One Throttle To Rule Them All – Which Ebike Throttle Sucks The Least?

My favorite throttle by far the right thumb, but I prefer it mounted on the left hand side.

My favorite throttle by far the right thumb, but I prefer it mounted on the left hand side.

Most reputable sellers of any ebike kits will offer you several options when it comes to a throttle. The 6 most common are:

  • Right Thumb
  • Left Thumb
  • Right Half Twist
  • Left Half Twist
  • Right Full Twist
  • Left Full Twist

For the uninitiated ebike builder this can be an intimidating choice. I’ve tried all of them and I’ll try to summarize my opinions about them in this article and make suggestions about which one I think is the best and why.

The standard BBS02 kit ships with a right thumb throttle. This is by a far margin my throttle of choice, but I never mount it on the right side. Why would I do something so crazy instead of just buying a left thumb throttle? Lets start by talking about single-track riding.

side view

Notice how the wire is looped back on itself and ziptied in place. Hardly noticeable at all.

When riding single-track my usual hand position is two right hand fingers on the rear brake and one left hand thumb on the throttle and all the other piggies holding onto the handlebars for dear life. I never install an ebrake on the rear brake because it has an incredibly annoying 2 second cutout whenever you touch it at all. Normally there is only a span of milliseconds between when I am hitting the throttle and when I am hitting the brakes. I am constantly hammering on both of them and almost never just coasting along. Sometimes I even break the cardinal sin and hit both the brakes AND the throttle at the same time which you should absolutely never do. It puts a huge strain on the motor and is not advised, that being said I still do it by accident from time to time.

With only the thumb unfurled on my left hand my 4 other little piggies can hold on pretty tight to the handlebars, with my right hand I have 2 fingers and my thumb which again means I can hold on pretty well while the bike is plowing over roots at 16 mph. What doesn’t work well is when you have 2 fingers covering a brake AND try to use a thumb throttle. It sucks, believe me I’ve tried it. That leaves you only with your ring finger and pinky to keep that hand on the handlebars which in my opinion is not enough.

There is nothing wrong with the standard Bafang left thumb throttle except that I just don't like to use it.

There is nothing wrong with the standard Bafang left thumb throttle except that I just don’t like it. The lever moves horizontally instead of vertically like the right thumb does.

Why don’t I use the regular left side thumb throttle? That is a good question and one that is more about personal preference. With the right hand thumb throttle mounted on the left hand side you can rest your thumb against the main part of the throttle which doesn’t turn and lock in your speed like a cruise control. By rolling your thumb slightly up and down you can adjust your speed without removing your thumb from the throttle. Pushing against the throttle body, which doesn’t turn gives you a lot more stability and grip to keep that hand where you want it. The standard Bafang left hand thumb throttle ‘floats’ in midair and there is nothing to rest your thumb on to keep the speed steady. I find that the standard Bafang left hand thumb throttle works passably well for commuters, but is generally undesirable for riding single-track for that reason.

Lots of people complain about ‘thumb fatigue’ who try to commute with their thumb throttles. If these people spent more time doing ‘One Two Three Four I Declare a Thumb War’ then they wouldn’t have these chronic thumb fatigue problems. Clearly there is a bounty of pacifist thumbs out there that can’t take the strain of pushing against a throttle for extended periods of time which brings us to our next contender.

Left side twist may be more desirable than the right twist, but both are awkward to use.

Left hand half twist is desirable than the right half twist, but both are awkward to use. Notice the Higo style molded connector for the BBS02 that is relatively weatherproof.

What about twist throttles?

Since motorcycles and scooters have standardized on the twist throttle then it must be superior to thumb throttles right? I’ve ridden all kinds of motorcycles for many years and I have no problems with the standard right hand twist throttle when on a motorcycle. However when I ride ebikes I find the twist throttles incredibly undesirable. On a motorcycle you are moving the twist throttle a tiny amount and getting an incredible amount of power. With an ebike you have to twist the throttle as far as it will go to get pretty much any power at all on my wimpy sub 1000W bikes. Moving your wrists down so far puts your riding position way off and makes grabbing the rear brakes awkward. The problem is slightly improved when you use a left side twist throttle since you rarely have to grab for the front brake when riding in the woods. However when you are riding on the street and you really want to stop you NEED to squeeze the front brakes and you need to squeeze it hard. The front brakes do most of your stopping for you and to have your wrist down and out of position makes it harder to get on the brakes quickly and confidently.

Another big problem with twist throttles is the shifters. In order to use the rear derailleur shifter properly you need your thumb to be in a very specific position. If you are using a right twist throttle then you have to make sure that your wrist and thumb line up with the shifter in order to shift which makes it hard to control the throttle and shift at the same time.

