eBike Classes & Why They Matter


When purchasing a ebike it can be pretty confusing and overwhelming to choose the right class of ebike for your own personal needs. Knowing all of the specifications and performance statistics of the different ebikes classes can be challenging to translate into how that will work in your own personal circumstances when using your ebike 

Here in this article I will try and make it crystal clear, what class of ebike perfectly meets your own personal needs when using your ebike for whatever use that may be, whether for your daily commute to and from work or going off road to on an outdoor adventure. Let’s start with the basics first however! 

How Many Classes Of Ebike’s Are There To Choose From?

There are three classes of ebikes to choose from, each class of ebikes are a step up in speed, performance and price as you might expect. The first class of ebike is the class 1 ebike which is pedal assisted, the class 2 ebike is a throttle powered ebike and the third class of ebike is a speed pedelec ebike

What Are The Different Classes Of eBikes?

Class 1: Pedal Assist eBikes

The most common type of ebike is the Class 1 ebike which is pedal assisted, which means the electric motor assists you as you pedal the ebike. The electric motor is only activated when you are pedaling and won’t kick in or assist you if you are not pedaling   

Class 2: Throttle Powered eBikes

Class 2 ebikes are very much a step up from class 1 ebikes, class 2 ebikes have a throttle action grip-twist, trigger or button that allows you to activate the electric motor into moving your ebike at higher speeds. This is still classed as a low speed throttle assisted ebikes however, it’s not similar to a motorcycle in it’s speed capability 

Class 3: Speed Pedelec eBikes

With class 3 ebikes, the electric motor is activated when you are peddling and is classed as a pedal assisted ebike, it allows you to reach higher speeds than a class 1 pedal assisted ebike as it works with you assisting you as you pedal allowing you to reach higher speeds

Class 3 is a step up in speed as you might expect, the difference between a class 3 ebike and a class 1 pedal assisted ebike is the speeds you are able to reach. Class 3 ebikes in Europe and America are able to reach speeds up to 15mph to 20mph (maximum) and are altered depending on the laws of the country they are sold in 

In the UK, class 3 ebikes are not legally able to reach speeds any higher than 15mph (electric motor assisted) and some of these speed laws vary in the US. Some class 3 ebikes can reach speeds up to 20 to 28 mph and because of that, some class 3 ebikes are considered a motor vehicle that requires a licence to ride one legally in some countries and districts in Europe and the US     

Class 4: Motorcycle Classed Road Bikes

Class 4 ebikes breaks away from the typical pedal bicycle category of ebikes discussed above and moves into the motorcycle range of road bikes. Class 4 ebikes can be classed as mopeds and any other motorcycle above that

What Speeds Can I Reach With Each Class Of eBike?

As you might expect each class of ebike is a step up in speed and performance, class 1 e-bikes which are pedal assisted e-bikes can reach speeds between 10mph and 15 mph, class 1 e-bikes maximum speed is around 15mph

Class 2 e-bikes which are throttle powered e-bikes can reach speeds between 10mph and 20 mph which is pretty fast for a common pedal bicycle, the maximum speed is around 20 to 22mph for a class 2 e-bike

Class 3 e-bikes which are speed pedelec e-bikes can reach speeds between 20mph and 28 mph, the maximum speed that you are able to reach is around 25 to 28mph for a class 3 e-bike depending on the ebike laws of the country they are sold in of course

Can I Ride Each Class of E-Bike In The Cycle/Bicycle Lane?

A lot of e-bike owners ask this question, can I ride my e-bike at the top speed in the cycle lane like all of the other cyclists with their non electric powered bicycles, and the answer is yes, you can but there is more to it than that, let me explain

In the United Kingdom, any ebike that is classed as a ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs), are perfectly in your cycling rights to use the cycle lane as you would like a non electric powered cyclist

Ebikes that meet the ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs) standard are the following:

  • It must show either the power output
  • It must show either the manufacturer of the motor
  • It must show either the battery’s voltage
  • It must show either the maximum speed of the bike
  • The Electric Motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
  • The Electric Motor should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
  • An EAPC can have more than 2 wheels (for example, a tricycle)

Any ebike that meets the EAPC requirements in the United Kingdom is classed as a normal pedal bicycle, which means you can ride it on cycle paths, cycle lanes and anywhere else pedal bicycles are allowed

Keep in mind that any throttle powered ebike that is able to reach speeds up to 15mph to 28mph (maximum speed) are classed as a motorcycle or moped in the United Kingdom, Which means you are not legally able to ride your throttle powered ebike in the cycle lane like you would a non-electric assisted cyclist

