A Visit to Electric Pete’s in Seville, Ohio
On October 21, 2022, I headed down to Electric Pete’s in Seville to see and ride the three different classifications of e-bikes, which are road legal in Ohio (except on closed access highways) just like the traditional muscle powered bike. Ohio Rev. Code §4511.01(TTT)(UUU)(VVV); §4511.051(A)(2); §4511.07(A)(8); §4511.01(YY)
Owner Pete showed me Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 e-bikes and explained the variances between them.
Electric Pete’s E-bikes owner Pete Smakula
First let’s talk e-bike 101. An e-bike has a battery and an electric motor under 750 watts. Ohio Rev. Code §4511.01(SSS)(TTT)(UUU)(VVV) The class designation of the bike is required under Ohio law and is usually at the bottom of the seat tube. The battery is usually in the down tube (see below); the motor is usually between the down tube and the seat tube or in the hub (see below):
A Class 1 e-bike has pedal assist motor only, with a maximum speed of 20 miles an hour. What does that mean? The motor only activates when pedaling and stops at 20mph. The bike comes with a motor display. In the next photo the battery is off, which allows you to ride it just like a muscle powered bike with gears just like a road bike:
The next speed or assist is “eco”, which is the first level of motor assist with pedaling:
Following “eco” are “tour”, “sport”, and “turbo” speeds but again, the max you’re going to ride pedal assisted is 20 mph. You can ride over 20 mph, but on your own power.
Next is the “wild card”, a Class 2 bicycle which is technically throttle powered only up to 20 miles an hour. Let’s talk “throttle”, shall we? There are three different types: full, half and thumb:
As with a Class 1, you can ride a Class 2 with the throttle off and ride on your own power. You can also ride the motor in several throttle speed settings like Class 1. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes may be used on the network of All Purpose Trails and mountain bike trails, but must travel safely and with respect to other trail users. Pete also showed me a mountain e-bike, which are only Class 1, and for better handling, the motor is not in the hub.
The League of American Bicyclists Club insurance does not cover a Class 2 e-bike. To my knowledge, all local bike clubs in the Greater Cleveland area ban a Class 2 from Club rides because of this lack of coverage (due to the throttle assist which does not require pedaling and is viewed as diminishing control and feels like you are riding a moped). However, most of these Class 2 bikes also have a pedal assist!
A Class 3 e-bike is just like a Class 1 except it has pedal assist motor up to 28 miles per hour! The motor stops assisting at 28 mph. Class 3 bikes are not permitted on any trails.
I could go on, but you need to ride e-bikes to understand them.
During a recent e-bike trade show, a major bike company representative said there should be no limitations on e-bikes regardless of Class. However, Ohio law, bike clubs, the (CVNP) and the Metroparks, do limit use based on the Class. But, even within classes, various nuances appear that cloud the picture and make these distinctions questionable. My crystal ball says the bike rep is probably mostly right and there will be more widespread use and less exclusions on e-bikes.
The bottom line is that no matter what bike you ride, you have to ride with awareness and safety by following the rules of the road.
Ken Knabe, Greater Cleveland’s Bike Attorney: Helping injured cyclists from the ground, up! 14222 Madison Avenue, Lakewood, OH 44107 * 216-228-7200