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Torque vs cadence was once a contentious debate in the eBike community – but it’s hardly a debate anymore. Cadence sensor eBikes are good, yes. But when it comes to performance, handling, and efficiency, they don’t even come close to an eBike with torque sensor. 

I admit that torque sensors aren’t without fault, but they’re still way cooler than cadence sensors can ever be. If you disagree, just read on. Maybe you’ll change your mind. Here’s what I’ll be covering in this blog.

Torque vs Cadence Sensor 

Both torque and cadence sensors regulate the motor power you get while riding your eBike in the pedal assist mode. 

They do this by measuring your pedaling input and translating it into a signal sent to your controller, which then increases or decreases the current flowing from your battery into the motor accordingly. 

In simple terms, these sensors tell the motor when to engage, when to disengage, and how much to engage. But the way they do that and how frequently they sample your pedaling input makes all the difference.

Here’s a brief overview of the difference between torque and cadence sensors.

Cadence vs Torque Sensor Comparison Summary

Cadence Sensor

Torque Sensor

Measure

Pedal rotation Pedal pressure
Main Component Magnets 

Strain Gauge

Sampling Rate

Usually 3-14 per crank revolution Around 1000 times per second
Response Delayed

Quick, real-time

Ride Quality

Usually jerky  Smooth 
Ride Feel Unnatural, unintuitive 

Natural, intuitive 

Steering

Unpredictable Predictable 
Handling  Poor, low maneuverability 

Good, high maneuverability

Power Variation

Quantized, pre-set amounts of power based on pedal assist level Continuous with analog values, based on how hard you pedal
Pedal Effort  Requires less effort

Requires more effort

Efficiency

Low, as it delivers more or less power than needed High, as it delivers as much power as you exactly need 
Mileage Less, as the motor does most of the work, with less help from you

More, as the motor doesn’t work too hard, and you contribute more effort

Throttle 

Almost always Less usual
Motor Usually hub drive 

Usually mid drive 

Cost

Less expensive More expensive
Bike Options More

Less

Suitable For

Flat roads with low traffic, seniors, people with joint/ knee issues, people buying at budget

Off-road, high-speed or performance eBikes, stop-and-go city traffic, people looking for more range or for exercise

With these basic points in mind, let’s now see in detail how cadence and torque sensors are different, how they affect the motor power and riding experience, and why the torque sensor eBikes leave the cadence eBikes to dust.

Working Mechanism

To put it simply, cadence sensors measure how fast you are pedaling, while torque sensors measure how hard you are peddling. 

The most basic cadence sensors, however, work like an on/ off switch and only detect whether or not you are pedaling (they are pretty useless, btw).

A cadence sensor typically consists of a sensor attached to the bike’s frame and a series of magnets arranged in a circle on a disc mount on the crank. Whenever a magnet comes across the sensor, it generates an electromagnetic signal, turning the motor on. 

This is how a cadence sensor detects pedaling.

As the number of magnets increases, the pedal assist system generates frequent signals, which makes the ride smoother. 

For instance, if a cadence sensor consists of 3 magnets, a signal would be generated when the crank covers a circumference through 120 degrees (360/3) or 3 times in one pedaling cycle. If the sensor has more magnets (say 12), a signal would be generated every 30 degrees (360/12) or 12 times in one pedaling cycle.

The high-end cadence sensors measure the rate at which a magnet passes by the sensor to detect and adjust the power assist based on how fast you’re pedaling. 

Torque sensors work in a totally different manner.

Instead of measuring motion or pedal speed, a torque sensor uses a strain gauge to detect the pressure on the cranks. It adjusts the motor assistance based on how hard you pedal. It means you can move forward with your eBike only by pressing the pedals hard – they don’t even need to rotate fully.

Pedal Responsiveness

An eBike with torque sensor is extremely responsive to your pedal inputs. It operates the moment you put pressure on the pedals. The power delivery is so instant that you hardly feel any delay. 

This quick response is due to the high sampling rate of the torque sensor, as it practically measures your pedaling inputs up to 1000 times in a second, adjusting the motor power/ pedal assistance in real-time. 

As soon as you press the pedal, you get assistance at the very instant. And as soon as you soften your foot, the motor reduces the power at the very instant. 

Cadence sensors are not so responsive as they can sample your pedaling input only 3 to 14 times per crank cycle, based on the number of magnets in the sensor (though there can be exceptions). 

Due to this low sampling rate, they can’t adjust the pedal assist as quickly as the torque sensors. When you start pedaling, you don’t get an instant assist, but experience a slight delay before the motor finally engages.

