Electric bikes help you reach your destination easily, but how fast are electric bikes?
Most electric bikes come from the factory limited to a 20 MPH maximum speed.
In many cases, ebikes can go faster than 20 MPH with a helping hand from gravity or with some zealous pedaling, but the motor usually stops providing assistance when they reach that 20 MPH speed limit.
These 20-MPH electric bikes are class 1 and class 2 ebikes.
Another group of electric bikes called class 3 ebikes is limited to 28 MPH in pedal-assist mode.
For smaller ebikes, like those from DYU or Jetson, the top motor-assisted speed is often closer to 15 MPH.
How fast is Fast Enough for an eBike?
If you’re used to driving cars, 20 MPH might not seem very fast at all.
That’s the kind of slow that makes you late for work when traffic is backed up on the freeway.
But on an ebike, 20 MPH can seem very fast. For some riders, that speed might even take them outside their comfort zone. That’s understandable. Most of us aren’t competitive cyclists.
Here’s some perspective on 15 MPH, 20 MPH, and 28 MPH electric bikes. They’re all faster than they sound.
The typical walking speed is about 3 MPH, while the average running speed clocks in at about 7 MPH. Both numbers reflect a comfortable pace as opposed to brisk walking or sprinting.
Both numbers also come in well below the average speed for a people-powered conventional bikes.
Novice cyclists average about 10 to 14 MPH on longer rides. Assuming the average ebike buyer isn’t a Tour De France racer, 12 MPH is probably close to accurate as an average speed.
So, even the slowest of electric bicycles (15 miles per hour maximum speed) compare thusly:
- 5 times faster than walking
- Twice as fast as running
- 25% faster than conventional bicycles
To be fair, 15 MPH ebikes are less common. Part of what holds this type of ebike back is the wheel size. Many come with lilliputian 10, 12, or 14-inch wheels that have to run like Forrest Gump to keep up with their larger-wheeled brethren.
All other things being equal, smaller wheels accelerate faster but at the expense of top speed.
Electric bikes with 20, 26, or 27.5-inch wheels make up a larger percentage of bikes sold. Due to rotational mass, these ebikes have a longer stride, stepping up the performance to 20 MPH with pedal assist or throttle.
How Much Travel Time Does a 20 MPH eBike Save?
Comparing a 20 MPH ebike to other modes of travel, let’s look at potential real-world time savings.
Let’s say you need to run to the store to pick up milk, but your son has the car and won’t be home until the cows come home. If you have a teen driver in the house, as I do, this might resemble your life.
The store is 2 miles away (and 2 miles back), a breeze by car, but the options here are walking, running, riding a bike, or riding an ebike.
How Fast Are Electric Bikes? Comparing the Numbers
Compare the average travel speeds.
We should probably compare those speeds to a car as well.
The legal speed limit in most residential areas is 25 MPH, making the round trip 9.5 minutes when driving within the speed limit. That’s pretty close to the electric bike time for the milk errand.
And when traveling on your trusty ebike, you get to enjoy the great outdoors on an ebike instead of sitting in a stuffy car that smells vaguely like whatever your teenager was eating in there.
Compared to walking, you saved 68 minutes traveling by ebike. You also didn’t have to carry a gallon of milk for 4 miles.
Running 4 miles with a gallon of milk isn’t very likely for most people. But to each their exercise-regimen oddity. If you choose to do so, it’s a 34-minute run with a milk jug compared to 12 minutes by ebike.
In fact, this table isn’t very realistic at all. Here’s why.
Most people won’t ride their electric bikes full tilt everywhere they go, testing the maximum speed capabilities. Instead, they’ll choose a comfortable pace.
Granted, some will push the limits, though. Cowabunga, dude.
However, the table illustrates the potential time savings. And remember, riding a bike with electric assist requires less effort compared to any of the other options.
Chances are good that you’ll pick up the milk and return home in about 15 minutes by ebike, a bit faster than traveling by a non-electric bike but a bit slower than your 20 MPH top speed.
As a bonus, you won’t need a shower when you get home. You just saved another 20 minutes. Now you have time to relax and enjoy a tall glass of milk.
How Fast are Electric Bikes by Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3?
Most electric bikes fit into a classification system that defines ebikes as being class 1, 2, or 3. Not all states follow this classification system, however, and a handful of states don’t even have a legal definition for an ebike.
In addition, some don’t fit any of these classifications, such as the Delfast, which at 50 MPH top speed, is the world’s fastest ebike.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the three-class system for electric bikes:
Class 1 and 2 ebikes have an assisted top speed of 20 MPH, while class 3 ebikes have a 28 MPH assisted limit.
- Class 1 ebikes: A class 1 ebike is limited to 20 MPH via electric motor assist. Ambitious pedalers might reach higher speeds. In addition to the assisted speed cap, class 1 electric bikes lack a throttle. It’s pedal-power only, but with a helping hand from the motor.
- Class 2 ebikes: Like class 1 electric bikes, a class 2 ebike is assist-limited to 20 MPH. However, a class 2 ebike has a throttle. If you’d rather not pedal, then don’t.
