Riding a power-assisted bicycle

A power assisted bicycle or pedal cycle, is a pedal cycle with an electric motor attached to assist the rider. The attached electric motor may provide assistance, but the pedals must be the main means of propulsion.

Since 15 December 2016 internal combustion engines that are fitted to bicycles are not permitted to be used on South Australian roads or road related areas.

What is a power assisted bicycle?

In South Australia, there are two categories of power-assisted bicycles that may be legally used on SA roads:

  • Power-assisted pedal cycles, which have an electric motor(s) with a combined maximum power output of up to 200 Watts and are not propelled by only the motors.
  • Electrically power-assisted cycles, which have a maximum continuous electric power output not exceeding 250 Watts and are not propelled only by the motor.

Legal use on roads

For legal use on our roads, the power-assisted bicycle must comply with the following.

Power-assisted pedal cycles

  • The primary source of propulsion is through human power (pedalling).
  • The other source of propulsion must be an electric motor(s).
  • The maximum power output of the motor(s) cannot exceed 200 Watts.
  • Have a tare weight of less than 50kg (including any batteries).
  • Have a height adjustable seat.
  • The bicycle cannot be propelled exclusively by a motor and the rider must use pedals in order to set or keep the vehicle in motion.

Electrically power-assisted cycles

  • The primary source of propulsion is through human power (pedalling).
  • Has a maximum continuous power of 250 Watts, of which the output:
    • Progressively reduces as the cycle’s travel speed increases above 6 km/h
    • Cuts off once the cycle reaches 25 km/h or the cyclist is not pedalling and the travel speed exceeds 6 km/h.

Any bicycle with an internal combustion engine fitted is not a power-assisted bicycle and cannot be ridden on South Australian roads or road-related areas.

Road rules for power assisted bicycles

Riders do not require a driver's licence, motor vehicle registration or compulsory third-party insurance. Riders are bound by the same rules as for other bicycles, including the need for:

  • the rider to wear a helmet
  • effective brakes
  • a bell, or another audible warning device
  • a rear-facing red reflector at night
  • a white light to the front and a red light to the rear at night (both may flash) clearly visible from at least 200 metres.

Differences between a power assisted bicycle and a motorcycle

A power-assisted bicycle is a bicycle with an electric motor(s) attached to assist the rider. At first glance some motorbikes with pedals look very similar to a power-assisted bicycle. The main differences are speed, pedal crank spacing, weight, seat position, seat shape and gearing.

A good rule of thumb for deciding if the pedals are the main power source is:

  • if the distance between the inner faces of the cranks is less than 180 mm
  • whether it can easily be ridden without power assistance (you should be able to ride it home if the assistance motor fails).

If these apply and the motor output is up to 200 Watts or less than 250 Watts of continuous power, then it is a power-assisted bicycle.

If the only source of power is an internal combustion engine, then it is classified as a motor vehicle and operating it requires a driver's licence, registration and compulsory third-party insurance. However; few, if any, of these vehicles, are able to be registered because they are not capable of meeting registration requirements, such as compliance with the Australian Design Rules. Such vehicles cannot be legally operated on SA roads.


Power assisted bicycle This is a power assisted bicycle. It has an adjustable seat and multiple gears to make it easier to pedal, as well as an electric battery pack, to assist the rider.
Electric bike looks more like a motorcycle not permitted in South Australia
This is not a power assisted bicycle because the seat is too low for pedalling and the pedals are so widely spaced that they only offer a place to rest your feet. The pedals are low enough to dig in when cornering. It is clear that the pedals are not the main means of propulsion.
Bike looks like a power assisted bike but has a petrol engine
This is not a power assisted bicycle because it is fitted with an internal combustion motor.

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Page last updated 4 July 2022

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