What top speed to get?

Matt_McMullen

New Member
I’m researching my first ebike, and one of the decisions I ran into is the top assist speed of the bike.

As I understand it, Class 1 & 2 ebikes have assist that max out at 20 mph, whereas Class 3 bikes max out at 28 mph. It’s quite a big difference, I think: The faster ones are 40% faster.

At first, my thought was faster=better, and so I was leaning towards the 28 mph ebikes (e.g., the Juiced CrossCurrent S2 and the Aventon Pace 500 seem to have good reviews here and are in my price range).

But two issues have led me to reconsider my initial thoughts:

  1. The law: In my state of Montana, the law defines ebikes as 20 mph max. I guess I’d prefer to obey the law, but is this really an issue? I can’t imagine cops spending a lot of their time on distinguishing between classes of ebikes. Is there a genuine problem getting an “illegal” bike?
  2. Safety: Maybe I’d be safer with the lower limit on my speed. My one friend with an ebike (a 20 mph RadRover) seems to wipe out a lot, and in the past year I had one friend who was killed and another seriously injured in motorcycle accidents. Even though motorcycles are obviously a different beast, it has made me a little nervous.

So, although the higher top speed would be nice, I could live without it, and maybe there are some advantages to the lower speed. I mainly want to ride for a short (~5 mile) commute, for fun, and for a little bit of exercise.

I’m interested in the thoughts of forum members about this - thanks in advance!
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
I ride two class 3 eBikes, and I've mentioned this repeatedly. I almost never ride at 28mph. But I do ride at 22-23mph quite frequently. Above those speeds, aerodynamics play a huge role. It takes a lot of juice to shove me through the air at 28mph. I recently bought a class 1 and it's fine at the 20mph. But I will always try to have at least one class 3 as long as they are legal where I ride.
 

ChezCheese:)

Active Member
I thought at first to get a class 3, but I ended up getting a class 1, because it felt best for me and had the torque I wanted. Having never had a speedometer on any bike before, I did not know how fast I generally rode. Now I know that going downhill, you generally go around 30.

On the flat, I can do 23mph, and could go higher if I really wanted to. My assist trails off at 19 and a bit, so that next 4 is all me. Does it matter? Not really. My controller says I average about 13-15, including the 8mph going up this (formerly dang) hill. When I coast down the hill I'm doing 30-37 mph, and you know what? That's pretty danged fast. I wouldn't want to wipe out on loose gravel doing 35mph. So for me, assist to 20 is fine. It's plenty.
 

Matt_McMullen

New Member
I ride two class 3 eBikes, and I've mentioned this repeatedly. I almost never ride at 28mph. But I do ride at 22-23mph quite frequently. Above those speeds, aerodynamics play a huge role. It takes a lot of juice to shove me through the air at 28mph. I recently bought a class 1 and it's fine at the 20mph. But I will always try to have at least one class 3 as long as they are legal where I ride.
Thanks for the info rich c, it seems my statement about “40% faster” is not the practical reality, which makes me lean towards the 20 mph bikes, or at least to not worrying about the top assist speed as much.
 

Matt_McMullen

New Member
I thought at first to get a class 3, but I ended up getting a class 1, because it felt best for me and had the torque I wanted. Having never had a speedometer on any bike before, I did not know how fast I generally rode. Now I know that going downhill, you generally go around 30.

On the flat, I can do 23mph, and could go higher if I really wanted to. My assist trails off at 19 and a bit, so that next 4 is all me. Does it matter? Not really. My controller says I average about 13-15, including the 8mph going up this (formerly dang) hill. When I coast down the hill I'm doing 30-37 mph, and you know what? That's pretty danged fast. I wouldn't want to wipe out on loose gravel doing 35mph. So for me, assist to 20 is fine. It's plenty.
Thanks, that makes a lot of sense, and also makes me lean towards not focusing on top speed as a factor in buying.
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
Until recently, class III ebikes were understood to be pedal assist only. If you wanted to go 28 mph, you were cranking on the pedals and even with assist, it will take some work.

Our first ebike was not a class anything, but you could throttle it up to around 22/23 mph and if you selected PAS 5, it would go close to 28, but that speed on an upright beach cruiser required pumping the pedals until you got bugeyed, and that's going to get you run over by a rogue car. Unless you're into a 1500W homebuilt that will run over 30 mph om throttle, I think speed on most commercial ebikes is going to take a lot of work.

Today, some bike outfits have redefined Class III as stopping at 20 mph with throttle, with pedal assist taking you to 28 mph, and they are somewhat liberal in where the throttle cuts out. I feel this isn't honest, but few authorities care at this point. So you do have more choice in what you can buy. Will it be all pedal or the combo of throttle/pedal.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
I think a lot of that class 2 vs.3 call is about how the bike is going to be used. If I were commuting on a flat level road with plenty of sight line available, 20 mph would likely be much more boring knowing that 28mph (+) was available, especially on longer rides.

