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03 February 2021

E-bike skills and techniques every rider should know

Get more from your e-bike by brushing up on some basic cycling skills and e-bike riding techniques, perfect for building confidence when cycling around town and on the open road.

Riding an e-bike requires most of the same skills as a conventional bike, plus a few extra ones, to help you get more from your e-bike and ensure you have the best riding experience. SHIMANO-STEPS e-bikes are designed to have a unique natural riding feel, the pedal-assist system means the power is only applied when you’re pedalling. It’s designed to make e-bikes feel and handle more like ‘normal’ bikes. E-bikes aren’t complicated, they are designed to be user friendly, but as with any new piece of tech you buy it is worth spending some time learning your way around the controls and how they work.

Getting started

All e-bikes in the EU provide support up to 25 km/h, a speed limit imposed by EU law, you can go faster but either gravity or your own pedal power is needed to reach higher speeds. Compared to a conventional bike it is much easier to accelerate and maintain faster speeds than you can on your own, for example going uphill, so being confident at braking and steering is important for your own safety as well as enjoyment.

When you collect your bike from your dealer, even if you are an experienced cyclist, ask them to spend some time with you going through the basic controls so you know how to brake, change gear and shift modes whilst cycling. If you are new to e-bikes or cycling in general it’s a great idea to find a safe space to practise running through the controls and getting a feel for how the bike behaves in different modes before you go out on the road.


Check you know your front brake from your back brake before you start riding. The front brake is the most powerful, if you stop the front wheel very suddenly on its own it can cause your back wheel to lift up and your weight to be thrown forwards, to stop with control gently apply both brakes together. Practise slowing down and stopping at low speeds so you learn how the brakes feel and respond before going faster. If it’s a long time since you have cycled, practise changing direction and taking one hand off the bars at a time to signal before you go out on the road.

E-cycling on the road

Riding an e-bike on the road requires the same skills as any other type of bicycle and all the same rules of the road apply. Riding an e-bike can make you feel safer in situations where cyclists can be vulnerable, for instance at traffic lights or negotiating a roundabout, the little bit of extra speed and acceleration can help you clear a junction more quickly. You will be faster on an e-bike than on a conventional bike but just because you can go faster doesn’t mean you always should, cycle at a speed that allows you time to clearly observe what is going on around you and react in good time if you need to. 

You should feel relaxed but alert when you are riding, make sure you always have your head up, looking at the road in front and frequently checking over your shoulder at what may be approaching from behind. One of the advantages of an e-bike is that you never have to put so much physical effort into cycling that it exhausts you, or prevents you looking at what is happening around you.

Cadence and Pedalling

Gears are on your bike to help you find the right pedalling speed (rpm) depending on whether the road is flat, downhill or a climb. Adjusting your gears to the terrain and your preferred pedalling speed also helps make the most of the pedal assist on your e-bike. Pedal assist is designed to make your ride feel natural and intuitive, light pressure on the pedals gives a light motor response, firm pressure gives more. Aim to find a comfortable cadence you can maintain throughout your ride of around 60rpm – that’s a complete pedal stroke per second- as this will help give the smoothest ride.

For most of your ride you are likely to be in Eco mode, taking advantage of pedal assist as needed but supplying a lot of the power yourself, this helps extend the range of your battery. Switch to Boost mode for short sections where you need more assistance such as on a hill. In the city you may have to stop and start riding frequently, shifting down into an easier gear as you approach a stop means you are in the right gear to get started again, if you have Shimano Di2 on your bike you can benefit from auto down-shift to enable an easy start, and if your e-bike has Start Mode it will quickly and easily get you back up to speed after traffic junctions.


Feeling confident on descents

On a conventional bike, descents are your friend, they allow you to take a break from hard pedalling and help generate the momentum to get you up the next climb. On an e-bike you don’t need to ride descents fast, to hold your momentum, or attack the bottom of a climb at speed as you have all the power you need at your finger-tips. This means you can descend more slowly if you prefer, as you are less worried about wasting momentum because you know you can easily get back up to speed.

Climbing made easy on an e-bike

Hills are traditionally the cyclist’s enemy, you have to fight gravity with every pedal stroke, they can be hard work and for some people enough to stop them cycling. An e-bike makes hills easier, you still need to pedal of course but the electric motor takes the strain. On hills Boost mode really comes into its own and you will immediately feel the difference. Although pedal assist is doing a lot of the work some technique can help hills feel even easier. Keep your head up focus on the top of the hill, this lifts your chest and shoulders so you can breathe more deeply. Maintaining a regular cadence helps pedal assist to supply the extra power you need smoothly. If you want to stop on a climb it can be tricky to re-start, make sure you are in a very easy gear and low pedal assist mode, point your bike 45degrees across the slope to make the gradient a little flatter and push off, gradually shifting into a higher gear and engaging Boost once you are balanced on the bike. After you’ve tackled your first climb on an e-bike you will feel so strong and positive you will never fear hills again!

A SHIMANO STEPS e-bike gives a great natural and intuitive ride feel, pedal assist makes you feel confident and powerful as you pedal. To experience the excitement and adventure of e-cycling use our dealer locator and book a test ride today.