One of the most asked questions about eBikes is whether they can climb steep hills or not. The short answer is yes, they can. No bike, with or without motorized assistance, will get you up a sheer cliff face, but if you have the required athletic ability to tackle gradients below 6%, an eBike will absolutely assist you in climbing. Some cyclists can tackle a 10% gradient if their physical fitness level allows.
Can an eBike Go Up Hills Without Pedaling?
Some eBikes have a strong enough motor to propel you up hills without pedaling. There are drawbacks to this, however. Uphill riding puts requires more power from the electric motor, and if you do not aid the motor by pedaling you will significantly decrease the range of your battery.
Even if your eBike has a throttle-only option, battery power will diminish if you allow the motor to do all the work. The good news is that pedaling in a lower gear while ascending hills will be easier on your legs. (Source)
RIDE eMTB Pro Tip: To date my 1000 watt Bafang BBSHD with 52-volts has climbed every hill put in front of it. I recently climbed a 3/4 mile +30% grade hill to a lookout point. The combination of power and gearing walked up the hill at a 8mph pace. Check out the Bafang mid-drive if converting a bike is within your skills. I bought mine from Amazon 👉 Bafang 1000W BBSHD Mid-Drive Kit with Battery
What Kind of Electric Bike is Best for Steep hills?
An electric mountain bike is the best option for climbing steep hills for several reasons. These bikes have more gears to better assist you. Climbing hills requires you to shift gears several times so your legs do not become overworked. A mountain bike has the best variety of gears to assist you.
A mid-drive motor is optimal for the management of steep hills. A mid-drive motor houses the motor close to the center of the eBike and transfers the motor power to the rear wheel using the bicycle’s chain drive. The gear ratio on a mid-drive motor is the single biggest advantage over a hub motor. A mid-drive motor can climb steeper hills than a hub motor with similar power. It can also climb longer than a hub motor without overheating. (Source)
Therefore, the best eBike for climbing steep hills is a mountain bike with a mid-range motor.
RIDE eMTB Pro Tip: Have you wondered about all the features electric bikes offer? After you read this article you’ll wonder why you own a regular pedal bike. Check out 👉 What Are the (great) Features of Electric Bikes
What is the Best Voltage for Steep Hills
Voltage is the measure of tension, or how much pressure the battery can contain. If you climb steep hills, you want at least a 48-volt battery. A 52-volt system would be a better option without entering a “specialty” voltage like a 72-volt. A 36-volt battery will simply have to work too hard to compensate for the hill. By the same token, a 72-volt battery is going to push you up the hill faster, but the cost of a 72 volt battery might be prohibitive.
You want to ensure your battery and your motor are working together to give you the best performance possible.
The Watt rating on an eBike usually describes how much energy the motor can use continuously. Continuous watt ratings differ from peak watt ratings, which describe how much energy the motor can consume in the short-term. For climbing hills, you want a watt rating of at least 500-watts or greater. (Source)
Is a Hub-Motor Electric Bike Good for Climbing Hills?
Hub motors are not the best option for climbing hills. On a steep hill, low motor RPMs will make the battery convert more heat than power. Mid-drive motors can be geared down, keeping the motor RPMs in a good range where it can give you the power you need without overheating the motor.
Mid-drive motors are designed to utilize the bike’s gears and they operate more efficiently at a higher RPM. These motors are typically tuned to operate with your natural pedaling cadence. If you are pedaling in the proper gear, the mid-drive motor will be in its preferred working zone. (Source)
RIDE eMTB Tip: If you’re a little bit handy and have a comfy bike you love, you should seriously consider an eBike conversion. I’ve got complete step by step instructions for building a hill climbing machine. 👉 How to Build a Mid-Drive Electric Bike
5 Tips for eBiking Up Steep Hills
1. Lower Gears
Lowering the gear on your eBike as you ascend a hill will make pedaling much easier. Higher gears require more force to move, so when you go up a steep hill, you will want to downshift to a lower gear. Remember to change the electric assist level prior to shifting your mechanical gears.
