If this is your first time buying an e-bike and you suddenly realize the speed specifications listed on the model you’re eyeing, it’s perfectly fine to stop and think:
“how fast of an e-bike do I need?”
“Is a 20 mph electric bike fast enough?”
20mph Speed Limit on E-Bikes
In 2002, the Consumer Product Safety Act was passed and placed a 20mph speed limit on electric bikes. So if you’re in the US, you should be aware that e-bikes are not really allowed to exceed 20mph. There’s no point in finding a model that could go beyond 20mph.
Outside the USA, the speed limit varies by country. Australia has a 25 km/hour top speed limit, while Canada has 32 km/hour. European countries have e-bike speed limits in the 15mph to 20mph range. The speed limit for electric bikes in Asia is also set at 25 km/h.
These are just limits set by authorities. The electric bike could technically be designed and capable of going faster than 20 mph.
If you buy an e-bike manufactured in the USA, expect that the electric bike will only carry you up to 20mph, since these ebikes wouldn’t have been approved for retail sale if they didn’t pass speed-limit laws.
How Fast Do Electric Bikes Go? Is 20 mph Too Slow?
In order to understand the speed of electric bikes, you need to learn all about the three classes of e-bikes:
- Class 1: These types of e-bikes are similar to pedelec e-bikes, except you’ll need to pedal first to wake up the motor. Also, it has a 20mph maximum speed instead of pedelec’s 15mph.
- Class 2: These types of e-bikes are equipped with throttle (no pedaling needed for the motor to run), but the speed also caps at 20mph.
- Class 3: These types of e-bikes have a speed limit of 28mph. Pedaling is required if you wish for the electric bike to run over 20mph.
Once you reach the maximum speed limit of your electric bike, it wouldn’t just die on you. Instead, you can pedal your way (either slower or faster) and keep going to your destination.
How Fast is 20 mph on an E-Bike Really?
Aside from the maximum speeds an e-bike can go, other factors could also affect how quick or slow you can go. Here are 4 things:
- Motor power: If you’re pedaling, you can go as fast as your feet can pedal. But if you’re relying on the e-bike to carry you, the bike’s motor would determine how much it could accelerate your bike.
- User weight: The rider’s weight can slow down or speed up your biking. Take this into consideration when computing the possible speed of your e-bike.
- Cargo: Like user weight, cargo can also affect the bike’s speed. Are you going to use the e-bike for hauling stuff daily?
- Terrain: Smooth pavements let you ride your e-bike faster than terrains that are grassy, sandy, muddy, rocky, and other similar terrains.
If you buy a 20 mph electric bike, it doesn’t necessarily have to feel slow if the conditions above are ideal for a fast ride. In addition, most e-bike riders only go for an average 8 to 12 mph, so a 20mph model is definitely more than enough speed.