- Class 3 ebikes: With class 3 ebikes, things get a bit more complicated, but it’s still easy to understand if you look at only the speed limitations. Class 3 ebikes are assist limited to 28 MPH. However, class 3 ebikes might have a throttle, or they might not. Most do.
Most ebike manufacturers make electric bikes to comply with the three-class system, with the majority of electric bikes falling into class 1 or class 2. While some of these ebikes can go faster than 20 MPH based on the motor’s output, they come set with a limiter that keeps these ebikes from reaching breakneck speeds under throttle or pedal assist.
How Fast are Electric Bikes? Comparing 3 Popular Models
Although class 2 ebikes are limited to 20 MPH, you’ll find a bit of wiggle room in the numbers. Some might go a bit faster.
For example, the Himiway Cruiser is sold as a class 2 ebike. However, the top assisted speed for Himiway ebikes is 23 MPH.
Similarly, the KBO Breeze reaches a motor-assist speed of 22 MPH, while the Rad Power RadCity 5 Plus reaches 20 MPH motor-assisted.
Top assisted speed: 23 MPH
Sold as: Class 2 electric bike
KBO Breeze Step-Thru
Top assisted speed: 22 MPH
Sold as: Class 2 electric bike
Rad Power RadRover 6 Plus
Top assisted speed: 20 MPH
Sold as: Class 2 electric bike
All three bikes have a 750W motor, but each has a different maximum assisted speed.
However, allowing for some wiggle room, all three are pretty close.
In truth, you don’t need a 750-watt motor to reach 20 MPH, although the extra oomph from a powerful motor is handy for climbing hills. You might find that 500-watt motors might be the minimum practical motor size for an eBike if you have hills in your area.
The high-speed electric bike experts over at Delfast, maker of the world’s fastest ebike, share this tidbit regarding motor output and speed:
- A 250-watt motor yields 20 mph on flat ground;
- A 500-watt motor yields 25 mph on flat ground;
- A 750-watt motor yields 28 mph on flat ground;
- A 1000-watt motor yields 35 mph on flat ground.
Predictably, larger motors or higher wattage motors provide higher power levels and higher speed capabilities.
So, if the three electric bikes in the comparison above all have a 750-watt motor, they all have a theoretical top speed of 28 miles per hour. However, all three bikes ship with a speed limiter that keeps them (sort of) in compliance with the three-class system for electric bikes. All three ebikes above are sold as class 2 electric bikes.
eBike Speed and Safety
There are several reasons why you might not want to travel at top speed on an electric bike. The most obvious is that crashes hurt, and they can hurt more at higher speeds.
Accidents happen. Whether it’s ambling pedestrians, rogue squirrels, or an unexpected pothole, the unexpected may await around the next corner. And there’s more than your own safety to consider.
When teaching my son to drive, I explained that slower speeds (and longer following distances) keep your options open. You have more time to react to a driving situation, and generally, you have more control over the vehicle. The same concept applies to ebikes.
There’s a limit to this logic, of course, as you know if you’ve ever tried to pilot a bike at walking speed. She’s a little wobbly, captain.
But traveling at a comfortable speed gives you more time to assess your evasive options or stop if needed.
The CDC reports nearly a half-million bike-related injuries each year and over 1,000 fatalities, with the most frequent time for bike crashes occurring in the evening. Unsurprisingly, most bike-related also happen in crowded urban areas.
Wearing a bike helmet is a wise choice, and riding with a headlight and taillight can help improve visibility at night or at dusk. But the other factor in improving electric bike safety is speed. While you might add a few minutes to your trip, you increase your odds of arriving safely while also reducing the risk to others.
Choose a Comfortable Pace for the Way You Ride
To comply with the three-class system, most electric bikes ship with a max motor-assist speed of 20 MPH, but it’s probably safer to choose a lower speed.
However, there are still good reasons to choose an ebike with a more powerful motor. A bike that can reach 20 MPH will likely perform better on hills compared to a 15-MPH electric bike. For many riders, a 20-MPH ebike provides better all-around performance and makes the move up in price a good investment.
My car, which I haven’t seen since this morning, can reach speeds of up to 130 MPH, at which point the limiter engages, preventing higher speeds. I don’t drive at 100 MPH, though. Hopefully, my son doesn’t either. Top speed doesn’t mean as much as we might think, but it’s nice to have the power on demand when needed for hills or when you need a bit more torque.
Whether your electric bike can go 15, 20, or 28 MPH, it’s usually safer for you and those around you to choose a lower-than-max speed. As with most things, the best compromise is often found somewhere in the middle.
Not too fast. Not too slow. Steady as she goes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How fast does a 1000w electric bike go?
Without a limiter, a 1,000-watt eBike can go about 35 MPH. However, most electric bikes stop providing motor assistance when the bike reaches a certain speed. For many bike makers, this MPH limit is set at either 20 or 28 miles per hour.
Is 20 mph on a bike fast?
The average cycling speed for a non-competitive rider riding a conventional bicycle is about 12 MPH. For many riders, 20 MPH would seem fast but not unstable when piloting an eBike.