Many e-bikers are commenting on their dislike of “ghost pedaling.” This expression refers to the rider’s inability to pedal effectively when the bike reaches fast speeds. In other words, just moving the pedals at any rpm will keep your motor running, but it’s easier to use the throttle. For myself, I could not pedal fast enough to “keep up” even in 7th gear…if my speed exceeded 24 mph.
Even at 24 mph, the pedaling rpm was so high that it was very uncomfortable and tiring, leading to just coasting until the bike slowed to a more comfortable speed. This happens mostly on downhill slopes, and made my exercise less effective. E-bike cycling is my primary exercise, and it really bothered me that I was forced to rest on many of the downhill slopes where PAS is not even a factor.
Fortunately, there is a solution that is the rare combination of effective, simple, and inexpensive. The following is an easy guide to replacing the stock chainring with a 50-tooth chainring.
Step 1 — Preparation
- Purchase a new chainring.
There are several options for replacement chainrings, and several sources of supply. I chose to purchase through Amazon, and selected a VGEBY1 product — see it here. It has now seen 3 weeks of use, and I have no complaints.
Before purchasing a chainring, note whether your stock chainring attaches with 4 or 5 bolts and also the BCD (bolt center diameter, measured from one center to an adjacent center). Of course, the replacement must match.
- Gather the needed tools.
The required tools are minimal…just a couple if Allen wrenches from your bike toolkit, plus one specialty tool. This unique tool makes the task much easier, and I highly recommend you do NOT attempt this replacement without purchasing an extractor tool. I used this one made by Oumers.
Step 2 — Remove the crank and chainring.
- First, remove the chain from the chainring. The chain can just hang loosely…no need to take it off the derailleur.
- Use an Allen wrench to remove the center bolt and protective cap.
Note: In the photo above, I did not have enough strength to turn the Allen wrench. I needed more leverage, so I slipped a 16″ long metal pipe over the wrench handle. PVC might also do the job.
- Install the extractor, screwing it in clockwise.
Notice in the photo above that the teeth of the stock chainring, as well as the chain, are hidden by the protective chainguard. This will not be the case when a larger chainring is installed. At your discretion, you may want to also purchase a larger chainguard.
- Extract the crank.
With the extractor firmly installed, now begin tightening the bolt (clockwise) that will push the crank and chainring away from the bike. Don’t give up — this can take several turns of the wrench and a lot of effort — but you will soon be able to hold it all in your hand.
Step 3 — Install your new chainring.
- Using your Allen wrench, remove each of the 4 or 5 bolts as shown:
- Replace your old chainring with the new larger ring and secure the 4 or 5 bolts.
Again, note that the chainring teeth will now extend beyond the chainguard.
Step 4 — Install the crank and new chainring onto your e-bike.
- Align the square center hole and slide the assembly back into place.
- Replace the center bolt and protective cap, tighten firmly.
The Benefits of a Larger Chainring
I will share what I have experienced with the 50-tooth chainring. The results would be somewhat less if you choose a 48-tooth chainring, but still an improvement over the stock chainring. A 52-tooth chainring would provide more gain than my 50-tooth. In my opinion…the 50-tooth chainring is the best compromise of size and effectiveness.
As previously mentioned, the larger chainring extends beyond the chain guard. This makes the chainguard only decorative and no longer functional, so you may choose to replace it. The 50-tooth chainring is quite large, but it does fit. It almost touches the bike frame, but not quite, so it works perfectly. The photo below shows the very close tolerance.
Now let’s take a look at what you can expect in terms of actual results. In a very simplistic view, it is as though Gears 1-7 have become Gears 2-8. That’s not exactly right, but it gives you a general idea.
Details of Riding with a 50-tooth Chainring
To give you a little context, you need to know how I have set up my PAS. Here are the settings I have been using for about 6 months, after several weeks of “tweaking.”
As you would expect, each of my seven gears requires a bit more pedaling effort with the 50-tooth chainring installed. After the first week of riding, I added 2% to each of the settings in the photo above. This compensates for the greater effort needed in pedaling.
Here is the general range of speed that I ride in each gear. Because I ride primarily for exercise, I stay in PAS Level 1 for at least 90% of most rides. If I encounter an exceptionally steep uphill grade, I will move up to PAS 2 or 3, or rarely…4.
1st Gear — 6 to 9 mph
2nd Gear — 8 to 12 mph
3rd Gear — 10 to 14 mph
4th Gear — 12 to 16 mph
5th Gear — 14 to 20 mph
6th Gear — 15 to 24 mph
7th Gear — 18 to 28 mph
The speed in each gear may range plus or minus 2 mph beyond the speeds listed above — depending upon the terrain. The mph range is what I find to be comfortable for me. “Comfort” in pedaling effort is highly subjective, so your mileage may vary.
For me, the primary benefit of the chainring upgrade is that exercise is now far more consistent. On most downhill slopes, I can continue pedaling and avoid coasting. For example, in 7th gear, I can pedal up to about 34 mph on a steep downhill slope. I wouldn’t want to pedal at that speed very long, because the rpm is uncomfortably fast.
With the stock chainring, I was pedaling furiously at 24 mph, and could make it up to 28 mph briefly. Remember, the speed ranges I suggested above are what I find to be comfortable. I am willing to experience a few minutes of uncomfortably fast pedaling for the sake of better exercise.
Whatever you decide about upgrading your chainring, have a great time riding and be safe! To get one of MAGiCYCLE’s amazing e-bikes, choose your favorite from this line-up of high-quality low-cost rides.