3

I have a daily 15 mile commute (1-way) which takes me approximately 1hr 15 min each way if I bike (taking into account traffic signals and so on). The route is all surface roads, with some mild hills. Sweating on the ride to work isn't an issue as my building has a shower and I don't feel particularly tired after. However, the sheer amount of time it takes each way is the main reason I don't bike every day; I'd like a commute that's more in the region of 45 minutes each way. I would like to cut my travel time. Therefore, I'm considering an e-bike purchase and am wondering the following:

  1. Class 2 bikes go up to 20 mph with throttle and the saleswoman told me that pedal + motor could take it over 20mph. Is this true? On a Youtube video I watched they said something to the effect of "the motor stops helping after 20mph". Does that mean it shuts off once your speed goes over 20mph, leaving it entirely up to your muscle power?
  2. Class 3 bikes go up to 28 mph per my understanding. Since I don't take bike paths on my commute they are legal (I live in California). Should I be considering a class 3 bike instead of a class 2 if my goal is a faster commute (as opposed to not sweating or getting tired)?

Based on comments, here is the question I'm actually trying to have answered:

Are class 2 bikes useful for going more than 20 mph consistently? Or is class 3 better for me if I want more speed?

Example class 2: https://electricbikereview.com/genze/sport-e101/

Example class 3: https://electricbikereview.com/juiced-bikes/oceancurrent/

  • 2
    It's unclear what you're asking. Of course an ebike will be less effort and leave you less sweaty. And of course the faster the bike, the shorter the commute. What is your question? – RoboKaren Jul 7 '17 at 19:07
  • I left 2 different questions in the two points at the bottom. The first was what does Class 2 being limited to 20mph really mean? And does Class 3 give you a faster ride on average than Class 2 or just makes you less tired to go at the same speed? – Jay Jul 7 '17 at 19:11
  • @Paparazzi yes assuming perfectly flat roads and no stopping for traffic signals. Since I can't travel at a constant 20 mph, it implies that I need to be going faster than 20 mph when I'm actually moving to make up for the times that I'm stopped or going slower than 20 mph. – Jay Jul 7 '17 at 19:48
  • Then what is your question if 20 mph is not good enough? VTC – paparazzo Jul 7 '17 at 19:49
  • 1
    You need to try them out and find how they work for you. Pedal assist is an unusual feeling till you get used to it. Can you hire/rent one for a day ? – Criggie Jul 7 '17 at 20:52
4

Of course an ebike will be less effort and leave you less sweaty. And of course the faster the bike, the shorter the commute.

Class I: The key thing about this is that it's pedal assist only. The motor will only turn on while you're pedalling -- and it'll cut off at 20 mph -- so going faster than that will require you to pedal. Going downhill with a backwind and pedaling like a demon, you could feasibly go 40mph or faster.

Class II: These bikes have a throttle (combined usually with a pedal sensor) so the motor can turn on without pedaling. So you can go from 0 to 19.9mph without pedaling. At 20mph, regardless of whether you're using the throttle or pedal-assist, the motor will cut out and you'll have to pedal to go any faster or to maintain speed -- note that these bikes are usually heavy so even pedaling you're more than likely to quickly lose speed back down to 19.9mph unless you are pretty buff or you're going downhill. Technically, Class II are limited to 20mph for electric assist but it's often possible to bypass that control with a firmware upgrade or setting in the control panel.

Speed Limiters: On most Class I and II bikes, the speed limiter is a hard cutoff. The motor can give you 100% power up until 19.9 mph and then when you hit 20.0 mph, the motor gives you 0% power and you have to pedal to maintain speed. The bike usually quickly loses speed (as pedaling a heavy bike at 20.0 mph is non-trivial) and the motor kicks back in at 19.9 mph. This can cause some jerkiness around the speed-limiter zone especially if you were using pedal-assist because the bike suddenly gets very heavy at 20 mph (it's not as noticeable with a throttle, where it just feels like the motor is cutting in and out). More expensive bikes will more smoothly ramp the power down: 100% power at 19.0 mph; 80% power at 19.2 mph; 60% at 19.4; etc. etc. and then smoothly ramp the power back up while you're accelerating.

Class III: These bikes have a throttle (combined usually with a pedal sensor) so the motor can turn on without pedaling. These are limited to 28mph for electric assist but it's often possible to bypass that control with a firmware upgrade or setting in the control panel. For example, some are sold with an "off-road only" switch.

