As long as the electric bicycle meets three criteria it is considered a low-speed electric bicycle, or simply a "bicycle." Three criteria: must travel less than 20 mph on flat ground without pedaling, must have functional pedals and must have less than a 750 watt motor. This is the same criteria as Federal Public Law 107-319. I checked my facts with the law office of Spohn, Spohn & Zeigler at 144 East Center Street, Marion, OH 43302 on August 21, 2009. A low-speed electric bicycle does not require registration, insurance, license plates (tags), or a driver's license. The rules of an electric bicycle are the same as a traditional bicycle. There is some confusion caused by Ohio interchanging the word Moped with "motorized bicycle." If a dealer sells you a bike that follows the guidelines of Federal Public Law 107-319, then you have a bicycle. If the bike has no pedals or has a higher wattage motor than 750 watts or can travel faster than 20mph you have a moped or scooter; Ohio requires tags and registration for mopeds and scooters.
While falling gas prices have temporarily halted years of gains in the number of bicycle commuters, more and more of us are using the bicycle to get around. It’s economical, provides good exercise, and is much cheaper than owning a car. But unless you’re in really good shape, you aren’t going to get very far. Enter the electric bike: a glorious new contraption allows us to get around without having to worry about arriving at our destinations a sweaty mess.
State law defines a motorized pedalcycle as a motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals, a motor rated at no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour. Subchapter J of Publication 45 spells out the vehicle requirements in full.
Photo: Could solar power be the future of electric bicycles? The large solar panel mounted over the back wheel of this experimental bike powers an electric motor connected by a chain drive to the back wheel, helping the rider when he doesn't feel like pedaling. Using clean, green solar power would remove the problem of having to charge electric bikes with electricity generated from fossil fuels—and help to extend their range significantly. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE/NREL.
Saddles also vary with rider preference, from the cushioned ones favored by short-distance riders to narrower saddles which allow more room for leg swings. Comfort depends on riding position. With comfort bikes and hybrids, cyclists sit high over the seat, their weight directed down onto the saddle, such that a wider and more cushioned saddle is preferable. For racing bikes where the rider is bent over, weight is more evenly distributed between the handlebars and saddle, the hips are flexed, and a narrower and harder saddle is more efficient. Differing saddle designs exist for male and female cyclists, accommodating the genders' differing anatomies and sit bone width measurements, although bikes typically are sold with saddles most appropriate for men. Suspension seat posts and seat springs provide comfort by absorbing shock but can add to the overall weight of the bicycle.
At 42 pounds for a size medium frame (exceptionally light for an urban e-bike), this step-through model’s silent, mid-drive Bosch Active Line motor provides pedal assist up to 20 mph. And its 400Wh battery lasts a claimed 30 to a whopping 110 miles, depending on mode, speed, terrain, rider weight, cargo—all the usual stuff. With 26-inch wheels, 2-inch tires, round aluminum tubes, a swept-back handlebar, Shimano Sora 9-speed components, and an 11-32 cassette, the Parkway looks like an everyday, non-motorized city bike at first glance. But with an array of Bosch e-components—motor, battery, and Purion display—it has the zip to take you farther faster.
The Riese & Müller Load Touring HS is billed as “the ultimate minivan of e-bikes,” and it holds up to that claim. With a low center of gravity (aided by the 20-inch front and 26-inch rear wheels), the Load is easy to handle. Tektro hydraulic disc brakes add control, and front and rear suspension provide comfort. The Bosch motor offers an assist up to 275 percent of your effort until you hit 28 mph, when it cuts out. Two 500Wh batteries give you 12 hours or more of range at full power. It’s capable of toting up to 220 pounds of pets, people, and less-animate cargo. R&M also sells a double child seat for kids up to age 6 and a child-seat fastener for your youngest passengers.
Riding position: You also may wish to check out an e-bike’s riding position before investing in it. For short trips, the riding position might not make much difference, but for long journeys, the upright "Dutch" style with pulled-back handlebars is very comfortable – particularly for tall riders. The same goes for mountain bike styles, though these bikes are not often designed to actually go off-road.
We'll start this off with the latest two Customer Profile videos. In the first one we follow up from the well received Leigh Cross video with a look at his son, Tig Cross. Tig's been refining an original bike concept combining the best parts of an ebike, scooter, and velomobile, and showcases the merits of an electric generator for the human drivertrain.
The Shift S1 isn’t going to blow anyone away with amazing performance, but it is peppy enough to have a lot of fun on. And if you mostly travel by rideshares like Uber or scootershares like Bird, you can probably pay for the S1 after just a few months of cutting out app-based transportation. It’s hard to ask for too much more from such an inexpensive e-bike.
Federal law defines the limits of a low speed electric bike, equating it to a bicycle, and bypassing the definition of a motor vehicle only “For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards…” which means that the manufacturers of these bicycles don’t have to meet federal equipment requirements, and are instead governed by the manufacturing requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act. There is no mention of exemption from other federal, state, and local traffic laws, or exemption from the definition of a motor vehicle for other purposes.3 This means the law applies to the manufacturer’s product and sale, avoiding federal safety requirements applying to a motor vehicle such as brake lights, turn signals and braking specifications. The goal of the law was to give businesses a legal framework to define and sell low speed electric bikes without the more stringent Federal classification of a motor vehicle. Ebikes that meet the criteria are considered a “bicycle”, do not meet the definition of a motor vehicle, and will be regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The law also grants the commission authority to add safety requirements to this product. The Federal law supersedes all state laws that equate bicycles to ebikes where the state law is more stringent (lower limits) on power and speed.