2. Help by Pedaling
Pedaling will increase the amount of assistance from your eBike motor. When you pedal along with the motor, you will get the most out of your pedal assist, especially when climbing steep hills.
3. Get a Running Start
Speed up prior to starting a steep hill on your eBike. Have you ever seen a fully loaded haul truck speed up before starting a steep climb? The reason for this is to start with the most momentum possible, so you can put less stress on your motor. An eBike motor works the same. Gain some speed before heading up a steep hill, then shift your gears and assistance levels so you can get up a hill with minimal effort and minimal stress on the motor.
4. Don’t Carry a Lot of Weight
The more weight you carry, the more force it will take to propel you up a steep hill. If you know your ride will entail several steep climbs, ensure you pack light. The more weight sitting atop your eBike the more assistance from the motor it will take to get you up a steep hill.
5. Know Your Bike
It is very important to know your eBike and its capabilities. Ensure you have the proper motor and know how to shift your gears and assistance levels seamlessly. Not all eBike motors are created to go up steep hills, so you should understand how your motor works and how best to achieve your desired goals.
If you feel you are struggling to gain enough momentum to climb a steep hill, stand on your pedals. This will give you some added force and should be your last-ditch effort before stepping off the eBike and walking it up the remainder of a hill. Remember: there is no shame in walking your bike up a steep hill!
eBikes That Are Great For Hills
All eBike are not created equal. Therefore, some outperform others when dealing with steep hills. Below are my top 2 picks for the best eBike to climb hills.
Custom Build eBike
This website has detailed instructions on how to convert a bike to electric. I’ve done it many times and when you combine a bike that fits perfectly with the power of something built for cargo bikes, you” end up with a bike that will climb hills like a “Billy Goat”
I highly recommend converting a perfectly good bike to electric and ending up with something even better. Check out the step by step instructions 👉 How to Build a Mid-Drive eBike
HalloMotor 5000-Watt FC eBike
The HalloMotor 5000-Watt FC eBike come with a powerful 5000-watt electric motor that can easily help you ascend steep hills. This eBike features an air ride suspension for smooth riding and a stable hydraulic disc braking system. The Samsung lithium-ion battery pack in this model can go approximately 30 miles per charge and takes 6-7 hours to fully recharge. Learn more about this model here: https://www.gadgetreview.com/hallomotor-5000w-fc-1-review
E-Cells Super Monarch Crown eBike
The E-Cells Super Monarch Crown eBike is a retro inspired build featuring two 750-watt geared hub motors. This gives you a full 1500-watts of power! It comes with RockShox rear shocks and a Shimano 10-speed transmission. Dual Samsung lithium batteries give 50 miles of usage per charge and take around 7 hours to fully recharge. One downside to this model is its weight, which comes in at nearly 100 pounds. It does compensate though with the high level of torque.
Learn more about the E-Cells Super Monarch Crown here: https://www.gadgetreview.com/e-cells-super-monarch-crown-review
Frequently Asked Questions
Will a 250-watt eBike climb a steep hill?
Nearly all 250-watt eBikes will struggle when climbing steep hills, especially without you pedaling. You will make it to the top of the hill, but it will be a slow ride and put more demand on your motor. If you have a 250-watt mid-drive motor that can produce decent torque, you will be able to climb hills with it.
How fast will an eBike go downhill?
The speed of your eBike going downhill will depend on the restrictions on the motor. Most motors can only go at a certain speed due to regulations or manufacturing restrictions. Most eBikes achieve speeds between 15 and 30 mph.
Can you charge an eBike going downhill?
A few models have a feature to recharge the battery when braking down a hill. Most of them, however, do not charge when going downhill. If this is a feature you want, look for the term “regenerative” in the bike features. A great example can be found at RAD Power Bikes – HERE