  • More complex, requires more maintenance

If you want a smooth ride, a bit of a workout, and it’s within your budget, a pedal assist bike would be your top choice. But, if you have a limited budget and want an easy ride, you can’t go wrong with a throttle-activated ebike.


Does pedal assist make you faster?

Yes, you’ll be able to go faster with pedal assistance thanks to the battery and motor. The main factor that influences the speed increase will be the level of assistance you opt for.

Are pedal assist bikes worth it?

Premium bikes can be expensive, but there are affordable options that are worth the price tag. If you want to get daily exercise while commuting or simply want to reduce your carbon footprint, a pedal assist ebike is a great option.

Can I turn off pedal assist and ride the e-bike like a regular bike?

Yes. The pedals always work, whether you have a battery to power them or not, meaning you can ride them just like regular bikes.

Are pedal assist e-bikes street legal?

Yes, ebikes with pedal assist are legal, but have speed limitations of 20 mph or 28 mph, depending on the class.

Can I retrofit my regular bike with pedal assist?

There are conversion kits available that can help you convert your bike into an electric bicycle. With these kits, any bike can be transformed into a pedal-power machine.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of electric bike models on the market, and knowing the lingo can help you find the right bike. Now that you understand bike pedal assist and how it compares to throttle-activated bikes, you can go out and get a bike that works for you.

Sam Hartman

Hey! I live in San Diego and am an electric bike fanatic and writer. About 8 years ago, I dove headfirst into the electrifying world of e-bikes and haven’t looked back since.  It’s not just a pastime, it’s a lifestyle that keeps me going on new adventures and on the hunt for cool bikes.

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