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What is (and is not) an E-bike?

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

As electric bicycles (e-bikes) soar in popularity, it becomes imperative to comprehend the various e-bike classes and the corresponding licensing and registration requirements. Safety is our top priority, and in this blog, we present a comprehensive guide to help you understand the different e-bike classes and the rules that govern their usage. Let's delve into the details without any levity and equip you with the knowledge you need for a responsible and enjoyable e-bike experience.

E-bikes are categorized into several classes, primarily based on the level of pedal assistance and their top speed capabilities. Here's a breakdown of the most common e-bike classes:

  1. Class 1: These e-bikes offer pedal assistance up to 20 mph and are equipped with a motor providing up to 750 watts of power. They require pedaling to engage the motor.

  2. Class 2: Similar to Class 1 e-bikes, Class 2 e-bikes provide pedal assistance up to 20 mph. However, they come with a throttle that enables riders to control the motor without pedaling.

  3. Class 3: Class 3 e-bikes provide pedal assistance up to 28 mph and have a motor output of up to 750 watts. They also require pedaling to activate the motor.

  4. Class 4 & 5: These e-bikes may have pedals, but they can exceed 28 mph or have motors providing more than 750 watts of power. As a result, they may not be considered bicycles legally and might have specific regulations like electric motorcycles or mopeds.

In California, the regulations for operating e-bikes vary depending on their class and speed capabilities:

  • For Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes: No license or registration is required. Helmets are not mandatory for riders over 18, but we strongly recommend using them due to the higher speeds attainable with e-bikes.

  • For Class 4 and 5 e-bikes: Since they don't qualify as bicycles, they are often treated like electric motorcycles or mopeds. Consequently, a license and registration are required, and they may not be permitted in spaces designated for bicycles or Class 1/2 e-bikes.

Before purchasing or modifying an e-bike that exceeds 28 mph, it's essential to check with local authorities, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and your insurance carrier. Understanding local laws and insurance coverage can prevent potential legal issues and ensure a safe riding experience.

While e-bikes generally don't require insurance, it's prudent to verify if your existing insurance covers e-bike accidents or theft. If not, inquire about additional coverage options for added protection.

E-bikes offer an eco-friendly and cost-effective means of transportation and recreation. By comprehending the different e-bike classes and adhering to local regulations, we can create a safer and more enjoyable riding environment. Always prioritize safety, follow traffic laws, and be courteous to fellow road users.

Please remember that this blog post is meant for informational purposes only and should not replace your independent research and consultation with legal and insurance experts. Your safety and compliance with local laws are paramount.

When you're ready to continue your e-bike journey, we invite you to visit our shop at 1570 Barton Rd, Redlands, CA 92373 (corner of Barton/Alabama in the Stater Bros center). Alternatively, you can schedule a private demo, a virtual Q&A session, or explore more information on our social media pages and blog at https://www.redlandselectricbikes.com.


Safe riding!




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