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What's the difference between Class I and Class II eBikes?

What's the difference between Class I and Class II eBikes?

June 23, 2022 | Justin Christopher

Class I and II eBikes can look almost identical to the untrained eye, but they have some important differences in features, functionality, and trail access. Let's explore the differences between Class I and II eBikes, and the pros and cons of each type.

What are the differences between Class I and Class II eBikes?

Class I eBikes only have pedal assist - that means the electric motor turns on only when the rider is pedaling. Class I eBikes are limited to 20 MPH, you can still pedal faster than 20 MPH, but the electric motor will stop providing assistance. When it comes to off-road trails, (think about the type of terrain that would require a mountain bike) in general when eBikes are allowed, the permitted type will often be limited to the Class I style.

In contrast, Class II eBikes have both pedal assist and throttle-only modes. This means the rider can engage the electric motor in two ways, first by pedaling, and second by pushing or twisting a throttle, without pedaling. Like Class I eBikes, Class II eBikes are limited to 20 MPH, and the limit applies to both pedal assist and throttle operation. Class II eBikes are more likely to be restricted in some locations, especially off-road trails.

Pros and cons of Class I eBikes

 Pros Cons
  • Widest possible range of allowed trail access.
  • Allowed on just about all surface streets, plus many multi-user paths and even some off-road trails depending on location.
  • No throttle-only mode: the rider must pedal to turn on the electric motor. If you stop pedaling, the bike stops.
  • Restricted to 20 MPH on pedal assist. Some riders may want higher speeds to keep up with traffic.

Pros and cons of Class II eBikes

Pros Cons
  • Flexibility - the rider can pedal, or not, but can still engage the electric motor anytime it's desired.
  • Throttle mode can provide a boost on hills or in headwinds, if the rider is too tired to pedal.
  • Less trail access compared to Class I models. There are more restrictions on where Class II eBikes can be ridden.
  • Restricted to 20 MPH on both pedal assist and throttle modes.

What about Class III eBikes?

Also consider the 3rd style of eBikes, Class III. Class III eBikes (sometimes called "Speed Pedelec" - mostly in Europe) can travel up to 28 MPH on pedal assist - much faster than Class I or II models. Some Class III eBikes have throttles in addition to pedal assist; Class III models equipped with throttles stop providing assist at 20 MPH on throttle alone, and 28 MPH while the rider is pedaling.