A Beginner’s Guide to the Three Classes of EBikes
Electric bike sales have soared in recent years, and rightfully so, as these new devices are extremely accessible, economically friendly, and a cleaner, greener way to travel. However, the advent of this new technology has created a demand for legislation unique to these devices. For example, in 2020 the United States announced that electric bikes would not be classified as motor vehicles; as a result, e-bikers gained access to specific trails, pathways, lanes, and parks where they were previously prohibited.
It’s important to remember that 36 states across the U.S. abide by a three-class system for electric bikes, so these devices are still regulated, and it’s important to understand the laws in your area before taking off on your first adventure. We'll breakdown each ebike class for a better understanding of this three-class system and to determine which type of bike best suits your needs.
Class 1 E-Bikes
Class 1 e-bikes are traditionally treated like regular street and mountain bikes in the eyes of the law; however, these bikes feature pedal-assist technology that kicks into gear as you begin to pedal. While class 1 bikes do feature a motor, the motor will not run on its own unless the rider is pedaling, and this category of electric bikes can only receive a pedal-assist boost up to 20 mph. Class 1 e-bikes are a great choice for individuals new to the micromobility scene who are interested in speeding up their commute, enjoying more time outdoors, or running errands while cutting down on carbon emissions.
Class 2 E-Bikes
Class 2 e-bikes may appear similar to their class 1 counterparts and also have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph, these devices offer a unique feature—throttle assistance. While most class 2 bikes also have a pedal-assist option, the throttle option allows riders to cruise without pedaling at all, instead relying on the bike’s motor for support and forward propulsion. This doesn’t mean the assistance falters if you choose to pedal, however, if you want to exert less energy or find climbing steep hills challenging, the motor will certainly take a load off. The throttle is found on the handlebars of the bicycle and can be turned on with a twist or the flick of a lever. These ebikes are a great option for individuals with reduced mobility or injuries and are great for travelling in groups. You'll also notice that most of GOTRAX's current line-up of ebikes fall into this category. This ebike class allows you to choose whether you engage in high intensity exercise or a lower effort ride, the rider has ultimate control. However, be mindful of how much you rely solely on the throttle, as this feature takes a toll on the bike’s battery life.
Class 3 E-Bikes
Class 3 bikes are similar to class 1, with the differentiating factor being the maximum assisted speed—which is set to 28 mph, making them the fastest of the e-bike options. Additionally, these devices must feature a speedometer to remain in compliance with safety protocol. When it comes to adding a throttle to class 3 bikes, laws differ by state. While some states prohibit the throttle feature on class 3 bikes altogether, other states permit them up to speeds of 20 mph, while allowing pedal-assist speeds to remain at 28 mph. Be sure to check with your local officials to determine where it’s safe to ride class 3 e-bikes, as these bikes may be prohibited from specific paths and bike lanes in your area.
We hope this helps determine the right ebike for you so you can get the most out of each and every ride.