Electric Bike Differences
Electric Bike styles differ widely in shape, size, and purpose. There are so many variations and types to choose from. And there are classifications. But they are still very similar to regular bikes in operation and appearance. Let’s dig in and see what electric bike style will be a great fit for you.
Transportation and Recreation
Electric Bikes are perfect for replacing short trips usually made by car. The investment in an e-bike can easily be justified by the savings of not operating a motor vehicle as often. You’ll save on gas, maintenance, and even parking expenses. Statistics show that about 1/2 of all car trips in the US are 3 miles or less. Check out this quiet, eco-friendly way to get around.
Whatever your style and needs are you’ll find a bike to match. Whether it’s for commuting or you want a less physically demanding way to bike ride there’s a perfect e-bike for you.
There are 4 classes or types of e-bikes. The laws for electric bikes are changing rapidly and differ from place to place. Use and restrictions are determined at the state and/or local level. Before you ride, check your local laws – anywhere in the world. What we’ve written can become obsolete – as much as we try to stay current. This article is written for the US electric bike user. And as time goes on things are changing rapidly.
Class 1 – Pedal Assist aka Pedelec
Under 750W, 20 mph limit, PAS
This is the most common type. It may or may not come with a throttle. As you pedal the bike the motor kicks in and provides assistance. This gives you more power for less effort. You’ll feel like you have bionic legs! The settings can control how much assistance you want. They typically have 3-5 settings. This type is limited to 20 mph. They are allowed on most roads and paths just like a regular bicycle. And there is no additional licensing required. But helmets are required on ages 17 and younger.
Class 2 – Throttle
Under 750W, 20 mph limit, PAS and throttle
The throttle propels the bike without pedaling. This is similar to a motorcycle. All you do is twist the handgrip or push on the thumb tab or button located on the handlebar. You can vary the amount of power and so the speed. But be careful the first time you try one of these. They can have a very fast start! You can pedal for a boost and to extend your battery range. This type also is limited to 20 mph with varied regulations. Some areas may not allow throttle control. They can be dangerous – taking off too quickly if not careful or activated accidentally. Some may require a license. Do your homework for your area. Helmet required on age 17 and under.
Class 3 – Speed Pedelec
Under 750W, 20 mph limit by throttle, 28 mph by PAS
While still considered a bicycle this type has a maximum allowable speed of 28 mph. While there is no license or plate required – a helmet is! It’s the law. And you must be 16 or older to use one. Again check your local laws for requirements to operate.
Class 4 – Moped or Motorcycle
Over 750W, 28+ mph, throttle or PAS
I will be adding a section “Other Electric”. To include scooters, mopeds and other cool things.
This class is considered a motor vehicle and as such it requires a license and registration. Riding one of these you have to follow the same laws as a gas-powered motorcycle or moped.
Fat Tire Electric Bikes
Not just for off-road. Fat tire electric bikes are rugged, versatile and practical. On-road or off these are a great performance pick. Extra-wide tires give a more comfortable ride, especially when paired with suspension. With their superior grip and traction, they’re good for soft terrains such as sand, rocks, mud, and snow. Speed isn’t the main goal here. If you’re riding on the pavement these bikes are harder to pedal because of their weight. This bike extends your riding season into the winter.
Designed for comfort – You – sitting upright on a large comfortable saddle. Designed for cruising around – casual, relaxed sweatless trips. Not designed for hills so much or speed or heavy cargo. The tires are a little wider, the handlebars more upright. Built for comfort and easy to control. So perfect for city riding, not just beach cruising. These are classy looking bikes.
Folding Electric Bikes
One of my favorites. The folding electric bike. Lighter, smaller, compatibility it has so much flexibility. If the one you choose is too heavy for you to carry be sure you can roll it along when folded. You’ll ride in an upright seated position. Some have suspension. Great for commuting, boating, RVing, city living, just about anything! Just fold ’em up and take it with you. No worries about locking it up.
Step-Through Electric Bikes
While some still think of these as a bike designed for females this isn’t the case. This is a design that allows for easier boarding. Some of our riders are older, stiffer, not as balanced and may have residual effects from illness and injury. Makes life easy, right?! Hop on, hop off easy. I know to swing my leg up and over a bar isn’t what it used to be.
Many are designed so that the pedals are a little forward of the seat and it can improve the riding comfort. The wheelbase is a little longer but doesn’t have much effect on the handling.
