Most eBikes have some type of pedal assist, or PAS (pedal assist system) intended to provide riders with variable assistance as needed. Pedal assist systems are designed to give you extra power without using the throttle, allowing you to ride longer with less fatigue.
eBikes come with one of two types of pedal assist, cadence sensing and torque sensing. Both pedal assist types deliver the same outcome: assisting the rider in propelling forward. So, what exactly is a cadence sensor and how does it work? Continue reading to find out more!
What is a Cadence Sensor?
A cadence sensor operates quite simply. It is designed to sense the number of revolutions per minute of the pedals and assist you with motor power based on the number of revolutions. As its most basic definition, cadence simply means rhythm. These sensors sense the rhythm of your pedaling action and assist you accordingly.
As your pedaling or cadence increases, the pedal assist system will reduce the motor’s output. As your pedaling decreases, the pedal assist system will increase the motor’s output to help propel you forward.
How Do Cadence Sensors Work?
Cadence sensors use a magnet or series of magnets on the crank. It turns the motor on when you pedal, and off when you stop. You can adjust the assistance mode by changing the level manually up or down. Cadence sensing pedal assist settings have speed caps for each level. Most manufacturers have predetermined speeds for each level of pedal assist.
For example, if you have the pedal assist set to level 3, the system will cap out at around 14 miles per hour. If you have it at the lowest setting, around 8 miles per hour. As you increase the assistance level, the speed cap goes up. (Source)
RIDE e MTB Pro Tip: With eBikes growing in popularity learning all the terms and definitions can be a bit overwhelming. Let me help with this comprehensive glossary. 👉 eBike Glossary
How Do Cadence Sensors Differ from Torque Sensors?
While a cadence sensor operates by counting the number of revolutions per minute of the pedal and powering the motor accordingly, the torque system is a little different. Torque sensors are a more advanced pedal assist system. Torque sensors measure the pressure being applied to the pedals and determine how much electric power the bike motor will exert.
The harder you pedal a torque sensor pedal assist system the more power the motor will put out.
RIDE e MTB Pro Tip: Sometimes folks get confused between speed sensors and cadence sensor. I’ve got a guide to help out 👉 What is a Speed Sensor on an eBike?
What Are the Benefits of a Cadence Sensor?
One of the main benefits of a cadence sensor pedal assist system is ease of use. These sensors require a light pressure on the pedals to activate the motor. This means you can put in minimal effort or maximum effort when pedaling and the motor will pick up the slack. If you become tired while riding, you can pedal slower and still receive aid from the motor.
Consistency is another perk of cadence sensors. Riders receive assistance from the motor when they pedal and stop receiving assistance when they stop. This means you always have a consistent level of power and assistance when needed. Cadence sensing technology can aid you in going up hills or cruising flat ground with a set and consistent amount of power.
Pedal assist is often more intuitive than using the throttle, so it is a better option for novice eBike riders. Some models will have both, and you can add both to your own bike. You will also get a better workout than you would by simply pressing a throttle. Cadence sensors combine battery power with rider power, so you still get a workout while making progress along your route.
Are There Any Drawbacks to the Cadence Sensor Pedal Assist System?
The main con for the cadence sensor system is it can feel a little jerky when the motor engages. It can also work against your efforts if you are pedaling faster than the motor is spinning. You must ensure you have the cadence sensor at the right assistance level for the speed you are pedaling. Luckily, this is as simple as pressing a button up or down.
Cadence sensors require less effort as a rule, so they can take away from the cardiovascular workout you typically receive while riding a recumbent bike. They are, however, extremely convenient when riding long distances or when needing a break due to leg fatigue.
Another disadvantage is range. The range is important in eBikes. Prolonged use of high levels of pedal assist can significantly decrease an eBike’s battery range. The motor turns on and shuts off regularly, so you may not be able to go as far on a single charge. (Source)
RIDE e MTB Tip: Are you thinking about building an eBike? It isn’t very hard – Heck I’ve got step by step instructions with videos along with all the tools. Check it out 👉 How to Build a Mid-Drive Electric Bike
What is the Best Cadence Sensor Pedal Assist?
One of the best models on the market is the Bafang Electric Bike 1000 W Mid Drive Motor Kit. This conversion kit can turn almost any recumbent bike into an eBike easily and quickly. This model is designed to be universally compatible with most models including mountain bikes, road bikes, and fat bikes.
The manufacturer provides a good video guide to help you install the kit properly. You have a choice of battery size with this model, so you can get the battery that best suits your needs. All accessories needed to install this conversion kit come standard.
Cadence sensors are sometimes referred to as basic sensors when discussing eBike technology. The torque sensors are more advanced, but that does not mean the cadence sensor is second-class! Cadence sensors are simple to install and simple to operate. They monitor the speed at which you are pedaling and give assistance at predetermined levels.
If you wish to go faster, simply press the plus sign on the cadence sensor mounted to the handlebars, and the speed cap increases. If you wish to go slower, simply press the minus button. Keep in mind this system can feel jerky to some people when it engages. But it will save your legs when you feel fatigued from going up hills or long-distance rides!