If you buy a standard electric bike, its speed is limited to 25 km per hour. You can go faster, for example, downhill, but as soon as this speed is exceeded, the assistance stops. Your e-bike can not help you to go beyond 25 km/hour. If you decide to derestrict the e-bike, you will be able to release all its power.
Speed Pedelec, a legal solution
The legal solution for driving faster is the Speed Pedelec, a machine that can ride up to 45 km per hour. But you are subject to certain obligations (and those obligations can be different by country). Generally, you must have a license for your e-bike. It must be registered. The rider must be, at least, 16 years of age. Wearing a helmet is mandatory. And such e-bike usually costs significantly more.
As a result, some cyclists prefer to buy a traditional e-bike model and derestrict it.
A quick search on the internet can provide you with instructions to do this for your model. You will also find websites for ordering necessary components to derestrict your e-bike. Or, you can also visit certain merchants and they will propose you to do it. This is what we have seen in randomly selected stores.
Derestricting electric bikes
We tested four stores, chosen at random. Two merchants told us they could derestrict the e-bikes sold in their stores. They did not seem at all surprised by our request. There are no exact figures for this practice, but it seems quite commonplace. One of the cycling associations has also conducted a similar investigation and reached the same conclusions.
On the other side, all dealers we met, made it clear that this operation was illegal. Even those, who accept to derestrict an e-bike are not behaving legally either.
Derestricting your e-bike makes you own a kind of a hybrid bike, which has no defined place on public roads. You are on a machine that is no longer approved to ride on the roads. Still, this does not prevent some bike retailers to do so.
Dangerous practice for the cyclist …
This practice is dangerous for the cyclist, but also for other users of the road. For example, the brakes on your bike are not necessarily designed to travel at 40 km / h. You have to be a very good cyclist to be able to safely ride beyond 25 km per hour. In case of an accident, the insurance can easily turn against you.
You may also lose the manufacturer’s guarantee. In case of problems with the e-bike, even removing the chip that allows derestricting the machine, the manufacturer has access to all data and can locate the e-bike that was interfered with.
Derestricting will also prematurely use the engine and batteries. And you are likely to encounter difficulties if you decide to resell your e-bike.
Research done in Belgium
De-restricting an electric bike to increase its speed to 45 km / h instead of 25 seems to be a common practice, according to a survey conducted by the editorial staff of the VRT. We visited six stores, five of which were ready to help change the set maximum speed of an electric bike.
Merchants who would agree to such a gesture are, however, liable to prosecution, warns Traxio, the Belgian Federation of the automotive and related sectors (ex-Federauto). “These practices are prohibited and bike sellers are liable to prosecution because they are directly responsible for the products they sell,” said Guy Crab, general secretary of Traxio Vélo.
The VRT editorial staff visited six stores, five of which were willing to sell de-restricted electric bikes. The proposal was even made without the customers making the request. One also agreed to boost the speed up to 70 km / h, while stating that it was not legal.
“I’m surprised,” reacts Guy Crab, who refers to the Pro Vélo brand, which forces affiliated merchants to comply with the current regulations. “Their affiliation documents do not explicitly indicate that the speed of e-bikes cannot be de-restricted, but I will make sure that is the case.”
Pieter De Crem, Minister of the Interior Affairs, intends to consult experts on the issue. “Anything that can affect road safety worries us,” he said via his spokesman. “The legislative framework can always be adjusted. (…) Anyone who rides a de-restricted electric bike endangers not only his safety but also that of other riders as well as pedestrians.”