There is nothing like the adrenaline rush that riding a bike at breakneck speeds can provide—the danger, freedom, and the thrill are what riders of all ages and abilities crave. It does not matter if they bought the bike for practical reasons such as saving money on transportation costs or purely for entertainment purposes; cyclists almost always consider speed. But can you make e-bikes faster?
To make e-bikes faster, adjust the battery or controller to eliminate the manufacturer’s speed restrictions (derestrict). Speed can also be increased by wearing wind-resistant clothing, switching the tires, and reducing the e-bikes’ weight through minimal accessories.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn:
- Why e-bike speeds are restricted
- How to make gain speed without de-restriction
- How to derestrict your e-bike
The intersection between government restrictions and cyclists’ need for speed is why there is an issue: riders want speed, but governments regulate safety, so manufacturers are required to place speed restrictions on nearly all models. The result is frustrated cyclists.
Although there is no real traction to get state laws changed so that e-bikes in America have no speed restriction, riders can do things to gain more speed. These options range from behavior changes in riding to modifying the bike.
One of the great appeals of the e-bike is that it can help riders achieve higher speeds than most could on a manual bike, and it achieves this goal with more ease to the rider. This ease coupled with potentially uncontrollable speed rates makes it easy to imagine a problem occurring on either the road or a trail.
This danger is present because unless you are riding in a velodrome, which is highly unlikely if you are on an e-bike, you must share the road and the trails with pedestrians and other riders such as families, walkers, hikers, and horseback riders.
When considering how quickly something can go wrong with so many people using trails for so many different purposes, it is understandable that governments would step in to create regulations. Some trail users will be unable to move quickly enough to keep themselves, cyclists, and other users safe if an out-of-control cyclist comes barrelling towards them.
Worse, many may be unaware of the heightened risk an e-bike could pose. Therefore, many countries, including the United States, place a speed restriction for manufacturers to implement on e-bikes during production.
The issue for American consumers is that the regulations are different. Even in Europe, the maximum-allowed speed varies based on the purpose of the e-bike. For instance, some e-bike classes are permitted to achieve higher rates than others, but there is a speed regulation requirement on all e-bikes. The result is the same: decreased speed and frustrated cyclists, so it is little wonder that people want to learn how to remove the speed restriction.
As mentioned, Americans must share parks and other public areas where outdoor enthusiasts gather. To keep everyone safe, the federal government places restrictions on how fast an e-bike may go. The fact that each state is permitted to determine how and where an e-bike can operate makes the issues more frustrating.
American e-bike enthusiasts are lucky, though. Federal law restricts speed on bikes when they are powered by the motor alone. If the cyclist is pedaling, there is no required restriction concerning speed; however, most of these bikes are made in Europe, so they come with a speed restriction component already installed.
The frustration happens, in part, because The National Council of Conference of State Legislatures distinguishes pedal-assist operation from a throttle-only operation and few other countries make this consideration. The pedal-assist distinction refers to how fast an e-bike can travel using a combination of cyclist and motor power. The throttle-only classification refers to the maximum speed the e-bike can travel under motor power alone.
Using these classifications, the Consumer Product Safety Commission requires manufacturers to place a 20 mph (32.2 km/h) limit on e-bikes when in throttle mode alone, removing any required restriction when using a combination of human power with the motor.
Many cyclists are either unaware that there is a speed restriction placed in the controller box of their e-bike, or they are aware of this feature but question its necessity because few cyclists ride in throttle-only mode. Therefore, even though federal law says the speed restriction is not required when riders use pedal-assist mode, there seems to be no easy way to remove this factory-installed speed restriction.
For cyclists who want to gain speed without going into the speed controller box to remove the manufacturer’s speed restrictions, there are several ways to accomplish this goal.
- Change riding position. As obvious as this sounds to professional cyclists, novice riders may not know that riding in a crouched position will decrease wind resistance and allow for more speed.
- Wear tight clothing, such as Sponeed Cyclist Jerseys and J.CARP Windbreaker Jackets, and keep them zipped. These measures will cut down on wind resistance too.
- Ride at a full 48 Volt battery charge, such as this Cao MM 48V Battery Lithium. Bikes operate at optimal speed when fully charged.
- Install a higher voltage battery, like the jeefull power Ebike Triangle 52 Volt. Not all e-bikes can handle this option, so it is essential to check your manual, but if your controller can accept a higher voltage battery, this option is a pretty standard and efficient fix.
- Switch to street tires, such as the WTBA0 Slick 2.2 Tires, if the bike is equipped with knobby tires, like the Schwalbe Nobby Nic Tires. This suggestion also has to do with resistance. The slick street tires will not create as much friction on the road as knobby tires will, and as such, riders may gain slightly higher speeds.
- Tune the bike’s brakes. Brakes stop the bike by rubbing against the rim, creating friction, but over time, breaks can slip slightly and cause a nearly unnoticeable amount of rib rub, and even a slight rim rub can decrease speed.
- Reduce weight on the bike. Look at things like reflectors, mirrors, and other accessories. Make sure the bike is equipped with the lightest weight option available, and because speed is the goal, add only essential accessories.
- Install a windshield, such as thisYJYdada Bike Windshield. To many, this option seems counterproductive because it will add weight to the bike, and it certainly is not the coolest looking ride, but it does reduce wind resistance.
In some countries, it is illegal to de-restrict an e-bike. Though the federal laws in America leave room for derestricting, state laws vary in terms of when cyclists must license their bikes, the speed at which a vehicle can operate on a road, as well as other specificities. Before attempting to de-restrict your e-bike, you must research the laws in your state.
If you decide that de-restriction is for you, there are several options.
- Likely the easiest option is to install a mechanical de-restriction device. This device bypasses the bike’s software that regulates tire speed and tricks the software into thinking riders are traveling at half of their actual speed. You can watch the process here:
- Go into your bike’s settings and change the wheel size.
- Download an app like the EBT E-Bike Tuning App
All of these devices, except the mechanical de-restriction device, override the e-bike’s software so that it no longer registers actual speed. Instead, the speed controller will record half the speed at which the tires are turning so that the bike is “tricked” into thinking it is traveling at a slower rate so that it stalls the e-bike’s speed restriction.
Owning an e-bike is an excellent alternative to using gas-powered vehicles. Many cyclists enjoy the freedom of riding a bike but feel that their freedom is unfairly restricted by manufacturer specifications that do not even apply to most states in America.