Why Is E-Bike Motor Chipping Dangerous?

By Adam Marsal

Electric bicycles are driven by a combination of human and electric power. European legislation allows the assistance of an electric motor up to 25 km/h. If you ask people if they agree to increase this limit, most of them say yes.

Such opinion has been proven in public opinion polls again and again. Speed is exciting and everyone likes to indulge in riding beyond average limits. Only a few realise the risks involved, though – in fact, there are many more risks of causing an accident. Let us explain what could happen if drive-tuning doesn’t get regulated.

Finding a company offering breaking the speed restrictor is easy. You can ask Google and here you go. The companies use the so-called tuning keys and chips to unlock the speed limiter and raise it above the legal limit. The adjustment of the bike would cost you about 200 euros. What happens then?

“The tuning kits allow the electric motor support not to cut off when the maximum speed of 25 km/h is reached but to continue far beyond this limit – in some cases up to speeds of over 70 km/h,” explains professional biker Richard Gasperotti.

Naturally, this increases the risk of a crash or accident, as riders are not trained to handle the bike at such speeds. Tuning thus puts both the user and other road users at risk. At the same time, it provokes strict legal regulations and paves the way for future bans by state institutions,” says professional biker Richard Gasperotti.

Whoever rides an e-bike modified in this way is legally committing an offence. A vehicle with a motor that allows speeds of over 25 km/h is no longer an e-bike but an electric motorcycle and this way becomes a subject of regulations for the motorcycle’s operation.

Currently, electric bicycles are regarded as equal to traditional bicycles. Both means of transport are subject to the same rights and obligations. Therefore, even when riding electric bikes, it is possible to use cycle paths or forest trails. No registration plates, special insurance or driving licences have been officially required. Moreover, even minors without a driving licence can use e-bikes.

Anyone illegally increasing the maximum speed of their e-bike breaks these rules, adding to the pressure to modify them and gambling with the benefits that all honest e-bike users enjoy. But this may not last forever.

E-Bike battery close-up
A vehicle with a motor that allows speeds of over 25 km/h is no longer an e-bike but an electric motorcycle. © Profimedia

Users of modified e-bikes are more likely to be involved in accidents. If the number of accidents increases, the change of legislation affecting all e-bike owners become inevitable. We can expect compulsory registration, registration plates, liability insurance and a ban on cycling on cycle paths and forest roads.

“It is, therefore, important that an e-bike with assistance up to a maximum speed of 25 km/h should keep the status of a bicycle with all rights and obligations. This state of equilibrium must be protected and preserved,” says professional biker Richard Gasperotti.

Electric drive manufacturers have joined in the fight against illegal modifications, working closely with electric bike manufacturers. They conduct education and prevention focusing on technical measures against modifications in the hardware and software of their drive systems.

Since 2021, the fight against tuning has also been stepped up at the European level. With the joint anti-tuning initiative, the European manufacturers’ association CONEBI, together with ZIV, Bosch eBike Systems, and many others, have committed to preventing interference in e-bike driving and to highlighting the seriousness of the issue.

Manufacturers like Bosch eBike Systems use software with sensors able to detect the illegal modification. If the software unveils an illegal tuning, the e-bike switches to emergency mode. Should the detection reappear three times, the electric motor switches off and the emergency mode can only be deactivated by the original workshop.

Unauthorised tuning also creates technical risks. Modifications can damage the drive system and the bike itself. Increasing the top speed above 25 km/h puts a long-term load on the construction of all parts that are not designed for such strain. Usually, brakes are the most stressed but the increase in speed also affects the handlebars, the fork and the frame.

The German bicycle industry association Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV) has already commented on the issue, stating in an official report that, “most customers and dealers are completely unaware of the risks and consequences they expose themselves to in the event of illegal tuning.”

Hopefully, with the help of education and cooperation with government and private initiatives, tuning could be eradicated so that we can continue to enjoy riding electric bikes without legal restrictions in the future.