Best Electric Bike for Hilly Commute – Must-Know Tips

By Chris Wilson

July 27, 2020


Electric bikes are increasingly becoming a popular commute option. Their greatest appeal is they come with a motor to serve as bike hill assist
helping you get around and even tackle the intimidating hills.

See, hills are inevitable when it comes to cycling.

Unfortunately, not all e-bikes are suited for hill climbing and picking the wrong e-bike means you might struggle a lot getting up the hard hills. 

But for e-bikes that can tackle hills, the big question is, how steep a hill can an electric bike climb

And

What are some of their unique features and what is the best electric bike for hilly commute?

Here we look at everything you need to know.

Can Electric Bikes Go Up Steep Hills?

Yes, e-bikes can go uphill, and they make it easier than using a traditional bike.To put this into perspective, an e-bike effectively reduces the hill's gradient, as well as reduces the energy you would need to go up that hill.

The extra power provided by the motor will take the pain out of the climbs, and so it’s easy to cruise up every climb.

 The beauty of an e-bike is it gives you the option of deciding how much effort you need to put in when tackling a hill.

For instance, in full power “turbo” mode, you can easily fly past most of the climbs.

On the other hand, if you switch to a less powerful model, you might need to put some effort to attain the same speed.

And finally, using the low power mode will allow you to preserve the battery and ride further, but you’ll have to put more effort pedaling.

How Steep a Hill Can an Electric Bike Climb?

For starters, since an e-bike can be pedaled just like a regular bike, it means it can also climb any hill a traditional bike climbs.

But with the addition of a motor, it means, an e-bike can tackle an even steeper hill.

But how steep?

This depends on a plethora of factors including battery and motor power, weight, and your effort.

That said, the steepest roads have a gradient of between 30-37%. Fortunately, they’re not many such roads and in the US, there’re only three of them (Canton Avenue, Pittsburgh, Waipio Rd., Honokaa, Hawaii & Eldred Street, Los Angeles).

So, is there an e-bike capable of handling such roads?

Well, yes, there're such e-bikes, and we shall look at their features later in the "best electric bike for hilly commute" section.

But before then, let’s first see how we can make riding hills more manageable;

1)      Know when to sit or stand

For the less steep hills, standing is a more effective position since it allows you to generate more power.

However, for the steeper gradient, cycling while standing is somewhat impossible and uncomfortable. You might also feel the need for sitting to keep the front wheel on the ground.

However, the best position is one in which you feel you can maximize your effort. Generally speaking, most cyclists perform best when they can find a rhythm and stick to it. Changing positions frequently is discouraged as it might disrupt your riding momentum.

2)      Gearing

Never start climbing a hill with a large gear.

Instead, start with a gear that optimizes your cadence and shift when it starts to get steeper.

3)     Pacing

Finally, it would be best if you apportioned your energy. For instance, you don't want

to sprint at the bottom of the hill and consume all the energy you need to complete the hill.

Pace yourself, and preserve your energy for use where it matters most.

electric bike good for hills - Must-Know Tips

There’s no “best” e-bike for hill climbing.

However, there’re common features among the best e-bikes for hilly climbing.

In the section below, we shall look at the features that matter when choosing an e-bike for hill climbing.

The motor provides the power needed for pushing an e-bike. 

Generally, there’re two types of motors for e-bikes:

1)     Hub Motor

Hub motors are the most popular motors and are usually positioned at the center of the wheel.

Now, while they're an affordable option, they're not designed for climbing steep hills but rather suitable for the flatlands and relatively light areas.

The hub motors don't use the existing gearing, but instead, propel your e-bike directly, and so they're independent of your input.

2)      Mid Drive Motors

The Mid dive motors are the opposite of the hub motors as they’re beefier, so suited for hilly commutes.

The greatest strength of these motors is they depend on your existing drivetrain for propulsion.

The mid-drive motors are normally positioned low down on the center of the bike and the best option for regular hill use.

Unlike the hub motors, they’ve higher torque rating and better center of gravity, which makes them ideal for riding with natural, indirect power delivery.

3)     Weight

Weight is yet another critical component determining how good your e-bike is for tackling the hills.

Ideally, an e-bike for hill climbing should be lightweight.

Heavy e-bikes are harder to pedal, and their performance on hills is usually compromised, regardless of the gear ratio.

4)     Brakes

When cycling uphill, you also have to consider the inevitable downhill section,

A good e-bike for uphill should equally come with perfect brakes.

best electric bike for hills

MODEL R (Rugged Enduro)

MODEL R (Rugged Enduro) is the latest e-bike from Electric Bike Company.

Electric Bike Company normally puts a lot of effort into designing quality e-bikes, and the MODEL R (Rugged Enduro) is no different.

It’s a hybrid option, a cross between MTB and cruiser motorcycle.

It's easy to see the cruiser roots shining through the layback styles and pedal-forward geometry from the first glance. At the same time, the e-bike has a mountain bike suspension fork and hydraulic disc springs. 

The blend gives the best of both worlds: the comfort of a cruiser and the performance of a mountain e-bike.

It’s a comfortable option, too with the plush seat, step-thru frame and wide handlebars promoting ease of use.

Performance of the e-bike is equally impressive. MODEL R has a max speed of 28 miles per hours and a peak output of 1,250 W. While certainly not the highest performance metrics, they’re sufficient to allow MODEL R to level the hills with ease.

This e-bike will provide you with a smooth and powerful riding experience in between the flat grounds and the winding cliffs.

The custom-made three tires feel nice and will allow you to lean hard into turns without risk of slipping.

And finally, 4-piston Tektro hydraulic brakes, typically found in the high-end e-bikes, will bring you to a sudden halt within a moment’s notice.

Chris Wilson

About the author

Chris Wilson, long time fan of personal electric transportation. Chris is not easily impressed when it comes to the latest technologies, however, when he is, nothing can stop him from wanting to share his knowledge with our readers here at ElectricRideLab.com

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