Bike components. Gears and shifter. The most common brand you will see is Shimano. Shimano has many different tiers, from “high-end” to “entry level” – their terms. Here is a list of the Shimano tiers, from top to bottom with the number of gears on the rear stack.

The top four are rated for Cross Country/Marathon, Trail and Enduro/All Mountain:

  • XTR – 11-speed, pro racing, cross country, available with electronic shifting, blue tooth

  • Deore XT – 11-speed, almost identical to XTR, but slightly heavier for trail durability

  • SLX – 11/10-speed, same features as XTR and XT, but heavier for more abusive riding and downhill.

  • Deore – 10-speed, performance ready, shares many features and technologies with above group sets.

  • Alivio – 9-speed, highest 9-speed components

  • Acera – 7/8/9-speed, mid-tier 9-speed, highest tier for 7/8-speed.

  • Altus – 7/8/9-speed, lower tier for 9-speed, mid-tier for 7/8-speed.

  • Tourney/TX/TZ – 6/7/8 speed, lowest tier of components, discount store bikes

(Saint and ZEE components are for gravity racing and DXR for BMX, not relevant, so I skipped them.)

ALWAYS CHECK THE GEARING: On the rear, the smallest gear is your top gear and the largest is your lowest gear. The number of teeth on the gear is how it is measured.

Here’s an example of how gearing works:

Our initial Eclipse model was a 7-speed. The smallest gear had 14T (teeth). At 20MPH, it was impossible to pedal along because the gearing was not meant for that speed. 16 MPH was fine, anything over made you a hamster in a wheel. We switched to 8-speed with an 11T 8th gear and pedaling is easy and comfortable at 20 MPH.

The Tailwind was also 7-speed. It had the same gearing on the rear, but it had a larger gear at the pedals (chain ring). Instead of the 38T of the Eclipse, it had 46T. The result was that the 14T rear gear was easier to pedal at 20 MPH. It was still a bit quick, so we geared it the same as the Eclipse.

Changing the front chain ring to a larger size does have a drawback - it increases the gearing ratio on ALL gears. If a 7-speed, they generally only have one low gear and a large jump to the next size. If you live in a hilly area, you may not have the gear range to be comfortable pedaling in uphill climbs. It may be too easy or too hard with nothing in between.

The most common setup is 38T front, 11T rear for all around riding. It’s standard on most 10 and 11-speed gear sets. Only 7/8 –speed require the extra scrutiny because 11T is standard on most 9, 10 and 11-speeds.

Recap: watch the ratios of gears to have best riding experience. If a 14T gear on the rear (7-8-speeds), a minimum of 46T on the front chain ring is required to achieve easy pedaling at 20 mph.  


It doesn't show on the chart, but Acera is highest Shimano component for 7/8 speed. Stay away from Tourney and anything that just says "Shimano." I have the parts catalog if you want me to prove my statement on Acera. I can post a pic... I only say that because they're inconsistently reviewed from bike to bike.

For Tektro brakes, we use Tektro Auriga manual disc brakes on the Eclipse and Tailwind. It was a case where the best manual disc brakes work better than the cheapest hydraulics - especially with the larger 180mm front discs. I can stop in almost the same distance as the hydraulic e-brakes on the Venture, and the Eclipse is heavier.

Tektro Hierarchy - lowest to highest
Manual disc brakes:
MD-M280 - Tektro
MD-M300 - Aries
MD-M500 - Aquila (Tailwind and Eclipse)

Hydraulic disc brakes:
HD-M285 Tektro
HD-M290 Auriga
HD-M330 HDC330
HD-M352 Draco2
HD-M500 Gemini
HD-M730 Orion
HD-M740 OrionSL

E-Brakes
Hydraulic:
HD-E 500/525/530 Auriga E (Venture)
HD-E 710/715 Dorado

Watts v. watt hours. The Eclipse has a 10.4Ah (amp hour) battery. It is a 48V system. It has a 15 amp controller. It has a 500W motor.

The Venture and Tailwind have 13Ah batteries. They are 48V systems with 15A controllers and 500W motors.

 

Bike C has a 15Ah battery. It has a 48V system. It has a 15 amp controller. It has a 750W motor.

How do you compare when motors and batteries are different?

A 500W motor will consume 500watts in 1 hour operating at it's peak efficiency. A 750 watt motor will consume 750 watts of battery in an hour. Of course this is in a lab, not into a headwind up a long hill.

To find out how long the motor can run in the lab off your battery, you multiply the amp hours of the battery by the voltage of the system. So our 10.4 battery * 48 = 499.2 watt hours. So in the lab, our Eclipse motor will run 0.8 watts short of an hour. (At retail this is often called a "500 watt battery.")

 

The Tailwind and Venture are 13*48=624 watt hours providing 1.25 hours of operation.

The 750W bike has a 15 Ah battery and a 48V system with a total of 720WH. So in the lab, the 750W motor will be 30 watts short of an hour.

All motors have a Peak Wattage. The total amount of power that can be dumped into the motor under stress. For that number, we multiply 48volts of the system by the 15 amp controller to get 720 peak watts where the motor is performing beyond it's normal level.

You can see that the 750W bike has the same setup, so even though it is a 750W motor, it only receives a maximum of 720 watts - same as ours. For this reason, you'll see most 750W motors with up to a 20 amp controller to provide more power - but at the cost of a quick depleting battery. Which is why their batteries are so much bigger. Batteries are the most expensive part of an e-bike. Larger batteries often also mean compromises elsewhere to keep the prices down.

Mid-motor bikes do not have throttles. It's pedal or coast. Mid-motors use your front gear to apply power, causing broken chains and gears over time. And no throttle to get home with a broken chain. If you live in a mountainous area, mid-drives are the only bike I'd recommend because you can gear lower and create more torque than possible with a rear hub.

Mid-motors also have bottom bracket torque sensors. Once you ride one, you'll understand the difference between that and a cadence sensor or frame sensor. That feeling haunted me and drove me to focus on the best ride experience possible.

Real quick: Cadence sensor - how fast your pedals spin controls how fast the motor goes. If you like to ride a bike without the pesky chain pulling on the gears, this might be for you. Very basic and really antiquated with the introduction of...

Frame sensor - bases the motor speed by cadence + how hard the chain pulls on the sensor when you pedal. Using the tension and cadence it can tell when you are pushing on the pedals harder. Rough terrains can make the chain bounce and cause false sensor readings. Often called torque sensors, they are strain sensors that measure the torque indirectly. Great solution for bike builders as they are 1/4 the cost of...

Bottom bracket torque sensor - measures speed, cadence and torque at the source - your pedals. Using three data points it can tell when you are pressing harder to go up a hill or pressing harder to accelerating on a flat surface. Very precise and the technology the strain sensor tries to emulate. Considered too expensive for retail because it can add $600 to the cost of a bike at the store.

We tried frame sensors. Ultimately we like crab over krab, especially when serving guests.