You’re a beast of efficiency: you want your electric bike to go fast, remain reliable, and quite simply get the job done in as quick a time as possible.
Your electric bike is preconfigured for a certain speed, and to handle a certain amount of stress on the motor and drivetrain.
So, is there a way to put your bike to maximum speed limits?
There are ways to push those limits and get an even higher maximum speed out of your electric bike, as well as some other tips and tricks that you can incorporate into your usual riding regimen. One of the perks of your electric bike is the ability to travel beyond the limitations of a traditional bicycle, but there are a few things you need to watch out for.
In this guide, we’ll tell you about certain potential risks that a speed demon such as yourself should be aware of, and how to effectively modify your bicycle to get the results that you want.
What is the Legal Speed Limit of Electric Bikes in the US?
There are stipulations on speed, and the total wattage of the battery in your electric bike as well.
To stay within the guidelines of United States law and have your electric bike classified as a traditional bicycle, you can’t exceed 20 MPH or have a battery with over 750 watts.
If it meets or undershoots these guidelines, then it is not classified as a motor vehicle, despite actually have a motor within it.
The good news is that most manufacturers are trying to cover any and all liabilities, so they don’t generally create ebikes with a maximum attainable speed over 20 MPH.
This isn’t what every company does, but the majority of major manufacturers follow this practice to protect themselves.
This law is federal, meaning it applies to all states to a certain degree, but more than half of the states don’t have a concrete definition of what electric bikes can and cannot do, or what they can and cannot be.
Now, if the manufacturer states that this clearly has the ability to exceed 20 MPH, then you are technically buying a motor vehicle. As far as the federal government is concerned, you essentially own a moped or a dirt bike.
The reason that this is particularly upsetting is that your electric bike basically has a 1 HP or 1.2 HP motor if it exceeds 750 watts, and mopeds and dirt bikes usually have 4 HP or more.
This is a misrepresentation of the power of an electric bike, but it is currently what we’re all subjected to comply with.
But there’s a chance that you’ve already looked at an electric bike that you have your heart set on, and saw that it hits 28 MPH.
Don’t worry, you can still own it and operate it on the road if it states that it can only reach 20 MPH by motor alone and that the 28 MPH rating involves the user to pedal.
The motor only goes up to 20 MPH, so you’re in the clear. Look for the appropriate wording, and ensure that the motor cannot exceed 20 MPH for this to be legal.
Do I Need a License?
If you exceed the 20 MPH (on motor alone) rating, then you’re going to have to apply for a moped license. We know you don’t want to, but it’s law.
You’ll need a license, a registration for the vehicle, and in most cases, you will have to apply a state decal to the back of your electric bike so that police officers know your vehicle is street legal. You will not receive a license plate, though you do need a license to operate the bike.
If you’re getting an electric bike and not intended to use it on the roads, and it exceeds 20 MPH, then it will be classified as an off-road only vehicle.
That means it isn’t street legal, and may not be used on public property, but you may use it within the confines of your own property without fear of penalty by the law.
We are going to talk about derestricting your bicycle in a few moments, but just know that this does not keep things within the legal limits of the law.
Are There Age Restrictions?
Yes, there are, but chances are if you sought out this information, you’re already of operating age.
Since you don’t need a license for electric bikes in the 20 MPH or lower range, anyone twelve years of age or older may operate them. That’s the law, but there are also some ethics involved.
If you are thinking about getting an electric bike for your child or teenager, understand that you’re giving them access to high speed for someone in that age to operate.
Kids can already zoom at about 15 MPH or faster when using their bicycles, however, there’s a difference in control. You know you can flip the back brakes or the handlebar brakes to get the job done, and that you’ll likely stop on a dime.
You can put your feet out and skid against the asphalt to come to a stop. With an electric bike, you’re going against a motor as well, and that raises the stakes a little bit.
Children and teenagers should ideally go through some form of online education prior to mounting their electric bike for the first time. It’s best to avoid the atypical “parent talk” about responsibility and the danger of the public.
Instead, online courses and free YouTube videos can show them useful tips and tricks to stay safe and control their ebike, which will ultimately be more effective in teaching them.
How Fast Can an Electric Bike Go?
Electric bikes vary from speed to speed depending on the brand and the country of manufacturing.
Currently, one of the fastest electric bikes (that aren’t insanely modded out) can go at speeds of 50 MPH, which is more than you need to traverse any non-highway road in America.
In the American marketplace, there’s not a lot of regulation for bike speeds, because you can register them as a motor vehicle.
Manufacturers and marketers are aware that this feels more like a hindrance than a benefit, which is why they cap off at the 20/28 MPH/pedal assist models.
Electric bikes can be modified after the fact. The motor in your bike could be capable of a lot more than it currently outputs.
Companies place inhibitors on motors to regulate their maximum speed and stay within the loose restrictions of the law, but with a bit of know-how (and we have that know-how to share with you today), you can remove the derestrict on your bicycle and fly like the wind.
Before we get into that, let’s discuss a few external factors that contribute to your bicycle speed, and how you can achieve the very best results and speeds with a few simple fixes.
External Methods to Speed up Your Electric Bike
We’ll talk about the motor in a moment, but for now, we need to tackle other issues that could be holding back your maximum speed. These are just some tips and tricks to reduce drag and improve performance all around.
You have to pack as light as possible. If you’re taking a backpack on the trip or using the cargo section of your electric bike, it’s time to take a minimalist approach.
Consider this: a standard Toyota Camry has about 200 horsepower, give or take. Your electric bike likely doesn’t exceed 2 horsepower, so carry weight will be an issue.
