A Guide to the Different Types of Electric Bikes

Everyone has to start somewhere to end up elsewhere, right? Perfection isn’t achievable overnight. Electric bikes of the past were gimmicky beasts of a machine—fractious monsters that were inopportune two-wheelers. These limited-battery bicycles broke the bank and possibly even one’s back. Yet, time passed, as time does, and things ultimately changed for the better.

Thanks to their growing popularity these days, e-bikes are better in function and form than ever before—and they are only going to improve day in and day out moving forward. Comparable to traditional bikes, a myriad of hybrid variations are available for modern riders. From city transit to mountain climbing to grocery hauls, e-bikes are the real deal of contemporary cycling innovation. Skeptics take note: e-bikes can do everything a regular bike can do and more.

For your consideration, we’ve compiled together a general guide to the different types of electric bikes in the current market. You’ll find them out in the wild and on the streets and can purchase them in-store or online with quality retailers. Honestly, the vast number of options is daunting. But never fear, you don’t need to catch ‘em all—there’s something out there for everyone. The best part? You can poke around to find the right fit. Here’s what you need to know.

Types of Motor: Differences To Remember

Next up on our guide to the different types of electric bikes, we need to touch on the basics of drive systems. Location-wise, e-bikes differ in type by motor drive classification. The two main types are: 1) electric bikes with a hub motor and 2) electric bikes with a mid-drive motor. Hub motors are built onto the wheels to directly transmit energy, while the motors of mid-drive systems are located directly on the bike frame. Mid-drive motors do not transmit energy to the wheels; rather, they transmit it to the drivetrain and gears, creating a more traditional bike feel.

Electric bikes are obviously e-powered by batteries, but their motor function is the determining factor for one’s purposeful application. All e-bikes have a designated motor that can differ in power size besides location. Within Europe, the legal power limit is 250 watts. However, you can contrarily find e-bikes of up to 750 watts of motor power in the US.

E-Bike Classes: Speed and Throttle Considerations

As e-bikes gain traction in America as a popular means of transportation, confusion about their legality on the road, in bike lanes, or on trails is apparent. To create marketplace stability, countries create clear-cut regulations regarding how and where to ride them. Within the US, a set of regulations sort e-bikes into a system of three broad classes for legality and safety purposes.

The three common classes are as follows:

  • Class 1 – pedal-assist bikes with no throttle and a max speed of 20 mph
  • Class 2 – throttle-assisted bikes with a max assisted power of 20 mph
  • Class 3 – pedal-assist bikes with usually no throttle and a max assisted speed of 28 mph

Interpretations of these above classes can still differ from manufacturer to retailer, so the best approach is to check local and state laws regarding e-bike compliance. Again, at a federal level, all classes limit motor power to 750 watts. Manufacturers generally differentiate these classes on the bike for transparency. For riders, these classifications are an honor system to keep in mind as owner responsibility. Nobody desires to hit a person, pheasant, or Prius on the wrong type of pathway.

Hybrids and Road Trekking E-Bikes

The e-bike industry categorically lists bicycles into diverse categories by their intended purpose of use—ergo, by a rider’s most utilized activity. You must consider your personal riding style, the typical type of terrain, and the average mileage of travel when choosing between these varying types.

Hybrids are a popular category, as they are standard e-bikes made for trekking around town with ease and comfort. Suitable for riding on roads or coping with slightly off-road usage, you can utilize one of these bicycles for leisurely rides or daily chores to go out and about. Various models come with built-in lights, alarms, or locks. Bike positions can range from upright for relaxed riding or sportier stances for cruising on hilly pavement or sticking closely to your group pack.

Commuter and City E-Bikes

Commuter bikes are similar to hybrids but tend to have their own mini categories for city trips or heavier transit use. Many of the quality e-bike makers of the nation have variations of city and commuting cycles. If you’re a daily commuter, you’ll desire something that’s reliable without going over the top on a plethora of extra features. Rear or front racks are the best accessories for carrying ability. Plus, the integration of motors and powerful batteries is invaluable for longer commutes.

Off-Road and Mountain E-Bikes

Mountain e-bikes genuinely put the pedal to the metal in mother nature. Ideal for riding off-road on designated trails, this category of e-bikes contains the typical high-performance components of traditional mountain bicycles but offers the unmistakable benefit of a motorized battery to take on the toughest terrain. If you desire to attack trails with great agility and speed, this route is the way to go. The cherry on top is that you can get in another lap or two without becoming too exhausted. Similar to standard mountain bikes, a wide array of frame structures, wheel forks, and sizes are available on today’s market to suit your favorite style of off-road riding.

E-Cargo and Family Bikes: Built To Carry

Last but certainly not least, we should include electric cargo bikes. These bikes are perfect for the chauffeur of the family—or for those who regularly lug around an assortment of gear. Users can easily tote around groceries, pets, kids, and bags of whosits and whatsits galore. Cargo e-bikes come in two distinctive configurations: front-loaders with cargo boxes or long-tails that accommodate more bodies.

Booking appointments to see one of the above e-bikes in person is ideal before committing to a model. That said, look no further than Voltaire Cycles if you’re in the market for an e-bike. As a specialty bike shop, we sell a wide array of electric bicycles online and at our storefront in Bend, Oregon. Voltaire Cycles specializes in a miscellany of cycling solutions for individual needs, including electric-assist, trikes, and cargo. We believe we have the right bike for you, whatever your transit needs. Browse our online inventory today. Otherwise, contact us to learn more about specific brands, models, or custom-builds. Let Voltaire be your go-to to enjoy the journey that’s ahead.

A Guide to the Different Types of Electric Bikes