When riding a regular bike, the sight of a steep hill may have you wincing over the thought of a hot and sweaty slog to the top. Which is one of the reasons why electric bikes are so popular. But how steep a hill can an electric bike climb?
There is no short answer to this question, as it depends on several elements. So, in this article, we’ll cover the various features that make a difference to an electric bike’s climbing prowess.
The Type Of Electric Bike You Ride
The type of electric bike will drastically affect how you can ride uphill. So you need to think about your local terrain and the surfaces you ride on.
For example, if you ride in a particularly hilly area, you may want to buy an electric mountain bike. These climb steep hills much more easily than other electric bikes, especially ones with higher power outputs.
However, if you spend all your time riding paved roads in the city, a quality electric commuter bike is the best choice. However, they don’t climb steep hills as well, unless you choose one with a powerful motor.
Most electric bikes have their motor mounted in the rear wheel hub or between the pedals (mid-mounted). This makes a difference in how well the bike climbs hills, so let’s get into the details.
When the motor is mounted in the wheel hub, it isn’t directly connected to your electric bike’s drivetrain.
Some characteristics of hub-mounted motors make them favorable to some riders. For example, hub-mounted motors require less maintenance, are easy to pedal, and provide a constant level of power.
The cadence sensor these bikes use means that the faster you pedal, the faster you ride. However, when it comes to climbing hills, they are no match for bikes with mid-mounted motors.
Mid-mounted motors are located at the bottom bracket of your cranks. This means that they are directly connected to your bike’s drivetrain.
The result of this placement is that you get more torque and efficiency, ideal for climbing steep hills. They also provide a lower centre of gravity and centralised weight distribution, enhancing the bike’s handling characteristics and surefootedness on technical descents.
You’ll notice that climbing a steep hill is much better with a mid-mounted motor. These bikes only have a single chainring, but you can shift through the gears on the cassette to shift up for speed or down for torque.
Mid-mounted motors use torque sensors, which tell the motor to assist your pedaling depending on how hard you pedal. This creates a more natural feel if you’re used to regular bikes.
Electric bike motors start at 250W and can go beyond 1000W. An electric bike with 250W should be sufficient for anyone who doesn’t mind putting a bit of effort into the pedals.
However, if you want to use your throttle to get to the top of a steep hill without pedalling, you will need an electric bike with at least 500W. This will give you enough torque to climb a steep hill effortlessly.
However, all this depends on your weight. If you’re a heavier rider or want to carry cargo on your electric bike, you’ll want more power. Of course, you can still ride an electric bike with a low power rating, but you’ll need to work a bit harder.
If you’re going to be riding very steep hills and still want pedal-assistance, an electric bike with a 500-watt motor will make your life easier.
But, let’s take this up a level. If you ride in mountainous areas, you’ll need to do a lot of steep climbing. Therefore, you’ll probably want an electric bike with 500W or more. Many electric enduro mountain bikes have 750W or even 1,000W motors. This extra power adds to the price of your electric mountain bike, so you need to think about what’s important to you.
There are various classes that electric bikes fit into that determine their speed and power characteristics. Therefore, you need to check what is legal in your area to stay on the right side of the law.
Your Electric Bike’s Gearing
Riding an electric bike isn’t just about changing to a higher assistance level when you get to a steep hill to climb. If you only use your assistance levels, you’ll run out of battery power pretty quickly, so you need to think about your electric bike’s gearing.
If you’re going to ride up lots of hills on your electric bike, you’ll need at least 7 gears. Just like a regular bike, you have to change down to lower gears to make climbing the hill easier for you and less demanding on your battery.
A single-speed electric bike is not suited to lots of hill climbing; it will make riding uphill a challenge. Therefore, check how many gears an electric bike has before buying one.
How Much Battery Power You Have
Riding uphill regularly means that you’ll deplete your battery much more quickly than riding on the flat. The motor requires more energy from the battery to cope with the extra effort it needs to put in.
With this in mind, if you’re debating between two 500W electric bikes, but they have different sized batteries, you’ll be better off with the bike with the larger battery.
Having the extra capacity will be beneficial for hilly or mountainous rides. You’ll be able to ride further before you need to charge your battery or swap it for a charged spare one in your backpack.
The capacity of an electric bike’s battery is measured in Watt-hours (Wh). This figure indicates how much power the battery can sustain for 1 hour. So the higher the Wh figure, the further you can ride between charges.
If you ride with the throttle wide open to ride as fast as you can on a steep incline, you’re demanding a lot from the battery, which will suck all the energy out of it. Therefore, you may not have enough battery power to get back home.
However, when you pedal hard, ride efficiently, and balance your urge for fast riding with the distance you have to cover, you can dramatically extend a battery’s life. You’ll soon learn that you can use a combination of pedal assistance with using the throttle to get a decent range from your electric bike battery.
Your Fitness Level
An electric bike assists your pedalling, so you still need to put effort into the pedals. You still feel the strain when you ride uphill, but your inputs are amplified by the motor.
Therefore, your fitness level will make a difference in how you can climb a steep hill, even on an electric bike. In fact, electric bikes are excellent ways to keep fit and exercise. They allow you to ride for longer, and you can still push just as hard as you can on a regular bike.
Your fitness level is probably the most significant factor in how well you can climb a hill on an electric bike. If you’re cycling in the rain or the ground is wet, it’s going to be harder too. So make sure you take environmental factors into consideration.
Tips For Climbing Steep Hills On An Electric Bike
Remember, climbing steep hills can be difficult. Both from a fitness perspective, and a safety one. If you’re on a mountain there’s a higher risk of suffering from a bike puncture and if you’re on a road there may be less traction. Here are some tips for climbing those steeper hills while using an electric bike.
You can alter your body position to suit the steepness of the hill you want to climb and the terrain. If you need to ride up a hill with a shallow gradient, your natural riding position should be fine.
However, for steeper hills, you should move your body position forwards. This will alter your center of gravity while preventing the front wheel from lifting from the motor’s torque. To do this, bend your elbows and lower your chest closer to your handlebars.
Maintain A Steady Cadence
Your cadence is the term used for how fast you pedal. And maintaining a steady cadence is key to climbing steep hills on an electric bike. As soon as you lose momentum, you’ll find it challenging to keep climbing.
To make this easier, select a higher assistance level to keep pedalling at the same pace all the way to the top of the hill.
Choose A Good Line
You may be tempted to look at the ground or your front wheel as you climb. But it’s much better to look a few meters ahead of you, so you can spot a good line to take.
This is more important if you’re riding an electric mountain bike. You can spot and avoid obstacles, rocks, and roots, allowing you to maintain a steady cadence.
How Steep A Hill Can An Electric Bike Climb? – Answered!
As you can see, many factors affect how well you can climb a steep hill on an electric bike. Therefore, there is no short answer, but after all this, we can highlight what makes an electric bike good at climbing hills.
The best bikes for climbing hills have powerful mid-mounted motors, at least 7 gears, and high capacity batteries. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ride uphill on bikes with lower-powered hub-mounted motors. It just means that you have to be realistic about what your bike is capable of. Ultimately, you’ll need to put more effort into the pedals on these bikes.
Check out our blog for more great articles regarding electric bike purchasing and usage, and our reviews page for up to date electric bike reviews.