Which is the Best ebike Class? – The One That Gets You Riding!
These classes of ebike are defined as follows:
Class 1: Bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the ebike reaches 20mph.
Class 2: Bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor, that ceases to provide assistance when the ebike reaches 20mph.
Class 3: Bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the ebike reaches 28mph.
In 1997, automotive iconoclast Lee Iacocca introduced the first mass-produced electric bicycles under the short-lived EV Global Motors brand. Nearly two decades later, ebikes were still largely unregulated when People for Bikes brought together industry, advocates and policymakers to craft the 3-class regulatory system. Since 2014, this framework has been adopted into law by most US states, so it’s important for you to learn about the three classes and understand how your ebike fits into the rules for use on local, state and federal lands.
At Vvolt we feel it’s important that our ebikes fit neatly into the 3-class framework. It’s also important for you to understand where it’s lawful to ride your ebike!
All of our models come out of the box as Class 1 Electric Bikes, with pedal assistance up to 20mph. This is the least restricted category in most states and localities, and Class 1 ebike riders are welcome to use bike lanes, multi-use paths and even certain off-road trails in most areas.
Not only that, they’re still pretty darn fast! As an example - if a rider was riding at max assist speed (or even slightly faster) on level ground, they could make a 5-mile trip in only 15 minutes.
That said, most of us at Vvolt are long-time cyclists and we (safely) enjoy a little extra speed! Recognizing that need for speed, we offer the Warp Core Upgrade, a replacement handlebar computer system that turns our mid-motor Proxima and Sirius ebikes into Class 3 models with 28mph top pedal-assisted speed.
Even though it’s “only” another 8mph, it boosts riders up to match or exceed the speed of many autos on neighborhood streets and secondary roads. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but faster speeds can actually be safer when sharing the road with autos and motorcycles. The only trick is to recognize that many drivers are not used to seeing cyclists traveling at these speeds - remember to maintain situational awareness and ride defensively!
“Ok, Class 1 and Class 3 ebikes are great...but what about Class 2 ebikes?” you say. Well, their use is subject to greater restrictions in many areas due to the presence of a throttle. Of course we understand that most Class 2 owners use their ebikes in accordance with local regulations, but as ebikes are still a relatively “new” vehicle for most people we want to do all we can to enhance acceptance of them amongst all road and path users.
There’s also a feeling from lots of analog bike riders (and some ebikers as well) that throttle-powered ebikes are “cheating.” While we don’t agree with this perspective, we do see the health benefits produced by pedaling. We’re interested in providing the largest benefit we can to our society, including the long-term benefits of adding some light physical activity to your transportation!
However, some other manufacturers have blurred the lines between classes with throttles that only work when pedaling, or bikes that can pedal up to 28mph but only have throttle support up to 20mph. There are even some ebikes sold as Class 3; but which can easily be modified by riders to have massive boosts in top speeds in excess of 50mph! Of course this well exceeds the speeds of other bike lane users and poses a significant hazard if used irresponsibly.
With all this in mind, we opt to design electric bikes that reduce transportation emissions while providing added benefit from increased physical mobility! Our Class 1 and Class 3 ebikes get you where you need to go, add a little (or a lot) of physical activity to your day and are legal to ride in the widest variety of places. Of course we also welcome Class 2 ebikes to the road, we’re just not ready to make them yet.
No matter what class of ebike you choose to ride, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with your local regulations...and ride as often as you can while reducing your driving!