The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act stipulates that electric bicycles (eBikes) can’t go faster than 20 mph, and if you read the entire act, you’ll discover that riders should weigh in the neighborhood of 170 pounds if they hope to achieve top speed.
No need to get on a diet — but you will want to know how your body weight can make a difference in the top speed you can expect when choosing products belonging to any of the three eBike classes described below.
Class 1: Pedal assist
In simple terms, you can’t move forward if you don’t pedal this class of electric bike in order to achieve the maximum speed of 20 mph. A sensor in the architecture – usually installed in the bottom bracket, rear hub, or rear wheel – measures the pedal rate so you couldn’t do more than 20 mph riding a 750w eBike if you tried.
Given the speed with which these bikes operate, a debate rages on about whether Class 1 pedal-assist eBikes should be granted the same privileges and rights as those given to non-assist models using bike lanes, off-trail roads, streets, and multi-use paths.
Feel strongly about this issue? Make your voice heard.
Read more: How to Build an Electric Bike
Class 2: Throttle on demand
Operation is activated via a throttle (trigger or button; grip-twist) or by the same pedaling mechanisms that drive Class 1 eBikes. In Europe, throttle on demand models are considered motor vehicles thus many roads are off limits to bikers able to achieve top speeds of around 15 mph if powered by a 250w motor.
In the U.S., Class 2 eBikes aren’t classified as motor vehicles. Because U.S. law states that 20 mph is the fastest a Class 2 eBike can hustle, restrictions for where bikes belonging to this class can operate are more relaxed than they are abroad.
Class 3: Speed Pedelec
Electric drive systems on Class 3 eBikes can surpass the 20 mph legal limit, in some cases attaining a max speed of 28 mph. How do fans of this eBike class get around the law? They stick to out-of-the-way places or private properties to operate models in this category that tend to feature 750w engines.
Some class 3 eBike models are hybrids composed of Class 2 and Class 3 features that rely upon throttles to achieve top speeds via motor power only while others include a pedal assist mode. While Class 3 eBikes with throttles aren’t common in Europe, they are popular in the U.S.
Read more: How to Choose an Electric Bike
How fast can a 1000W electric bike go?
If you’re traveling on flat ground, you may be able to get the speed on your eBike up to 35 mph if you’ve treated yourself to an eBike with a 1000W motor. Factor in your current weight if you’re thinking of buying a product with a 1000W motor. According to experts, your best chances of pushing your eBike to its 35 mph speed is to make sure that your weight doesn’t surpass 190 pounds.
How fast can a 750W electric bike go?
Far be it from us to insist that you pay attention to your body weight but the reality is that 750W eBikes can hit speeds of at least 20 mph and possibly more if the eBike you decide to acquire is classified as a “mid-drive” model. It may be capable of getting up to 28 mph if you’re lithe, but don’t expect to set records climbing hills.
How fast can a 500W electric bike go?
Opt for a 500W eBike and you’ll reach top speeds of 20 mph, the legal limit at full throttle with no pedaling effort needed. Once again, weight makes all the difference in the speed you hope to achieve, despite the fact that a 500W motor delivers lots of power. If you’re skinny — say 100 pounds — a bike with a 250W motor could speed past a 250-pound dude riding an eBike fitted with the 500W motor, so keep that in mind.
Read more: How to Remove Speed Limiter on Electric Bike
Is there a 3000W eBike in your future? That depends upon your need for speed. Faster eBikes are on drawing boards and in test labs. While 3000W eBikes have the capacity to reach a speed of 50mph, with this perk comes a down side: Wind resistance factors kick in once a rider reaches 30 mph.
Until that becomes a non-factor, why not base your buying decision on the model that best suits your riding proclivities and choose the class that delivers the most amount of fun and self-confidence?