Electronic Gear Shifting: Gimmick or Must-Have for Your Next E-Bike
The last few years in the bike world have been defined by new advances in technology. The best electric bike you can get today has a state-of-the-art motor, complex controller and smooth power delivery, all thanks to new technology. But when you pedal electric bike models, they still use the traditional derailleur gears at the back, and apart from changes in materials, they haven’t changed much in years.
But now we are seeing the latest racing technology trickle down to the fast electric bike models, and inevitably to others too. That includes electronic gear shifting, which uses powered derailleurs in combination with wireless gear levers, to create a different way to shift gears.
What is electronic gear shifting?
Traditional gears are entirely mechanical. When we want to change gear on even the best electric bike, we move the gear lever on the handlebar, which moves a cable connected to the derailleur, adding or releasing tension so it moves in or out. This in turn moves the chain with it, going to a higher or lower gear. This is mostly reliable and has been used for decades in one form or another.
Electronic gear shifting eliminates the reliance on a cable and spring to push and pull the derailleur. Instead, there are small motors inside the derailleur itself which move it. These motors can be powered by a small rechargeable battery in the mechanism, but for the latest e bikes for sale, we are seeing systems integrated into the bike electrics, using power from the main battery.
City Street Electric Bike Tank G60
Is Electronic Gear Shifting the Game-Changer for Your Electric Bike?
If you have a commuter bike, you may be perfectly happy with the cable driven gear changing, but even on the best electric bike they can be tripped up. This is more noticeable if you are riding a mountain ebike and climbing steep trails. Here, the issue with changing gear under load is much more noticeable, where the tension on the chain and cable can cause real problems for gear changing.
But the electronic system eliminates this. First, they don’t need the cable at all, instead using wireless control from the handlebar lever, and then the motors move the derailleur regardless of load, and with much more precision too. The result is that you don’t just get better, more reliable gear shifting, but also the ability to shift gears where it would simply be impossible with a mechanical system.
We are already seeing e bikes for sale with these new systems, including both SRAM and Shimano options. While they really benefit the extremes, they do bring benefits to every rider though, with smoother, more precise gear changes, and no more faffing around trying to get the indexing set up correctly.
HappyRun Tank G60 Class 3 electric bike
But there are some downsides. On current systems that use their own battery, its another thing to remember to charge before you head out for a ride. The battery goes flat and you are stuck in one gear, wherever you might be. They are also more expensive, considerably so too. Now that happens with all new tech, and eventually costs come down and we see it on more reasonably priced bikes. But will that be the case here? The best electric bikes can be bought with these electronic gear shifting systems today because they really do set new standards for shit reliability and quality, but are they really the future?
Is electronic shifting necessary for a pedal-assist electric bike?
At the moment, no. Unless you have money to burn or are pushing the limits of your existing bike gears, they require a huge investment to have them. When you see e bikes for sale with these electronic gear systems, they are always the top of the range options with price tags to go with it. You can enjoy fast electric bikes with traditional gears, and you can still buy the best electric bike with them too.
HappyRun E-bike Family
But that doesn’t mean we can dismiss this new technology as a fad. In fact, if we look at the benefits of these electronic gears, not just in use but maintenance and the ownership experience, it is clear that rather than a fad, they represent what we will find on new e bikes for sale at most price points in the future. Rather than be a technology restricted to the best electric bikes at the expensive end, it is the mechanical systems that will exist only at the very lowest priced bikes on the market.
This is because they are a superior product. Gearing is much easier to maintain with these systems. There is no cable to change, no indexing to set up and adjust. Once aligned when fitting, they simply work. Messing with gears might be fun to some bikers, but for most it’s a chore to get through every so often. All that is gone with these electronic systems.
Instead, we have to remember to charge the battery on the derailleur, make sure the battery works on the gear leaver, and that really is it. Less hassle, better performance, low maintenance.
So, electronic gearing has so many advantages that it is definitely going to go beyond a fad and become the standard for the best electric bike gearing. But that doesn’t mean you should absolutely look for it the next time you feel like looking at the latest e bikes for sale. Right now, the price is beyond most people, and unless you absolutely need the very best, is probably not worth the expense today.
But as the prices come down, as they always do, and you can access the advantages of electronic gearing without spending hundreds of dollars extra, then they are the sensible choice. They visibly improve the biking experience, and whether you end up buying your best electric bike new with them fitted, or add them to your current pedal electric bike, you will see what a difference they make.