You may have heard all the rave about e-bikes recently, but perhaps you’re one of the many people thinking are they loud? Since the age of motorcycles, there has been a noise concern about anything with two wheels on the road.
No need to shell out for earplugs anytime soon—the noise produced by electric bikes is minimal, and in most cases won’t even be a bother. In fact, some electric bicycle manufacturers have made it their mission to produce whisper-quiet and super stealthy electric bikes.
The noise coming out of an electric bicycle comes from its motor. There are three different types of motors that are typically used, all responsible for varying levels of noise.
You might hear some sound when your bike is accelerating or when you first turn on the pedal assist. However, especially compared to the decibels produced by motorcycles, the sound of your electric bike will most likely get lost in the sound of the louder city streets.
It’s official, we are in the age of electric transportation—from bikes to scooters to cars, we’re transforming our transportation sector into one that’s running off of electricity.
The reasons that people use electric modes of transportation are varied, but generally they’re driven by convenience, environmental considerations, and the simple fact that sometimes, electric vehicles are just way cooler.
The electric bike market is one sector of electric transportation that is experiencing tremendous growth. By 2025 electric bike sales are expected to reach more than 23 million dollars annually. They provide not only a fun ride, but also an eco-friendly way to get around.
There are many pros that come with buying an electric bike, however, there is one con that seems to be on people’s minds recently—noise.
While there are some electric bike enthusiasts who tend to prefer the loud noises their bike makes, there are others that prefer a quieter ride. Why do riders like to hop on a bike with low to minimum noise?
One of the first reasons that some electric bike owners prefer to have a quiet bike is the risk of theft. Electric bikes can get really expensive, and it many riders prefer not to draw any additional attention to them.
Other reasons for preferring a quiet electric bike include the ability to carry a conversation while on a ride, and just general complaints when riding through a quiet neighbourhood or enjoying a peaceful morning ride.
However, if you’re interested in getting an electric bike yourself and noise is a big concern—don’t let it grind your gears (pun intended) too much. For the most part, electric bikes aren’t that loud. In fact, many bike manufacturers are actually doing more all the time to make new electric bike models even quieter than older models.
Where Does the Noise Even Come From?
Let’s start with the simple fact that all bicycles make some noise. Even traditional bicycles will produce some sound when the tires grind on the road. The main difference is that electric bikes will produce some sounds as a result of a functioning electric motor. Unlike traditional bikes, electric bikes have multiple components to make them run.
With an electric bike powered by a direct-drive motor, the motor will spin as a result of twisting the throttle or accelerating on the pedals.
The direct-drive motor is fast, but it is also quite heavy. In some cases, it is as heavy as the wheel itself. With additional weight on the bike, more power will be required, and as such, an electric bike can become slightly noisier. The front fork will vibrate, and the motor will be operating—both contributing to noise.
However, with direct drive motors the noise is negligible (the quietest option), and not too much louder than an ordinary bike.
Gear Hub Motor
There’s another type of electric motor used in electric bikes, a gear hub motor. This one is smaller in size and is also more efficient. It consists of motor coils that spin faster than the wheel. This generates torque, which translates into speed.
Gear hub motors are responsible for acceleration and as such do produce some sound. However, if you’re using your electric bike to ride around urban streets you most likely won’t be able to tell it apart from normal city noise.
You will most likely hear this noise most predominantly when you switch electric assistance on or accelerate.
Advancements in electric bike engineering have resulted in mid-drive motors. These are the most difficult to install yourself and integrate into an existing bike but have become a popular feature in new electric bike models.
These types of motors are located in the pedal section of a bike and are commonly chosen for their ability to provide the most natural riding experience. As the motor is placed low and, in the middle, the centre of gravity also remains central. This means a more natural feel for riders.
While you’d have to be a super keen listener to notice a difference, the noise level of mid-drive motors is slightly higher than gear-hub motors.
Exactly How Loud are Electric Bikes?
If you’re interested in some specific data that can show you how loud electric bikes are, we’ll take a look at some scientific measurements.
We’ll start out with a control—electric motorcycles. Traveling on the highway, motorcycles can easily exceed 80 decibels. Moving at speeds of at least 50 miles per hour, motorcycles produce higher noise levels than medium trucks, buses, and automobiles.
We all perceive loudness differently, but generally speaking, a difference of 10 decibels translates to noise that is perceived to be twice as loud.
Various governments around the world have established noise restrictions, particularly in residential zones. Electric bikes might get some bad rap from years of motorcycle and dirt bike complaints. Dirt bikes can easily reach sound levels as high as 76 decibels— far exceeding the 55 decibel limit allowed in many residential areas.
So, in terms of decibels, exactly how loud are electric bikes?
Many city streets experience a consistent sound level of around 65 to 75 decibels. Noise pollution in large urban areas can reach up to around 80 decibels. Fortunately, electric bikes don’t really contribute to these numbers.
While there have been no studies conducted to determine the number of decibels generated from the motors of electric bikes, we can rest assured knowing that it would be less than these numbers listed.
85 decibels is considered to be the breaking point between healthy noise levels, and those that can be harmful. One study indicated that even if an electric bike cyclist were to reach speeds of 60 miles per hour (which is unlikely), they wouldn’t be subjected to prolonged high decibel exposure.
If quiet is what you’re after, here are a few electric bikes that only make a whisper.
- The 2020 Benno eJoy is stylish, fashionable, and equipped with a silent motor.
- The Luna Fixed Stealth EBike is exactly that—stealthy. It’s got an internally geared hub that isn’t super powerful, but boy is it quiet.
- Not a bike per se, but the Brose electric bicycle drive and battery system is worth mentioning. With belt reduction design, it offers one of the quietest riding experiences possible.
Yes, electric bikes do make some noise, especially when compared to traditional pushbikes. However, it’s important to remember that especially when compared to internal combustion bicycles, the noise is negligible and, in many cases, riders aren’t bothered by it. If you are after the quietest riding experience, stay tuned—electric bike manufacturers are making them more silent every single day.