Front Hub Motor
Gears on an ebike can be confusing, and depending on where the actual motor is, can affect the way the ebike operates in conjunction with the rider. An example would be a front hub motor on an ebike with derailleur gearing on the back wheel. The motor is pulling the cycle forward, while the rider, using the pedals attached through the chain, is pushing the cycle forward with the back wheel. Until the rider gets used to the way the cycle and motor, and the gearing work, or inadvertently don’t efficiently work, together, it can give for an initially scratchy and unnatural ride. Of course, once the rider familiarizes themself with the mechanics and the way the cycle operates in this configuration, they adapt to the ebike and begin to get the most out of the arrangement. There is nothing inherently wrong with this configuration, and it is not rare, and once the cyclist gets used to the motor, gearing, and the ebike as a whole, it can be just as enjoyable an exercise as on any other ebike configuration.
Rear Hub Motor
On a rear hub motor with derailleur gears, the situation can be a little smoother to begin with. Both motor and rider are pushing forward from the rear wheel. There is less of a stutter between the motion of the ebike and the motor in operation. Motor, legs, and gears are more aligned. Gearing changes seem more natural and efficient, and the overall ebike ride, to me at least, is more fluid and enjoyable.
How Many Gears Does an Ebike Need?
Gears are confusing to some people, like myself, whether they are using a traditional bicycle or an ebike. And the more gears there are, it appears the more confusion abounds. It seems a daunting task to have to negotiate 21 gears in an ebike, and it can be if the rider feels the need to use all 21 of those gears. In reality, if I have a choice of 21 gears, I tend to favour a few and use them almost exclusively, as they tend to work best with my overall fitness and the effort, I want to exert, to move the bicycle. Using a few gears, that suit me, and utilising the power mode efficiently, seems to be the best way for myself, and I am sure I am not alone. To negotiate each gear, step by step, you would never have your hands off the shifters and would have no time at all to enjoy the ride. It does make me wonder why manufacturers offer so many gears in the first place. To me, any more than seven seems too many!
See also: The World of Ebikes
An alternative to derailleur gearing, and growing in popularity, are hub gears, where the gearing is essentially contained within the rear wheel hub. The gear cogs are invisible within the hub shell unlike with derailleur gears which are a highly visible external method of gearing. On the plus side hub gears are low maintenance, extend chain life, and are protected from the elements. Unlike external derailleurs, they are also less prone to damage from knocks and falls. Hub gears can have a range of gearing, the Shimano Alfine, for example, is an 11-speed gear hub. Hub gears tend to be expensive and utilized on premium ebikes at the moment, but with continuous R & D, quality materials, and the better efficiency and versatility of hub gear systems, hopefully prices will decrease as demand grows.
Learn and Enjoy Your Ebike, Whatever the Gearing Configuration
Whatever gearing configuration your ebike has, the main purpose of the ebike is enjoyment. So, get to know your ebike, and learn the best way to utilize the gearing and motor it has to the best effect for yourself. There are so many new and developing innovative configurations of gearing for ebikes that you would have to purchase a new ebike each month to keep up with technology and development. This is not a possibility for most, including myself. An ebike is an expensive purchase, so grow to love the one you have till eventually it will be time to upgrade. If you are in the market for your first ebike, then read up and learn and test whatever ebike you aspire to own. Above all, you want to enjoy the ebike you will buy, so make that your first priority.