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.