By Rick Schultz
This is the start of a several part series on ebikes. What they are, what is legal, trends, maintenance, etc.
Why This Article?
Even as roadies get older, we still like to ride and still be able to keep up on the group rides. The problem is that as we do age, we lose muscle mass, tone, flexibility, and strength making it harder to stay up. In California, 35 years ago, I started riding with several road racing clubs where everyone had Chromoly steel grand tour bikes, DeRosa, Colnago, Gios, etc. Steel was eventually replaced with aluminum. In the early 90’s, first generation carbon fiber road bikes started to replace aluminum. Over the past five years, many of the original team members are looking to buy their “last” bicycle. These days it’s usually S-Works, Dogma, R5ca, TCR Advanced SL, super-lightweight wheels and electric shifting that dominate the group rides. As we get older, we need better and lighter equipment to stay up with the 30-year-old kids.
Some of the original (older members) have already bought and sold their high-end road bikes opting to take it to the next level. I am seeing many of the older members opting for high-end road ebikes.
Here are the e-road bikes I am currently seeing. Note, there are more e-gravel bikes than e-road bikes in Southern California. These e-road bikes in Alphabetical Order
Again, these are the more common E-Road bikes I see, but there are many more E-MTBs and especially E-fat Tire bikes that the local surfers use riding from their cars (or houses) across the sand and back.
Currently, the US has defined three classes of Ebikes (subject to change and may be different outside of the US). Some US states have age requirements and others require the user to license the Ebike, some states require helmets while others don’t. Please refer to your state for current laws.
- Class 1 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
- Class 2 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
- Class 3 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.
Anything outside of these requirements is illegal to operate on the in the US. Since I am in California, I will use this state for most examples.
A good website that discusses regulations is –
More information can be found here –
Several states mandate that an ebike must have less than 1000w, most others 750w, and a few at 500w. 1000w and over is usually classified as a moped or scooter. Even though California states a maximum power of 750w, the ebikes sold in this state that I’ve seen seem to be capped at 250w.
Typical types of ebikes include city/commuter, cargo, hybrid, folding, road, gravel, mountain, fat tire.
So, as you can see, when we were in our prime, we could push out 1,000w with a 350w FTP. 35-40 years later, not so much anymore. To stay up with the group rides or to even get out and go for a ride, an ebike might be the perfect choice for you.
In the next several short articles, we will be discussing maintenance and what it takes to keep your E-bike on the road.
In conclusion for part 1, the police do look to see if you actually have pedals on the ebike. The Sur Ron is a powerful Ebike that is more dirt bike than bicycle and in Southern California, they are starting to ticket these, sighting the fact that you are riding a motorcycle on the road without (1) motorcycle drivers’ license, (2) no plates, (3) no tags, (4) no turn signals, etc. So don’t be caught riding one of these in the street.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he’s a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He’s the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick’s full bio.
I purchased a road e-bike 18 months ago and it was a great decision. I’m 65 and have been a avidsolo rider for decades, averaging 4-5,000 miles per year at 18.5 mph. A few years ago I purchased an RV and found myself in the mountains. The gentle push from the e-bike really allowed me to enjoy riding in the mountains on totally unfamiliar roads. Yes, I could have “suffered”, but why when I can get a great workout and still enjoy. I have and constantly use a number of high end road bikes that are actually faster on the flats (class 1 tops out at 20 and is harder keep it over 20), but when the road tilts up for long periods the e-bike gentle assist is awesome. Highly recommended and you still get PLENTY of exercise.
Bike Fitness Coach says
Joe, glad you are having fun again! Enjoy!
Bea Winkler says
Thank you for this article. I would love to see some specific info on step-through Ebikes, for those of us who can’t/don’t want to swing our leg over the top to mount the bike. As an aging but avid cyclist, I know how important balance issues become as we age. Having experienced my share of crashes and captain’s falls over the years, I know that an Ebike is in my future, and prudence has me looking for the lightest weight, longest range step-through Ebike with drop bars. I bet I’m not alone. I hope you’ll address this in future articles.
Bike Fitness Coach says
Great idea! Will have to add those to the list, Thanks
Dan Boice says
This will be a great series, Rick. Thanks! As I totter to the tomb, an E-bike is looking better. Since the nearest LBS is a hundred miles away, I’m eager to read about maintenance requirements. And whether I will need a heavy-duty bike rack to transport an E-bike.
Lady Cyclist says
Wish you posted prices in the article. Good info.
Bike Fitness Coach says
Kind of the same old adage “the more you pay the lighter the bike”, especially true for eMTB. You can get a $15,000 18-pound Specialized S-Works eMTB that weighs as much as a mid-level carbon-fiber road bike or spend $400 for an underpowered 50-pound lead weight and everything in-between.
I also suggest you look at the Argon 18 Subito road ebike. Hub Motor Carbon frame. I bought mine a year ago with Ultegra but think it is now sold with SRAM. Visually it hides its ebike status very well. It’s been a great bike made in Montreal, and probably less expensive than the ones listed. I paid $4,500 a year ago, but it is probably more now.
Bike Fitness Coach says
Lot’s of great road e-bikes out there at great prices. For this article, I just listed those I have seen out on the road.
I know. Thanks for the article. I was just adding to your list. Personally, I have a bias for bike brands which are not ubiquitous. The brands of equal quality but which the masses overlook. Many times they offer better value. (Its my same criteria for cars.)
Neil Lux says
I am almost 80, so it was time to keep up with the younger folks in my bike club
I purchased a Cannondale Neo 1, road E bike in Jan 2021. Now has about 3400 miles on upstate NY hills and pot holes.. Love it. Good mileage duration, almost no resistance when traveling with motor off. Feels as good as my Cannondale Synapse road bike off 12 years ago..
REI has a good arrangement with Cannondale for periodic sales and discounts
Chuckles McGregor says
How do e-bikes perform against dogs does the extra weight make them slow to go or does the motor have enough to drop them quickly
Depends on how long you fumble for the button
Well I’ve been known to drop the dog spray on a cold winters day. Fortunately it was couple of friendly fellows maybe a voice recognition system hey Siri turbo mode
Russ Marx says
At 80 yrs. old my Trek Domane+ is wonderful. I can pick it up put on a standard rack. I can go back and pull stranglers back to the group like I used to. With only 1 x 11 I had trouble finding the gear that would allow my cadence to mesh with the speed of the group. I bought a 11 x 25 cluster & took apart the 11 x 34 that was on the bike, left out the 13, 14 gears added gears so now have 15, 16, 17, 19 to work with when we are rolling 20-22 mph.
Forget about E-bike chain lube, use what is the best for any bike, the motor is not as strong as a pro rider.
55 miles is the limit riding with the LakeErie Wheelers on Sunday. (Cleveland Oh.) If you put the assist on Turbo, be carefull!