Myself, I ride when/if I want to . Strictly a recreational rider. I find the 20 mph limit is plenty, actually spending much more time riding between 8 and 15mph.

And I find sharing the road with cars, with just a painted line dividing us, uncomfortably dangerous. I refuse actually. WAY too many "incidents".
 

christob

Well-Known Member
I bought a Class 3 / 750w / no-throttle, and after 17 months on it now, I can say it is realistically a bit of overkill for my particular riding patterns (office commute of 5 to 7 miles one-way depending on route; longer leisure rides weekends, and usually a 15-20 mile deliberately longer commute home.)
I basically never use the upper levels of assist anymore (3, 4, 5) and rarely use Level 2 these days; I stay in Level 1 almost exclusively, for morning commutes, and spend a chunk of time in Level 0 (assist off) whenever I want a harder workout (such as the evening commutes home).
I used L2, L3 (and rarely L4) a bit more in the early days with the ebike, before I lost weight and built up some stamina & strength. I won't deny those upper levels are fun -- the gentlest press on the pedals in L5 and you're flying... but I have no practical use for it, nor really any good clear places in my very urban area (hi-traffic roadways, crowded popular trails) where I'd feel comfortable with that much speed & acceleration. (My primary commuting trail has a posted 15mph speed limit anyway.) And I've grown into a bit of a "hyper-miler" in the last year, trying to see how far I can go between charge cycles -- L3, 4 and 5 devour the battery charge too quickly for my goals!
I do hit mid-to-high 20's on downhills with gravity of course, but find speeds over 25mph (especially going downhill on a MUT!) a bit nerve-wracking. On flats, I'm probably rarely ever exceeding @19mph (short doses) and generally sustain speeds in the 13-16 range on long, clear flats. My trips on the whole, always tend to average out around 13mph historically.
In hindsight, I could have probably been just as contented in the end, with a less powerful ebike.
 
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ilanarama

Member
Don't forget that the top speed of 20/28 is speed with assist. You can still go faster by pedaling. I have a class 1 I use for errands (I work at home and so no commute) but I occasionally do a fun/exercise ride on it. My other bike is an acoustic mtb so even with the extra motor and battery weight the ebike is faster on the flats and the downhills, and I don't feel limited at all. I think the only reason I would want a class 3 would be if I had a long commute/regular ride that I wanted to get through in a hurry.
 

Matt_McMullen

New Member
Until recently, class III ebikes were understood to be pedal assist only. If you wanted to go 28 mph, you were cranking on the pedals and even with assist, it will take some work.

Our first ebike was not a class anything, but you could throttle it up to around 22/23 mph and if you selected PAS 5, it would go close to 28, but that speed on an upright beach cruiser required pumping the pedals until you got bugeyed, and that's going to get you run over by a rogue car. Unless you're into a 1500W homebuilt that will run over 30 mph om throttle, I think speed on most commercial ebikes is going to take a lot of work.

Today, some bike outfits have redefined Class III as stopping at 20 mph with throttle, with pedal assist taking you to 28 mph, and they are somewhat liberal in where the throttle cuts out. I feel this isn't honest, but few authorities care at this point. So you do have more choice in what you can buy. Will it be all pedal or the combo of throttle/pedal.
That’s interesting. I haven’t come across any 28 mph bikes that don’t have a throttle - I’m not saying there aren’t any, but none are on my radar right now.
 

Matt_McMullen

New Member
One other issue I’ve been reading about is that, even on Class 2 bikes that are supposedly limited to 20 mph, you can raise the top assist speed in the settings. For example, Rad bikes (apparently) can do this.
 

smorgasbord

Active Member
Yes, on many bikes there are ways to increase the top assisted speed, and for Rad's it's super easy to get to 40kph (almost 25 mph) via settings. On other bikes (those with Bosch motors, for instance) you need hardware.

One important consideration is what happens when the motor assist cuts out. On I don't know about the geared RadRover, but on the direct drive RadCity you end up fighting motor drag from the permanent magnets if you try to go faster than the assist limit. That REALLY sucks. Apparently, this is also true for the current Bosch mid-drive motors, but indications are that Bosch fixed this in the 2020 versions.

So, I'd look for bikes that don't fight you when you're able to pedal faster than they can assist.
 
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AHicks

Well-Known Member
Matt, those limits are controlled electronically. The issue with the speed limits relates to how well the bike or controller manf. has limited the access to those settings. If they're locked down well, you're pretty much dead in the water if wanting to change anything. UNLESS you get creative! That requires a person that doesn't like no for an answer to start reading up on the topic. In some cases there are aftermarket companies that have "kits" that consist of controllers that are "unlocked" letting you make the decisions on many attributes of that controller. One of those is the limit YOU want to set as max. In other instances, there is the potential for somebody that's handy to go out and purchase components that are similar to those used in these kits to accomplish the same thing.

