Why you don’t want a super-fast e-bike
With the popularity of e-bikes, many riders are attracted to the fact that they can go faster than traditional bikes. But just because an e-bike can reach impressive speeds doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to push those limits.
Riding any ebike, conventional or e-bike, there are those moments on the hill when you can frantically release the brakes and pedals and charge down the hill. These rare moments are fun, especially when the road is straight and there are no pedestrians or other vehicles in the way. Other slower moving road users are the biggest reason you don’t want to drive at crazy speeds all the time. Other issues include local traffic laws and design problems that can affect braking or even make the bike fall apart.
E-bike laws typically don’t allow power support above 20 mph. The faster you go, the greater the impact if you hit someone or something.
Force is the square of speed. This means that when you hit someone or something at 20 mph, the impact force is four times that of 10 mph. At 40 mph, it is 16 times that force. A collision with a pedestrian at 40 mph is likely to result in death, most likely including your own.
Where Level 3 e-bike systems are in place, you still cannot ride faster than 20 mph on most roads and trails. Those states that allow Level 3 e-bikes usually restrict where they can be used – largely keeping you away from pedestrians to prevent high-speed collisions.
1000W Bafang Motor Ultra
1000W Bafang Ultra M620 – illegal in most states if used at full power!
Many brands of machines offer “best-in-class” power output, such as those with the 1000W Bafang Ultra center drive motor. They point out that this can only be used on private land at full power settings. Off-roading at full power can be fun, but it’s a special case of watching your reaction times – how quickly can you react to a fallen tree or rock on the road?
Lack of reaction time is a big killer of all motorized vehicle users (from cars to motorcycles to e-bikes). It could be the rock or tree trunk we hit above us, or it could be another vehicle coming at you in a blind corner. Being aware of your surroundings and being able to respond to the unexpected is a great reason to relax, whether you’re on the trail or on the road.
Downhill mountain biking jumps and turns will typically exceed 20 mph. The engine will stop at 20 mph and you’ll need to push as hard as you can. This is part of the fun of riding these beasts, but there are downsides. You should do a low speed run to get a feel for the route before running at full speed. Ideally, no pedestrians are allowed on the run or trail. These conditions are the exception that proves the rule – overall, high speeds can be dangerous.
Magura MT5 Hydraulic Brake – Best for High Speed Braking
In order for an e-bike to withstand higher speeds, it needs more than just a big motor.
Imagine you’re sprinting down a hill and see an elderly man walking his dog in front of you. Can you stop in time? Brakes are important. The Magura MT5 four-piston hydraulic disc brakes on expensive mountain bikes are specifically designed to allow you to slow down quickly at high speeds. In fact, most e-bikes come with some sort of disc brake, but many of them don’t provide enough braking force at very high speeds.
In order for the opposing forces of momentum and braking to work, you need a frame and fork that can withstand torsional forces. Many e-bike manufacturers like Juiced Bikes over-engineer their machines so that they can shift these forces from acceleration to violent deceleration. If you use a conversion kit on a conventional bike, you could end up damaging it when you slam on the brakes. You don’t want the forks to fail during an emergency stop, which could lead to head and neck injuries.
The more power you request from the motor, the more power you get from the battery. In short, to maintain high speeds at all times, you need a powerful battery. It’s well known that quality is the enemy of performance – it’s the reason Elon Musk, for example, used to explain why he refused to build the Tesla Model S, which has a range of 500 m. Thanks to this design compromise, the Tesla is fun to drive, and the same applies to e-bikes! -The lightest ones are the most fun, while the heaviest ones with big batteries are less nimble.
In addition to the issues we’ve highlighted above, unless you have the right gear ratio, it may be difficult to maintain speeds above 28 mph. The best-designed Class 3 e-bikes may have a 10-tooth “turbo” gear on the flywheel for high-speed cruising, and a 12-tooth gear may be too large to ride without pedaling at an aggressive cadence. Therefore, even if you “cancel” the governor on your e-bike, you will be pedaling so hard that the fun will be gone.
Having discussed a number of reasons why rational, considerate riders don’t like super-fast e-bikes, we must now look at traffic laws. The bicycle industry organization PeopleForBikes has successfully lobbied more than 35 states to apply sensible laws to e-bikes, often referred to as the “three-tiered e-bike system”. You can check out our thoughts on the three-tier e-bike system in our resource article here.
If law enforcement finds you riding an e-bike illegally, you may be fined or have your machine confiscated. If you cause an accident, this will be considered in legal proceedings against you.
There is no centralized federal law regarding e-bikes, except for National Park Service regulations regarding the use of e-bikes on federal lands. Before purchasing an e-bike, check the resources above to find out if the law allows you to ride a machine with higher speeds. One of the difficulties with e-bikes being regulated at the state level is that you have to know your local laws before buying or riding an e-bike. If taking it to another state, perhaps on an RV vacation, you’ll need to know that state’s laws as well.
Over to you!
One final point, one of the costs of freedom is that you need to take personal responsibility. You certainly don’t want to hurt someone or get yourself hospitalized. It can be fun to escape from hell like a bat out of hell from time to time, but certainly not all the time. Be aware of the limitations of your bike as well as other road, trail and trail users and be safe. Being safe usually means slowing down a bit, which is good for you and everyone around you.
If you want to know more about electric bikes or have any questions about our cycling clothing and their components, please feel free to reach out to our customer service. We are always here to assist you.