Everyone is always looking for the best way to get from A to B, but with electric bikes, it’s not always so clear.
So, what is the best electric bike for you?
Full throttle bikes and pedal assist electric bikes have different pros and cons to them, and are best applied to specific situations to get the most out of them. There’s a cultural phenomenon spreading across the entire world as people hop onto more electric bikes, and the great question has boiled down to throttle and pedal assist bikes.
We’re going to go over all the main differences and discuss how each will apply to different situations and lifestyles.
What is the Difference Between Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 Electric Bikes?
There isn’t a lot of laws or regulations dictating electric bike manufacturing, but since 2014 (around the time ebikes got really big in America) we’ve seen multiple states take on a class-based tier system for electric bike categorization.
It’s simply referred to as the three-class system and places electric bikes into specific columns.
- Class 1: Class 1 electric bikes are defined as those that strictly have pedal assist features, and do not possess a full throttle mode. These pedal assist bicycles cannot exceed a maximum speed of 20 MPH.
- Class 2: Class 2 electric bikes are similar to class 1 in terms of the maximum speed cap of 20 MPH, but these bikes have a full throttle mode. 20 MPH is the legal speed limit that electric bikes can go before they need to be registered and properly licensed as a motor vehicle.
- Class 3: Class 3 electric bikes can go a maximum of 28 MPH with pedal assist only. Since the full throttle is what would classify a bike like this as a motor vehicle, this gets around the 20 MPH law properly.
As more states adopt the three-class system, we electric bike users are subject to major changes that could be on the horizon.
If you’re using this for commuting, taking it on main roads or in bicycle lanes, or you’re just leisurely riding it around the neighborhood, you owe it to yourself to regularly look up ebike news to ensure there are no classification changes.
You don’t want to be blindsided when you receive a ticket or fine if they decide to minorly drop the maximum speed allowance.
Do Electric Bikes Recharge While Applying Brakes When Going Downhill?
This feature is not exclusive to pedal assist electric bikes, but it is rare to see them in full throttle bikes.
This is similar to how Hybrid cars regenerate their battery charge while braking and going downhill.
Your motor essentially flips into reverse mode, where it starts using the heat from brake friction to enact a dynamo, which creates a short electric current that feeds into your battery.
This is commonly known as having a regenerative battery.
One of the biggest questions surrounding regenerative batteries is wear and tear. There is no major difference between a regenerative battery and a standard rechargeable battery in full throttle bikes in terms of wear.
The only thing that would affect your regenerative battery usage is the dynamo (which is separate from the cells or SLA batteries) were to get damaged or break.
That’s a simple enough fix that most people can do on their own, but you can also take your bike into a repair shop to have this taken care of.
What is the Difference Between Pedal Assist and Throttle Electric Bikes?
One of the main differences that are actually interesting is how long you get on a single charge.
Both have batteries, and both types use stored electricity, but one of them is going to give you more mileage per charge than the other, just by their very nature.
If you put the same battery into an assisted pedal bicycle and a full throttle bicycle, you’re going to get different results.
That’s because when full throttle bikes send that signal to the battery that says “Hey, it’s time to activate the motor,” it’s opening the floodgates and filling the motor with electricity.
In a pedal assisted bike, you’re only using the percentage that is allotted by the control function.
If you only use 25% of the pedal assist feature, then it’s going to last for a lot longer than if you were to put it on full blast.
Full throttle bikes tend to have an on or off function, so you can’t dictate how your electricity is used.
There’s also the fact that pedal assisted bikes almost always come with regenerative braking, and sometimes regenerative pedaling, where the battery charges a little bit if you’re pedaling without the use of the electric assist.
Pedal assist bikes are basically just more energy conservative, whereas full throttle burns through the battery more quickly.
On average, a 12V lithium-ion battery could give you anywhere from 22 miles to 40 miles of distance in a full-throttle bike.
That same battery could potentially extend up to 55 miles of use in a pedal assistance bike, which depends on the variables that you put into place.
The good thing is that regardless of which bike type you choose, you’re likely not commuting more than 20 miles a day in a round trip to your job.
This gives you time to put the bike on the charger when you get home and prep it for the next day.
Last but not least, there’s one major area where these two bike types are 100% similar: charging times.
Look at the product sales page for the electric bike that you have in mind, and see how it gives a fairly wide gap in total charging time.
A common amount of time to see is 6.5-8 hours. Whether it’s a bike, iPhone or a laptop, lithium-ion batteries never charge in a perfect set of time.
Benefits of Pedal Assisted Electric Bikes
If you’re getting a pedal assisted bike because it feels like an extension of traditional cycling, you’re in the right headspace.
Not only do they improve the fun factor of riding your bicycle, but they help you get from A to B a heck of a lot faster than traditional biking.
Let’s take a look at the primary benefits behind getting a pedal assisted bike.
Cycling is healthier than riding in a car, and that’s just a fact.
If your commute to work is two miles, and you swap out your car for cycling, you’ll be riding twenty miles in a standard five-day workweek.
That’s a total of 1,000 miles of travel per year (if you take a couple of vacations), which equates to insane health benefits.
If you sustain a 15 MPH speed at all points, you’re spending almost 70 hours of every year doing cardio exercise.
That means weight loss, stress reduction, more sound sleeping and reducing the risk of a heart attack.
There’s an ever-growing list of things that we shouldn’t be eating in the United States, and exercise is the main way to combat fast food craze.
There are over 3,000 ingredients that we consume in the United States that the European Union has banned from being in their own food, which says a lot.
Those 70 hours of additional exercise per year will help to regulate your metabolism with consistent weekly exercise.
