E-bike tuning increasingly widespread despite risk of heavy fines

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Bikes and especially electric bikes have become increasingly popular during the coronavirus crisis. And as Czechs rediscover the long-forgotten joys of childhood, many are opting to unlock the speed limit on their e-bike despite the risk of heavy fines.

With the onset of the coronavirus crisis and face-mask regulations in public transport many Czechs brought out their bikes as a fast and friendly alternative of getting around town. The sale of bikes and electric bikes soared, also as a result of the fact that most people holidayed at home this year and biking is a popular recreational activity.

So given the time and attention people gave their bikes again, it is small wonder that many resorted to a bit of tuning –in order to unlock the 25 km per hour speed limit on their e-bike and take this form of transport to a new level. According to the road safety authority BESIP there are currently over 100,000 e-bikes in the country that have been tuned to exceed the set speed limit of 25 km per hour. Jakub Ditrich from the company Ekolo.cz confirms the interest in specially-tuned e-bikes.

Jakub Ditrich, photo: archive of Ekolo.cz

“The software on e-bikes is set to stop providing electric assist once you reach a speed of 25 km per hour. Now, on a regular bike, most people reach a speed of 28 to 30 km per hour on flat terrain, so obviously customers see this as a set-back. When we offer them trial rides on e-bikes set to speed limits of 25 km per hour, 32 km per hour and 45 km per hour they always opt for the fastest bikes.”

E-bikes can be tuned to a speed of 50 km per hour – which is the speed limit for cars in towns and cities. Lukáš Kadula, from the Prague-based Institute for Road Safety says that while it is not illegal to tune e-bikes to higher speed limits, such bikes can only be used on private property and have no place on Czech roads or even cycle paths.

“The minute that a cyclist on an e-bike uses electric assist to exceed the 25 km per hour speed limit they are breaking the law. They are basically driving a vehicle that technically is not authorized to be used on Czech roads.”

The 25 km speed limit for e-bikes is valid not just in the Czech Republic, but around Europe. A speed of up to 50 km per hour is considered extremely dangerous even for cyclists wearing full protective gear and traffic police in France or Germany do not tolerate violations of the law.

Traffic police in the Czech Republic have so far been more benevolent – also because they often lack the necessary technical equipment to measure the precise speed of e-bikes. However, under Czech law, cyclists caught exceeding the 25 km speed limit can be fined up to 10,000 crowns.