Definition of an ebike (Legally and Ethically)

November 5, 2016


Do you have to pedal it for the motor to work? (this is called PAS), Or can it have a throttle?


In some jurisdictions  in Europe to be classified an ebike it must have no throttle and be pedal assist only.  Read this article which differentiates throttle and PAS)


Does it need pedals at all?  

(  thinks it does)



Does it need to look like an electric bike to be an electric bike? What if it’s obvious the pedals are just afterthought to be used as an obvious loophole to side-skirt the law?

 ( thinks not)


elecctric bike with pedals.jpg

Can you spot the pedals on the above “ebike”?


What is the maximum weight it can be? Is it still considered an ebike if it weighs 200 pounds and looks like a motorcycle with pedals?

  (To  …weight is more important than anything…if it weighs more than 100 pounds…forget about it, its not an ebike.)

liveforphysic death bike.jpg

Live for Physics on death bike. It has pedals and has proven to outrun Teslas, but weighs 400 pounds.


What about power levels? At what point does it cease being an ebike? 250 watts, 750 watts, 1000 watts or no watt limit?  

( thinks this is sensitive topic and wont comment)


How many wheels can it have and still be classified as an ebike?  (1, 3, 4, 5?)

outrider trike.jpg

Read our story on the Outrider 40mph trike here.


How fast does the ebike go? At what speed does it cease to become an ebike? 20-mph? 30-mph or way more?

 (the Hanebrink down below goes 80-mph but weighs over 100 pounds and has no pedals).

Read story on getting away with it.


Read about the 80mph Hanebrink Hustler here


What about a total utilitarian ebike that provides transportation to someone who normally would not have access or be able to afford a proper electric vehicle?  

pakistan ebike.jpg

See the story of this Pakistan Ebike Here.


Whose position  is it to Judge what an ebike is and what is not?

ebike police.jpg

Read more about electric bike law here. agrees with  Live for Physics quote:  “It’s an ebike if you can ride it past a cop and not get stopped.”

Grant’s Rant:


If you ask for my personal view.  My answer is this: I really don’t care. It’s a tenth the size of a car, and it’s electric. If everyone could afford top engineering, legal and lightweight ebikes would all look like the new Specialized Turbo…but the reality is, few can afford such a bike.

specialized turbo levo.jpg

More butts on bikes….That’s really all that matters to me. I hesitate to even acknowledge the whole “cheating” argument, as it is so ridiculously ignorant and elitist. A modestly powered ebike has been proven to cause virtually the same impact on terrain as a bike powered solely by human power. And where did we come up with the notion that one must suffer and strain to enjoy beautiful trails and vistas? That’s just nonsense. Some devotee’s personal sacrifice of sweat to the ‘Spirit of the Mountain’ is all fine & well, but I’m sorry, I don’t pray that way. I’m just here to enjoy the fresh air and scenery.

And if we’re talking about using an ebike in ANY situation in which a gasoline powered car is typically used, don’t even THINK about calling it cheating. Would you rather I be driving my 4,000lb car like YOU are!? Powering a bike with a few cents worth of electricity can actually be more environmentally friendly than pedaling (if that pedal power comes from you eating animal products and other energy intensive food).

Yes, rules need to be established and refined as to where certain types of electric powered cycles can be operated, but that is well within the ability of intelligent and rational human beings. And there are a LOT of people in this world who don’t need a car (or can’t afford one) for all of their daily activities and instead rely on bikes and ebikes for commuting, commerce, and recreation.      

Written by Grant Cornish



  1. Great article! It’s really good to hash these things out, in my humble opinion, trying to make an E-Bike out to be anything other than a new form of transportation VS a stealthy E-Motorcycle in bicycle in drag is counter productive.

    ANYTHING on two wheels can be used improperly (I regularly see Jerks on pedal bikes ruining everyone else’s day as they fly by at 30 MPH with NO warning on their weight weenie bicycle while wearing their favorite Tour De France Lycra Jersey on multi-use trails. It has to do with the rider MUCH more than the ride.)

    I applaud California by leading the way and giving options of electric bicycles instead of a “one size fits all” limit on power only with out addressing other issues such as hills, heavy riders and/or loads, really slows the progression of E-Bikes as a whole.

    The industry is thankfully moving away from the trend of hiding true motor out-put in favor of a image of a less powerful “250 watt” and more heavy bicycle that really requires an athlete, not an average person to make them practical. I live in Oregon where 1000 watt is the limit, and is much more practical with the use of this new form of transportation than the initial “750 watt max” that we started with.

    I agree that weight is important too, however, not addressing the overlying issue of different needs for different uses (i.e. cargo bikes, heavy riders requiring heavier E-Bikes to get the same performance). In my perfect scenario, a good E-Bike should be able to take even a 350lb rider on a cargo bike with 100+ lbs of cargo up a 10% grade at 20 mph. Limiting the top speed on the flat with throttle only just makes sense, these are E-Bikes, not motorcycles after all, and should be able to use all available bicycle paths etc as long as they are used properly and safely.

    • Unfortunately, California’s new legislation only increased the SPEED limit, without a corresponding increase in the power limit. We actually DECREASED our power limit from 1,000w to the Federal standard of 750w. So your 350lb rider doing 20mph up an incline while carrying cargo would be VERY hard pressed to stay 100% within the letter of the law. And that’s sad. I personally ride more within the SPIRIT of the law (safely for given conditions,etc).

      • Wow, that sucks! : ( And here I thought they were making allowances for higher powered E-Bikes, thanks for the info.

  2. No need to “applaud California” for making their regulations slightly less onerous than they used to be. A whole lot of states do a better job than California (by not imposing restrictions where they are not needed). It’s sad how many accept that CA is leading the way…to over-regulation.

    My state imposes a 100 pound restriction and little else. The fact is that there is little need for heavier weights except to produce performance in excess of reasonable for unregulated vehicles. I’d be in favor of far lower maximum weights, perhaps 50-60 pounds. Limit the batteries (through weight) and you limit performance. Far easier to enforce as well. Incidentally, my commuter is capable of 40 mph yet gives me 25 miles of range at far less than 50 pounds. 50 pounds would not be restrictive except to those wanting unregulated electric motorcycles (which is the real problem, to the extent there is one).

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