E-Bike Smart Marin Buyer’s Guide: Power Up With an E-Bike
Electric bicycles offer a fun and efficient way to get around town and help to improve the mobility of our community members, all while reducing traffic emissions! If you’re interested in buying an e-bike for yourself or a loved one but aren’t sure where to start, this guide is for you.
Before We Dive In, A Quick Note to Parents
From the Electric Bicycle Safety and Training Program, California Highway Patrol: “Parents are legally and financially responsible for the actions of their children. This includes when their children operate e-bikes.”
Please consider your child’s physical and cognitive abilities before buying them an e-bike. Younger students who have little or no experience on standard bikes should not operate e-bikes and should be given more practice in bike handling and following the rules of the road.
We always recommend talking with the pros at your local bike shop. Not only can they ensure the bike is sized properly, but they can also help you find the perfect bike with all the best features and accessories for your individual needs and budget
A Few Brands We Love
A Few Brands We Don’t Love*
- Juiced Bikes
*Some or all models these brands sell are not e-bikes under the vehicle code (due to overpowered motors), and are thus illegal on Marin’s trails and paths. Read on to learn more about e-bike definitions and legalities.
Keep in mind e-bikes should still look like bicycles. We strongly recommend talking with your local bike shop to make an informed decision when purchasing an e-bike.
E-Bikes Have Class
By definition, electric bikes are bicycles with fully operable pedals that have an electric motor not exceeding 750 watts.
There are three types, or classes, of e-bikes.
Class 1 – Top speed of 20 mph, pedal assist only
Class 2 – Top speed of 20 mph, pedal assist and throttle. Recommended 16+ to operate
Class 3 – Top speed of 28 mph, pedal assist only. Must be 16+ to operate
When used properly, the throttle can be a beneficial feature. Designed to give quick bursts of power, throttles are great for navigating a lane merge or getting the bike moving again. However, they are not designed to carry you up a hill. So, if you’re struggling to get your e-bike up a climb, make sure you are in a low gear and bump up the pedal assist, you should be over that hill in no time! Remember, these are electric bicycles, you still have to pedal!
Questions to Ask Before You Buy
Can I carry a passenger?
Passengers must have a separate seat from the operator. The Yuba Kombi is a good example. Both passenger and operator must follow helmet laws according to their age and e-bike class.
Where can this bike be serviced?
Any bike shop that sells you an e-bike should also offer maintenance services that cover both mechanical and electrical diagnostics and repair. Generally, shops will not service brands they do not sell. Keep this in mind when buying an e-bike online from a direct-to- consumer retailer.
How can I transport this bike?
If the bike cannot fit directly in the back of your vehicle you will need an e-bike-specific hitch rack that is designed for the heavier weight of an e-bike.
Where will I store this bike?
No bike wants to be left out in the rain, and e-bikes are especially sensitive to the elements. Keeping your bike in a secure area that is protected from the weather will help keep it in good working condition and help prevent theft.
To recap, e-bikes must fit the following criteria to be considered street-legal electric bicycles:
Electric motor not exceeding 750W
Top speed of 20mph (Class 1 & 2), or 28mph (Class 3)
If the product you are considering does not have pedals, an electric motor exceeding 750W, or is capable of traveling at a speed greater than its defined Class, it is no longer classified as an electric bicycle and will be subject to rules and regulations applied to “motorized bikes”, such as not being permitted in bike lanes or on multiuse paths and are illegal for those under 16.
Marin County Bicycle Coalition is proud to offer one of our newest programs, E-Bike Smart Marin. This is a comprehensive program that covers all things electric bikes, including a teen-specific safety and education program. E-Bike Smart Marin launched in early 2023.
If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into the legalities and definitions of electric bicycles, take a look at our article; Electric Bikes: Watts The Deal.
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If you’re curious to learn more about e-bikes and e-bike safety, sign up here to get the latest information on E-Bike Smart Marin, our newest program which will be launching early 2023.
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