While many people enjoy riding electric bicycles for their environmental benefits, there is often concern about how much noise they make. Some people won’t even consider purchasing an e-bike due to this issue.
So, how much noise do electric bikes really make? The truth is electric bikes aren’t much louder than regular bicycles and in this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the reasons why e-bikes might be loud and how to make yours quieter.
Are electric bicycles noisy
In general, electric bikes are not very noisy but they’re also not silent. They are louder than regular bicycles but not so noisy they draw every road user’s attention to you (at least the mid- to high-end models).
Where Does eBike Noise Come from?
Literally every component on a bicycle (electric or analog) is capable of generating some level of noise.
However, there are some components that give off noise as a result of their natural operation.
Below are some of the components on an electric bike that make noise.
One component that differentiates an electric bike from a regular bicycle is its motor. These electronic devices convert electrical energy (usually from a battery) into mechanical energy and would often make whirring sounds while doing so.
It is worth noting, however, that some motors produce higher noise levels than others. For example, direct drive motors are known to be quieter than geared hub-motors. This is because they transfer the rotational energy from the rotor straight to the wheel via the spokes.
This process is a bit more complex on gear hub motors because they’re equipped with gears that “reduce” the rotor’s speed. Nevertheless, geared or direct-drive, no motor is designed to be completely silent.
They generate noise but are not as loud as gas-powered engines. Gradient, rider weight, and cadence also affect an e-bike motor’s sound
The different e-bike drive systems and the level of noise each makes
Hub motors are known to make more noise than mid-drive motors. This is because they are not as efficient at generating mechanical energy as mid motors.
Mid-drive motors use a bicycle’s transmission to transfer power to the bike’s wheel. The motor generates the mechanical energy which is then transferred to the rear axle where it is amplified (depending on what gear the bike is set to).
This model of operation ensures that riders can adapt the motor’s power to meet their needs at any given time by easily switching between gears. Hub-drive systems, on the other hand, have their motors fitted into one of the bike’s wheels.
So I don’t bore you with all this complex stuff, here’s where efficiency comes in and how it affects the level of noise a motor produces; If you were to get stuck while riding a mid-drive e-bike (probably while climbing up a pretty steep hill), switching to a low gear should generate enough torque for you to power up the hill without necessarily placing extra stress on the motor.
On the flip side, the more resistance a hub-motor faces (or the more current it draws from a power source) the noisier it becomes. There is no amplifying the motor’s power.
The wheel (with the motor in it) can either make it past the resistance or not.
This noise is produced as a result of the tires making contact with the ground. All vehicles with tires make this sound so it’s not an indicator of some kind of underlying issue.
That being said, you may want to pay more attention to your wheels when they start making creaking or squeaky noises.
E-bike brakes also make squeaky sounds when they are contaminated. If dirt gets lodged in-between your bike’s brake pad and the rotor that connects to the wheel, chances are you’re going to hear a squeaky sound every time you apply the brakes.
This is as a result of the pads pushing the dirt against the rotors as you apply the brakes. You can easily eliminate this noise by cleaning your brake pads.
A bent rotor can also cause your e-bike’s brakes to squeal. Riders can resolve this issue by straightening out the affected area(s) of the rotor with an adjustable spanner.
Another thing that can make your e-bike’s brakes produce embarrassing sounds is if its calipers are misaligned or if the pads are worn out. In the first case, you can just easily reposition the calipers; making sure they sit squarely over the rotor.
Worn-out brake pads will need to be swapped out for newer ones.
If your e-bike’s chain gets loose, it will slap against the chainstay. This will cause the bike to give off a clunking sound as you ride along.
To increase tension on the bike’s chain, you can tighten the screw at the back of the derailleur or pull your e-bike’s wheel all the way back. Your e-bike’s chain might also make weird sounds if it’s starting to get rusty or if you don’t lube it regularly.
How can I make my electric bike quieter
As a rule of thumb, you want to identify where the noise on your electric bike is coming from first (unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about the natural whirring of an electric motor, you just have to live with it).
After you’ve been able to pinpoint which component is constituting a nuisance on your electric bike, your next course of action will be to fix whatever is causing the noise.
We outlined some of the most popular bike problems and how to troubleshoot them earlier in this article. Just for a refresher, I’ll link to a video that covers this topic more in-depth.
When to worry about e-bike noise?
Generally, if you hear clanking or squeaking sounds, you want to address whatever issue is causing those sounds before continuing your ride. So, for instance, if you hear your brakes squealing, the best thing you can do is try to diagnose what is wrong with the brakes before getting back on the bike.
If your calipers are misaligned and you choose not to fix them, you put yourself at risk of crashing into someone or something. Also, for those who use hub-drive e-bikes, if you hear a strange sound coming from the wheel where the motor is situated, the first thing you want to do is stop the bike and then proceed to inspect where the noise is coming from.
Hub-motors tend to work the spokes of wheels where they’re fitted into loose. If your wheel gets damaged while you’re riding it might lead to you falling off your bike and hurting yourself. So, pay attention to your surroundings when riding.