E-Bike Basics

Man and woman riding e-bikes next to boat.

E-bike FAQ's

Interested in buying an e-bike? Here’s everything you need to know.

An electric bicycle resembles a conventional two-wheeled bike but an e-bike also incorporates an electric motor which aids in pedaling.

Depending on the classification of the e-bike (more details on e-bike classes below), the electric motor offers two types of assistance.

Firstly, a pedal assist system (PAS) engages and provides support while pedaling. Secondly, a throttle assist system propels the bike forward even without pedaling.

You have the option to choose the desired level of electric assistance, allowing you to adjust the amount of support you receive. For instance, when encountering a challenging hill you may opt for a higher level of pedal assist.

Thanks to this customizable assistance, e-bikes offer a workout while enabling faster, longer and more extensive travel since you can engage the pedal or throttle assist when fatigue sets in.

In California, electric bicycles are permitted for use on public roads and streets without requiring a license or registration. However, riders of electric bicycles must adhere to certain regulations. For instance, individuals under the age of 18 and those operating a class 3 electric bike must wear a helmet.

At the core of the e-bike lies the motor, which serves as its driving force. The motor powers the pedal assist system (PAS) and, if present, the throttle assist system. Various types of electric bike motors exist including mid-drive motors, geared hub motors and direct-drive hub motors.

Irrespective of its mechanical workings the e-bike motor relies on the bike’s battery for power. The battery type and capacity can vary among e-bikes but most modern models utilize lithium-ion batteries.

The e-bike’s battery can be detached from the bike and recharged using a designated charger that connects to a wall outlet. Once the battery is fully charged, it can be reinserted into the e-bike and you’re all set to ride.

The duration of the battery’s life, or how long it will last before needing to be recharged, depends on the specific e-bike you choose.

However, the range of the battery which refers to how long it lasts is also influenced by factors such as weight and cycling style. For instance, engaging a high level of pedal assist while ascending hills will deplete the battery more quickly compared to riding downhill without pedal assist.

E-bikes are categorized into three primary groups based on factors such as motor power, availability of pedal and/or throttle assist and maximum speeds. Familiarizing yourself with the e-bike class allows you to anticipate its performance characteristics.

Depending on the class, certain areas may permit riding a Class 1 e-bike while prohibiting the use of a Class 3 e-bike for instance.

These regulations vary across states with many states having their own e-bike classifications or lack thereof. California, for example, has legislation specifying three e-bike classes.

There are generally accepted definitions for e-bike classes, and we provide an overview of these standard classifications below.

Class 1

A Class 1 e-bike, also known as a pedelec, relies on pedaling to propel forward. It features pedal assist but lacks throttle assist, limiting its speed to a maximum of 20 miles per hour.

In most cases, Class 1 e-bikes are permitted in the same areas as traditional bicycles such as bike paths and bike lanes. However, the specific regulations governing their usage depend on local government ordinances.

Class 2

Class 2 e-bikes offer both pedal assist and throttle assist, allowing them to move forward even without pedaling. Generally, Class 2 e-bikes are not designed to exceed 20 mph. Many jurisdictions allow the use of Class 2 e-bikes on conventional bike paths and lanes.

Class 3

Class 3 e-bikes are slightly faster, reaching speeds of up to 28 mph. They often come equipped with a speedometer, which may be required in certain states like California. Class 3 e-bikes are typically permitted on roads and designated bike-only shoulder lanes. However, due to their higher power output, they are generally not allowed on standard bike lanes, paths or trails.

Apart from the various e-bike classes, there are also e-bike variations designed for certain terrains and types of rides. Virtually every bicycle category now offers an electric counterpart. Below is a brief overview of some commonly available e-bike types.

  • Hybrid/Commuter: Well-suited for commuting and recreational rides on both pavement and light trails. It provides an upright riding position and medium-width tires that are versatile for different uses.
  • Cargo: An electric cargo bike is a type of bicycle that is specifically designed for carrying cargo or passengers.
  • Adaptive: These are e-bikes that make the act of cycling easier for the rider, whatever their individual needs. 
  • Cruiser: Perfect for leisurely rides on paved surfaces offering a comfortable and relaxed upright riding position along with wide tires for enhanced comfort.
  • Mountain: Ideal for tackling rugged trails or exploring your neighborhood. This style features a forward riding position and wide, knobby tires designed to handle challenging terrains.

When choosing an e-bike, consider your preferred riding style, your storage options and where you plan to ride to ensure the best match for your needs.

As a rule of thumb, the average range on a full charge is in the range of 22-50 miles.

The range an e-bike can cover on a single charge is influenced by various factors, such as the capacity of its battery, motor size, age of the battery, speed, environmental elements and the size and weight of the bike.

Additionally, the strain exerted on the e-bike motor by the cyclist affects the distance the e-bike can travel.

When cycling on level ground with minimal use of pedal assist, you will be able to cover a greater distance compared to cycling uphill while engaging maximum pedal assist.

Charging your e-bike is a simple and straightforward process. To initiate charging it’s as simple as plugging the charging unit into a wall outlet and then connecting it to the charging socket on your e-bike battery.