Likewise, when you stop pedaling, the motor doesn’t stop instantly but keeps running for a couple of seconds – which kind of sucks at times.

Handling & Ride Quality

Torque sensor eBikes handle pretty well, thanks to their responsive pedal assist. The power delivery is smooth and 100% predictable, making it easier for you to turn harder and faster. Your steering is absolutely precise and you get no surprises during your ride.

Since you’re getting assistance in real-time, you feel as if you have a direct connection with the motor. 

The overall ride quality is natural and intuitive and there are no jerks and delays in power delivery. Riding an eBike with torque sensor feels like you’re riding a regular bicycle with superhuman legs.

Cadence sensor eBikes, on the other hand, have a jerky ride.

Whenever the motor starts, you get an abrupt surge in power and you feel a jerk forward. The jerks become more noticeable if you have a large motor. For small 250W motors, the ride quality is not that terrible. 

Overall, the ride quality is unnatural and unintuitive. And due to the delayed response, the steering is unpredictable and can get pretty nasty at times. 

For instance, you can easily lose control if your motor kicks in while maneuvering around a pothole or taking a tight corner. Likewise, your bike can be difficult or at least inconveniently annoying to control in the stop-and-go urban traffic. 

It also means that electric bikes with cadence sensors are generally less safe than the eBikes with torque sensors. 

Power Delivery

The thing I absolutely hate about cadence sensors is that they can’t vary their power delivery to match the needs of the rider. 

Sure, almost all cadence systems come with 3-5 pedal assist levels that provide different amounts of power – but again those are predefined levels of power that may or may not be in accordance with what you need.

On the contrary, the torque sensor understands that you don’t require the same amount of power in all cases. To gauge how much power to provide, it sets aside the rotation and instead analyzes your effort by simply detecting the pressure on the cranks. 

You don’t have to turn up the pedal assist level for more power because the sensor intuitively signals the motor to adjust power with pressure on the pedals. The harder you press; the more power you get. 

Though torque sensors also feature different pedal assist levels – that’s completely different here. The transition to greater power here doesn’t come with the quantized preset levels that you find in cadence sensors.

For instance, selecting the lowest ‘eco’ mode on a torque sensor pedal assist system may amplify your pedaling force by say 50%, and selecting the highest ‘sport/ performance’ mode may amplify it by say 300%. 

Need even higher assistance? Just pedal harder! 

This is why eBikes with torque sensors are better at hill climbing. With cadence sensors, you can pedal your a** off and they won’t care – unless you turn those cranks real fast which, you can guess, isn’t easy on hills and ascents. 

Efficiency & Range

When it comes to torque vs cadence efficiency, torque sensor takes the lead. It’s because they provide only as much power as needed, allowing you to cover a greater distance per battery charge. 

Cadence sensors, on the other hand, give you the exact quantized amount of power that was preset with each pedal assist level. And that pre-set level of power may or may not be what you need.

Most of the time, you get 100% of the motor output – even though you might not need it all. Also, whenever you stop pedaling, the motor keeps operating for a couple of seconds due to the delayed response – once again giving you the power that you don’t need at all. 

It’s due to these reasons that eBikes with torque sensors have better mileage than the ones with cadence sensors when everything else is constant.

Another reason is that with torque sensors, you have no choice but to apply power to the pedals at all times, due to which your motor doesn’t work too hard and you get more juice out of it.

With cadence sensors, however, you can use the pedal assist without exerting any force at all. Only slight pedaling, enough to rotate the cranks, will make the motor supply power continuously. And since your motor does more work, you get less efficiency and mileage. 

Ride Effort & Throttle

An electric bike with torque sensor takes more effort than a cadence sensor eBike. 

It’s because of the reason I just explained. You have to constantly provide your input to keep using motor power because as soon as you reduce the pressure on the pedals, the motor power reduces as well. 

This might be great for efficiency and mileage, but it requires more effort from you. Speaking of which, if you want to engage in exercise while commuting to work, an eBike with torque sensor is the way to go.

But this ride effort has a downside as well; it may be too hectic for seniors and people with knee issues.

So, cadence sensors have an upside here. You don’t need a lot of effort to ride these eBikes and only slight pedaling (enough to rotate the cranks) will keep pedal assist activated.

Most cadence sensor eBikes also come with a throttle which allows riders to cruise on motor power alone without any pedaling at all. 

Throttle reduces the range, but it’s really helpful when you’re accelerating from rest – as you can activate the pedal assist after having gained enough momentum for a less tiring experience. This can be particularly useful for seniors and people with knee problems.

Though throttle can be found with both types of sensors, it’s more common in eBikes with cadence sensors.

