Why You Don’t Want a Superfast Electric Bicycle
Electric bicycles are wonderful devices for getting around; they are quick, convenient and great fun.
But what happens when the motor (normally through modification or retro-fitting as a kit) assists the rider beyond the legal speed limit for motor assistance (generally 20mph in the USA and 15.5 mph in Europe).
Whilst it might sound tempting on the simple basis it gets you from A to B more speedily, it can easily mean riders of such e-bikes and other road users they come into contact with may find themselves in situations they don’t want to be in, and all too quickly…
What are Superfast E-bikes?
You’ll most likely know already that in the US (Class 1 & 2) 20mph is the legal limit at which the motor can assist the rider on a e-bike and in Europe it is 15.5mph.
Beyond this limit are so-called ‘speed’ pedelecs or s-pedelecs (Class 3 in US), capable of pedal assisted (no throttle) speeds up to 28mph.
Are these e-bikes? Really they fall into a class of of their own between e-bikes and motorbikes and mopeds.
Whilst they can resemble e-bikes if pedelec in design (giving you the benefits of exercise when you pedal – especially at lower power levels and giving a bike like riding experience) they are unlike ‘regular’ 20mph e-bikes in that they come with some legal requirements to enable them to be ridden in public bike lanes & roadways. In many jurisdictions they are banned on low speed pedestrian/bike specific pathways.
With the right regulation in place they can be useful tools for getting some of the benefits of e-bike riding and getting to where you want to go faster or travelling further than with a regular e-bike.
Any ‘e-bike’ traveling above the 28mph limit is not an e-bike in a legal sense and brings much much fewer of the exercise benefits and simple bike riding experience that comes with regular e-bikes.
What we are really talking about with many superfast models of ‘e-bike’ are more akin to electric mopeds or electric motorbikes.
Other designs may fall into one of the many other classifications of electric vehicles that are emerging currently.
Kinds of Superfast E-bike
Superfast illegal e-bikes generally fall into three categories.
1. Chipping / tuning. On some older models of e-bike all that was required to remove the speed limiter was to turn the speed sensing magnet on the rear wheel spokes sideways to disable it. E-bike manufacturers soon got wise to this design weakness and designed the speed limit into the bike so it was much less easily ‘accessible’ to the end user.
This involves fitting a small electronic device to a legal e-bike to make it run illegally fast, known as chipping or tuning. Usually it means some degree of disassembly of the electronic internals of your e-bike, most likely negating any warranty and potentially causing expensive damage to it.
Whilst the resulting bikes may get no faster than the 28 mph allowed for speed-pedelecs this doesn’t make the bikes speed pedelecs – to be safe they should be designed from the ground up as speed pedelecs and registered accordingly with the authorities. Of course some chipped bikes may also be able to exceed 28mph.
2. Off-the-shelf models. Some companies advertise themselves as selling complete, ready-to-ride ‘e-bikes’ with superfast speeds (ie more than 28mph), in an attempt to draw attention away from the fact that in no legal sense can they be considered e-bikes. They are implying they have all the legal advantages that e-bikes get i.e. no or very little red tape, without drawing attention to the fact they exceed the speed limit imposed on e-bikes for safety reasons.
3. Retro-fit kits. These are mainly hub kits, so the means of making them go illegally fast may have to do not just with the software but with the gearing of the motor itself. As hub motors are not ‘downstream’ of the bike’s own gearing system (as mid drives are) their top speed is largely determined by the gearing ratios of the motor itself. Hence illegally fast hub motors may be geared to achieve an illegal top speed. They may also put greater stresses on the ‘donor’ bike than it can safely handle. In our article on retrofitting kits we look at the care needed to fit legal kits. With illegally fast kits the pitfalls and associated risks are magnified.
Why are the companies that sell such goods often not prosecuted? Many sellers of products that are illegal when used on public roads simply say ‘for use on private land only’.
