You will surely get a number of opinions here. Just about every rider has their own unique way of riding. It will vary greatly depending on physical conditions and the riders style & ability. Also, ebikes differ in their performance. Some, like fat tire bikes, require more assist to ride comfortably.
I'm 73 with some joint issues so my preferred riding style is to start out with little or no assist. After I get my workout, I increase the assist to mid range and enjoy the scenery as the miles roll by. I usually reduce the assist on slight downhill or smooth sections. I rarely use high levels of assist to maximize range unless climbing long uphill stretches. I have a class 2 bike and will occasionally use the throttle to get started especially if I'm on a hill or forget to downshift before stopping.
BTW, welcome to the forum! It's a great place to ask your questions.
I think a new rider is going to be all over the ball park with power settings and what gear they ride in. There's a lot to get used to, and there is a learning curve involved.
In the end, much will have to do with how fast you feel you need to go, and if maximizing you battery's range is of any interest. The bike will be MUCH more efficient at 10mph than it will be at 15 or 20mph. Wind resistance a big factor when it comes to battery mileage
My Juiced CCS has Eco, 1, 2, 3, and Sport. I use Eco about 90% of the time, level 1 about 8% of the time and about 1% each for level 2 and Sport. Bike has far more power than I need/want. I find it too heavy and ponderous so hopefully will be getting a Creo within the next week or two.
I use it like I use the gears. I power as I need it. I only go into Turbo on steep hills. Yesterday, while on a couple of flattish stretches with a tailwind, I shut the power off. I try to conserve battery power for some reason.
I was using turbo most of the time because of my wacky body and low energy levels. but on a longer then planned ride I was still 14 miles out I had to goto eco mode and rode 14 miles averages 15 mph. so on my commute yesterday I was able to leave it in sport the whole ride. hope to do most of the work in the future.
Where I live is relatively flat, so I ride almost all the time in Eco mode (power assist level 1) until I come to a hill. I will bump up to level 2 or 3 until I get over the hill. Once in a while if there is a headwind I will ride in level 2 instead of 1, but those instances have been rare.
I think most of e-cyclists never use the max assist permanently as this dries the battery fast.
The strategy I use is:
Use the lowest PAS level (Eco) if the range is critical. It is also good for fitness
Use the next PAS level (Normal, Trail, Sport...) when you're fighting with headwind or are riding up a moderate incline. This medium assistance level is also good if you want to get somewhere faster at the cost of the range
Use the max assistance (Turbo) to negotiate a steep hill or in case you are very tired, want to get home fast and you still have the juice in your battery.
Now, how do I use the derailleur?
Use low gear before starting the ride and before making any stop, to relieve the tension on the chain and to be able to start easily
For riding, set the gear that allows you maintaining your favourite cadence. Mine is 78. Manipulate the gears to possibly always be at the same cadence.
As others have pointed out, how much "e" and how much "bike" really depends on your individual riding conditions/needs and your personal preferences, and you have many options. Being a newbie myself with only about 6 mos of ebiking under my belt, I wish I had informed myself more about this earlier. I had assumed that "ebikes" were more or less motorcycles or mopeds with pedals--basically with just an on/off throttle--and that idea really didn't appeal to me. Only after a co-worker was discussing the pedal-assist on her new ebike did I start doing my research and learning about all the options available in the ebike world. The flexibility/adaptability of the ebike is really what really sold me on the idea. She bought hers so that she could "keep up" and enjoy rides with her husband, who is a beast of a cyclist...so the ebike meant she could spend more quality time with him and their riding group. For others, it means that they can still stay in the "biking game" despite an injury or other issues that would keep them from otherwise biking.
I kinda use my knees as a determination of when to up the assist level. I say at PAS 1 and use my derailer to adjust any knee discomfort. I will go no assist on tailwind level ground or downhill. If my knees start acting up my level goes up. So far PAS 3 works fine as the top assist required. Naturally I have played around at 5, but it's strictly a play mode (except in sand encountered on a typical FL single track "scrub" trail. I do know that pedaling @ 1 or 2 with the bike geared with some pedal resistance the battery lasts a long time.
