If you've shopped for an e-bike in the last five years, you'll probably have noticed there are seemingly endless makes, models and styles to choose from, with new options releasing every week, and there are also classes assigned to each of those new and shiny rides.
If you haven't familiarized yourself with e-bike classifications before now, it's worth brushing up on your knowledge of the category — especially if you're going to be shelling out thousands of dollars on your next pick.
There are three classes an electric bike can fall into: Class 1, 2 and 3. Each class has its own limitations and specifications, and it turns out you can't simply ride any of the classes anywhere you like — certain public avenues only allow specific classes, which we'll dive into below in detail.
The basic thing to remember here is that when you're shopping for an e-bike, its designated class will determine its power, some of its mechanisms and where you can or can't ride it. (It's worth noting that although most of the bike industry subscribes to these classes, there are sometimes discrepancy in their interpretation, so it's always best to check with your local laws to figure out what you can ride, and where.)
What is a Class 1 E-Bike?
Class 1 e-bikes are pedal-assist only, can have no throttle and top out at 20mph. If you're in the market for a bike you can ride virtually anywhere without getting a ticket, any Class 1 e-bike is a safe bet. They can ride on bike paths and in bike lanes shared with traditional, non-electric bikes. You won't have as much power assist at your disposal, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if you're looking for more of a workout.
Read our full review of the Cannondale Treadwell Neo 2 here.
What is a Class 2 E-Bike?
Class 2 e-bikes also have a top speed capped at 20 mph, but come with throttle-assisted power alongside pedal-generated assistance. They can generally be ridden in the same places as Class 1 counterparts.
What is a Class 3 E-Bike?
Class 3 e-bikes are pedal assist, may or may not have a throttle (this depends on the state's rules) and can achieve speeds up to 28 mph. Class 3 bikes are oftentimes the most regulated regarding where they can be ridden, due to their higher speeds, and they must come with a speedometer. You can ride your Class 3 e-bike in the bike lane or share the road with vehicles, but you can't take them on bike paths.
Read our full review of the Priority Current here.
How Was the E-Bike Class System Developed?
According to Bosch's website, "Since 2014, with leadership team from PeopleForBikes, the national bicycle advocacy group and bicycle industry trade association, more than 30 states have passed a standardized regulation for eBike use with a simple, straightforward approach known as the “3-Class” System." In 2015 California was the first state to adopt the system, with 32 additional states following its lead in the ensuing years.