Obviously the vast majority of illegally fast e-bikes will not be used in this way, but it introduces a ‘paper’ defense that puts the legal onus on the riders of such machines.
Why are Superfast E-bikes So Dangerous?
This can be simply summed up in two words – speed kills. It’s simple, inescapable physics.
The kinetic energy of a moving object increases in proportion to the square of the speed.
In other words a bike travelling at 30mph will do 4 times the damage of a bike doing 15mph and at 60mph (yes there are illegal e-bikes out there that can achieve this speed) you will have 16 times as much energy as at one quarter of the speed.
Add into this the facts that superfast bikes often carry very large heavy battery packs to achieve a reasonable range and that increased mass also contributes to the kintetic energy – and therefore force suffered in any high speed collision – and you can see how the impacts in a high speed collision are very likely to be many, many times greater than you might at first really appreciate.
Excess speed is not just a huge danger should a crash occur but much more likely to lead to one.
The e-bike rider has less time to react as do others around him or her and the rider may also not appreciate that braking distances, as with the energy of the rider and bike, increase at a much greater rate than the extra speed alone might indicate.
One particular problem in relation to superfast e-bikes is that other road users will most likely assume you will be doing a conventional bike-like speed i.e. approaching them fairly slowly.
This is a particular problem if a very fast e-bike is viewed head on. Anyone crossing its path would likely assume it will take far longer to reach them than it actually does; a recipe for disaster.
It only takes a quick search of the internet to see that there have been documented cases of superfast e-bikes being involved in serious and fatal incidents, and some of these are in countries where e-bikes are still only really just beginning to take off.
If the problem is not taken seriously now it could easily leave much more destruction behind it in the future.
There is also the possibility of component failure if the bike has not been built for the forces being exerted on it by superfast motors.
This is also the reason why on speed pedelecs limited to 28 mph many jurisdictions specify higher standards for many of the non-electric components such as frame strength and rims than for lower speed e-bikes.
They just have to be stronger to stand up to the potential forces involved.
What are the Wider Problems Superfast E-bikes Cause?
Even if you are involved in crashing an illegal e-bike and don’t suffer serious injury or worse, you are likely to find other serious consequences if the authorities find out, as this page on Bosch’s website makes clear.
There is also a wider danger that too many incidents of whatever severity involving superfast e-bikes will unfairly damage the rest of the industry, acting responsibly, with the same brush.
As this Telegraph article demonstrates excessive behaviour on e-bikes can lead to a strong backlash in popular leisure cycling areas.
On a national level it could increase calls for mandatory insurance, licensure, helmet wearing, and banning e-bikes from all cycle paths.
Not a Plea for Banning Fast E-vehicles
Faster electric vehicles have their place of course, but they must be well regulated.
Traditionally the gap between bikes (and now e-bikes) and motor cars was filled by mopeds and motorbikes.
The boom in electric vehicle technology promoted in part by the e-bike boom and advances in electric motor system technology has allowed great potential for the development of vehicles that fill the gap and could be a great boon to a more convenient and greener transport future.
Speed pedelecs are a case in point; in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium where thoughtful regulations have recently been introduced sales are starting to grow in this ‘faster than traditional e-bike’ sector.
But electric vehicles that fall outside the legal definition of e-bikes shouldn’t seek to call themselves e-bikes and those tempted to buy such machines should be aware of the potential harm they could do, not only to themselves but to other road users and to the reputation of legal e-bikes and to the many thousands that ride them.
Stay tuned for more e-bike news and reviews and thanks for reading!
P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report communityfor updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips!
[…] speeds like those of the Swind come radically increased dangers, as outlined in our own article on the risks of superfast electric bikes. The source of the added danger is simple, inescapable […]
Mike R says
Nice article. It’s timely, given the growth, and many new ebike firms ‘pushing the envelope’ on speed as a way to differentiate their ebikes from others.