Point to all that being, if the concept is of any interest, it's something you may want to know more about prior to buying your bike....
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
Due to being delayed by an afternoon thunderstorm, I rode home at average 11 mph today. With a lot of time at 15-18 mph, a full suspension would have been a real bonus. With 2" tires it was rough. I usually ride about 9 mph and that is a lot different. Full suspensions really run the cost of a bike up, and since repair suspension parts may not be available in 5 years, limit the life of the bike also.
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
I have 3 class 1 bikes, 1 class 1 that I've de-restricted and 1 class 3 bike (and one non-electric bike). I commute on all of the electrics and last week I rode my non-electric for the first time. I've tracked my commute times. My trip is mostly flat terrain, a lot of start/stop urban riding or bike lanes where it really isn't safe to ride fast. I generally ride between 22 and 35 miles total (sometimes I carpool in and ride a bike home).

Here are some representative averages from some recent commutes:

non-electric - average 11.5 mph; top speed 17 mph
class 1 - average 14.5 mph; top speed 21 mph
class 3 (and de-restricted class 1) - average 17 mph; top speed 27 mph

I don't mind commuting on the class 1 bikes given the commute is a lot of city riding. If my commute was more open-road or long stretches of road where I could sustain higher speeds, then I would have a greater preference for class 3.

You mentioned safety as a concern relative to speed. For me, based on my experience, I've found the higher speed to be a bit safer when I am riding with traffic. As I mentioned, some of my commute is bike lanes and higher speed there is dangerous. But when I am passing through residential streets and a couple of stretches of boulevard where I need to get through some traffic lights, I feel the higher speed enables me to mix with traffic better.
 
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Johnny

Active Member
20 mph is not slow by any means. If you are not in a hurry, passing from urban areas or curvy paths or hills it will be great.

On the other hand if you are riding on long stretches of road, have a long commute and it is safe to ride around 20-25mph then 20mph can be a little limiting.
The problem is on a 20mph limited bike the cut off usually begins around 18.5-19mph which makes is impossible to keep 20mph average unless you are capable of keeping it yourself which defeats the purpose of the ebike. I disagree that you can easily keep a higher speed by yourself if you like. Yes the bicycle itself is not speed limited but I rode it above the supported speed limit more than a few times on flats to some inclines and it is not an enjoyable experience. Remember that these are very heavy bikes, around 50lbs on average, acceleration on flats without any support is not as easy as the light roadbikes. On downhill any bike will go fast electric or not so that is not really relevant.

As Over50 asked, you should tell us the primary use of the bike.
 

linklemming

Active Member
I’m researching my first ebike, and one of the decisions I ran into is the top assist speed of the bike.

As I understand it, Class 1 & 2 ebikes have assist that max out at 20 mph, whereas Class 3 bikes max out at 28 mph. It’s quite a big difference, I think: The faster ones are 40% faster.

At first, my thought was faster=better, and so I was leaning towards the 28 mph ebikes (e.g., the Juiced CrossCurrent S2 and the Aventon Pace 500 seem to have good reviews here and are in my price range).

But two issues have led me to reconsider my initial thoughts:

  1. The law: In my state of Montana, the law defines ebikes as 20 mph max. I guess I’d prefer to obey the law, but is this really an issue? I can’t imagine cops spending a lot of their time on distinguishing between classes of ebikes. Is there a genuine problem getting an “illegal” bike?
  2. Safety: Maybe I’d be safer with the lower limit on my speed. My one friend with an ebike (a 20 mph RadRover) seems to wipe out a lot, and in the past year I had one friend who was killed and another seriously injured in motorcycle accidents. Even though motorcycles are obviously a different beast, it has made me a little nervous.

So, although the higher top speed would be nice, I could live without it, and maybe there are some advantages to the lower speed. I mainly want to ride for a short (~5 mile) commute, for fun, and for a little bit of exercise.

I’m interested in the thoughts of forum members about this - thanks in advance!
I think the Juiced CrossCurrent S2 would suit you well. Out of the box its limited to 20mph (As was my CCX, easily changed). IMHO, you will not really need class3 for such a short commute but if the S2 works for you, go for it. The S2 will have a class 3 sticker/emblem but I dont think this would ever be an issue unless you were involved in an accident.
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
...As Over50 asked, you should tell us the primary use of the bike.
I edited my post as I noticed the OP stated it is for a 5 mile commute. It would be nice to know however if this is mostly on bike path or city traffic, big hills etc...
 

ilanarama

Member
One important consideration is what happens when the motor assist cuts out. On I don't know about the geared RadRover, but on the direct drive RadCity you end up fighting motor drag from the permanent magnets if you try to go faster than the assist limit. That REALLY sucks. Apparently, this is also true for the current Bosch mid-drive motors, but indications are that Bosch fixed this in the 2020 versions.
I have a mid-drive Bosch (Active Line Plus) and don't notice any motor drag when I pedal faster than the assist limit on long gentle downhills. I do notice motor drag when I pedal with assist off, though, so I suspect it is more noticeable on acceleration at lower speeds rather than on maintaining a gravity-assisted speed.