E-bike tuning: possibilities and risks

25 km/h is sometimes not enough for you? Then you may have already come across the topic of e-bike tuning. In fact, there are several ways to work around the speed limit of the e-bike motors. In this article, you will find out what these tricks are and why you should definitely keep your hands off them.

E-Bike Tuning: Möglichkeiten und Risiken

You are in a rush and your e-bike motor suddenly switches off because the maximum speed has been reached? Most riders of electric bicycles know this moment. The same goes for the desire to “get a little more out of the motor”. But is that possible at all? The answer is “yes and no”.

Like other vehicles, electric bicycles can be tuned using tuning modules or tuning apps – as we discussed in our overview article “How to find the best e-bike app for your needs”.

But the risks of bike tuning are much higher than many people realise.

How does the speed limit for electric bikes work?

Motors of electric bikes are only allowed to be active up to a speed of 25 km/h in many European countries – including Austria, Germany and the UK. Therefore, e-bike motors measure the speed and automatically switch off as soon as the maximum is reached.

How the measurement works differs depending on the drive unit.

  • With speed sensor: If your electric bike has a mid-drive motor, a sensor measures the speed. This is a simple component that works with a magnet. Such a sensor is a gateway for bike tuning.
  • Without speed sensor: Hub motors do not need a sensor. Here, the motor itself directly detects the speed. This makes tuning much more difficult or even impossible.

E-bike tuning – an overview of the possibilities

E-bike tuning works in different ways:

  • Chip tuning: You plug a tuning module onto the speed sensor. From a certain speed, it is specially designed to ensure that the speed sensor only transmits half or a third of the actual speed to the control unit. This means, of course, that the values displayed by your bike computer are no longer correct. In addition, the plug-in chip can be recognised by a trained eye at first glance. On the other hand, such a chip can be easily removed in order to ride your electric bicycle in its original condition.
  • Fixed tuning solutions: Fixed tuning solutions or tuning kits are available in different variants. These include the so-called “dongles”, which function similarly to chip tuning. The installation of permanently mounted solutions is usually invisible and partly depends on the wheel circumference. Complex variants have the additional advantage that they do not falsify displayed values such as the average speed.
  • Software tuning: Many chips or modules do not change the programming of the drive unit. Instead, they “fool” the control system into thinking that the speed is slower than it actually is. Tuning kits, on the other hand, can be used to increase or remove the speed cut. Theoretically, it is possible to reach higher speeds this way than with a plug-in solution. However, the intervention is deeper and is often difficult to reverse.
  • Tuning apps: Most tuning apps only work in combination with a tuning module. They are used to control the tuning and to view central values. However, there are also apps that allow you to change the region in which the e-bike motor locates you – to the USA. This gives you more room for manoeuvre, because in the USA, e-bike motors are allowed to support speeds of up to 32 km/h.

Why you should not tune an electric bike

As we already mentioned, we strongly advise against e-bike tuning.

There are several reasons for this:

Technical risks of e-bike tuning

Simply fit a chip and the bike goes faster. When you take the chip off again, everything is the same as before. Is that how easy you imagine bike tuning to be?

In reality, things are more complicated. The use of chip tuning, dongles and the like often leads to technical problems:

  • E-bike and e-bike motor manufacturers are generally against tuning. After all, it increases the risk of stricter legal regulations for e-bikes, which could have an impact on demand. In addition, companies have to deal with problematic warranty claims as a result of tuning.
  • That’s why Bosch, Shimano steps or Yamaha motors manufacturers are trying to put a stop to tuning. For example, drive units compare signals from the speed sensor with other measured values. If there are noticeable deviations, the motor reacts with an error code and heavily reduced support.
  • Unlike S-pedelecs, conventional electric bicycles are not designed for constant speeds of 30, 40 or even more km/h. That is why tuning leads to higher wear and tear on components such as the drive, gears and brakes, even on higher-quality e-bikes.

Warranty claims expire

Regardless of which engine brands you choose, tuning voids warranty claims. However, you should not hope that your tuning will go unnoticed. After all, a lot of data is stored in the drive unit, which can be used to find out if the 25 km/h limit has been exceeded.

Higher accident risk

Driving pleasure or not, the own risk of accidents increases with higher speeds. This is especially true with vehicles that are not designed for this speed and/or on densely populated cycle paths.

At the same time, accidents are often more serious at higher speeds.

Legal risks

Other decisive reasons for not tuning an electric bike are the legal consequences. Many e-bike riders underestimate these.

Consider the following:

  • The maximum limit of 25 km/h is a condition for not needing a licence plate, insurance and driving licence as an e-bike rider.
  • The situation is different for a tuned e-bike, which is automatically considered as a moped.

This is what it means for you: If you ride a tuned e-bike, you are riding a vehicle that needs a licence and insurance, but has neither.

The consequences can be serious:

  • In case of an inspection, you risk high fines or even imprisonment.
  • In case of accident damage, no insurance will pay. If you need a medical examination, you have to pay some or all of the costs yourself, depending on your health insurance.
  • If you injure people, you could be accused of negligent bodily harm.
  • If you have an accident with your tuned e-bike, you are liable with your private assets.

As you can see, the law does not treat e-bike tuning as a trivial offence.

The same applies here: The chances that tuning will remain invisible are vanishingly small. At the latest in the event of an accident, tampering usually comes to light.

S-pedelecs – the alternative to e-bike tuning

You want a motor that supports you even at speeds higher than 25 km/h, but you don’t want to take risks with a tuning solution?

Then the purchase of a speed pedelec (known as S-pedelec) is a good idea. These e-bikes have a drive unit that legally supports them up to a maximum speed of 45 km/h.

But remember: an S-pedelec needs a licence plate and insurance. A helmet is also compulsory. And cycle paths are taboo for S-pedelecs.

Harmless: visual e-bike tuning

You can use visual e-bike tuning without any concerns. If you want to “pimp up” your electric bike, you can choose from colourful foils for the frame, components with an eye-catching design and other accessories. As long as they do not affect the functionality of your e-bike, you can use them without any worries.

The same applies to functional accessories such as powerful lighting or high-quality pedals.

Conclusion: Ebike tuning does not pay off for anyone

Admittedly, e-bike tuning is tempting. Who wouldn’t like to increase the power with a few simple steps and complete the next tour at high speed?

But the fun is not worth the risk. Because with e-bike tuning you risk damage to the hardware and technology of your e-bike, serious accidents and high fines, and even a prison sentence. In addition, many tuning products only work to a limited extent.

Therefore, we strongly advise you to avoid all tuning measures – unless they are just visual. Instead, enjoy the many possibilities that a normal e-bike offers. If 25 km/h is not enough for you in the long run, an S-pedelec is a good choice. You can ride it legally and safely at high speeds. But please, always drive carefully!

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