Regardless of whether your bike has a motor or not, you are only allowed to participate in road traffic if you have a roadworthy bike. But what does that mean exactly? What features does your e-bike need no matter what and how can you prevent accidents? In this article, you will find tips on how to start the cycling season safely.
When you take your bike out of the basement or garage in spring, it’s not only the perfect time for a maintenance session. You should also make sure that your bike is roadworthy. A regular bicycle or e-bike can only be used on the road if it is properly equipped.
So if you don’t feel like doing a few laps around the yard every now and then, take a look at our checklist. We will tell you what equipment a roadworthy bike needs and what else you should look out for.
This equipment is mandatory for bicycles (e.g. brake lever or rear wheel light)
Regardless of whether you ride a regular bicycle or an e-bike, the Road Traffic Regulations (in German Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung or StVO) specify the following minimum requirements depending on the time of day or night:
two independent brake levers (for children, a hand front brake lever and a back-pedalling brake are recommended)
two non-slip and firmly screwed pedals, each with two yellow reflectors that act forwards and backward
one white headlight on front wheel rim
one white front reflector
one red light on rear wheel
one red rear reflector
a ringing bell
either reflector strips, spoke clips or two yellow spoke reflectors on each wheel
Tip: The front headlight and front reflector are often combined. The same applies to the rear light and the reflector.
In Austria, you can use a horn instead of a bicycle bell if you feel like it. In Germany, this is not permitted by law. In any case, it is counterproductive if your “bell” causes other cyclists to fall out of the saddle in shock.
Important info on lighting
We advise you to have proper bicycle lighting as it pays off not only at night.
On longer tours, the weather can change rapidly. If you then don’t have a good view of the road, you can endanger yourself and others. Plus, riding is no fun anymore.
Regulations for lighting
During the day, when visibility is good, you can ride your bike without lights. You also don’t have to carry detachable lights.
Not all lights comply with the “StVO”. In Germany, you can be on the safe side if you look for the test mark of the Federal Motor Transport Authority (in German “Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt”).
For a few years now, it has not mattered whether the power for the lights comes from a dynamo or from the motor of your e-bike.
E-bikes sold after 1st January 2019, that draw their power from the motor, must continue to function for at least two hours after the motor has given up because of empty battery.
A flashing rear light is permitted in Austria, but not in Germany. However, a flashing front light is not permitted in either of the two countries.
Common lights for e-bikes or normal bicycles comply with the requirements of the “StVO”. However, this does not mean that they are the best choice for participating in road traffic.
Tips for choosing good headlights
Especially if you like to ride at night in poorly lit areas, standard lighting that meets legal requirements is not always sufficient.
To find the best alternative, you can use the following tips:
Lux is the decisive factor for the brightness of lights. Common bicycle lights often have between 40 and 70 lux. In poor visibility conditions or off-road, the lights should have higher lux.
More and more high-quality lights for e-bikes have a high beam or a front brake light. Both can contribute to greater safety.
Some important characteristics of lighting for cyclists cannot be read from numbers. You can only find out how well and evenly a front light illuminates the path in front of you by trying it out. That’s why we recommend a test ride.
And don’t forget: even the best light can have the opposite effect if it is set incorrectly and thus dazzles other road users. You should be especially careful when using high beams. Regular cleaning of the headlights and checking your lights for defects before riding is also always a good idea.
Fines and accidents: What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Perhaps you are now asking yourself the question “What happens if my bicycle is not roadworthy?”
Well, you might face the following three consequences:
If a bicycle is not roadworthy, you will have to pay a fine if the police decide to visually inspect it. The catalogue of fines depends on the country and changes regularly.
If the police stop you and find that the brakes on your bicycle are not working properly or that the lights are defective, the consequences are limited despite the fine. However, the situation is different in case of an accident. For example, if the lighting is defective, there is a risk of high claims for damages and compensation for pain and suffering. In the worst case, you will be liable to prosecution if you cause an accident with a bicycle or e-bike that is not roadworthy.
If your bicycle or e-bike is not roadworthy (i.e. it suffers excessive wear and tear), there is a risk of accidents resulting in injuries. Other road users might also be affected. After all, the risk of injuries alone is an important reason to make sure you have: good lights, optimal tire pressure (pay attention to the recommended pressure), tightened wheel quick release levers, and functioning brake pads / brake block and brake cable (as well as well-maintained hydraulic disc brakes if you have those).
Tips for even more safety
Roadworthy according to the law does not automatically mean maximum safety.
With the following measures, you can also prevent accidents and serious injuries:
Wear a helmet
A helmet is one of the things that determines whether you get away with a few bruises or suffer serious injuries in the case of an accident. That’s why it is clear to us: never ride without a helmet. But make sure to choose a robust helmet that fits you well. After all, if you feel comfortable when you wear it, you will probably wear it more often. There are also special bicycle helmets for children.
Prefer light-coloured clothing in the dark
If you are riding in poor visibility, light-coloured clothing will increase your visibility. Reflective elements, such as a reflector on your clothes, can help but not replace your bike lights.
Even the best cycling equipment is of little value if you are on the road like Chuck Norris on a vendetta. Riding calmly and carefully pays off for everyone and increases your “popularity” with other road users. You should keep in mind that an e-bike can be particularly dangerous due to its higher weight and speed.
It also makes sense to have mudguards, a bike stand, a luggage rack and a chain guard. Optimal tyre pressure and tyres with a good grip prevent accidents, especially in autumn and on uneven roads.
Since we are already talking about safety: We would recommend to make your e-bike not only roadworthy, but also theft-proof before you go for a ride. Thieves prefer to steal expensive bikes with motors. And the truth is that a simple frame lock is not much better than no lock.
If you want to protect your e-bike efficiently from thieves and ensure that you get it back after theft, we recommend the following products:
at least one high-quality lock, preferably a U-lock or folding lock
HexLox component locks for expensive components such as seat post, pedals or handlebars.
Important note: A good lock is highly important. However, only a good GPS tracker provides security against professional bike thieves. BikeTrax by PowUnity alerts you via the associated app to any attempted theft and allows you to track a stolen bike in real time. You can read about many examples of how bike owners got their e-bike back after it was stolen and how the police arrested whole gangs of thieves in our success stories success stories.
Road safety check makes you feel good
Functioning brakes and good headlights are not a luxury that cyclists can do without. They ensure that you are safe on your bike and protect other road users.
The road traffic regulations provide a framework that you can use as a guide when making your bike roadworthy. However, it is worthwhile to do more than the law requires, for example by using a high-quality light with high beam, a good cycling helmet and additional reflectors on your clothing or bags. Proper safety equipment is extremely important, especially on long tours.
And if you have also sorted out an effective theft protection, you can have a relaxed start to the new cycling season.