When you feel better, you make better choices which will spill over into other healthy choices in your life (and you can’t go through the drive-thru on a bicycle, so there’s that).
The average cost to charge a lithium-ion battery in an electric bike is about $0.10 to $0.20 depending on where you live in the United States.
That means that if you use your bike every single day of the week, you would be hard pressed to spend more than $1.40 per week or $6.00 per month on your transportation costs.
Equate that to $80.00 to $200.00 per month that we’re all spending on gasoline for our cars.
The upfront cost is a bit high, but the maintenance is infrequent and inexpensive.
These are designed to get excessive daily use, and on average will cost 75% less than annual car maintenance costs.
You should get a tune-up every six months to prevent issues from arising, and replace the battery every three to five years.
Other than that, it’s very inexpensive to own and operate a pedal assisted electric bike.
There are a handful of other benefits, but we wanted to focus on the main reasons someone would get a pedal assisted bike.
We cover more in-depth details on the benefits of electric bikes as a whole in our post on the 9 pros and cons of electric bikes if you’re interested in taking a look.
When do You Need Assistance With Pedaling?
There is a slew of scenarios where pedal assist comes in handy.
Assuming that you use your electric bike for commuting as well as leisurely cruising, you will be able to reap every benefit that pedal assistance has to offer.
Reduced Commute Time
Some days, you just don’t have it in you to pedal the entire way to work.
Maybe you worked a double shift last night, you stayed up late, or you haven’t had a day off in a while.
Whatever the case is, switching on the pedal assist takes the brunt of the work off of you, and helps you get from A to B in less time.
If you’re commuting to work, it’s also nice to note that using pedal assistance means you won’t work up as much of a sweat.
Got a hill in the way?
No problem. Pedal assistance is something we all wish we had as kids when we were trying to conquer that one area of our city or town that was always difficult.
It’s finally here, and it’s a much better way to get uphill than giving yourself an asthma attack with insanely difficult pedaling.
This is very useful for commuting but also helps you train. Maybe the first time you went uphill you used half of the assist, but next time you’ll use a little less.
Is it getting a bit hotter than you expected?
The last thing you want to do is pedal your heart out and feel dead to the world when you arrive at your destination.
Pedal assistance helps you beat the heat by getting you there a little bit faster, and makes bicycle travel viable again during super hot summer days.
How do Electric Bike Throttles Work?
Your throttle is strictly electrical, which most people don’t know.
The throttle sends electrical signals to the battery, which then activates the motor through five different wires (on most bikes).
You’ll notice the motor housing that covers one section of your drivetrain, which begins to move the chain as the battery feeds it power.
It’s important to understand that the throttle does not force your pedals to move when the motor is engaged.
On a full-throttle bike, you can either pedal or use the motor, but they do not work like pedal assist bicycles where the motor and kinetic energy can work together.
The drivetrain initiates a separate function when you turn on the throttle, and basically locks out the pedals.
You can still turn them with your feet on most electric bikes, but it’s not going to do anything to move you forward.
Is There a Big Price Difference Between Throttle and Pedal Assist Bikes?
There’s a price difference, as you would expect between to different things.
We will talk about maintenance in a moment, but you’ll notice the average upfront cost of a full-throttle electric bike is usually 20-30% higher than that of a pedal assist bike.
This depends on brands, supply and demand, and availability, but since full throttle bikes are more sought after, it only makes sense.
Structurally, you’re still getting a battery, a motor, speed gauge and sensors on similar frames.
Full throttle bikes tend to be heavier because they may have a higher voltage battery and a slightly larger motor.
This could affect your travel plans if you’re planning on flying your ebike with you to your destination.
Pedal assist bikes also offer a way to actually exercise, since the motor doesn’t kick on unless you pedal.
These bikes tend to have a few different modes for varying levels of assistance, from absolutely none to about 75% of your speed.
Batteries last longer in pedal assist bikes and undergo less stress, and have the added benefit of recharging through regenerative means.
Are There Different Maintenance Costs for Full Throttle Bikes?
Full throttle bikes generally use the same system and components that a pedal assist bike uses, but there are a few differing parts in each bike style that will dictate the price of your maintenance.
Full throttle bikes, as you may imagine, use up battery charge far faster than a pedal assist bike does.
This means that you’ll be using and charging your battery more often, which is not only inconvenient for added charging times but will actually deplete your battery’s maximum capacity far faster.
The battery on a pedal assist bike might last for about five years, whereas your full throttle system could use it up in two to three years.
Despite using the motor to exude more torque, you’re not really degrading the state of your motor faster than you would on a pedal assist bike.
Either way, the motor is getting used and outputting a certain amount of power. The worst thing you can do for any motor is left it idle for long periods of time.
This is what a pedal assist bike uses, and it’s a totally separate component from what a throttle bike uses.
This is used to help regenerate the battery like we talked about earlier and requires the user’s input from pedaling to enact the motor.
This system is very durable on most electric bikes, but since it’s an additional component that a throttle bike doesn’t have, it’s an added maintenance cost if something goes wrong.
In the grand scope of things when you look at the high upfront costs of electric bikes, to begin with, these maintenance costs are fairly arbitrary.
Either way, you’re going to pay maintenance costs over time with either bike style, and the costs won’t differ greatly between the two different systems.
Which is Right for You?
We know the difference between classes, assist features, maintenance, and price now, so the question is passed off to you: what is going to be your perfect electric bike?
Many commuters prefer full throttle bikes so they can get to work without building up a sweat from pedal assist features, but pedal assists bicycles are better for leisurely travel and hobbyists who just enjoy electric bikes.
You’re now well equipped to make a decision on which type is right for your lifestyle.
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