Whether you are a greenhorn who’s just getting started with cycling, or a veteran hoping to transition to an electric bicycle, you all probably have this question on your minds: How fast do most electric bikes go, and are they faster than regular bikes?
The maximum speed of electric bikes average at 20-28mph, whereas a regular bike maxes out at 15mph. So yes, electric bikes are faster than regular bikes.
That said, there are a ton of other factors that affect the speed of an electric bike, electric bikes, and traditional bikes have a “same same, but different, but still same” relationship with each other so it’s hard to assume which is the fastest.
Therefore, in the following section, I’ll talk more about this using related topics such as
How Fast Can an Electric Bike Go?
How does the Riding Experience Differ in Electric Bikes?
What goes into Maintaining a Fast Electric Bike?
Common Questions Regarding Fast Electric Bikes
So buckle up and let’s get into it.
How Fast Do Electric Bikes Go?
As I mentioned above, many factors affect the maximum speed of an electric bike. Like traditional bicycles, the harder you pedal, the faster you will go. So despite the speed restriction, electric bikes won’t automatically turn on the brakes — like a Tesla — whenever you cross the 20-28mph mark.
That said, you can’t expect the electric motor on your bike to support you when the speed is above the said limit, since the controller (found on most class 1 and 2 electric bikes) will shut down the motor. As a result, it will not support you via pedal assist, and the button/twist throttle controls will also stop responding.
So when you reach these speed limits enforced by the electric bike, the bike’s electric system will shut down. If you want to keep going faster (and eventually collect all the rings like Sonic), you will have to introduce raw pedal power into the mix. You can also remove the speed limiter on your ebike if you want to.
If you want to know more about the factors that affect the speed of electric bikes, stick around because there are a noteworthy few such as the class system, the motor, the bicycle frame, and the environment to consider.
The Class System for Maximum Speed
You might have come across this already and may have trouble figuring out what electric bike class is good for you. Personally, I prefer a thief class because they have higher speeds, can easily swerve around traffic, and have a lower chance of being detected by hipsters.
Jokes aside, there are three distinct classes of e-bikes: classes 1, 2, and 3. Here, class 1 electric bikes are limited to 20mph and pedal assist mode. Class 2, on the other hand, can include either pedal-assist or throttle, but they only drive the motor until it reaches a top speed of 20mph.
Class 3 electric bikes are the fastest since they support pedal assist for up to 28mph. Unfortunately, most class 3 e-bikes are strictly pedal-assisted and don’t include thumb/twist throttle systems. If you are an avid cyclist (or, in this case: e-cyclist), your best option is to go for class 3 electric bikes.
Lastly, there are the class 4 e-bikes. It is an “unofficial” class because they are considered illegal to ride out in public. They fall under the category of electric dirt bikes because their top speed is greater than 28mph.
Motor Power and Top Speed
The wattage of the motor is one of the top specs that you might come across when considering an electric bike. There are e-bikes with 250W motors and ones with almost 1000W — regardless of the class.
Although more wattage is always better, you won’t need them unless you have plans to go off-roading or haul serious cargo (rider included).
In most electric bikes, the motor’s maximum power rarely affects the top speed, and most class 3 e-bikes (and lower) have wattages less than 750W. Also, a high-wattage motor with throttle controls will tempt you to ride with more torque, draining your battery faster than usual.
You don’t need powerful electric bikes if you are planning ride in urban or suburban terrain, where the roads are mostly smooth and leveled out. Most riders (even heavier ones) can easily get by with a 750W folding bike.
A mid-drive motor is more expensive but has enough torque to push you along. Apart from that, they are installed in the middle of the bicycle frame (right beside the front derailleur); this distributes the weight more evenly, making the experience more akin to that of a traditional bike.
Despite the “push and pull” sensation, a hub motor is lighter, faster, and more efficient; highly recommended for most beginners. Also, e-bikes with hub drives won’t get you stranded if the chain breaks or keeps falling off, you can still “throttle” back home.
Other Factors that Affect the Maximum Speed
Apart from the motor, there are many factors that can affect the overall speed of many e-bikes. A few of these include the tires, weight of the riders, and terrain.
There are various types of tires (see here on how to choose the right type) that you can set up in your e-bike. There are road tires, hybrid tires, and off-road ones. If you are mainly limited to the city, where the roads are paved with asphalt and concrete, road tires and hybrid tires will be the most ideal. You can use mountain bike tires and BMX tires, but you will have to change gears very often, and you won’t be able to ride faster.
What’s the Riding Experience like for Fast Electric Bikes?
Electric bikes definitely beat traditional bicycles in terms of convenience, no doubt it. With an electric bike, you can easily ride around at high speeds without tiring and you won’t have to use your car as often.
With an electric bike, your daily commute, and that trip to the store are going to change. So, there are some things you need to be concerned about when using a fast electric bike.
Major Advantages of Using Electric Bikes
Less Tiring: One of the primary reasons electric bikes were introduced is because they require less effort than regular bicycles. You can control the motor directly or make pedaling easier. Electric bikes (or even trikes) are great alternatives for seniors who want to get a little exercise without straining too hard.
Can Cover More Ground: Since electric bikes don’t require a lot of effort, many adults can go further with an electric bike. They can commute to work without sweating like a turkey on Christmas and spend their time and energy on better things.