Go the distance and get there quickly. Often equipped with a rack and a lighting system. Get to work – no sweat! A commuter electric bike can be almost any type. Some things to consider are ease of handling in traffic. Quick acceleration. Good brakes. Suspension fork. Do you need to lock it or will you take it with you? Does it have a rack? How will you carry your work stuff, gym stuff, a grocery bag? Stability, comfort, range, and sturdy is what to look for.
These are designed for trails and climbing hills. Stable with great control – these are for fun! You could also use these to commute. But if your main desire is to explore mountains and trails then this is the one for you. This is a heavier bike with more power. They are built for tougher conditions. The power should be on the higher end. Remember that the mileage they claim is based on perfect conditions. Outside in actual use figure your range will be about 1/2. Test it out before you push the range. You don’t want to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no battery power.
Breaks are important with this bike. You should have disc brakes because you need pro stopping power.
Consider your shock absorption which will protect you and the components of your bike. Your system will have a longer life.
AKA Electric Tricycles. This is a three-wheeled ride offering better stability. Feels much more safe and secure. Great for seniors and people with special needs – young or old. These are also great cargo bikes and usually come with a basket or two for putting your stuff or even your pet in. Also good for hunters to carry their gear to places their car or truck won’t go. This is a fun and practical choice for day to day. A word of caution – keep the speed on the lower side to avoid tipping.
There are 2 types of conversion kits. I’m going to stick to the Hub Motor Electric Bike Conversion Kit. The Mid drive conversion kit is pricy. I’ve seen them at around $1k. I’d rather just put that towards a new e-bike if I’m spending that kind of money. What do you think?
The Hub motor conversion kits are more reasonably priced and pretty easy to install. You can get front or rear hub conversion kits.
Electric Hybrid Bikes
These are your traditional bikes with a little mountain bike in the design. They are a little tougher but not super heavy. You can get one with or without suspension. So make this bike by fitting it with a conversion kit. They are great for commuting or going out on trails. Sturdy but not as heavy as a mountain bike.
Comment below what your experience is with one of these bikes.
With hours of research into every article and hands-on experience with whatever I can get my hands on – I learn every day and bring all that here.
7 thoughts on “Electric Bike Styles – What Fits Your You? There are 4 classes of eBikes”
Really timely article as my husband is considering getting an ebike for work. He has a regular bike that he refuses to take because of a very steep hill and we’ve been a bit stumped ever since as we don’t know anyone with ebike experience.
Hi Jade, Sounds like an ebike would be a great solution for him! Let me know how I can help!
Hi Judy. I had no idea there were so many different types and styles of electric bikes. My thoughts were that there was only one type, for the road. You have opened my mind to a whole new world. The mountain E bikes fascinate me, I really would like to try one of these little babies out. I also never realized there was a speed limit on these that which, if is exceeded, you need a license to drive. I am definitely going to have to come back to your site for more information in the future. Is there such a thing as a tandem electric bike? All the best and thank you for your informative article. Jim
Hi Jim, this is a whole new world! There are so many cool types and options. I like mountain ebikes. I like how rugged they are. I hope you find a place to try one. The riding laws are different depending on where you live. And things are changing as awareness increases. There are tandem electric bikes. I know of tandem bikes that have been made into electric bikes with a conversion kit. That’s the cheaper way to go. The manufactured ones are pretty expensive. Thanks for stopping by!
I have been looking for an ebike for a couple of months now and the cruiser sounds like the one for me. I live in a small flat coastal town. I am thinking of trading my small car in for the more healthy (for me and the environment) more eco friendly form of transport like an ebook would be perfect. I will find out first what the law says about them in my country New Zealand.
The cruiser would be really good for your type of area Rina. I’d be interested in New Zealand’s ebike laws. I’ll have to look into it out of curiosity.
The world of electric bikes has really expanded over the past few years and there is sure to be one or more style of an electric bike that will suit your needs, perhaps more than one. I like that you have gone into detail and provided examples for each of the styles you covered.
Today such modes of transportation are not only very practical, but they can also help save the environment while providing a quicker way to maneuver through heavy traffic and especially traffic jams that are prevalent in most big cities these days. I found this article extremely useful…
The one that I likely would go with is the trike model as that is a versatile and stable bike offering storage room and ease of use (I am a bit older than many of your readers I think). Are these allowed to be used on the secondary roads in many places? I would likely want to use it just in the neighborhoods (USA, Florida) for shopping, etc.