How fast do electric bikes go? The sarcastic answer to this question is as fast as you can pedal them. The correct answer is that they will help you to 20 mph and then the motor will stop providing you with assistance. Some of the more powerful electric bikes will cut off the motor at 28 mph though.
Why 28 mph and not 30 mph? Well, the answer relates to other parts of the world. 28mph is the same thereabouts as 45km/h. So, the engineers have not stopped at a random number, but a number that is nice and round.
Motoring Along Nicely
The next question you are probably asking is why does the motor stop helping you? The motor stops the bike from being classed as a motorbike. Most electric bikes are not a pure electric bike. They are pedal assisted electric bikes. From now we will refer to them as pedelec bikes or e-bikes.
What then is a pedelec bike? A pedelec bike is a bike where a small electric motor helps assist your pedaling. We can then say the bike is a low powered e-bike. Being low powered is an important distinction. It allows a pedelec to be classed as a conventional style bike in most countries.
You then have a lot less licensing to do with the bikes. High-powered electric bikes do exist; they are classed as electric mopeds. This means more paperwork and a visit to the DMV to get your motorcycle license.
When is a Moped not a Moped?
These high-powered e-bikes generally have a throttle. The lack of a throttle is a quick and easy way to see if an e-bike is pedal assist. The lack of a throttle makes a pedelec easier to use. You only have to concentrate on pedaling and don’t need to think about controlling your throttle as well.
You are probably now asking how does pedal assist work? Pedal assist bikes are fitted with two types of sensor. They either have a cadence sensor or a torque sensor. Cadence sensors tend to be found on older and cheaper models.
Cadence is the fancy word that tells you how many revolutions you have made with your pedals during a set period. This period is customarily set at a minute. The cadence sensor will be placed somewhere near their pedals, and your pedals will have a magnet located in them. The magnet passes the sensor once every revolution.
Torque to Me
Torque is technically a rotational force. Pedaling is a rotational force. We use a strain gauge to measure this torque. It is checking how much effort you are putting into each pedal stroke. A strain gauge is a better method to judge your effort than a cadence sensor.
Torque sensors also make your e-bike feel like riding a regular bike. By feeling like a normal bike, as opposed to the stop/start feeling you have with a cadence sensor, you will be able to go faster. You go faster as your pedaling is not interrupted.
A smooth cadence helps you to build speed. So, ironically the sensor with cadence in its name may not be the best if you want to go fast.
When your cadence sensor or torque sensor hit a specific mark, you can set the point on some systems. Otherwise, it is set by the manufacturer. The motor will then jump in and help you. It will keep going until you run out of battery, no longer need it, or get above the maximum speed.
Assault and Battery
You will also find that battery life and position of the battery can affect your speed. Putting the battery close to your pedals means your e-bike will feel stable when ridden at speed. Stability makes a bike more comfortable to ride at speed. If your battery is elsewhere, it can make your e-bike feel unsteady at speeds.
You feel steady as the battery is down beside your center of gravity. When the battery is placed elsewhere, for instance over the rear wheel, the handling of the bike changes. It will be okay at low speeds, but at higher speeds, you need to be careful as your bike might want to wander.
Pedaling at 28mph may seem like a huge task but with pedal assist it can feel as comfortable as a stroll in the park. The speed and comfort make a pedelec bike a great choice if you are a commuter. You can get to work nice and easy without breaking a sweat and cut in and out of traffic.
The 28 mph or even the 20 mph electric bikes will be more than fast enough. If you need to go faster than that, then a moped or motorcycle may be what you need.
All About Speed
If you do decide to go and get a high-powered e-bike instead of a motorcycle to make sure you check your local laws. You do not want to have spent thousands of dollars on a bike you can then not legally ride around your city.
The best option for many people would be to buy a 20-mph pedal assist bike with a battery near the pedals. This bike will make riding up hills easier. More importantly, you will be able to ride downhill as fast as you want, just remember and pay attention to speed limits. Outside of town, you will find that coming down big hills you will easily be able to beat 40 mph, and let us be honest, that is fast.
Now know some of the secrets of e-bikes. You know you can ride them as fast or as slow as you want. You know some of the design basics. You can go and safely purchase a bike and not be swayed by a salesman. Make sure you let us know how and when you hit 28 mph on your e-bike.