Pricing & Bike Options

Torque sensors use sophisticated components (such as the precision-built strain gauge), complex controllers, and advanced software. They are, therefore, more expensive than cadence sensors. 

Torque sensor eBikes generally cost more than $2,000, though there can be some exceptions like the $1,299 Fiido D21 – one of the best eBikes with torque sensor in the low budget range. Another reason is that these sensors are usually found in mid-drive eBikes, which are way more expensive than the hub eBikes. 

Cadence sensors, on the other hand, have a simple design and use relatively cheap controllers. They’re also very easy to integrate into an eBike as compared to torque sensors. As a result, eBikes with cadence sensors are cheaper than torque sensor eBikes.

The cost difference between torque vs cadence sensor inversely impacts the available bike options. Since most consumers prefer to buy budget hub eBikes, you will have a lot of bike options to choose from if you go for a cadence sensor.

And while we’re at it, let’s address this huge misconception as well. The type of motor is kind of independent of the pedal assist system your bike has. 

Though mid-drive eBikes and torque sensors are a match made in heaven, some mid-drive eBikes can have cadence sensors too. Likewise, the high-end hub eBikes can come equipped with torque sensors.

If you want to explore more on how the hub and mid-drive motors differ from each other, check out this in-depth hub vs mid comparison.

Torque vs cadence sensors: Fiido X - the best ebike with torque sensor

Fiido X: Lightweight eBike With Torque Sensor

Cadence vs Torque Sensor eBikes: Which is Right for You?

If you want to spend less effort in your ride, you can opt for an eBike with cadence sensor. Senior citizens and adults with joints or knee issues, in particular, should go for throttle-equipped cadence sensor eBikes. 

Moreover, if you’ll be using your eBike on flat urban roads with less traffic, you can again opt for a cadence sensor eBike and save some bucks. 

In case you’re interested, here are our picks for the best eBikes with cadence sensors.

Best eBikes With Cadence Sensors

Award Electric Bike Main Highlight Price

Link to Buy

Best Budget

Ancheer 26” City Bargain price tag, lots of features $660 Amazon
Best Stylish Nakto Camel City Step-through frame, attractive looks $799

Amazon

Best Urban

Heybike Cityscape Comfortable ride, leather styling $899 Amazon
Best Rated Rad Power Bikes RadMission Reliable and durable brand, great looks $999

Rad

Best Mileage

Fiido L3 Stunning 124 miles (200km) mileage $999 Fiido
Best Lightweight Ride1UP Roadster V2 Feathery 15kg (33lbs) with belt drive $1,095

Ride1UP

Best Folding

Fiido D11 Compact and quick folding frame  $1,099 Fiido
Best Fat Tire Heybike Mars Puncture-resistant tires with thick tread $1,099

Amazon

Best Premium

Aventon Pace 500 Best in every aspect, suits every rider  $1,699

Aventon

However, if you’ll be using your eBike off-road, at high speeds, or in stop-and-go city traffic, you’ll be better off with a torque sensor bike.

Besides being perfect for people looking to get performance from their rides, torque sensor eBikes are also suitable for people who want more range as well as those who plan to use their electric bikes for exercise.

In case you’re interested, here are our picks for the best eBikes with torque sensors.

Best eBikes With Torque Sensors

Award Electric Bike Main Highlight Price

Link to Buy

Best Folding

Fiido D21 17.5kg ultra-lightweight quick folding eBike $1,299 Fiido
Best Fat Tire Fiido M21 4” fat folding, compact build & powerful motor $1,499

Fiido

Best Value

Ride1UP LMT’D 750w geared hub motor with 100Nm torque $1,645 Ride1UP 
Best Urban Fiido X 130km range, light, compact & quick folding $1,799

Fiido

Best Mileage

Juiced Bikes CrossCurrent X 130km range, 750W geared hub motor with dual sensors $2,099 Juiced Bikes
Best Mid Drive Ride1UP Prodigy Stylish build with Brose mid-drive motor $2,295

Ride1UP 

Best Powerful

FLX Step Through 2.0 Bafang M600 mid-drive motor with stellar 120Nm torque $2,699

FLX

If you don’t want to buy a new eBike at all, you can electrify your regular bicycle with electric bike conversion kits at an affordable cost, provided that it’s in good shape.

Hope it was an informative read!

Author

  • Frank Gao

    Frank is the owner of eBikeDaily. He moved to Canada from China at 16 and went on to study Mathematics in college. He now lives in Shenzhen (the hub of eBike industry in China) and works in close collaboration with many notable Chinese electric bike brands. A huge eBike nerd himself, Frank can be found riding or testing one – at all times!

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