Can you ride an electric bike without pedalling?

Although they are increasingly ubiquitous, sometimes we come across misconceptions about how eclectic bikes work. 

This is hardly surprising, given their relative newness and fast-rising popularity.

One of the principal questions we hear at Eco Bike Co. HQ is ‘can you ride an electric bike without pedalling?’

And the answer isn’t quite a simple ‘yes or no’.

In this blog, we will talk about ‘pedal assist’ and what that means when it comes to pedalling, as well as e-bike classifications.


How does an electric bike work?

Let’s start with some background.

In terms of appearance, there’s not a lot to differentiate an electric bike from a conventional bicycle. 

Indeed, increasingly, modern electric bike design means that sometimes you’ll have to look twice to notice whether a bike is an e-bike or not.

Electric bikes feature a small electrically-powered motor which tends to be part of the chain drive alongside the pedals or is sometimes built into the front or rear wheel hub.

The motor is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery which is mounted on the bike’s frame. Batteries are becoming more often than not streamlined and subtly built into the bike’s design, so that you may not even notice it is there.

Electric bikes are predominantly pedal assist, although some may feature a throttle. And this is a key factor in answering whether you need to pedal an electric bike.

 

Do you have to pedal an electric bike?

Yes… and no. 

Some e-bikes may feature throttles which allow you to begin your ride without pedalling up to a certain speed. In the UK, legislation brought in on January 1st 2016 means that e-bike throttles can only assist the rider up to a maximum speed of 3.7 miles per hour. 

Any speed greater than that will change the specification of the e-bike. It will be classified as a speed pedelec and as such will require DVLA registration and be taxed appropriately. Such bikes cannot be used on cycle paths and cannot be included in the EAPC classification (electric-assisted pedal cycles).

So, while, electric bikes can be ridden without pedalling via a throttle, should the speed exceed the legal limit, it will not in fact be considered an EAPC or e-bike in the most common understanding of the term - and as are sold on the Eco Bike Co. website.

Typically, electric bikes make use of pedal assist to allow for a more effortless cycle experience. Pedal assist kicks in once the cyclist begins to pedal and will provide an extra boost - particularly useful when tackling hills, or taking off at a green light.

Therefore, with this type of electric bike, pedalling is essential. 

Do remember, that even without a throttle, speed regulations are important to be aware of. Pedal assist should not propel an e-bike beyond 15.5 miles per hour. If it does so, even though pedalling is involved, it will no longer meet the EAPC regulations and will be considered a speed pedelec.


Be aware of electric bike regulations

As we’ve touched on above, there are a number of regulations to be aware of when riding an electric bike in the UK. 

Should your electric bike fail to meet these regulations, it can not be legally classified as an EAPC - and this can have a significant impact on how it can be used.

Indeed, non-EAPC means no riding on cycle paths, plus a requirement for DVLA registration, CBT or appropriate driving license, and road tax.

If your e-bike can be ridden comfortably without pedalling at all, we’d suggest speaking to an expert or carrying out appropriate due diligence to ensure it can be legally ridden as an electric bike (EAPC).

 

Choosing the right electric bike for you

The range of e-bikes available in the UK continues to grow, and we recommend taking time to research your options.

It’s important you choose an e-bike that is appropriate to your cycling ability and fitness, as well as your circumstances and requirements.

Three questions that we normally advise at the outset are:

  1. Am I looking to take my bike off-road?
  2. What degree of power assist would be suitable for me? And is a throttle necessary?
  3. How lightweight or portable does my e-bike need to be to make it practical?

At Eco Bike Co. we offer a wide range of e-bikes, from mountain bikes to foldable options, as well as women’s electric bikes.

When it comes to purchasing an electric bike, we strongly advise seeking expert advice, particularly around pedalling considerations. Depending on how much pedal assist you require or the speeds you are looking to achieve without pedalling you will have different options available - as well as needing to double-check whether the bike can be classed as an EAPC.

Choosing the right bike is important, but choosing the right retailer is vital, too. Look for a retailer who will provide necessary aftercare and support post-purchase, as well as advice pre-purchase. At Eco Bike Co., all our e-bikes are covered by full manufacturer warranties, so you can purchase them with peace of mind.


Conclusion: Do you need to pedal an electric bike?

If it is an electric bike in the truest sense of the term (and how we refer to our for-sale models), yes, you do.

If you have purchased an electric bike that doesn’t require any pedalling to exceed a speed of 3.7 miles per hour, there’s a chance you are in fact riding a speed pedelec which under current UK regulations is not defined as an electric bike.

Therefore, although you be able to ride an electric bike at a low speed without pedalling, you will need to pedal an electric bike.

If you’re at all unsure about the nuances of this question and the more technical and regulatory points in this blog, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our expert team for support. 

We would be more than happy to answer any queries you might have. Get in touch today.

Happy riding!

October 23, 2022 — Jarred Pitout