Ebike Classes 1 vs 2 vs 3: What's the Difference?

Ebike Classes 1 vs 2 vs 3: What's the Difference?

July 21, 2022

What are electric bike (ebike) classes? Simply put, ebike classes differentiate between the top speeds and the components used. For example, a Class 1 ebike can go 20 mph, while a Class 3 can reach top speeds of up to 28 mph.

Choosing between ebike classes 1, 2, 3 could be a little difficult if you’re not exactly sure what the differences are between each class or what your desired use case is. Luckily for you, we at Aventon strive to keep you educated and help you along the way with choosing the type of electric bike that best fits your lifestyle.

Here’s what we’ll be discussing in this blog:

Federal Ebike Regulations

The 3 ebike class system was initially conceptualized and promoted by the PeopleForBikes Coalition and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA). These organizations worked together to create a standardized legislative framework for ebikes, aiming to provide clear guidelines for users, manufacturers, and law enforcement.

This classification framework began gaining momentum around 2015, following its adoption in California under Assembly Bill No. 1096 (AB-1096). The bill also specified the permissible areas for each ebike class, allowing class 1 and 2 ebikes in areas designated for traditional bicycles, while restricting class 3 ebikes to roads or bike paths near roads.

Following California's lead, over half of the U.S. states have now adopted this three-tier system. However, the implementation details differ from state to state, and some states have not yet formally classified ebikes in their legislation. This is important to consider when looking for the best electric bike for you, whether it’s class 1 vs class 2 ebike, class 2 vs class 3 ebike, or class 1 vs class 3 ebike.

What Is A Class 1 Ebike?

A Class 1 ebike is an electric bicycle that provides pedal-assist only, meaning the motor assists you only when you are pedaling. Because this type of ebike doesn’t have a throttle, it’s often allowed on bike paths and trails where traditional bicycles are permitted.

Class 1 ebikes are popular for their balance of assistance and cycling experience, making them suitable for a variety of users, from commuters to recreational cyclists.

Key features:

  • Pedal Assistance: Yes
  • Throttle: No
  • Max Assisted Speed: 20mph
  • Speedometer: Not Mandatory

Examples of Class 1 Ebikes:

What Is A Class 2 Ebike?

A Class 2 ebike is an electric bicycle equipped with a throttle-assisted motor. Class 2 allows the rider to engage the motor without pedaling, using a throttle. The motor assistance on these bikes also cuts off when the bike reaches a speed of 20 mph.

 Class 2 ebikes are popular among those who may want the option to ride without pedaling, such as for tackling hills or long distances with less physical strain.

Key features:

  • Pedal Assistance: Yes
  • Throttle: Yes
  • Max Assisted Speed: 20mph
  • Speedometer: Not Mandatory

Examples of Class 2 Ebikes:

What Is A Class 3 Ebike?

A class 3 ebike is an electric bicycle that provides pedal-assist up to a higher speed compared to class 1 and 2 ebikes. The pedal assistance in a class 3 ebike cuts off when the bike reaches 28 mph.

Due to their higher speeds, class 3 often have specific regulations, specifically age limit, and where they can be ridden. To find out age limit, and which trails and bike paths near you are restricted to class 3, contact state or local authorities.

Certain Aventon models, such as the Aventure, ship as a Class 2 ebike. However, by using the Aventon app, rider’s can adjust the top speed from 20 mph to 28 mph, making the Aventure a Class 3 ebike.

Key features:

  • Pedal Assistance: Yes
  • Throttle: No
  • Max Assisted Speed: 28mph
  • Speedometer: Mandatory

Examples of Class 3 Ebikes:

Class 1 vs Class 2 Ebike

Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes are two different categories of electric bicycles, each with distinct features and regulations. The key difference lies in how the motor is engaged.

While Class 1 ebikes require pedaling to activate the motor, Class 2 ebikes can be propelled by a throttle without needing to pedal. This distinction often influences where they can be used, as well as the riding experience.

Class 1 is more like a traditional biking experience with a boost, whereas Class 2 offers more flexibility for those who may want or need to ride without pedaling.

Class 2 vs Class 3 Ebike

Class 2 and Class 3 ebikes differ primarily in their motor assistance capabilities and speed limitations. Class 2 ebikes offer both throttle and pedal assistance up to 20mph, allowing for riding with little to no pedaling.

Class 3 ebikes, on the other hand, provide pedal-assist only but can reach higher speeds of up to 28 mph. The choice between the two depends on the rider's needs for speed and whether they prefer a throttle feature for ease of use while riding up hills or to give a break on long rides.

Class 1 vs Class 3 Ebike

Class 1 and class 3 ebikes are both types of electric bicycles, but they differ in terms of speed capabilities and motor operation such as 20mph for class 1 and 28mph for class 3.

The main differences are the speed at which the motor stops assisting the rider and where the bikes can be legally used. Class 1 ebikes are generally more versatile for recreational use on trails and paths, while Class 3 ebikes are geared towards faster commuting on roads.

What Is A Class 4 Ebike?

Class 4 ebikes are a new classifications that are actually classified as motor vehicles, similar to mopeds, and are not federally regulated. These “multi use” vehicles have a motor power exceeding 750W and do not have a maximum speed limit. These bikes can come with either throttle or pedal assistance systems, or both.

Key features:

  • Pedal Assistance: Not required, can be throttle-only
  • Throttle: Optional, may only have pedal-assist
  • Max Assisted Speed: Unlimited
  • Speedometer: Mandatory

Aventon does not make, nor recommend the use of these Class 4 vehicles as they are unregulated, and in some cases, illegal.

Find Your Ebike Class

To sum things up, the difference between the different Classes of ebikes is in the equipment and the top speed. For example, Class 1 is pedal assist only with a top speed of 20mph. Class 2 ebikes are pedal assist with the addition of a throttle and a top speed of 20 mph. Class 3’s have a top speed of 28 mph with pedal assist only.

As mentioned before, rules and regulations vary by state and county. Be sure to contact your local legislation or authorities to find out where you can ride your bike.

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Jim Flynn May 28, 2021

Very informative piece of writing here. You helped me choose the right bike for my wife by laying out the throttle vs pedal assist only option. This should be a first page standout for your website.


Floydian September 07, 2021

Thank you! I hadn’t been clear on the distinction between 2 and 3 until reading the parts where you talk about your Pace 500. I thought that a class 1 or class 3 had no throttle on the bike at all and just different top speed limits, and that a class 2 only had a throttle and no pedal assist. Now I see that a bike can be two different classes depending on how it’s used.

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