When it comes to doing your daily commute, few options are better than riding an electric bicycle. E-bikes are easy to learn how to use, cheaper than owning a car, and can be pretty maneuverable. Furthermore, electric bicycles can go quite fast, but how fast can they go?
Electric bicycles can travel up to 20 to 28 miles per hour. However, the maximum speed at which you are allowed to go varies depending on the classification of e-bike you own. There are three classifications for electric bicycles, class 1, class 2, and class 3. Both class 1 and class 2 e-bikes are limited to a 20 mile per hour maximum. On the other hand, class 3 electric bicycles can reach a max speed of 28 miles per hour.
As you continue to read this article, we will go in-depth about the three different classifications for electric bicycles. Furthermore, we will cover the laws associated with legally operating an e-bike. Finally, we will give you a couple of examples of electric bicycles in each of the three classifications to help you decide on what classification you want your e-bike to be.
What Are The Three Classes For Electric Bicycles?
When electric bicycles started to become more popular around 2012, the United States had difficulty figuring out how to pass laws regarding the use of e-bikes. During that time, electric bicycles were pretty much unregulated. As a result, people rode around without proper protection, and young children rode on these fast-moving electric bicycles. However, in early 2020, the United States cooperated with electric bicycle manufacturers, which allowed the United States to regulate electric bicycles into three distinct yet broad classes. These classes made it much easier for states to pass laws to increase safety and reduce electric bicycle-related accidents.
The three classes for electric bicycles are as follows:
- Class 1 Electric Bicycle
A class 1 electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor that only provides assistance to the rider while pedaling. Class 1 electric bicycles have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. Class 1 electric bicycles can also have a throttle located in the handlebar, which will assist the rider. However, class 1 e-bikes with a throttle can only assist the rider while pedaling.
Class 1 electric bicycles can share the same bike lane as traditional pedal bicycles.
- Class 2 Electric Bicycles
A class 2 electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor with a throttle that will engage the motor to assist the rider. The rider does not need to pedal for the motor to assist. Instead, you can use the throttle to propel the bicycle by itself. The rider may choose to pedal while using the throttle for assistance.
Like class 1, class 2 electric bicycles use the same lane as traditional pedal bicycles.
- Class 3 Electric Bicycles
A class 3 electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor that can assist the rider while they are pedaling, using a throttle, or both. Class 3 electric bicycles must have a speedometer. Class 3 electric bicycles are the fastest of the three classes and can reach a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour.
Class 3 electric bicycles tend to have the most laws surrounding their legal use. For example, some states prohibit using an electric bicycle that has a throttle while others don't. Furthermore, some state laws say class 3 electric bicycles must share the road with other motorized vehicles, while some states require class 3 e-bikes to use the same bike lane as the other classes.
There are e-bike manufacturers that implement a system in the speedometer that will limit the maximum speed to 20 miles per hour. This is done so that their class 3 electric bicycles with a throttle can be used in states that limit their speed to 20 miles per hour.
Can Electric Bicycles Go Faster Than 28 Miles Per Hour?
Yes, some electric bicycles can reach a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. This is because some e-bike manufacturers can work within the three-class system by implementing an honor system for their e-bikes. Essentially, these super-fast electric bicycles will have a setting that you can turn on to limit the maximum speed to 28 miles per hour or lower. Furthermore, these electric bicycles will usually have a prompt that will state that you should not turn this setting off unless you are on private property or something along those lines.
The setting for these super-fast electric bicycles can easily be turners off through the bike's visual display or speedometer. Most of these electric bicycles will only go a few miles faster than 28, usually around 30 to 35. However, as we previously stated, some e-bikes like the HPC Black Lightning can reach over 40 miles per hour.
As a warning, do not use these electric bicycles with the setting turned off while in a bike lane or near areas with heavy pedestrian foot traffic. The last thing you want to do is get a ticket for breaking the law or accidentally running into another bicyclist or a pedestrian. Furthermore, these super-fast e-bikes within the city on the roads should also be avoided. You may get pulled over and given a ticket for breaking state laws regarding speed limitations. It would help if you also remembered that e-bike brakes are not very powerful when going this fast, and it can take a surprising amount of time to stop entirely. You don't want to be going so fast that you do not have enough time to stop or react to a car suddenly stopping.
Electric Bicycle Laws
In early 2020, the United States and electric bicycle manufacturers worked together in order to create the three-class system we have today. This classification system allowed the states to pass laws that helped increase safety and reduce the number of electric bicycle accidents. However, the laws surrounding the legal use of electric bicycles can be confusing and differ from state to state.