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Charging can be done with the battery on the bike, although some batteries are removable and can be charged separately.
  • Your e-bike comes with a battery charger, and it is crucial to use the charger provided by the manufacturer to ensure safety.

The duration required to charge the battery depends on several factors. As a general estimate, it may require approximately 4-5 hours for a full charge, although these times can vary.

To ensure optimal and safe charging, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid charging in extreme temperatures. Choose a dry and cool location.
  • Avoid leaving your e-bike plugged in continuously. Higher-end charging systems will automatically shut off when the battery is fully charged, but some systems may continue to charge. It is advisable to unplug the charger once the battery is fully charged.
  • You can ride your e-bike until the battery reaches 0% and then recharge it as soon as you arrive home or at your destination.

Always follow the manufacturer’s charging recommendations for your specific model.

Electric bikes at the entry-level price range typically start around $1,000, while high-end e-bikes can exceed $6,000 in cost.

Adaptive and cargo style e-bike costs will vary depending on the needs of the individual rider but will generally cost more that a traditional style e-bike.

If you’re interested in enhancing your e-bike with additional features there are various options to consider. Here are some items worth exploring:

Front or rear racks: Adding a rear rack to your e-bike can provide extra storage and functionality, which can be useful if you commute to work or school and need to carry a bag or other belongings.

Helmet: A good helmet is a key item for any bike rider. Top-notch e-bike helmets not only enhance safety but also incorporate advanced technology and design elements to effectively handle the increased speeds and distinct riding positions associated with e-bikes.

Locks: Keep your investment safe with a good quality lock. Don’t let thieves take advantage of an unprotected e-bike.

Additional lights: While integrated lights are a requirement for approved e-bikes in our program, investing in additional lights can improve visibility, enhancing safety during rides even more, especially in low-light conditions.

Reflective clothing: Consider wearing reflective clothing to further enhance visibility, particularly at night. Reflective clothing makes it easier for motorists, pedestrians, and fellow cyclists to see you on the road.

Fenders: Installing fenders on your e-bike can protect you from water splash when riding through muddy or watery terrain. They help keep your clothes clean and can be particularly beneficial if you plan to ride your e-bike to work or other destinations.

By exploring these additional features and accessories, you can personalize and optimize your e-bike to better suit your needs and preferences – and keep you safe.

Why are e-bikes so popular?

Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, have become increasingly popular due to the many benefits they offer. Some of these benefits include:

  • Eco-friendly: As electric vehicles, e-bikes generate zero emissions, making them an environmentally sustainable mode of transportation.
  • Cost-effective: Compared to cars and motorcycles, e-bikes are significantly cheaper and require minimal maintenance.
  • Health benefits: E-bikes are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and improve cardiovascular health and the electric motor makes riding them accessible to more people.
  • Time-efficient: E-bikes are generally faster than traditional bikes making them a great choice for commuting or running errands.
  • Fun and versatile: E-bikes come in varying designs and styles for all types of riders making them suitable for a wide range of activities – from city commuting to off-road adventures.

Now more than ever there are options available to suit the needs of many. We encourage you to have a discussion with an approved e-bike retailer in your area to find the right options for you.

E-bike safety basics

With e-bikes becoming increasingly popular, it’s important to remember that they can pose safety risks if not used properly. Here are some reasons why e-bike safety is crucial:

  • E-bikes can reach high speeds, making it important to wear a helmet and other protective gear
  • Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and obey traffic laws
  • Understand how to properly operate and charge an e-bike before using it

By following these tips, you can increase e-bike safety and ensure a positive and enjoyable experience while riding.

blue helmet on e-bike handlebar

What is an electric cargo bike?

Black front load cargo e-bike.

An electric cargo bike is a type of bicycle that is specifically designed for carrying cargo or passengers.

The cargo area of an electric cargo bike is typically located at the front or rear of the bike and is designed to carry large or bulky items such as groceries, packages, tools, or even children. The cargo area is usually equipped with a sturdy rack or basket, which can be customized with additional accessories like bags, boxes, or straps to secure the load.

Riders can control the level of assistance provided by the motor which can range from low-level assistance to higher levels depending on the terrain and the weight of the load.

Electric cargo bikes are a great alternative to cars or vans for small businesses that need to transport goods or equipment within the city.

What is an adaptive electric bike?

The simple answer is a bike that makes the act of cycling easier for the rider, whatever their individual needs. Whether that’s changes to an existing two-wheel bike or a need-specific bike or trike. Choosing the right adaptive bike depends largely on the primary need.

A tandem bike might be ideal for those with visual impairments, while a person with balance difficulties might prefer a tricycle style e-bike.

Similarly, individuals with lower body spinal cord injuries may not be able to ride a standard recumbent bike but they could potentially use a hand cycle. Furthermore, some individuals may prefer to ride in pairs for physical or cognitive reasons.

We encourage you to have a discussion with an approved e-bike retailer in your area to find the right option for you.

White electric trike in front of the water and city skyline.

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