All of these are limited to 750 watts of electric assist power as well. For more info: https://electricbikereview.com/guides/electric-bike-classes/

  • Thanks. I suppose my question is does riding a Class II make it easier (i.e. requires less muscle power) to go faster than 20 mph than it would be on an unpowered bike? Or do I have to buy a class 3 bike to go faster than 20 mph with less muscle power than it would take on an unpowered bike? I don't have a good feel for what pedal assist actually gives you, having not ridden e-bikes outside of small test tracks. – Jay Jul 7 '17 at 20:47
  • Going exactly at 20mph, the assist motor will cut in and out on Class I and II bikes (the higher end ones have smoother cutoffs) which is disconcerting. At 19mph, it won't really matter. At 21mph, you'll have to pedal on anything but a Class III and it'll be some effort to maintain 21mph unless you're going downhill. Remember most ebikes are heavy. – RoboKaren Jul 7 '17 at 23:10
  • Can you add that to the answer? I think that's pretty much what I'm looking for: to go faster than 20 mph consistently I need a class 3 bike (otherwise I'm expending muscles to power an already-heavy bike). I'll accept now but it's better for other people in the future to not hunt for the answer in the comments. – Jay Jul 7 '17 at 23:58
  • If you want to go consistently at > 20 mph on city roads without pedaling, you'd be best advised to get a motor scooter (or e-scooter). They have the frame, motor, and battery capacity to get you safely to that speed. Most importantly, they look like motor vehicles and they have turn signals, so you're less likely to confuse the cagers (car drivers) who will otherwise run you over. – RoboKaren Jul 8 '17 at 0:50
2

But 20 mph would get you there in 45 minutes.

The California law is motor assisted up to 20 mph versus 28 mph. Beyond that it is all you. Which is consistent with the common definition of class 2 and 3. Class 3 (28 mph) are limited to road and bike path by CA law.

Based on edit

Are class 2 bikes useful for going more than 20 mph consistently?

Well if you can pedal faster than 20 mph consistently then the answer would be no.

You are currently doing 12 mph. Are you trolling?

  • 1
    I'm confused about what "motor assisted" actually means. Does the motor stop entirely after my speed crosses 20 mph, then start back up as my muscles get fatigued and my speed drops back below 20 mph? Or is it additive i.e. motor will not output more power than is needed for the bike to go 20 mph, any more is up to me but the motor won't stop outputting power. – Jay Jul 7 '17 at 19:50
  • Motor assisted up to X mph means exactly that. If the motor was still running it would be assisting you. – paparazzo Jul 7 '17 at 19:54
  • Which means, practically speaking, class 2 bikes are not useful for going faster than 20 mph? – Jay Jul 7 '17 at 20:25
  • @Jayraj Well, that would depend on if you can pedal faster then 20 mph. – paparazzo Jul 7 '17 at 20:29
  • 1
    I have gotten in trouble for breaking the be nice policy on this site and I cannot continue to try and help you and stay within guidelines. – paparazzo Jul 7 '17 at 20:50
0

I would go with a class 3 electric Velomobile instead of an uncovered bicycle. You are using it to get to work so you need a fairing to protect you from weather, wind, and debris. That way you would be getting your exercise during your commute, be unaffected by the weather, get there faster than class 2 ebike, be more streamlined in case of headwind, and travel safer.

Safer because you are not exposed to dust and debris, and because while the fairing isn't much cover in case of collision, a regular bike has none. Its better than nothing.

  • Do you have reference to back up the claim of safer travel? (The others are well known advantages of Velomobiles so I accept they can be taken as read without references ) – mattnz Jul 7 '17 at 19:48
  • @mattnz because you are not exposed to dust and debris, and because while the fairing isn't much cover in case of collision, a regular bike has none. Its better than nothing. – 0tyranny 0poverty Jul 7 '17 at 20:23
  • 2
    I think you'd need a citation for the safety angle. Many of us feel the safety comes from being able to leap to avoid obstacles and roll over a car, not under it. Or to jump over the handlebars and not get dragged, etc. – RoboKaren Jul 7 '17 at 23:26
  • It doesn't necessarily follow that something is better than nothing. For example, if the fairing shatters in a collision, it could do all kinds of damage. – David Richerby Jul 9 '17 at 15:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.