Category Archives: Cycles

Electric Bicycle, E-MX, or Moped? Which Is Which, and How To Know the Difference.

The Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) and the Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BA) have become concerned that some sellers are unaware of, or ignoring, the rules surrounding high powered electric bicycles. Both associations are fielding enquiries regarding the exploitation of a perceived ‘grey area’ – whereby high powered bikes are bought for ‘off-road use’, in the mistaken belief that this makes them exempt from existing rules.

“The vast majority of the industry understands its obligations and is highly professional in the way it sells electric bicycles, but it’s vital all sellers understand there is really no ‘grey area’ when it comes to when an electric bicycle must be treated as a moped.

‘Speed pedelecs’ for example, a category of faster e-bike becoming popular in Germany and other countries, are categorised as mopeds in the UK. They have motors more powerful than 250W and offer power assist to a higher speed than 25km/h (15.5mph). Unlike in Germany, there are no regulations which exempt speed pedelecs from any of the standard moped requirements in the UK, so the machine must be type approved, registered, taxed and insured; the rider must have a suitable licence and wear a full motorbike helmet, and be over 16.

Steve Garidis, Operations Director of the BA

KTM Freeride Electric MX bike

KTM Freeride E Electric Motocross bike

At Fowlers we take our responsibilities very seriously, so for the benefit of our customers we’re keen to help the MCIA and BA clarify the exact regulations regarding these three distinct classifications. They stipulate:

  • In order for an Electric Bike to enjoy the same rights as an ordinary pedal cycle, it should have working pedals, not exceed 250 Watts and the electrical assistance should cut out when the bike reaches 15.5mph.
  • In the UK, an electric bike over 250W is legally classified as a moped if it is to be ridden on the road. Mopeds must be ‘type approved’*, registered, taxed, insured and have an MOT. The rider must have the appropriate licence/training and wear a helmet.
  • If an electric bike over 250W is intended for off-road use in the UK, then it must comply with the same rules which apply to off-road motorcycles. That means riders are barred from using public roads, common land, paths or tracks intended for cyclists and must be registered on an agreed list for off-road competition bikes, known as the FIM competition list.
  • MCIA and BA would also remind anyone who owns or is selling an e-bike that it makes no difference if the machine has a switch to flick between a higher and lower power setting. The higher power rating is the rating by which the bike is classified.
Piaggio Wi bike

The Piaggio Wi Bike is classified as an electric bicycle: sub 250W, pedals and no power assist over 25 kph

Dave Luscombe, MCIA’s Project Manager for Alternative Powered Vehicles, explains the situation for off-road use:
“Telling someone they are ‘okay on private land’ is seriously misleading, unless you make them understand they probably need to own the land themselves. High powered off-road electric bikes currently fall within rules meant for off-road motorcycle sport. That means they can’t access areas where, for example, motocross machines are barred. They can’t use public roads, common land or any trails or paths intended for bicycles and the bike must be registered on the FIM competition list, which is a list agreed by all EU manufacturers for bikes used in off-road sport. Dealers must make the restricted access very clear to people who may believe they can use cycle trails.”

To recap, for an e-bike to be treated legally as a bicycle in the UK

  1. it must be 250W or less
  2. it must have working pedals
  3. the power assistance must cut out at 15.5mph.

Anything else is treated in law as a moped. ‘Speed pedelecs’ are currently treated in UK law as mopeds, with no exemptions from moped requirements. Anything over 250W and intended for off-road use only is classified as a motocross machine, must be on the FIM competition list and can only go where regular motocross bikes are legally permitted to go.

Electric mopeds

When intended for road use, an electric bicycle or ‘speed pedelec’ over 250W and not over 4kW is classified as a moped (L1e-A or L1e-B) – speed pedelecs fall into the L1e-B category. Any such vehicles must meet all the requirements that a moped and moped rider need to comply with, namely that the owner/rider must:

  • Be 16 years of age or over
  • Have a moped entitlement on car license or a valid CBT
  • Wear a helmet
  • Fix ”L’ plates if appropriate
  • Have insurance, road tax and an MOT

E-bikes over 4kW intended for road use are motorcycles and must comply with the rules which apply to motorcycles of a similar output.

If you’d like any advice or assistance in choosing the right electric bike for your needs, or need to know how these regulations apply to you, our sales teams are fully conversant with all the rules, as well as having up-to-date and in-depth knowledge of the best electric machines in each classification, available from leading manufacturers.

For expert, personal advice call us on 0117 9770466 and ask to speak to our specialist electric bicycle department for road bikes, our Scooter department for electric mopeds, or Fowlers Off-Road Centre for off-road and motocross E-MX machines.

The most recent guidance notes from the Department for Transport on electric bikes are available at:

Useful websites:

*Type approval

Machines over 250W intended for on road use need to be ‘type approved’ and registered for the road. It doesn’t matter how briefly a rider will be on the public road, an e-bike over 250W is a moped and needs to be registered as such.

Type approval is now also required for the sale of new e-bikes with a ‘Twist and Go’ throttle (i.e. the motor can operate up to 15.5mph without the rider pedalling) but which are otherwise below the 250W rated power and 15.5mph assist speed limits. Like other e-bikes in use, these machines are still treated in UK law as bicycles, except that the rider must be 14 or over.

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