Do You Have to Pedal An Electric Bike - thebicyclegeek

Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise. Riding a bike is fun and can be done by anyone. These days, even people who have difficulty pedaling a bike can benefit from cycling by using an electric bike. But do you have to pedal an electric bike?

In Europe, every type of e-bike requires some pedaling. However, the rules are slightly different in the United States, where it is possible to find e-bikes that allow you to move simply by turning the throttle.

Read on to learn about the types of e-bikes. We’ll look at how much or how little pedaling each type requires and which type of e-bike is right for you.

Different Types of E-bike

Legal restrictions dictate what does and does not constitute an electric bike. In Europe, all e-bikes are pedal-assist bikes. That means they only provide electric assistance when the rider is pedaling.

In the US, if your e-bike operates by use of the throttle only and goes more than 20mph without pedaling, it is not technically classified as an e-bike. It must be licensed, taxed, and insured the same way a moped would. You are also required to ride on the streets, not in bike lanes, and you must wear a helmet.

There are three classes of electric bikes in the United States

  • Class 1 — a class 1 bike is limited to 20mph, and the motor only turns on when the pedals are moving.
  • Class 2 — a class 2 bike is also limited to 20mph, but it has a throttle to engage the motor without pedaling.
  • Class 3 — a class 3 bike can go up to 28mph and may or may not have a throttle.

Pedal-Assist E-bike

A pedal-assist e-bike is the most common e-bike found in the US and the only type found in Europe. These bikes work by assisting riders as they pedal. Usually, a pedal-assist bike will provide power up to 28mph. Once the bike reaches a speed of over 28mph, the motor will no longer assist in pedaling.

Pedal-assist e-bikes are primarily used by riders to assist on difficult hills. The motor can be turned off, so you can use the bike as a regular bike when the terrain is flat, and only turn the motor on at steep places where pedaling is very difficult or impossible.

E-Bike With Throttle

Only the United States has legalized e-bikes with the throttle. A throttle-powered e-bike has a throttle on the handlebars similar to a moped or scooter. The rider opens the throttle to deliver power from the motor. Usually, a bike with a throttle will also have a pedal-assist, and power from the throttle overrides power from the pedal-assist mechanism.

So, if you had been wondering “do you have to pedal an electric bike?” The answer, in this case, is that it is possible to operate a throttle e-bike without pedaling at all. However, it is recommended to keep your feet on the pedals or in the designated foot position while riding to prevent injury.

Difference Between Electric Bike and Regular Bike

The difference between an e-bike and a regular bike is obvious. An e-bike has an electric motor that powers the bike. You can use the electric motor to assist you as you pedal, or, in the case of a throttle-operated bike, on its own to get a “free ride.”

Most electric bikes have varying degrees of assistance. A rider can choose to get a lot of help from the motor, or no help. You also have the option to turn the motor off so that you can use the bike more like a regular bike.

The addition of a motor means that the maintenance for an e-bike will be very different from that of a regular bike. As well as caring for the tires, pedals, wheels, chain and other components of a regular bike, you will also need to consider the care of the electric motor.

An electric motor requires routine maintenance to function. If you are not sure how the do that, finding a good e-bike mechanic in your area and scheduling regular check-ups is a good idea.

How Does an Electric Bike Work


A pedal-assist electric bike has three main components: the motor, the battery, and the sensor. The battery powers the motor, and must be recharged to allow it to start.

The sensor is either a speed sensor that monitors how fast you travel or a torque sensor that measures how hard you press on the pedals. The sensor either turns on or turns off the motor depending on how fast you are going or how much torque you are applying to the pedals.

The motor can be mounted in one of three places—the front hub, the rear hub, or in the center. The motor changes the electrical power provided by the battery into mechanical power that assists the bike in moving forward.


A throttle-controlled e-bike works similarly to a pedal-assist bike, except that you can engage the throttle from the handlebars. The motor on a pedal-assist bike only turns on when the pedals are in motion. There is no other way to turn on the motor.

A throttle-controlled e-bike, however, has a throttle on the handlebars that engages or disengages the motor.

How Hard Is It to Pedal an Electric Bike

A pedal-assist electric bike usually has different pedal assist levels, ranging from minimal to full assistance. If you want pedaling to be very easy, you can set the assistance level to full assist, and the bike will do most of the work.

On the other hand, if you want a good workout, you can set pedal assist to be minimal, and the bike will do very little work.

The one caveat of pedaling an electric bike is that when you have the pedal-assist feature completely turned off (i.e. you are riding the bike like a regular bike) it can be harder to pedal than a standard bike. But as technology has developed, pedaling an e-bike has become easier.

How Fast do Electric Bikes Go Without Pedaling

The speed of an electric throttle bike depends on the size of the motor. Motors up to 750 or 1000 watts can typically go up to 28mph without pedaling. However, most throttle bikes are programmed not to go more than 20mph without pedaling.

If an e-bike does go more than 20mph without pedaling, it is no longer classified as an e-bike and must be insured, licensed, and treated as a moped or scooter.

Regardless of the type of e-bike, all e-bikes are programmed to have a maximum speed of 28mph.


An electric bike is a fun, convenient, and easy way to get exercise and travel around town. If you are considering an e-bike and wanted to know “do you have to pedal an electric bike?” before committing, now you have your answer. But make sure to research the rules and legal requirements for your state before purchasing.

Read also: How to Ride an Electric Bike