Any throttle powered ebike that does not meet the EAPC rules in the United Kingdom is classed as a motorcycle or moped and needs to be registered, insured and taxed to ride it legally on the public roads. You’ll need a driving licence to ride one and you must wear a crash helmet as well 

However the low(ish) speeds that pedal assisted and throttle assisted e-bikes are able to reach, generally between the 10mph to 15mph (maximum speed) allows all classes of e-bikes to have the same rights and privileges as non-electric assisted bicycles, which means you can ride each class of e-bike in the cycle lane, along public paths and streets and off-road trails as you would a non-electric assisted bicycle  

However these rights have to be exercised with a little common sense and care for your fellow cyclist enthusiasts, travelling at higher speeds increases the odds of losing control of your electrical assisted e-bike which could cause a collision with another cyclist

Traveling at a approtated speed is always recommended to maintain a level of safety when overtaking or cycling alongside other cyclists in the cycle lane, along public paths and streets and off-road trails      

So to conclude e-bikes classed 1,2 and 3 have the same rights and privileges as non-electric assisted bicycles so long they meet the EAPC requirements in the United Kingdom, which means you can ride each class of e-bike in the cycle lane, along public paths/streets and off-road trails as you would a non-electric assisted bicycle but always exercise a little common sense and care for your fellow cyclist enthusiasts and pedestrians 

Do I Need A Special Licence To Ride A Class 1,2 & 3 E-Bikes In The UK?

In the uk, you can ride any class of electric e-bike in England, Scotland and Wales and you do not need a licence to ride an e-bike, however you do have to be over the age of 14 to legally ride an ebike

However these privileges are assigned to only ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs), any throttle powered ebikes may be different. E-bikes that have a throttle action grip-twist, trigger or button ( aka class 2 ebikes) that activates the electric motor into moving your ebike at higher speeds more than 15mph may require you to have a special licence to ride it legally in the uk, it may be classed as a moped or banned for road usage 

Do I Need Insurance For Class 1,2 & 3 E-Bikes In The UK?

In the United Kingdom, you can ride any class of e-bike in England, Scotland and Wales and you do not need to be registered, taxed or insured. However this is only applies to ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs)

In the United Kingdom, any ebike that is classed as a ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs), you are not legally required to insure or tax  

Ebikes that meet the ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs) standard are the following:

  • It must show either the power output
  • It must show either the manufacturer of the motor
  • It must show either the battery’s voltage
  • It must show either the maximum speed of the bike
  • The Electric Motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
  • The Electric Motor should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
  • An EAPC can have more than 2 wheels (for example, a tricycle)

E-bikes that have a throttle action grip-twist, trigger or button which are classed as throttle powered ebikes and are capable of reaching speeds up to 28mph are not classed as a EAPCs in the United Kingdom law 

Any throttle powered ebike that does not meet the EAPC rules in the United Kingdom is classed as a motorcycle or moped and needs to be registered, insured and taxed to ride it legally on the public roads. You’ll need a licence to ride one and you must wear a crash helmet as well 

Are Any Class Of E-Bikes Banned In The United Kingdom Or United States?

United Kingdom (UK)

As ebikes get more popular there has been new legislation issued over electric bicycles in the United Kingdom and the United States as you might expect. The new legislation issued is largely to do with throttle powered ebikes, or class 2 ebikes, as some class 2 ebikes are very similar to motorcycles or mopeds and is able to reach significantly higher speeds that a person would be able to do when physically cycling a bicycle 

In the United Kingdom, the only throttle powered ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs) ebikes that are legal are those that assist the rider without pedalling up to a maximum speed of 15 mph, this new legislation was issued on January 1 2016 in the United Kingdom

Additionally any ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs) electric motor should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph, the maximum power output for the electric motor should be no more than 250 watts of output legally in the United Kingdom

United States (US)

This is a complicated and delicate question, there are many small differences between each US state when it comes to the law on ebikes. At this moment in time technically, throttle powered ebikes or class 2 ebikes are illegal in New York City, they are classed as a motorized bike and flatout banned unless you go down the route of treating it like a motorcycle off course

Despite New York City “illegal” status on throttle powered ebikes (class 2 ebikes), the enforcement of this law varies at the local level. As long as your throttle powered ebike does not reach speeds above 20 mph then you’ll be fine as this will be classed as a throttle powered pedal-assist electric bikes

Can I Change/Upgrade My Class of eBike?

