France has banned hacking eBikes to bypass mandatory speed limits. The new law, which prohibits ‘tuning’ eBikes to go faster than 25 kph (15 mph), carries a stiff penalty of €30,000 or up to 1 year in jail! Is derestricting an eBike really that bad?!
Firstly, this is not a discussion on whether or not these limits are fair. Road users with and without motors are regulated for the safety of the general public. Instead, this is simply why you shouldn’t hack an eBike in the first place. And perhaps, understanding how eBike motors and restrictions work is valuable in understanding why tuning them is a foolish idea - beyond the simple illegality of it.
Contrary to some beliefs, a Class 1 eBike requires the user to pedal. Pedaling activates the motor, which matches the rider’s output, up to a certain number of watts, depending on the motor type, user settings, battery levels, etc. Stop pedaling and the motor stops. If you happen to reach the bike’s speed limit, the motor turns off. With the right fitness or gradient, the bike can still go faster. The speed limit is only for the pedal assist.
Fortunately for our customers, US laws have set pedal assist eBike speeds to 30 kph (18 mph) so the incentive to tune one might not be as high. And even though there aren’t any eBIke related laws in the US** that incur such substantial fines, there are still a number of reasons why you shouldn’t jailbreak your new eBike.
1. It’s dangerous
Tuning an eBike does not add power to your bike’s motor. Instead, it tricks the motor into believing that the bike’s speed is slower than it is. This increased strain on your motor and battery will shorten its lifespan. On top of that, chipping an eBike also requires some degree of disassembly of the electronics, which can lead to potential damage, a flawed reassembly, and future problems.
Then, traveling at faster speeds typically leads to more crashes. The true danger lies in that bulky eBikes with their big batteries are typically quite a bit heavier than non pedal-assist road or mountain bikes. That extra kinetic energy causes more severe injuries.
2. Tuning an eBike voids your warranty
While losing one’s warranty might not be enough to deter some, think about this. If you find yourself in an accident on a hacked eBike, there’s a good chance that if a lawyer gets involved, any insurance cover will be negated and you may be subject to criminal prosecution. It’s not worth it.
3. Regulations are there for a reason
Right now, riding a Class 1 eBike doesn’t involve licenses or registration. Don’t be that guy (or gal) that ruins it for the rest of us. In California, if you step up to a Class 3, which is a pedal assist eBike with a speed limit of 28 mph (45 kph), you have to wear a helmet, cannot ride on certain bike paths, and must be at least 16 years old. I think Spiderman said it best. “With great power comes great responsibility.”
4. So maybe you are looking for a moped?
If you have read through all this and still want to hack an eBike, perhaps you should get a moped or dirt bike instead. No? There’s only one option left -
5. Just buy a road or mountain bike.
If you want the freedom to ride as fast or slow as you want without the persistent vibration of a moped’s gas motor, go ahead and buy a road bike. You might not be lightening fast at first, but give it some time and you’ll get there.
At the end of it all, you have to ask yourself ‘Why do I ride?” Is it for the speed? The exercise? Commute? Or is it for the contentment and soul restoration that a bike ride delivers? In the case you’re still wondering whether you want an eBike, a moped, or a road bike, we made this handy chart:
**we’re bike experts, not law experts. Don’t take our word for it.
Riding a tuned e-bike is not a trivial offence and has serious legal consequences. Further, most motor manufacturers can detect the use of a tuning device and will not repair the motor under warranty if it was modified. Therefore, we advise our readers to abstain from tuning their e-bikes.