Do You Have to Pedal an Electric Bike?

If you’re curious about electric bikes, one of the many questions you have is if you have to pedal. After all, they have a battery and a motor but at the same time, they are bicycles and not a moped.

So, do you have to pedal an electric bike? If the bike only pedal assist, then you must be pedaling to activate the motor. However, if the bike is always equipped with a throttle, pedaling is not required. Electric bikes can also be ridden as normal bikes without using the motor.

So, Do You Need to Pedal or Not?

The best way to know if pedaling is required is to check your bike. If it has a throttle, then pedaling isn’t required. My electric bikes comes with both a throttle and pedal assist. This means I can use the bike in 3 different ways:

  • Use the bike without any motor or pedal assistance
  • Use the pedal assist which is activated when pedaling
  • Use the throttle without pedals

But like I said, check your bike. Some bikes only come with Pedal Assist System (PAS), so pedaling is always required.

Normal vs PAS vs Throttle

If you have the option of getting a bike with both pedal assist and throttle, it’s a good choice.

The pedal assist basically gives you extra power every pedal stroke. You’ll still be pedaling, but you won’t need to pedal as hard to move the bike. Normally this is what you’ll be using when riding your electric bike.

Electric bikes will have different levels of pedal assist, typically 0-5. Zero means no assist while 5 means the most assist. Usually I keep my bike in 1-2 assist but will sometimes use 5 when I want to get somewhere quickly and avoid traffic.

The throttle is handy when you want to take a break and not pedal at all. It’s also good to use when in traffic or starting from a stop. On a normal bike, it will take a few seconds to get going from a stop. But with the throttle, you can get moving more quickly when there are impatient cars behind you on the roads.

And, depending on the bike, you can ride it normally. Some moped-style ebikes are heavier and aren’t really designed to be ridden like a normal bike. I ride my Rad Mini bike often without the motor. I usually keep in 2nd gear. While it’s a little tougher than a normal bike, it’s certainly doable.

Being able to use the PAS, throttle, or nothing at all is fun. I can get around quicker when I want or get that extra workout when I feel up for it. And if I want to relax and take things easy, I can do that too.

Are Pedals Required?

For an electric bike to be classified as an electric bike, it must have pedals that can propel the bike. It sounds simple, but electric bikes have been evolving and there are some grey areas.

If you’re looking to get an electric bike without pedals, that’s probably going to be defined as a scooter by law. This means you’ll probably need a license and insurance, so be sure to check with your local laws.

Some bike manufacturers even fit scooters with small pedals in an attempt to circumvent local laws, but some lawmakers are also aware of this.

Different Countries, Different Bikes

One thing to keep in mind is that different countries will have different laws about pedaling.

Each country has regulations regarding vehicle classifications, motor sizes, and throttles. So what do manufacturers do? They create certain bikes for certain countries to conform to local laws.

In the USA, ebike throttles are allowed and you can use your bike without pedaling. Ebike motors will provide power up to 20mph. After 20MPH, the motor stops working.

However, you can still go faster if you do pedal or are going downhill. Some Rad Power Bike owners have even achieved top speeds of 46 MPH! Be aware though, going this fast on an e-bike is dangerous and not recommended.

But when it comes to the European Union, things are a little bit different. In the EU, pedaling is always required.

Here’s the latest legislation I’ve found:

Pedal cycles with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of less than or equal to 250 W, where the output of the motor is cut off when the cyclist stops pedalling and is otherwise progressively reduced and finally cut off before the vehicle speed reaches 25 km/h

Article 1 (h) of Directive 2002/24/EC

What this means is that power to the motor is cut off once you stop pedaling.

If you do have an electric bike that can be propelled without pedaling, it will be classed as a motorcycle or moped and needs to be registered and taxed (source).

Why Pedaling Is Good for You and Your Bike

Even though you might not need to pedal, there are still good reasons to. Here are just some of them:

  • Pedaling is more fun
  • Extends the range of your battery
  • Extends the life of your motor
  • You’ll get a workout and burn more calories
  • You’ll travel faster

I personally do a lot of pedaling on my ebike even though I don’t need to. I like the exercise. When I get tired though or want a break, I’ll turn up the PAS or use the throttle.