Electric Bikes

E-Bike vs Pedelec: 6 KEY DIFFERENCES

This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.

The Short Answer

Pedelecs provide automatic assistance as you pedal, legally classified as conventional bikes, while e-bikes offer on-demand power and come with advanced technology features. Pedelecs are cheaper and offer a longer range, while e-bikes are more powerful and customizable.

Pedelecs and e-bikes both use electric motors to give their riders a boost, which sometimes leads to confusion between the two vehicles. Although they have their fair share of similarities (and devotees) there are some pretty big differences between the two that effect ride quality and utility.

If you’re wondering what sets them apart (and which you should buy if this is your first foray into the electric bike market) read on as we break down the differences.

What is a Pedelec?

Quite simply, a pedelec is a bike that delivers power automatically as you peddle. The motor only comes into play when you start to peddle, giving you a burst of support and making it feel as though you’re cycling with the wind at your back.

As soon as you stop peddling, the electrical assistance stops too. This makes pedelecs especially useful on hills or when you’re cycling into headwinds. It also boosts range over a conventional bike as you’ll always have some level of assistance. Pedelecs were first manufactured in 1999 as an alternative to e-bikes with their pedal-independent throttles. A pedelec’s electric motor is capped at 250 watts and they can travel at speeds of up to 25kph

Interestingly, because the throttle is linked to the peddle, these bikes avoid many of the stringent regulations associated with more powerful e-bikes. They’re classified as conventional bicycles and are treated as such in law.

What is the Difference Between an Electric Bike and a Pedelec?

The biggest difference between electrical bikes and pedelecs is how power is delivered. Pedelecs are peddle assist. This means that power is delivered automatically as you peddle. When you stop peddling, the power stops too. They are significantly less powerful than e-bikes.

E-bikes, on the other hand, supply power on demand. Their motors can be used to give you a boost whenever you want or turned off altogether. E-bikes also tend to have more powerful motors, variable levels of assistance depending on the terrain and lots of other tech including route tracking, app synchronisation and range monitoring.

Generally speaking, pedelecs are simpler and cheaper than fully fledged e-bikes. Some people even convert their conventional bikes into pedelecs with the addition of a motor and a few other parts. If you’re looking for peddle assistance in a hilly area, a pedelec is the answer. If you want more substantial, customisable power for longer rides, then look for an e-bike. 

E-Bike vs Pedelec

The main difference between e-bikes and pedelecs is the way that power is delivered and their legal classifications. Pedelecs complement your peddling power rather than replacing it, so some more traditional cyclists prefer them as a “purer” experience (some cyclists consider e-bikes as “cheating”!).

Let’s break down some of the other important differences between pedelecs and e-bikes.

Delivers power as you peddleMore powerful
Legally a conventional bikeDelivers power on demand
Longer rangeCustomisable assist levels
Cheaper than an e-bikeMore expensive
More “traditional” experienceLoaded with tech
Great for hilly areasGreat for commuting

Discerning Cyclist Store

Visit the Discerning Cyclist's Shop

Ride in style

Join our weeky newsletter to get early access to our latest discoveries.

Related reads