Electric Bikes

Why Might You Consider an E-Bike?

  • Injury, disability, age, fitness issues
  • Live on a steep hill
  • Get there faster
  • Want to keep up with others who are faster
  • Haul children, groceries, etc.
  • Save the planet, less GHG emissions
  • Save money
  • Ride to work and not be sweaty
  • FUN

Things to Consider When Choosing an E-Bike

What kind of riding do you do now? How frequently do you ride now?

  • Almost any type of bike that exists: road bike, beach cruiser, townie, mountain bike, cargo bike, folding bike, tricycle – comes in an electric version!
  • The electric version will be heavier (motor + battery) than a similar non-electric bike.
  • We recommend trying different bikes out to see what fits and feels comfortable to YOUR body! (Plus buying from a local shop means an easier time of it with repairs, warranty issues, accessories, etc.)

Considerations specific to e-bikes:

Where is the motor?

  • Mid-drive motors are found on higher-end bikes, and put the weight and the  power in the center of the bike, which many people feel makes the bike better balanced.
  • Hub-drive motors are most often in the rear wheel, often in lower-priced bikes, and can feel like you are being pushed; also makes the bike heavier in the back than in the front.
  • Some people convert existing bikes to electric bikes with  a front wheel hub motor.

Where is the battery?

  • Most e-bikes have the battery mounted externally; it can be removed for charging indoors.
  • Some have the battery inside the frame, which means you must plug in the whole bike.

What class of e-bike?

California Vehicle Code (CVC) lists three classes of e-bikes. This is important to consider as which one you buy can influence WHERE and by WHOM it can be ridden.

Safety Considerations for E-Bikes

With greater speed comes greater responsibility! Stop times will be slower. Drivers may not expect you to be moving as fast as you actually are (especially uphill). You can take CyclingSavvy’s e-bike safety course online here to learn more about how the greater speed of an e-bike affects its handling.

Rules & Regulations Specific to E-Bikes

NOTE: Policies regarding e-bikes are in a state of flux, especially local rules about where you can and can’t ride them. Before riding in a new place, check local rules. We will strive to keep this information updated here!

Where can I ride my e-bike?

  • CVC says Class I & II e-bikes can be ridden anywhere a regular bike can, unless a local jurisdiction makes different rules. Class III e-bikes can only be ridden by people aged 16 and up and a helmet must be worn; they are NOT allowed on Class I, separated bikeways. (e.g. Joe Rodota Trail)

  • The speed limit on ALL Class I trails is 15 mph, no matter HOW fast your bike can go! Be nice to the pedestrians!
  • Class I e-bikes are allowed in Sonoma County Regional Parks. E-bikes are prohibited on trails in Annadel State Park. Federal lands – National Parks, National Forests, and BLM – allow e-bikes wherever regular bikes are allowed.

 

How about public transit?

  • You can take your e-bike on the SMART train.
  • Sonoma County Transit, Petaluma Transit, and Santa Rosa Transit don’t prohibit e-bikes.
  • Golden Gate Transit allows them on ferries (you may need to carry it up and down stairs). Electric bikes are only allowed on GGT buses that are equipped with front-mounted bike racks. Batteries must remain on the bike and the bike cannot weigh more than 55 lbs.

Other Common Questions

 How many miles will I get per charge? How long does it take to charge?

  • It takes 3-5 hours to fully charge an e-bike battery.
  • MANY factors influence how many miles you can travel on one charge:
    • Battery power
    • Terrain (flat, hills) & weather (wind)
    • Weight (bike + rider + cargo)
    • How much assist you use (bikes have 2-5 varying levels)

How do I keep my bike secure?

  • Get a good U-lock
  • Double lock
  • Bring the bike indoors
  • Bring the battery indoors with you
  • Replace quick-release levers
  • Other tips here

Aren’t they expensive?

Prices are coming down! The state has a pilot e-bike subsidy program beginning soon, and the California Bicycle Coalition is lobbying for more funding for the program. Subsidizing e-bikes is a more cost-effective way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions than subsidizing electric cars!

But isn’t it cheating?

IT’S NOT CHEATING IF YOU’RE NOT IN A RACE! You’re riding a bike instead of a car, still getting exercise, and still reducing GHG emissions!

More Info

updated 02/02/2024