Scott A says
This article takes an extremely narrow view of what is possible for ebikes and transportation technology in general. Keep in mind that a 1000W electric motor is literally only 1 HP (750W even less) so to paint 28+ e-bikes as ‘superfast’ danger vehicles is silly.
Edward Peck says
I totally agree. When my friends routinely ride their non assist bikes in excess of 20 mph, speed is highly exaggerated in terms of safety. Keeping up with my group ride while only able to reach 20 mph is not feasible.. Should I have more than one e bike. One for riding with a fast group, and another to ride with my wife and children on bike paths where class 3 is not allowed? Why don’t they have speed limits on these paths? Any bike can go over 15 mph which is inherently unsafe on most shared bike paths. You can keep a bike at a safe speed any time you want. Does this make any sense?
Dan Jeffris says
This article is at best confusing and at worst inaccurate in its depiction of Class 3 speed pedelecs. The reference to Class 3 e-bikes as being more closely aligned with motorbikes and mopeds is inaccurate. And it appears the author is attempting to lump legitimate Class 3 speed pedelecs in with “super fast” out-of-class electric bikes. The industry definition of a Class 3 e-bike puts it squarely in the category of Low Speed Electric Bicycles (LSEB) and not Out of Class Electric Vehicles (OCEV). I would also challenge the notation that “many jurisdictions specify higher standards for many of the non-electric components such as frame strength and rims” for a Class 3 ebike, with assisted speed up to 28mph. Where is this documented? What jurisdictions? While I agree that OCEV’s represent particular dangers and risk to riders that require more stringent oversight, Class 3 electric bikes should not to be confused with this other class of super fast e-bike.
Richard Peace says
Thanks for your comment Dan
As the author I just reread the article to see if I really was saying that class 3 pedelecs are more closely aligned with mopeds and motorbikes and I don’t think I was. I say of them ‘Are these e-bikes? Really they fall into a class of their own between e-bikes and motorbikes and mopeds.’
I think this is a fair statement as there can be restrictions on where you can use class 3 e-bikes in many states, so in that sense they are very different to class 1 and class 2 e-bikes.
Also the article states ‘Any ‘e-bike’ traveling above the 28mph limit is not an e-bike in a legal sense and brings much much fewer of the exercise benefits and simple bike riding experience that comes with regular e-bikes.’ So I feel only 28mph plus vehicles are being associated with mopeds and motorbikes.
Referring to my comment that “many jurisdictions specify higher standards for many of the non-electric components such as frame strength and rims” –
certainly in Europe they do:
The above article states ‘Following this legislation, the manufacturer has to have a type of his vehicle tested by a ‘technical service’. This is an organisation or a body accredited by the type-approval authority of a Member State as a testing laboratory, which is entitled to carry out the tests prescribed by the type-approval legislation in order to establish that the type complies with the law. What’s more, the type-approval does not only concern the vehicle as a whole but also many of its components. Consequently, if the manufacturer changes a component, which is regulated by type-approval by a different component, the approval of the original type is no longer valid and the manufacturer has to go through type-approval again. Also, retailers are not entitled to replace type-approved by non-type-approved or different components. They may only use identical type-approved components.’
Perhaps the article was a little unclear as it equates US class 3 with speed pedelecs, and I was thinking of the European requirements for type approval which came into effect at the start of 2016. Apologies if my terminology was a little confusing.
I couldn’t disagree more strongly with this article for rural riding. Commuting on rural roads with 45 mph speed limits, I was almost killed two times in one year by trucks passing me on this road with no space.
I built a high speed electric bike (56 mph top speed) and I rode for three more years on that same road with no incident. This is because I was keeping up with the flow of traffic. This is a much safer way to ride. Some will say, “why not just get a motorcycle then?”. My answer is that a motorcycle gives you no ability to exercise. I love the experience of getting a good workout while going down the road at 45 mph with the flow of traffic. It also keeps me much warmer in winter riding.