Good for the Environment: Sure, an electric bike is not as eco-friendly as a regular bike, but it’s a whole lot better than a car, and you don’t have to stop for gas all the time. You can charge it via the grid. (Or set up an off-grid solar system.)
Major Disadvantages of Using Electric Bikes
Expensive: Unlike non-electric bikes, E-bikes are not cheap. Excluding the conversion kits, most E-bikes will run you up for more than $1000. Although you can buy an ebike under $1500 which is more affordable than a car (and worth it in the long run), you have to pay a large sum up front. Also, most electric components (such as the battery and motor) are not cheap, so replacing them can burn an even bigger hole in your wallet.
Heavy: Electric bikes may be lighter than motorcycles but they are heavier than regular bikes. Usually, e-bikes are 50% heavier than regular bikes not because of the bike frame, but because of the battery, motor, and controller system. (Yes, despite being Li-Ion, or LiFePo4, the batteries are surprisingly heavy.) This slight increase in weight might not be an issue at first, but if you are trying to mount your bicycle on a rack (for storage or transportation), it might be difficult to hoist it up and you might need a specialized car rack for it.
Limited Range: The average range of most E-bikes are 20-50 miles on a single charge. For a commuter or somebody who’s just moving around the city, this might not be a big deal but for hunters, backpackers, and other cyclists, traveling for long distances, it can be a deal-breaker. When the battery drains out, you will be riding a regular bike, with the battery and motor being more of a burden.
Fortunately, the laws regarding electric bikes are pretty simple: you don’t need a license to drive class 1 and 2 e-bikes nor special insurance (although it couldn’t hurt to have one). However, for class 3 electric bikes, you need to be older than 17, and the speed should be limited to 28mph with no button/twist throttle controls. (Only pedal assist.)
As mentioned previously, class 4 bikes (electric dirt bikes) are not allowed on the streets.
Safety of the Rider and the E-Bike
According to US law, electric bikes are not deemed more dangerous than regular bikes. However, they are at a higher risk because of the pedal-free acceleration from the electric motor. (Most regular bikes can only reach 15mph top speeds.)
Safety rules for E-bikes are almost the same as regular bikes:
Wear your helmet
Follow the rules of the road
Don’t ride while intoxicated
Stay under the speed limits
Don’t use your phone while cycling (even when it’s hooked on to a phone holder)
Also, to prevent theft: don’t forget to lock your bike, keep it indoors when possible, and remove the battery after locking it. It is also helpful to purchase a GPS if your ebike doesn’t have a GPS.
I recommend removing the battery and taking it with you if you don’t intend to ride again for another couple of hours.
Maintaining a Fast Electric Bike
Similar to regular bikes, you need to carry out regular maintenance on your electric bikes. There are two types of maintenance: mechanical maintenance, which is the regular maintenance you would carry out for a traditional bicycle, and electrical maintenance: which is maintaining the batteries, controller, and motor.
Mechanical maintenance usually involves checking the tires, shifters, brakes, pedals, lubing the chain (see here how long ebike chain lasts), checking the brake/gear cables, washing the bike, etc. You can easily do this yourself (with the proper tools), or you can get it serviced from any regular bike shop.
Many experts recommend servicing your bike once a year. However, if you use it almost every day or take it off-roading very regularly, you should check the condition of the bike and get it serviced sooner. (At least once every three months.)
Electrical maintenance is not that hard, all you need to do is to keep the batteries topped off and the bike clean. Most e-bikes have water-resistant enclosures for the controller, battery, and motor.
However, they aren’t completely waterproof so make sure you take out the battery when pressure washing it or when it’s exposed to heavy weather. (Dust, wind, snow, and rain.)
Do Electric Bikes Automatically Apply the Brakes when it is Too Fast?
No, the e-bikes won’t slow you down when it reaches the 20-28mph limit. It only disables the motor and prevents you from accelerating or receiving pedal-assist to go any faster.
Do Electric Bikes have Regenerative Braking?
Regenerative braking is difficult to implement, and even if it did, the mechanism would put extra strain on the rider when they try to ride it without throttle/pedal assist. Therefore it is not implemented in most affordable E-bikes.
Do I have to pedal with a Fast Electric Bike?
Yes, most electric bikes are pedal-assisted unless you have an e-bike with a button/twist throttle. Riding an e-bike like a moped is not recommended because you will have reduced range since the battery will drain faster.
Is an Electric Bike Better than a Car?
E-bikes have a very smaller footprint than cars; hence, the environmental impact of E-bikes is minimal, and you can do a lot more with an E-bike than a regular bicycle. However, it’s unlikely that everybody will ditch their cars anytime soon.
Can I Ride an Electric Bike Without the Battery?
Yes, you can ride your electric bike like a normal bicycle without a battery. However, it will be more difficult since an E-bike is more taxing than a regular bike when there is no electric assist.
Electric bikes (see also ebikes pros and cons) are definitely faster than regular bikes. While normal pedal bikes can only reach top speeds of 15mph, electric bikes can blaze through at 20-28mph.
Even though you can get there faster than Google Maps, it is more dangerous, and you are at a higher risk of getting injured. So always wear your helmet. If you are not sure if you should wear a special helmet or what kind of helmet you should use, read this article here. Aside from wearing a helmet, always follow the rules of the road, and don’t try to go faster than the allowed speed limit of your E-bike class.
Andrew Strider is an electric bike enthusiast. He currently owns 5 electric bikes and is an active member of his local electric bike club where he is able to test many other models/brands a few times a month.
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