You can program to upgrade or downgrade your ebike, some ebike merchants offer this service to downgrade or upgrade the electric motor on your bike using their fulfillment system, however only if you directly purchased your ebike from that merchant that offer these services. One ebike merchant that offers this service is MATE.bike, however this service is often hard to come by, generally as ebike merchants usually only sell different classes of ebikes and that’s all, generally speaking

Another way of upgrading your ebike in a DIY fashion is to alter the voltage of the electric motor, which increases the overall speed of your ebike. Increasing the voltage of your ebike can upgrade the class of your ebike, increasing the top speed you are able to reach, whichever class of ebike you have

How Expensive Are Each Class Of eBike?

Prices for ebikes vary greatly depending on the specification and performance of each ebike, the greater the specification and performance, the higher the price tag will be generally. Typically all classes of ebikes can range from £600 to £6000, it just depends on the specification and performance

There is such a diverse range of ebikes to choose from that also alters the price you will be paying, there are full suspension mountain ebikes, there is off road and trekking ebikes, there are road ebikes and lastly there are folding ebikes for urban commutes which can all greatly range in price range as well

Generally for an average and reliable ebike, you are likely to pay between £1,000 to £2,000. For a more advanced model of ebike you are likely to looking between £3,000 to £4,000 and for a more advanced ebike (top of the range ebike on the market) you are looking to be paying between £5,000 and £6,000 plus

What Class Of Ebike Is Best For Urban Commutes To Work?

This answer greatly depends on the urban terrain and distance your daily commute to work intailes, however I would say a class 1, pedal assisted ebike would be best for your daily commute to work. With a class 1 ebike, the electric motor only kicks in and assists you when you are actually pedalling at a consistent rate which suggests you are cycling up a steep elevations and need assistance in these moments during your commute

Generally when I cycle to work I find myself lightly pedalling at some stage of the commute (when cycling along flat roads or down hills) and pedalling more heavily up steep elevations obviously. The moments when I am pedalling up steep elevations, these are the moments when I need the biggest assistance during my commute to work, the rest of the commute is pretty pleasant and straightforward I find personally  

Another factor to consider is theft or vandalism, you don’t want to invest £5,000 in a top of the range ebike and be a victim of ebike theft or vandalism. I find my basic class 1 ebike is good enough to get me to work and back and that’s all it needs to do really, it’s like taking a basic economy car to work compared to a top of the range Ferrari sports car, what will work best for your own personal circumstances 

Also consider the speed capability of your class of ebike you choose, there are more cars and  cyclist on the road than ever before which can increase the chances of having an accident in some cases. The faster your ebike is and the more you commute at the top speed that the ebikes is capable of, the less time you have to react to avoid collisions on the road 

Another consideration to which class of ebike is best for your urban commute is the running costs, insurance and tax specifically. In the United Kingdom, you can ride any class of e-bike in England, Scotland and Wales and you do not need to be registered, taxed or insured. However this is only applies to ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs)

If you don’t want to pay for insurance and tax on your ebike, then make sure your ebike meets the following specifications:  Ebikes that meet the ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs) standard are the following:

  • It must show either the power output
  • It must show either the manufacturer of the motor
  • It must show either the battery’s voltage
  • It must show either the maximum speed of the bike
  • The Electric Motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
  • The Electric Motor should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
  • An EAPC can have more than 2 wheels (for example, a tricycle)

If your commute to work involves jumping on/off busses and cycling on your ebike then your best type/class of ebike will be a folding ebike. Choosing a ebike that is compact and lightweight is essential for hopping on and off busses and carrying your ebike in between cycling to work 

Things To Consider With Class 1 & 3 Pedal Assisted eBikes

Most of the popular ebikes on the market are mostly pedal assisted ebike now, so we are mainly talking about class 1 or 3 pedal assisted ebikes. There is a common misconception that pedal assisted ebikes work like motorcycles (you simple jump on and off you go) however this is not the case

One common saying can really sum up how pedal assisted ebike really work in reality is “you get back what you put in”. What I mean is that you have to really be putting in a lot of physical pedalling power to get the electric motor to really assist you when you are cycling, once you stop pedalling, the electric motor stops working

The electric motor on pedal assisted ebikes only really gives you a lot of boost when you are constantly pedalling for a sustained period of time during your cycling commute. Stop/start pedaling will mean the electric motor will be stopping and starting as you do. This is important to consider before buying any class of ebike 

I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have anything to add, then leave a comment down below. All of the information has been thoroughly researched and I have plenty of real world experience on this issue to add as well. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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