My 2 cents,
Richard Peace says
Hi and thanks for your 2 cents! In writing the article I wasn’t making a plea that such vehicles as yours shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. Rather, I feel under the present laws in the USA and Europe calling something an e-bike when it is not legally classed as such could damage the great progress lower speed e-bikes are making. As I say in the latter part of the article, it’s not an argument for banning – just an argument for correct terminology and for legal checks to make sure all machines out there are keeping all users of highways and bike lanes as safe as possible.
David Graves says
Richard I think your article was fare. I am looking for a bike to commute to work, this road is straight and speeds vary from 40-25 miles an hour. My wanting a bike to do between 25-30 would be to keeping more with the speed of vehicles traveling around me. My commute would be more during the dark hours (working hours being 10pm-6am.) I haven’t gotten the bike because I study long and hard before I make my purchase. I am wanting it for the exercise yet I am approaching 60 so I have to understand limitations. Not only age but hips replaced and shoulders replaced. This being why I just think e-bike is my way to go. I have a Triumph Rocket III so my e-bike isn’t my road burner. I would like more exercise and to burn less fuel. This would be the way to go? It just seems that the more I read the more questions that I have. I am planning 13 miles round trip a day 5 days a week 52 weeks a year. As I have stated, because of my motorcycle, I have the clothes to keep me warm at 27 degrees F. at 60 miles an hour. 35+ winds are possible. I am not wanting to drop a bundle on a bike as to find out that I am not able to obtain what is needed from an e-bike. I would feel fat tire because of wet-snow-dry-and whatever other road conditions may appear, this seems to be the more logical approach. I would welcome any advice that I should look into. I feel giving you as much information will only help with a choice. I am asking you because you have this real world experience that perhaps I should ask. With as much riding as I plan on doing charging once a day may be needed and with charging cycles being as low as 400-500 charges on some models, can a savings be maintained to offset the cost of even the batteries. Electric bike are better for the environment? Well electricity doesn’t appear out of thin air. It has to be made and where I live it is by coal fire plants so you see where I am going here. I am asking you because you seem fair in what you are saying. Every E-bike rule does not fit for every e-bike rider or every e-bike. I guess my question is why would I not get a 750-1000w motor with a 52v battery pack? Price, but could I not ride them further between charges. These are the sort of question that I am having. I have also kind of come to the conclusion that there really isn’t a scale for electric bikes. Each one seems to have its own specification. No real universal means to evaluate the different bike for the view of someone like myself just reading. Why will some 1000w motors (which are legal here in OK.) only get the same as a 350w motor (speed and distance between charges?) These questions I am finding answers difficult to understand. This is my problem Sir. Thanks for letting me cry on your e-biking knowledge shoulder.
David Graves says
I am in your same situation with my Ebike. Mine is a 1000w and on my 5.2 mile trip on roads as you have stated ( pretty straight shol on speed limits as you have stated. My car was 2 minutes faster. I also work 10pm-6am. I have double high beams for the front and 2 blinking red lights on the back. Bikes do not impede traffic because the are traffic. Class 2 ebike are the only legal bike to ride without government mandates. (For the most part.) Class 3 ebikes require same laws as motorcycles. Insurance, tags and current safety standards that are in effect for the time frame when your bikecwas made. Anybody can argue these facts all that they want I work for the State highway Patrol. These are the laws in the state of Oklahoma. I hope this helps. I do love my ebike and enjoy going to work and home in it. I wish I was doing it years ago. My situation is two totally replaced hip and shoulders. My body acts different at different times so the flexibility is needed in my situation. Remember that there are Dicks and Assholes, everywhere. Most expect you to ride a 27 MPH, fat tire bike with full lights and reflective gear on the sidewalk. Don’t do it, it is not allowed on sidewalks in any state that I know of. Again I FREAKIN LOVE MY EBIKE!