A 'Full Twist' throttle with bare wires.

A ‘Full Twist’ throttle with bare wires. Your throttle connector will vary from controller to controller.

When installing a ‘half twist’ throttle make sure the 1/2 hand grip does not rub up against the twisting throttle body. This could ‘lock’ the throttle into the on position providing thrills, spills and chills for everyone. For ‘full twist’ throttles where the entire hand-grip twists this should not be an issue. I don’t recommend the full twist throttles because they are the easiest to accidentally accelerate while moving your bike around the garage. If you forget to turn the bike off and lean the throttle against something it can twist on its own making the bike take off without you.

The biggest disadvantage of mounting a right side thumb throttle on the left hand side is that the wire heads towards the outside of the bike and looks weird. I’ve found that once you install it, after a while you won’t even notice it anymore and neither will anyone else. If you loop the wire back on itself and zip-tie it to the throttle body then it is looks fine. The right hand thumb throttle is far more stealthy than the giant horizontal axis left hand thumb throttle and works much better for me than any half twist or full twist throttle I’ve tried.

To get your hand grips off to mount throttles I use a Flathead screwdriver wrapped in a rag that is soaked in isopropyl alcohol the jam it under the hand grip and try to spin it all the way around prying as I go. Once the hand grip is loose and there is some alcohol in there you should be able to spin and pull to get the hand grip off. If you can’t get it to come off just use a mat knife and cut it off and replace it with a brand new ESI Chunky Handgrip which is the best hand grip I’ve found yet.

Although the throttles shown in this article are ones specifically designed for the BBS02 most ebike throttles are similar and this article applies to pretty much any throttles out there on the market right now. Most throttles are pretty much the same, although the connectors can vary between different controllers. Many different brands of controllers have different throttle connectors so if you don’t buy the throttle with the controller then you may have to wire them up yourself. It is generally pretty straight forward with a power, ground and a hall effect wire that varies in voltage from about 0 to 4.2v or so based on the throttle position. BBS02 throttles use a Higo-style connector that is molded onto the cable and specifically designed for the BBS02 and mostly weather proof.

Ride On.

Have a favorite throttle? Post which one you like and why in the comments below.

18 thoughts on “One Throttle To Rule Them All – Which Ebike Throttle Sucks The Least?

  1. Twist throttle suck when moving the bike around. I’ve never bumped my left hand throttle but I constantly bumped or twisted the grip throttles when I didn’t want to power the bike. I know, turn the battery off but the old brain when hurried needs help and one less detail that can be a hazard.

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  4. Thanks for this. Right half twist driving me crazy on juggernaut. Particularly on single track when trying to hold on a little better

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  5. Great article. I was considering other options then the thumb throttle until I read this. My problem is that my “universal thumb throttle” is more like an on/off switch on my BBS02. It seems to go from off to almost full. No slow roll-on. Is there a better throttle out there? Something that is more analog than digital.

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    • Try tweaking the voltage setting for the thumb throttle on the last page of the programming settings. Most throttles top out at 4.2v. The default settings for the BBS02 is 1.1v to 3.5 and it ignores anything higher than 3.5 and lower than 1.1v. You can lower the 1.1 number and raise the 3.5 number to get more range on your throttle. Don’t put in a high number higher than 42 (4.2v) or you won’t be able to get the full amount of power out of your BBSxx unit.

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  7. “Sometimes I even break the cardinal sin and hit both the brakes AND the throttle at the same time which you should absolutely never do. It puts a huge strain on the motor and is not advised, that being said I still do it by accident from time to time.”

    I thought brake levers with cutoff switches were standard on ebikes, with separate switches available if you prefer your own brake levers.

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  8. I would like to mention that for people who have ridden motorcycles in their life, the best choice will be a full twist throttle, on the right handlebar. Even for people who just plan on maybe having a motorcycle later on.
    The other important item is to set up the front brake on the right, like all motorcycles. Even if your bike is not electric. If you have been accustomed to having the front brake on the left, it might bite you seriously in a panic situation on the road with a motorcycle, when your reflexes will make you activate the clutch instead of the front brake. Reflexes gained through years of riding can’t be easily changed.
    I never understood why the standard on bikes is the reverse of motorcycles.

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  9. Fun fact: if your Bafang thumb throttle happens to break, say, if it hits pavement at just the right angle during a crash. It can split in two and the controller can potentially read that as 100% throttle input and cause the bike to spin wildly in circles until you either power it off, disconnect the battery, or disconnect the throttle.

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