I am excited to be able to help people get by with their ebike journey. Here at ebikewizard.com, I share my expertise and over a decade of experience riding, testing, and troubleshooting ebikes of all kinds.
Bicycles are a classical means of transport. Two wheels transposed in front of one another, a rudimentary steering mechanism fixed into the front wheel; what could go wrong?
The thing with conventional bikes is that they don’t go very fast without the cyclist exhausting themselves. Unless they’re going through a downhill slope, even top of the line cyclists have trouble getting themselves over 40 mph on an even stretch of road, that too after considerable effort on the part of the cyclist. E-bikes solve this problem by way of an electric motor that supplements the pedalling motion of the cyclist, making it easier for the cyclist to get through their pedalling motion since they require less physical effort. The motor system, complete with rear and front hubs, helps maximize the torque generated by the pedalling motion, leading to greater speeds and requiring less effort from the rider.
Before we can discuss how to make your e-bikes go faster, we need to address the different kinds of e-bikes out there. There are three classes for e-bikes, with the class system being loosely tied to the speeds the bike is designed to reach and the amount of effort they require to reach those speeds. To start off, we have…
Class 1 e-bikes
Class 1 e-bikes are the closest to conventional bicycles. They’re limited to a top speed of 20 mph, and the electric motors on them are only functional while the cyclist is pedalling. You can call these electrically assisted bicycles since the only way you can add speed is by putting in the legwork. They may or may not feature a throttle that makes this legwork easier on you, but don’t be fooled; all class 1 e-bikes only accelerate through the motion generated by a cyclist. The motor’s there, sure, but only to assist the cyclist.
Class 1 e-bikes are also called pedelecs (an amalgamation of the term “pedalled electric”). As far as legalities are concerned, these e-bikes are essentially bikes. That means you can use them without restriction on bike lanes and inside parks on tracks meant for pedestrians. The electric motor in these bikes is meant for cyclists who want to have an easier go at their run; they let the motor do the work making your pedals move with less resistance since they’re only translating motion to the motor, and not actually turning the wheels.
Class 2 e-bikes
Class-2 e-bikes are essentially class 1 e-bikes with the addition of assists that work when you’re not putting in work on the pedals. These also have the same speed limit and the same restrictions that govern class 1 e-bikes. You can use them in all of the places you’d be able to use your class 1, meaning you don’t have to worry about bike path restrictions when switching between the two. Class 2 e-bikes offer electrically assisted pedalling along with a throttle that allows you to gain speed in a pinch without having you keep the pedal to the metal.
Class 3 e-bikes
Mechanically speaking, Class 3 e-bikes are a cut above the common fare. A class 3 e-bike is designed to reach speeds above class 1 and 2 e-bikes, either by a throttle or through electrically assisted pedalling at higher speeds. Some states, such as California, don’t allow class 3 e-bikes to have throttles at all, while others allow for throttles that only work at speeds below 20 mph, allowing for assisted pedalling to work up to 28 mph.
Road legality for class 3 e-bikes is equally elusive. In some states, you can ride them along bike paths and in parks, while in others, you can’t. In most cases, your e-bike will probably be legal for use on the road and on the curb, but not for much else unless it features a low-speed mode.
The reason class 3 e-bikes come equipped with a low-speed mode is to meet the regulations for use on multiuse trails and parks. If you’re planning on using your class 3 along tracks that also allow pedestrians, your best bet is finding a bike with a restricted mode since most all-purpose trail parks won’t allow you to use class 3 e-bikes without them.
Since these can go at higher speeds without extensive modification, class 3 e-bikes are a hit amongst people looking to blaze bike-only trails or cover good distances.
The problem with e-bikes
A road-legal e-bike is usually programmed to reach speeds up to 16 mph or around 25 kilometres per hour. That is if you’re situated in the EU or Australia. E-bikes in the United States have less stringent requirements, and you can find bikes that go up to 28 miles per hour while still being allowed for use within bike lanes. Depending on which state you’re in, you may have to forgo your throttle to be able to go faster, essentially turning your e-bike into either a glorified motorbike or a speedy bicycle.
While this is fast enough for day to day use, plenty of people would want to go faster, especially considering that regular old bicycles can reach faster speeds easily (the fastest recorded speed on a bicycle is actually close to 100 kilometres per hour). Getting around this limiter is one thing, but there’re also several things you can do to improve the speed of your e-bike without tampering with the electronics.
Improving the speed of your e-bike
Always travel with a fully charged battery
The output generated by your e-bike’s battery varies depending on how much charge it’s holding. If a battery is rated for 24 volts, it’ll be generating the maximum amount of voltage when it’s fully charged. At half the charge, you might be looking at a loss of between half to one volt, which, while it might not seem like much numerically, is a big difference in terms of the resistance you feel on your pedals and the acceleration of each cycling motion generates. Always remember to top up your battery whenever you have some downtime so that your bike is always running at peak efficiency.
Use a higher voltage battery
This relies on the same principle as the one mentioned in the previous point. A battery that’s rated for a higher output lets you generate more torque, and more torque means greater speeds with less effort. Of course, if your motor and the rest of the components in your e-bike aren’t rated for use with a high voltage battery, you might see more wear and tear than you would otherwise. This is why we wouldn’t recommend going for a larger battery unless you’re familiar with the components you’re using, or you’ve custom-fitted your bike.