Agreed, Here in Oregon where 1000 Watt e-bikes are legal there was actually a bill proposed in the legislature, and supported by the highway dept., to increase the power limit to 5000W for safety on rural roads. It was a bit extreme and didn’t pass but, point made. The article made some hard to argue with points but was far too broad brush in it’s condemnation of fast e-bikes. I happen to be a recumbent bike rider. A fast touring recumbent with full fairing is capable of being pedaled past 25 mph and 40+ mph on a slight downhill is common. And the bikes are designed for safe handling at such speeds, unlike common uprights. Obviously it’s irrelevant whether such a bike attains its design speed by human power only or with assistance. BTW, the current speed record for a faired recumbent under human power only is north of 80 mph. Such a bike is technically legal on your local bike path. My point is that sane operating regulations are probably more effective than performance restrictions. Ride your e-bike fast where it’s safe and courteous to do so, otherwise don’t, even if your bike can only go 20.
Richard Peace says
Thanks for reading and commenting. I didn’t want to come across as ‘anti fast e-bike’, more to make the point that I believe such machines do need their own standards and shouldn’t get confused with slower e-bikes. I like your idea of regulating by in effect voluntarily observing a speed limit – as with motor vehicles -but clearly that doesn’t work well enough to prevent lots of casualties on the roads already, so I wouldn’t see a voluntary speed limit working with very fast e-bikes either. Lots of states haven’t even got to the point of adopting the three class law for lower speed e-bikes yet, let alone legislating thoughtfully for faster machines.
Yes, traditional bicycles can be ridden faster than some e-bikes with the right machine and a responsible, skilled rider – but my article was
looking at what an average cyclist can do and in the main the electric bicycle is designed to fit within their realm, so that they can have all the benefits of what a traditional bicycle has. For instance; access to most of the traditional bike/pedestrian infrastructure and in general no licensure, insurance, etc.
Hope that clarifies I’m not anti-fast bikes, just pro sensible regulation for faster e-bikes. Exactly what that entails I guess is another debate but an interesting one that already looks to have kicked off in this comments section….
It’s okay to have these new eMoped class vehicles with their own areas to ride and licensure, insurance, safety standards, etc. But they should not be jeopardizing the electric bicycle category of vehicles.
I’ve been involved with e-bike legislation to a certain degree so I’m aware of what a hodgepodge of state level laws exist currently. The 3-level scheme you mention that California came up with is probably the best we’ve got for now and just getting that adopted nationwide is a worthy goal. Your point about not wanting to tar e-bike reputations by allowing the more extreme variants to share the name is well taken. Ultimately what I think we would all like is a rich ecosystem of light electric transportation things replacing cars, and we will of course need regulation to match. Many cities now find themselves on the cutting edge of that with the proliferation of app rentable e-scooters. That transition is going to require us e-bike and bike riders to give a little and make room for the new kids on the block and perhaps not be so territorial about our admittedly hard won gains in bike infrastructure. Ultimately that will be to our benefit — more people riding small electrics = more political power = more infrastructure and favorable regulations for is all.
I think it also should be noted that most class 3 ebikes do not provide assist beyond 28 mph.
Meaning at this point, you’re strictly pedaling on your own, and on a heavier bike I might add. Even if you’re on a decent at a momentum of APPX 35 mph, a guy on a road bike will pass you because road bikes generate more speed than ebikes due to their lighter weight, and race ready gearing. So really, road bikes too, are rockin’ in the same boat as ebikes. It boils down to being safe and responsible while operating an class 3 ebike.
I own a Bosch speed pedelec (Kalkhoff), it has battery assist up to 28 mph. The assist drops out when I get over the 28 mph range. There is no throttle. You have to pedal to make it go. So I still say it’s a bicycle with electric assist. Not a moped nor is it a motorcycle. Since it weighs at or over 50 pounds, the assist is quite nice on hills. And it’s hard to maintain those speeds for very long. But I wouldn’t like one that kicks out at 20 mph near as much. I used to get kinda worked up when my bike was called anything other than a bike or an ebike. But no use arguing with some people, so call it what you want, it’s my “fun machine”!
