How Fast Do Electric Bikes Go?
October 1, 2021
How fast are electric bikes? is probably one of the most common questions that the ebike curious ask of ebikers. It is a legitimate question because you're adding a motor to a mode of transportation that humans have had the ingenuity to gear so that they can travel at very high speeds under their own power; up to almost 90mph in The Human Powered Speed Challenge that takes place in Nevada every September! Denise Mueller-Korenek holds the record for the fastest cycling person in the world, reaching over 183mph on the Utah salt flats in 2018; be it with a motor car's slipstream for assistance. As far as ebikes go, the world's fastest ebike is the SWIND EB-01 which has an official top speed of 60mph; but the creator says that with some tinkering it can hit 80mph!
People's assumptions about ebike speed vary from supa-dupa fast, imagining that everyone is going to be whizzing around at 60+mph, to not-too-fast-at-all, and kind of pointless. In fact, most ebikes are not designed for high speeds, rather for assistance in achieving and sustaining higher speeds, carrying goods, or enabling the freedom of biking for those who might not be able to do it under their own power; like Mark!
Many factors are affecting the answer to "how fast can an electric bike go?" and the main ones are legislation, weight, and motor power. While hitting higher speeds can be fun it can have a great impact on an ebike's range. We'll discuss all these factors here.
How Fast are Electric Bikes?
How fast an ebike can go depends on the size of its motor. Almost every ebike you’ll see in the USA is capable of exceeding the speeds it is limited to. It is common to see ebikes categorized regarding their speed and functionalities using a tier system of three classes:
Class 1 - 20mph with only pedal assist
Class 2 - 20mph with pedal assist and a throttle function that negates the need to pedal
Class 3 - 28 mph with only pedal assist
These classes are not yet set in stone, more on that in the next section, but they’re the guidelines that most ebike companies follow when designing their ebikes because these classes are turning out to be the preferred framework for legislators.
Whether or not an ebike in each of these classes can reach its permitted electric bike top speed depends on the payload it is carrying and its motor output. The maximum speed of an ebike will be relative to both its payload and the power output of its motor, but, in most cases, with just you on your ebike, you’ll be able to reach the class limits placed upon it.
It is worth noting that higher speeds can be reached by pedal power and the assistance of gravity because the speed of the bike itself is not limited, rather the electric assistance cuts out when the class limit is reached.
Ebike Legislation: How Fast Can I Legally Travel?
20mph might seem fast to some but it has not been chosen arbitrarily. 20mph has been set as a limit because it is found to be equivalent to speeds sustained by regular cyclists on roads, trails, and bike paths. Class 3 ebikes are usually restricted to roads and roadside bike paths because of the higher speed ceiling programmed into them.
The hard part about answering the question “how fast can I legally travel on an ebike?” is that legislation differs by state. As of 2021, legislation creating a class system for ebike has been accepted in 37 States and you can see those States, the related bills, and the limitations set forth within them in this spreadsheet created by People for Bikes.
People for Bikes have also curated a handy list of links to State level ebike legislation and the handouts they created for their citizens upon introducing the legislation. These resources allow ebike riders to easily discover how and where they’re legally allowed to travel with their ebike in their state, or a different state if they’re maybe crossing State lines and taking their ebike on vacation with them.
The Speed and Range Trade-Off
The range is often a bigger concern than speed for those purchasing an ebike, but many don’t realize that there is a big trade-off between speed and range. The slower the speed you’re propelled at by your throttle or pedal assist the further you’ll be able to travel. The faster your motor pushes you along the shorter the distance it’ll cover before it runs out of juice; even though it is going faster.
It is for this reason that here at Aventon we did a Real World Range Test for every single one of our products and published it on their product page on our website so you can see how fast and far you can travel with the throttle or different levels of pedal assist. This allows you to weigh your options when it comes to what you’re wanting from your Aventon ebike on a particular day. What we’ve found is that, roughly, if you double your speed you halve the range of your ebike.
A Last Word
How fast can electric bikes go is relative to the motor power and the weight they’re carrying at a particular time. How fast do ebikes go is relative to the electronic restrictions placed upon them by the manufacturer to meet legislation; and then the human input after that. What top speed an electric bike can reach is based upon all of these factors, from human input and motor output to removed restrictions, reduced payload, and includes the gradient a rider is traveling down.
The better question regarding the speed capabilities of an electric bike is not how high a speed they can reach but how much they can assist the rider with their speed. Can your electric bike get you quickly and comfortably off the line at the traffic lights if you’re a commuter? Or, can higher speeds be sustained for the distance you need to cover in order to get you to where you want to go in the time frame you’ve set for yourself?
Reaching higher speed can be super fun, but with higher speeds do come higher risks. Most current ebikes aren’t designed to hit astronomical speeds, they’re being designed around practicality and fulfilling a purpose for their use rather than being a pure thrill ride of speed and adrenaline. But, if you want, you can always push your ebike to its or your limits, whichever comes first, by finding yourself a big old hill and watching your speedometer climb!