What is an Electric Bike?

There seems to be some confusion about what is an electric bike. Do you still have to cycle yourself? Can the motor carry you along on its own? Why do some of them look like bikes and others look like scooters?

One of the first sources of confusion is in the styling, where they fall into two categories. There are those that look like traditional bikes with a motor attached to the frame. And then there are electric bikes that look like scooters.

So how can a machine that looks like a scooter actually be called an electric bike? Why isn't it called a scooter, or a moped? It's all about specification and the law.

You can style an electric bike to look any way you like. If you want it to look like a scooter that's fine. But it must not have the specifications of a scooter. In most places, an electric bike is not allowed to go above 15 mph. So, strictly speaking, a motor must not drive a bike faster than that. Naturally, if you're going downhill, your bike will probably go faster than that without pedalling and without the motor.

An electric scooter, on the other hand, can go up to 30 mph to be classed as a 'moped scooter'. This means that, in most countries, you can ride it on a normal driving licence. You don't have to take a separate motorcycle test. Any scooter more powerful than that and you need to take a motorcycling test.

For an electric bike you don't have to take any test. Although in some countries there are restrictions. In the U.K. nobody under the age of fourteen is allowed to ride an electric bike on the road.

As well as not taking a test, there are more advantages to using an electric bike. You don't usually need register it with the authorities, tax it, have insurance, or wear a helmet.

Another question people ask about electric bikes is, why do you need pedals if you have a motor? Well, modern electric bikes, such as the Salisbury LPX, can switch between three modes: normal cycling - in which you use it as a 'normal' bike; 'pedal assisted' - you still use the pedals but the motor helps out, making it less fatiguing; and 'motor only' - where you simply twist the grip and let the motor take the strain.

So they are very versatile. You can cycle normally until you get to a mid drive ebikes hill, where you might need a bit of help. Or you can leave 'pedal assist' on all the time, which seems to be a favourite mode. With this on, most cyclists feel like they are still cycling, but they need less energy and so can further and, of course, faster. Or, if you want a complete rest, you can use the motor exclusively, making your electric bike a slower type of scooter.

With recent improvements in battery technology, electric bikes have become very popular. They're kinder to the environment than a car. And, in our fast moving world, offer an enhanced cycling experience.


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