Talking about European standards and laws don’t mean anything to me here in the USA, but I’m still a little jealous they seem to get all the new models and tech way sooner than we do.
Ebikes are here to stay, so you can accept them or get left behind!
I do own 8 other bikes, carbon fiber race, titanium tourer, aluminum Schwann with disc brakes, FS MTB, hardtail SS to name a few, but since the knee is destined for replacement, the ebike has become my main ride.
And I’ll ring my incredibell and wave as we cross paths!
Bob Ferguson says
I agree with your opinion for the most part. I have found that at 72 years old comfortable light exercise is derived on my 28+ mph ebike at top speeds. I’ve also had ebikes that only attain low 20 mph limits and have found that their power for hill climbing is very poor. Certainly not for most of us older riders. Of course your complete attention is a must when riding any ebike as well as any bike for that matter.
David Graves says
I feel you brother. I am 60 and these Ebikes get out and moving. My body isn’t in 26 year old shape.
I ride a brand name Class 3 e-bike. The bike is without throttle and is a true pedelec-assist that cuts out at 28 mph. I am able to exceed 28 mph simply by my own efforts and sometimes with “gravity “assist”.. I am frequently passed by cyclists on road bikes at speeds above 30 mph.
As a bicycle user every day, commuting, of course, I understand that there must be a clear regulation, but based on logic, education and respect. Technically, the limitation should only be, by the power of the motor (250W, 350W, 500W …). And for sw, what is appropriate for your specific use (personal characteristics, terrain, weather conditions, etc. (my current car can reach 270 km / h …, my bike, is an idiot?).
Starting from the base, that a bike, downhill, can go to 70 km / h …
Many times, I feel safer going at the same speed of general traffic (more than 25 km / h …), to be getting ahead of my risk. Also, for me, the trottle I. e., is a very good tool in the city, to get out at traffic lights, etc. It gives the feeling, that the rules, and articles of journalists, are made, by people, without knowledge or experience in daily use of the bicycle. Happy day and drive safely and with intelligence.
I have a throttle-based Brompton that cuts-out at 20mph (aftermarket kit) and a Focus Aventura S-10 s-pedelec.
What I find on the Aventura is I really rarely pedal my way to 28 mph except downhill, but I do notice that if I was to be cut-out at 20mph, it would be too limiting (I find myself cruising around 22mph).
I also think limiting by motor size is kind silly because if you live in a hilly area, low wattage limits also limit the usefulness of the assist. Speed should really be the focus.
A 28mph limit works for me: it allows residential speeds in the US and enough speed to more reasonably become part of the traffic flow in urban areas. It’s not all that fast, because I still have fit roadies cruise right on by me at 20+mph.
The Brompton’s 20mph feels a bit limiting at times, and 15mph would just not be worth having a motor assist under most circumstances. It’s a shame 20mph Brompton kits are not the norm; going to keep mine as long as it stays working.
Really in the US it seems to come down to courtesy between cars, pedestrians, scooterists, and cyclists. As a whole, US citizens simply aren’t, and those few of us cyclists who are courteous and follow the rules are simple hated at by everyone. You really can’t win when other *cyclists* give you grief for following the rules.
At the same time, penalizing all the polite and courteous s-pedelec or “high-speed e-bikes” riders isn’t fair to us (I ride slow when on trails and I need those trails to keep off the dangerous roads). I’m a bit tired of “not being able to have nice things” because 90% of the rest are ruining it. Punish them, not me. (And I think the author is trying to find that balance…so I’m not accusing him otherwise.)
As for speeds above 28mph: I’m going to have to side with the author. These do need further regulation of some sort because much beyond 25mph and you’re exceeding what even fit cyclist can do unassisted for long periods of time. As an unpowered recumbent trike rider, I admit I drool over the Outrider as a hybrid commuter between a bike and a car, but even I have to admit it’s wandering all over the line between a vehicle (needing a license, insurance, etc.) and just being a “bicycle.”
