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What is a “pedelec”

Pedelec is an acronym that stands for “Pedal Electric”

Pedelec bicycles are equipped with an electric motor which is only activated when you are actually pedaling – in other words, the electric power only assists the human power instead of replacing it (as with an e-bike, which has a throttle). In Canada, to be considered a power assisted bicycle, legislation requires the assistance to stop when approaching 32 km/h and this is why a pedelec is not subject to moped or motorcycle rules (insurance, drivers license, license plate, safety inspection, etc.).

In Ontario legislation defines a bicycle with power assistance as

  • a bicycle equipped with an auxiliary electric motor
  • having a maximum continuous rated power of 500 watts
  • of which the output is cut off as the bicycle reaches a speed of 32 km/h
  • or sooner, if the cyclist stops pedalling.

Pedelecs are still basically bicycles, so the things you would consider when shopping for a standard bike apply when looking for a Pedelec. However a Pedelec has a motor and batteries and what specifically do you need to know about them?

For example, what kind of drive train do you want? If you ride long distances with hills, you’ll probably want a bike with more gears than someone who sticks to flat pavement and shorter routes. Likewise, how much braking power do you want? If you ride in wet, sloppy conditions you’ll appreciate all-weather, low-maintenance disc brakes. If you prefer not to bike in bad weather, you’ll be fine with standard rim brakes. Other considerations would include whether you want suspension to smooth out bumpy surfaces and enhance your comfort. And, there are other options, such as folding e-bikes that make storage and parking easier and even let you collapse the bike for tossing it in the trunk of a car should you need to catch a ride home.

Pedelec Motor Configuration

On a Pedelec the motor unit can be fitted in three different positions, so you can have a front hub motor, a rear hub motor or a central motor. Each configuration has its pros and cons, as indicated in below:

Front Hub Motor

+ Low cost, easy to install, optional regenerative braking
– Increased stress on the steering head and forks, poor front wheel grip in wet or slippery condition
We only recommend front hub motors for urban dry weather riding

Rear Hub Motor

+ Easy to install, optional regenerative braking option
– Gears work independently from the motor, sensors are external

Central Motor

+ Best bicycle handling and feeling, motor and gears work together, integrated sensors
– More expensive, needs a special frame design to support the motor

Pedelec Batteries

Pedelec batteries can be located in several locations. Because of their weight they should be located as low as possible in the frame and should not concentrate the weight of the battery and the motor on one wheel. Ideally the battery and motor should be located centrally and low in the frame.

The Amp Hour rating (Amp-Hr) of the battery is the major determining factor in the power assisted range of the bike. The larger the Amp-Hr rating, the longer the theoretical range.

Watts under the seat?

How much power do you need? Will a 250-watt engine be underpowered? Do you need 500 watts? Without getting too scientific, wattage isn’t torque, we can explain torque as the amount of twisting force that is applied to your driving wheel to accelerate the bike. Wattage measures the amount of energy expended when velocity is held constant. So in simple terms, torque is acceleration and wattage is top speed. This means that a bike with a lower wattage could provide more torque and thus feel faster and zippier than a bike with a slightly higher wattage. Because the 32 kph speed limit on power assisted bicycles, it will eventually handicap the higher wattage motor. And neither consideration fully takes the bike weight or rider effort into account.

The takeaway is that you shouldn’t value a high-wattage engine over all other factors.

We hope these tips help you gain a better understanding of Pedelecs. Please visit our store for more information about the Pedelecs we carry. We can point out differences, answer questions, arrange for a test ride and demonstrate the features and benefits that are making it latest personal mobility vehicle of the future.

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