A few ways you can travel light is by wearing aerodynamic clothing, only bring along essential items like your phone and wallet, and free up the cargo area/rear wheel frame as much as possible by removing items that you might not need on your trip.
It’s always good to have a small first-aid kit and repair set on board, but beyond that, try your best to limit things.
It’s fun to stand up and feel the wind pass by you just like you would on a traditional bicycle, but it’s not a good idea for your electric bike.
When you stand up, you’re extending your legs and effectively providing more surface area for the wind to catch on, which will slow you down.
When you lean back to sit down after a moment, you’re jerking the bike slightly backward, which will give you a quick bit of lag. Remain seated if you’re using the full throttle on your electric bike.
Check That Air
Electric bikes are heavier, and that means there’s more stress on the tires. While we would go 2-3 months without checking the air in traditional bicycle tires, you need to keep an eye on your electric bike tires on a regular basis to ensure optimal performance.
Check them at least once a week, and no less than that. You can either bring a small handheld air pump with you on your journey or stop by a gas station and use their air machine (which usually has a PSI gauge on it).
With the small amount of horsepower, this will make a major difference in performance.
Don’t Throttle at Half
When you use an electric razor or a flashlight, you can tell when the battery is about to die-off. It’s a little more complicated with bigger batteries like you would find on an electric bike.
When your charge drops to about halfway, you’ll start noticing a little bit of drag. The bike might then either simply lack in performance slightly, or dig into the battery reserve and push the motor’s limits by exerting additional power.
You’re not going to damage your bike if you use the throttle at half charge, but it will impact speed.
Replace the Tires
Look at your electric bike tires, then look at racing bike tires. Smoother tires help you achieve a higher speed, but they can be difficult to find for wider wheels on electric bikes.
These tires tend to wear down about twice as quickly as standard electric bike tires, so it’s something you should only do if speed is your number one priority over keeping costs down.
User clothing, weight, and carry-on items all drag back the maximum bicycle speed.
You have to remember that these product sales pages that tell you the maximum MPH are all laboratory-tested in ideal environments, where the speed limit is monitored by the electric bike system during use.
There are inhibitors that try to keep the motor going at the designated maximum speed and promote a level of speed consistency, but there are also ways around that.
How to Derestrict an Electric Bike
Derestricting an electric bike is also called e-tuning, and it’s chartering into the DIY territory. Keep in mind before you start that derestricting your electric bike could void the warranty.
It’s important to look at your warranty information regarding maintenance, repairs and what the manufacturer may dictate as “tampering.”
When you derestrict your bike, it’s going to increase the maximum speed, but not increase power. Your motor can only perform at a certain level, so you’re just finding a way around the technology that keeps the motor operating at the maximum legal speed.
Take a look at your electric bike: you have a speed gauge that tells you when you hit the maximum limit, but do you know how it reads your riding speed?
There’s a magnet in the spoke of your back wheel that looks like a watch battery, and a sensor on a wire that’s connected to the frame.
When the wheel spins, that magnet meets the sensor, and the onboard computer determines how fast you’re going. This is what we’re going to target to derestrict your bike.
Leave the magnet alone, but unscrew the base of the sensor. You’re going to reposition the sensor so that it reads the speed of your pedals instead of the wheels since your pedals aren’t going to move as fast as your spokes.
Flip the sensor over so that it’s reading in the opposite direction, and move the wire accordingly. Gently spin the pedals with your hands and see if they meet with the face of the sensor.
If so, that’s great, and we just need to do one more thing.
Use some electrical tape and tightly secure the sensor in this new spot. Do it tightly enough that it’s not going to shift over time, otherwise you’ll have to redo your tape job.
The sensor still needs to have something that it can detect, otherwise, it could shut off the motor anyways. Purchase or find a flat rectangular magnet, and secure it to the crank arm that holds your pedal.
If the magnet passes by the sensor, secure it in place with sauntering or super glue, and wait for it to dry.
The next time you turn your electric bike on, go on a test ride. See if you can get above the previously mentioned limit.
It’s important to keep in mind that derestricted electric bikes are more dangerous than restricted bikes, and the chance of collision increases with your new speed.
Run your bike for ten minutes and see if the sensor tripping worked, and if so, you should be good to go from here on out.
How to Tweak Your Electric Bike to go Faster
We know about traveling lightweight and aerodynamically, we know how to derestrict, but there’s one more thing that you can do if you’re super serious about achieving maximum speed.
Since manufacturers are designing these bikes to meet certain legal limits, it isn’t crazy to assume that they would place a battery in your bike that can’t take full advantage of your bike’s motor.
With a bit of DIY magic, you can hook up a battery with a higher voltage to help push your electric bike past its limit.
The issue becomes housing: higher voltage batteries are bigger, and the housing for your electric bike battery was made very specifically.
Bigger batteries will also increase the total bicycle weight and increase drag, so if you’re going to amp up the battery, it’s a “Go big or go home” kind of approach.
It’s Time to go Fast
Ready to hit the road and burn some rubber? It’s time to put the pedal to the metal and test your newfound speed.
If you pair these tricks and tips together and possibly replace the battery for higher voltage output, there’s no telling how fast you can go and how far past the limits you can push your electric bike.
Derestricting your bicycle may void your warranty and subject you to legal ramifications if you are found to exceed past 20 MPH in the United States without a proper license and registration, or exceed posted speed limits in school and work zones. Proceed with derestricting your bicycle at your own risk and ride responsibly.