I can pedal much faster than 28mph, if you don’t understand physics you shouldn’t be biking that fast anyway. People are responsible for their own actions, you can go to home Depot and buy a chainsaw, or rent a cement saw or a log splitter or any number of dangerous things with little to no knowledge or skill. It’s part of being free, that includes free to die.
Sarah Packer says
My son is an avid bike rider, so I wanted to get him a new bike for his birthday! I didn’t know superfast e-bikes could increase calls for insurance, helmet wearing, and getting a license. I wouldn’t want my son to get hurt in any situation, so I’ll make sure to look for e-bikes that are appropriate for his age and within my price range, thanks to this post!
Lil Egypt says
Right on Stygianumbra! Key word “responsible”. Many People today do not understand that with freedom comes responsibility (including bad choices which have their own consequences). If you harm someone else you pay for it. There are way too many regulations & laws on the books to try & protect us from everything… LIFE IS DANGEROUS and TRAUMATIC, you must be responsible for your actions not limited because a few are not responsible (which means they are not paying for their mistakes & should be). Sue them , jail them, or charge them more for insurance & damages consistently & more will start to take notice & adjust accordingly.
Robert Weeks says
I crashed my 60 mph ebike that I built from a strong frame fork. That was not the issue a stupid cat ran out in front of me. It was drastic.
Hank Armstrong says
Well stated and thoughtfully and gracefully defended Richard.. I happened onto this string with scant knowledge, no dog in the OCEV fight, but certainly interest. I only take exception to the reply argument that those who hurt others in accidents pay for their poor decisions. All too often they don’t, the victim pays. Learned a lot!
Winchester Dermody says
In the USA national statistic show most bike rider fatalities are caused by cars hitting them when overtaking the bicycle from behind. Allowing bikes to travel at the speed limit of the road or just above reduces the car driver’s motivation to pass the bicycle, often in an unsafe manner. In Florida where I live most of the two lane local roads have speed limits of 30 or 35 MPH. I have never seen a road with a 28 MPH limit. And while a crash at 32 MPH is more dangerous than one at 28 MPH, an avoided crash is safer at any speed. As for exercise, I usually set the assistance as needed to pedal as hard and fast as I can to maintain 32MPH when using my ebike to replace local car trips. Two miles over the posted limit seems to be the sweet spot that prevents motorist from trying to pass me and is not too fast to react or brake. I get my errands done, my exercise in and have fun all while helping the planet. At 20 MPH on local roads in Florida you are simply a future fatality. It isn’t about making the accident survivable, it’s about avoiding the accident in the first place.
Very good point. I ride a motorcycle most of the time in the cites. Growing up I lived in a very small town. Biking in a small town doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. I can tell you from experience that riding a bike is so much more dangerous than a motorcycle in a city. Since you are not traveling in traffic people are not looking for you. They run over the top of you all the time. So many times people will turn right in front of you. I don’t know what the solution is other than moving with traffic either. So many studies have shown accidents happen because of the difference of speed. I am glad you pointed that out.
I have a 2000W hub in a mtb. Does 50km/h. More than what is legal in Australia. I find it great to substitute for local car drives. I’ve had issues with people not seeing me at all different speeds, tbh I had the same issues riding a motorbike. As one commenter said, being able to keep up with flow of traffic much safer than being passed by cars. Just as with a motorcycle, ride like everyone is trying to kill you
Richard Peace says
Thanks for the comment. Appreciate that extra speed can make you feel safer for sure. But many e-bikers won’t feel safe at mixing with fast moving traffic at any speed – which is why EBR always documents the best examples of safe infrastructure from around the world as one of the most useful steps in getting more people on e-bikes.
Rich, EBR writer
GEORGE QUITTNER says
When a regular Lycra Tour de France wannabe can cruise at 40Kph and descends at 80Kph + … Why should ebikes be restricted to go slower ??