For example, in Alabama, all three electric bicycle classes are treated like traditional pedal bicycles and share the bike lane. While you are not required to have a special permit or license, all riders under the age of 16 operating a class 1 or class 2 electric bicycle must wear a helmet. At the same time, all class 3 e-bike riders must wear a helmet regardless of age.
Another example, in New Jersey, class 1 and 2 electric bicycles are treated similarly to traditional pedal bicycles and must share the same lane. At the same time, class 3 electric bicycles are classified as motorized vehicles and must share the road with other motorized vehicles. Furthermore, class 1 and class 2 e-bike riders are not required to have a special license or permit, but class 3 e-bike riders must carry an operator's license and are subject to registration and insurance requirements.
As you can see, the two examples we gave are wildly different from each other. With that said, if you are in the market for an electric bicycle, it is advised that you read and study the laws for electric bicycles in the state that you live in. A common mistake for new e-bike riders is purchasing an e-bike and hopping on the road as soon as it shows up. These riders will usually get in trouble quickly and will have a fine to pay.
What Are Some Good Electric Bicycles To Buy?
Now that you know just how fast electric bicycles can go, the three-class system, and the laws surrounding the legal use of e-bikes, we have a shortlist of some of the best e-bikes for each of the three classes.
The e-bikes we have listed below may seem expensive, but they are so for a good reason. While you can find electric bicycles for half the cost or lower, they tend to be made with cheaper parts and are not meant for longevity. The electric bicycles in our list are the complete opposite. Each is made of high-quality parts and is made to go the distance.
Class 1 Electric Bicycles
The Propella 7-speed is a high-quality e-bike that is made with excellent materials. For $1,299, this electric bicycle comes with name-brand parts that guarantee longevity and safety, like a Samsung battery and Shimano disc brakes and shifter installed on a highly durable aluminum frame. The Propella 7-speed is also lightweight when compared to other e-bikes. This lightweight improves handling and makes it feel more like a traditional pedal bike.
Much like all of the electric bicycles on this list, the Cannondale Quick SL 2 is composed of top-of-the-line materials attached to a very sturdy aluminum frame. However, what differs from the Propella 7-speed is the mileage. The Cannondale has a longer battery life and is able to reach 47 miles before needing a recharge. Furthermore, the Cannondale Quick SL 2 works more as a fitness bike that happens to be electric. This e-bike has a sensor that sits just behind the handlebars on the bike's frame. This sensor works to track all of your fitness data and can be configured to make goals for yourself weekly and monthly.
Class 2 Electric Bicycles
The Wing Freedom X is a top-of-the-line class 2 electric bicycle that has the option to be a class 1 if you choose to purchase the model that does not have a throttle, which can be an excellent option for some people. You can expect to pay around $1,500 for this high-class electric bicycle. Wing has made theft prevention a priority when it comes to their e-bikes. Each of their electric bicycles has an ear-bending alarm that will alert you to any potential thieves. This alarm can be turned on and off like a car alarm and comes with a key-fob. Furthermore, the Freedom X has a feature in which you can remove the speed limitations on this e-bike, allowing it to reach a higher top speed.
The Pace 350 is one of the most powerful electric bicycles produced by Aventon, with a reasonable cost of $1,299. This electric bicycle sports extremely comfortable hand grips and a step-through frame, which allows for easier mounting and dismounting. Furthermore, the powerful battery that comes with this great e-bike is fast charging, and you can expect a full charge from 0% in just under 4 hours.
Class 3 Electric Bicycles
The Pace 500 by Aventon is another powerful e-bike with all of the same bells and whistles as the Pace 350, except it's a class 3 electric bicycle, and it costs a little more with a price tag of $1,499. One other difference is that the Pace 500 does not have a step-through frame. Instead, the Pace 500 sports a cruiser frame that allows the seat to be positioned for maximum comfortability. The battery is just as powerful as the Pace 350 and can carry a charge for up to 40 miles while still having fast recharge capabilities.
The Domane+ HP is the most expensive electric bicycle on our list. With a price tag of $7,499, this e-bike by Trek has everything you could want in a sporting electric bicycle. The frame and seat are positioned to reduce drag while sporting two grips on the handlebars. Being a class 3 electric bicycle, the Domane+ HP can travel at speeds up to 28 miles per hour while also having the most extensive battery life on our list. The impressive battery in this e-bike can let you travel over 80 miles on a full charge. Furthermore, the Domane+ HP is built around its powerful Bosch motor, one of the more advanced motors on the market.
Electric bicycles are a cheaper and greener way to commute around town. They provide a quick way to get to work, school, or run errands. Depending on the class you purchase, you can expect a maximum speed of up to 20 to 28 miles per hour. However, remember to research and study the laws of the state you live in as they can be a little confusing and differ state by state.