Something that I wanted to know when I was recently looking to get an e-bike was how noisy it would be. Electric bikes are expensive and I didn’t want to be drawing unnecessary attention to it. So, I did some research and testing to find out how noisy electric bikes can be.
So, are e-bikes noisy? Electric bikes are generally not much louder than ordinary bikes. E-bikes bought from bike shops are generally very quiet. If you’re using a conversion kit then a geared hub motor will generally have some noise to it but a direct drive motor will generally be very quiet.
When buying an electric bike directly from a bike shop it’s normally the case that the manufacturers of the bikes will have designed the bike to be as quiet as possible so they are normally very quiet. However, if you are planning on using a conversion kit then you should know that there are a number of factors that could cause the bike to become noisy and the type of conversion kit you use could make a big difference.
Noise Caused by Conversion Kits
When converting a regular bike into an electric bike using a conversion kit there are two main types of hub motors, which are what makes the wheels spin, that can be used.
Direct Drive Motors
The first type of motor that can be used is a direct drive motor. This type of motor is larger and is a part of the wheel itself and has a big ring of rare earth magnets connected to it. The motor works by making the outer shell spin when you twist the throttle and since the outer shell is a part of the wheel itself it causes the wheel to spin as well.
This type of motor is usually going to be the quietest option but it comes with a handful of small problems that you should be aware of.
Due to the way the motor works, in order for it to be able to produce enough torque when spinning slowly, it needs to be large. These motors can be almost as large as the wheel itself and can add a lot of weight to the bike. This can cause the handling to become awkward feeling and make the bike harder to move without throttle assistance especially when going uphill.
The other problem with direct drive motors is that they can not be freewheeled since there is no freewheel in the motor, so if you spin the wheel then the motor will spin as well. Since the motor has magnets inside of it, drag is created, due to the motor spinning past the magnets. This means that when the motor is not connected to power you’ll get drag when cycling. So, cycling without any power assistance will be more difficult and some people have compared it to being similar to cycling into a 5 mph headwind.
If you want to reduce noise as much as possible when installing a direct drive motor then you should install it to the rear wheel. This will be more difficult to do but if you were to attach it to the front wheel then the front forks could vibrate more and become noisier.
Gear Hub Motors
The other type of motor used in conversion kits is gear hub motors. They are smaller than direct drive motors and they make use of an epicyclic gearbox which is inside the motor’s casing, that uses an outer gear with inner teeth to connect to the wheel, it then has 3 planetary gears with an inner gear connected to the motor itself.
The benefit of using these types of motors is that they are more efficient. Generally, motors are able to create more torque when they are spinning faster, direct drive motors are only able to spin as fast as the wheel, but gear hub motors can have the motor coils on the inside spinning at a faster rate than the wheel. This causes the gear hub motors to be able to generate more power and to make the bike go faster.
The other benefit of gear hub motors is that they can be freewheeled meaning that you can cycle the bike like normal without having to worry about increased drag caused by the motor other than a little bit of extra weight.
The only problem with gear hub motors is that they are noisier. They don’t tend to be very noisy but the noise is noticeable.
How to Make the Bike Quieter
There are a number of things that you can do to make the bike become quiter that generally will involve reducing how much the different parts of the bike are able to vibrate.
The first thing that you can do is to tighten any loose bolts on the bike. If there are loose bolts on the bike then it will mean that the parts will have more room to vibrate which will cause them to become more noisey.
The second thing that you can do is to clean the bike. When the bike becomes dirty it can cause things such as leaves and twiggs to stick to the bike which can vibrate a lot when you are pedalling and cause the bike to become a lot more noisey.
Another factor that could cause your bike to become more noisey is putting the conversion kit on the front wheel. When you put the conversion kit on the front wheel the increased weight at the front of the bike can cause the front forks to vibrate more and cause the bike to become louder.
How to Tell How Loud The E-bike Will Be
It can be very hard to tell how loud the bike will be until you have actually tried it out for yourself. Despite that, there are some things that you can do to maximize your chances of knowing how loud the bike will be before you buy it or add a conversion kit to it.
If you are considering getting an electric bike from a bike shop that has been made by an e-bike manufacturer then the good news is that these bikes are generally very quiet. If you really want to know how loud the bike will be then you could go to the bike shop to have a test run of the bike to see for yourself. It would probably be worthwhile to do that anyway since by doing that you will be able to see if the e-bike is the right size for you, if you like how it looks and if you like the way that it rides.
If you are going to buy an electric bike offline then testing the bike out for yourself will be a bit more difficult but you could try asking the manufacturer of the bike directly and you can ask whether or not you will be able to return it if you don’t like the noise. You could also look at the reviews of the bike to see if other people have complained about the noise of the bike.
If you are going to use a conversion kit to turn the bike into an e-bike then, to minimize the noise, there are some things that you can do. The first thing would be to consider getting a direct drive motor since they are quieter (but they aren’t as efficient). The next option would be to try to install it to the rear wheel if you can. Lastly you can look at the reviews, conversion kits tend to be very popular so it is likely that someone that has bought the kit before will be able to comment on the noise.
How hard is it to pedal an e-bike? This depends on the type of e-bike in question. If you are using a direct drive e-bike then the motor will not be able to be freewheeled causing there to be more drag when pedaling without the throttle. It would be somewhat comparable to cycling into a 5 mph headwind. If it’s a gear hub motor then pedaling the e-bike will not be much different to pedaling a normal bike.
Are conversion kits difficult to install? There are a number of steps that you need to get right when installing conversion kits. The good news is that many people have used them before so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find good tutorials on the process online.