KEITH VASS says
As a regular rider of a Recumbent E-Trike, I resent being restricted in speed to 24kph when 2-wheeled diamond frame racing bikes are allowed to ride at 2 or 3 times that speed. As a 3-wheeled Trike, I feel far more stable and able to cope with more speed than a 2-wheeled bike rider who has to strain his neck to look ahead of him while a TRike rider has his head constantly in the ahead position. I would appreciate being allowed to travel at at least the speed of racing bikes without going crazy.
This article lacked meaningful statistics to back the claim that fast ebike are more dangerous. When I ride my 31 mph ebike to work it takes 9 minutes ( vs 20 min on normal bicycle) and I feel significantly safer doing it. The number of cars that pass me drops by more than double, reducing my chances of collision with my biggest threat (vehicles).
Richard Peace says
Thanks for your contribution – I understand entirely what you mean by feeling safer in fast traffic on a fast e-bike and agree in these kinds of situations it probably is safer to move at around the speed of the accompanying traffic.
As I’ve responded before to other comments this was never meant to be an anti-fast ebike article, just one pointing out the dangers of unregulated and very fast e-bikes. Your max speed of 31mph is close to the class 3 limit of 28mph common in many states and I think my article was generally pretty supportive of legally sanctioned class 3 bikes constructed to legal standards.
Anyways, thanks for reading and safe riding
Richard, contributing author electricbikereport.com
Boomerbuggy 2 Seater electric bike says
Thanks for sharing the great content and I really admire your efforts.
This article provide the relevant and the best knowledge about the super e-bikes and their types.
edward gourley says
The bike must be built to handle the extremes of it’s performance capabilities. Hello, Ralph Nader.
Acceleration must be met with adequate steering/handling/suspension and BRAKING capabilities. Many of the after-market tweeks to e-bike top speeds render the vehicle unsafe, when operating at those higher speeds. People are idiots, they live in denial, kidding themselves…”it’ll never happen to me…”
Those same “extremes” will dictate that operator liability insurance is legally required, as is the case with all vehicles which achieve certain speeds while using Public Roads/Highways.
Enough nonsense please, if your vehicle as it’s main function is closely interacting with all other licensed/insured vehicles, on PUBLIC ROADS/HIGHWAYS, at or above posted speed limits, you gotta comply. This should not even be up for debate.
Rules/Laws of the Road exist everywhere, e-bike operators simply need to observe those rules, like everyone else.
For example when on a bike lane, you’re obviously not flying along at 35 mph, you’re aware of your limits in such situations, but when you merge onto the main roadway, where you’re travelling with cars and trucks, you increase your speed to blend in with the flow of traffic. The vehicle has no business being on the main road if it can’t keep the pace.
What I see in my city is a few idiots attempting to circumvent the Laws, in a cheesy effort to save a few bucks, safety-be-damned, personal liability be-damned. Ridiculous.
The Public safety concerns involving electric bikes/scooters are off the charts in densely populated areas, and municipalities are struggling to react.
Pedestrians don’t hear them coming, nobody sees them coming, they are deceptively fast moving in close quarters scenarios, e-bikers frequently flout the rules of the road, not unlike regular cyclists, it’s a Gong Show at the best of times…
Hey I’ve got an idea…let’s make them go faster ! …. YEAH , no license, no insurance, no responsibility, no accountability, all in a flimsy, lightweight, unsafe package that you can’t control….
Sounds like a recipe for success huh ?
I’m sorry I just can’t enjoy an electric bike that goes only 20 miles an hour mine goes between 28 and 32 and I don’t think that is too fast. I enjoy it and I would not slow it down by putting the speed limiter back on anything over 28 to 32 miles an hour though is probably too fast as 28 to 32 is fast enough I find and more than that I don’t think I would trust the bike or other drivers who are driving cars they don’t seem to care about bikers and they’re not careful to avoid them in many instances therefore it’s probably true that is very dangerous to go faster than this.