eBike Classes 101

March 25, 2020
Bikes Bikes

Everything you ever wanted to know about the different eBike classes in the United States.

low-step frame bike

eBike Classes 101

Class 1, Class 2, Class 3? Pedelec or throttle? If you’re brand-new to electric bikes, you may be wondering--what do all these classes of e-bikes even mean?! Fear not, Team Gazelle is here to break it down. By the end of this post, you’ll be an eBike class expert!

Class 1 vs Class 2 vs Class 3 Electric Bikes

In the United States, electric bikes are classified by the top speed a bike can reach with either a pedal-assist or throttle motor. Let’s start with pedal-assist bicycles. Also known as pedelecs, these bikes will only go if you pedal—no free rides here! There are two classes of pedelecs: Class 1 and Class 3.

mid-step frame
high-step frame bike

Class 1 electric bikes are pedal-assisted up to 20 mph. Bombing down a steep hill? You may surpass 20 mph thanks to momentum alone, but the motor assistance will cut out as soon as you reach 20 mph. In most states, the speed limit for multi-use paths is 15mph, so even though Class 1 electric bikes can go faster, riders must adhere to the posted speed limit.

Class 3 electric bikes are pedal-assisted up to 28 mph. Similar to Class 1 electric bikes, once you reach the top speed, the motor will cease its assistance, and only kick back in once you drop under the maximum velocity. Class 3 electric bikes tend to have higher capacity batteries, measured in Wh (watt hours), as well as more powerful motors, to support longer rides and often more demanding terrain. With these features, Class 3 electric bikes also tend to be a bit more expensive than Class 1 electric bikes.

mid-step frame
high-step frame bike

Now onto something a little bit different...Class 2 bikes, also known as “low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycles”...Class 2 electric bikes are throttle-powered, meaning a rider does not have to pedal in order to ride however, the maximum speed is capped at 20 mph. Here at Gazelle, we only manufacture Class 1 and Class 3 electric bikes as we believe pedaling is essential to enjoying the ride.

We hope this blog post helps answer any questions you may have had on the topic of e-bike classes. Picking the right bike for you will depend on your riding style, the distances and terrain you most typically cover, as well as the type of routes you travel. For example, if you have a commute exceeding 10 miles, the speed and range that is afforded by a Class 3 bike may be the most practical and appealing option.

Be advised: laws regarding electric bikes vary by state. New legislation is being passed every year as eBikes grow in popularity and in number. People for Bikes is one of our favorite resources for keeping up to date.

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