I use eco mode. I shift the assist up on a steep hill, but like to leave it in lowest position, unless like someone stated above, flat land and just wanting to roll along a bit faster, then maybe up to 3. I have 6 levels and seldom use beyond 3, except for my high speed 3 block finish back home, where I go recklessly as fast as possible(around 25mph). So I guess I change the assist more than some. I do use the throttle getting started from zero..
I keep my bike in eco kind of as the default setting. Without assistance, my bike can be tough to start from a stop if the motor is off and I forget to gear down. I don’t want to risk a fall.
I mostly use sport and turbo for hill climbing assistance, as we have a lot of hills here and my knees aren’t good.
I prefer to cruise along at 15-20 mph (not a speed rider) and I can mostly do that in eco or tour when I’m on the flat.
Sport and turbo are also great if you need to pass, or get through an intersection ASAP.
I'm still in the ebike "honeymoon phase", and the pleasure of full throttle assist is seductive whenever possible. Unlike most cars, you are in tactile contact with every irregularity of the road surface. For me, preferred velocity is a dynamic recipe of (a) personal comfort, (b) hazard approach speed/surface type/probability of breakage (c) visibility distance/reaction time, (d) hub-motor temperature, and (e) co-journeyist's ability to keep up (if applicable). You should be able to program any controller (esp KT-type) for a wide variety of preferences, full power all the time, or off completely, or varying percentages of max power (to preserve hub-motor) meter it out via pedal assist or a speed limit parameter. Many OEM settings don't come with max-power enabled to preserve the hub motor. It's highly adjustable to tinker in the multiple settings options. For $20 bucks you can also swap out any OEM rear cassette from 14-28t to 11-28t to lower cadence speeds 20% and expand human participation on longer pedal-assist journeys.
Max assist is used when you need max power. Could be that you need speed, or steep climbing, or headwind. If you find yourself using max assist most of the time it means you either bought a wrong bike - not enough motor wattage on your terrain, or your health is in a really bad shape.
Gearing down before starting is less important with hub motors than with mid-drives. Hub riders are also more likely to neglect shifting and change PAS level instead, when riding - it's easier to push the button than switch the gears.
Under normal circumstances I use PAS 1 on my RipCurrent S (default PAS setting) and PAS 3 on my Aurora Limited. In both cases those settings give me the power delivery that I'm happy with. Meaning, the PAS power delivery feels natural and smooth at that setting. If I'm in a really big hurry I might use a higher PAS level, but for me it is usually a "set and forget" kind of thing. I'm not interested in micro-managing things when I'm on my bike. I just want to ride it.
There are probably as many answers to this question as there are e-bikers. And because different bikes interpret "pedal assist" differently, different levels of pedal assist vary in bewildering ways, torque sensors and cadence sensors produce different tendencies, the gearing of the bike itself, and how much drag the motor system produces all feed into that.
So it isn't like anything anyone is telling you is going to generalize well.
Having made all of those disclaimers, I generally run on low levels of pedal assist. I will use higher levels of assist on long or steep hills and especially long, steep hills. I will also use higher levels of pedal assist when riding in sketchy road conditions (e.g. no shoulder, heavy traffic, and poor sight lines). If I have ridden a long ways I will often put the bike on full power the last few miles if I have the battery capacity available as well.
What this works out as is that I will typically ride in low levels of assist 70-80 percent of the time, and higher levels for the remainder.
Wouldn't always running on max assist put undue stress on the motor and battery? I remember hearing some stories of motors' innards melting from climbing long, steep hills on max power - they're generally not designed for that. It's fine for short bursts, but constantly? And on mid-drive systems, it also wears the drivetrain prematurely.
So if one has cash to burn and doesn't mind hastening the lifespan of their ebikes, running on the highest settings is no problem