Swap out/add more cells to your battery
We wouldn’t recommend this for those of you with no experience with electrical systems since, in the worst cases, this can result in damage being done to your motor and your ECU. Your battery is composed of multiple Lithium-Ion cells, which combine to add up to the overall voltage produced by your battery. This will also almost certainly void the warranty on your e-bike, so you should keep that in mind as well.
Now that we’re done with the disclaimer, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. You can add cells to your battery to increase its overall output voltage, which means a greater supply of current to your motor, which in turn means it generates more speed. You’ll also need to swap out the wiring and the BMS (Battery Management System). The whole process involves working with electrical components as well as a soldering iron, so if you’re unfamiliar with either of those, this option might not be for you. For those who’re still interested, here’s a helpful tutorial on how to add cells to your battery.
Configuring your bike
There are several ways to trick your bike’s system into going faster. Some of these will be available to you directly via your LCD panel, while others will require you to fiddle with your motors and other components. To start off…
Adjust the size of your wheels
Wheel size plays a critical role in deciding how your ride feels to you, as well as how fast it goes. There are quite a few profiles to choose from when it comes to wheels for your e-bike, with standard sizes ranging from 16 inches to 26 inches, while more adventurous options allow you to go as low as 12 or 13 inches or as high as 29 inches.
Wheel profile affects your ride in multiple ways. On the one hand, a larger wheel allows for a smoother, more even ride. You’re not impacted as much by bumps or uneven surfaces, meaning that a larger profile is better for use along an iffy stretch of dirt road or on a broken-up trail that features natural sections. Not only will your ride work better, but it’ll also feel more comfortable since larger wheels aren’t impacted by bumps and crevices as much as smaller wheels are.
Larger wheels also allow you to ‘coast’ for longer; if you’re running on 26-inch wheels and you stop pedalling, the rate at which you decelerate will be noticeably slower than the rate at which you decelerate with a 16-inch wheel.
The downside is that your larger wheels will also accelerate considerably slower, and they might not be suited for use with more compact bikes with a smaller wheelbase (which means less distance between the front and back wheels). They’re also not as agile, especially at lower speeds. If you’re going trail hopping, and you’re facing an advanced trail with short, narrow, zigzagging paths, you’re probably better off with a compact bike with smaller wheels. Not only will these be more manoeuvrable, but you’ll also be able to build up speed quicker and decelerate quicker to accommodate for those sharp turns.
It’s a matter of perspective when it comes to which is faster; you have to ask yourself what going ‘faster’ means to you. On the one hand, smaller wheels accelerate faster, and they allow you to zip around corners. On the other, larger wheels lose their acceleration slower than smaller wheels, making it easier for you to work your way up to higher speeds. Not only that, larger wheels are also more stable at higher speeds, meaning it’ll be easier for you to control your e-bike if you ever find yourself going faster than you’ve ever gone before.
Replacing your Motor
This is a similar concept to what we discussed with batteries. If you’re currently equipped with a 24-volt motor and battery coupling, replacing those with a 48-volt pairing will help you reach higher speeds with ease. Biking itself will also involve less effort, though the mechanical components on your bike, such as the crank and the chain ring might wear out quicker. If your e-bike’s motors are built into hubs on the wheels, this is a no-go, since you won’t likely be able to replace or reconfigure the hub or its components.
Because of that, this option is exclusively available to mid-drive e-bikes. You’ll still have to fiddle with the electrical and mechanical components quite a bit, so we wouldn’t recommend this option to those of you who aren’t familiar with them. The idea is to increase your motor’s Kv rating, which will, in most cases, also require that you adjust your gearing and other components. A higher Kv means a motor that turns more for each volt it’s supplied with, meaning it generates a greater moment per unit of power. Be warned, this will result in lower torque at low speeds, but when you’re actually going fast enough, it’ll get you to go faster.
Removing the speed limit
While you can always pedal your way to higher speeds with any e-bike, the electric motor has sensors attached to it that prevent the motor from activating when you’re travelling faster than a certain speed, meaning you’re basically riding a regular analogue bike if you’re going above that limit. Since they feature additional hardware, which makes them heavier, accelerating on your own often proves harder than with a bicycle.
We mentioned this briefly earlier, but you can also augment your e-bike’s speed by going into the settings through your LCD panel. Most bikes will require that you go through a warning screen of some sort that tells you that you’re about to change settings that might result in injury or loss of legal status for your bike. Either way, lots of e-bikes, from class 1s to class 3s, will allow you to derestrict your speed limit, letting you reach higher speeds with the help of your electric assist.
Just how much you’ll be able to increase your speed depends entirely on the model of your e-bike. For most, and especially lower-end models, you’ll only be able to go a couple of miles over what your e-bike regularly does. For others, such as the HPC Lightning, you’ll be able to increase your speed by up to almost ten miles or more, effectively turning your pedals into decorations and your e-bike into what is more or less a motorcycle.
Of course, aside from these, there are also other ways to improve the speed of your e-bike. If you’re interested in the riskier options, you can look up tuning kits and attachments like the Speedi, which purportedly increases the speed of any e-bike by 50%, regardless of the original speed. These options come with a fair deal of risk, though, so we’d always recommend fine-tuning your setup instead. Keeping those batteries full, your gears and chains well-maintained, and your tire’s filled to the optimal psi is more than enough to get you going as fast as you should be going on your e-bike.