Whether you want to feel the rush of the wind in your hair like Tom Cruise racing an F-14 Tomcat down the runway in Top Gun or you just want to get to work faster, there are a number of ways you can increase the speed of your electric bicycle.
Here we’ll cover the top 10 methods to coax more speed out of your e-bike.
First, a few important notes to get out of the way before we begin.
Keep in mind that laws differ around the world and it is up to you to respect your local regulations. Make sure you know how fast electric bicycles are legally permitted to travel in your area so you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Also, note that traveling at faster speeds on electric bicycles can be inherently more dangerous. Kinetic energy increases exponentially as speed increases while reaction time decreases, so make sure you’re riding safely at higher speeds.
Lastly, don’t go poking around in parts of your e-bike that you don’t feel comfortable with. Some of these tips are simple things that everyone can do, while others are more technical and should only be attempted by those with a deeper understanding of electrical bicycle components like motors, batteries and speed controllers. And don’t forget that some of these can surely void your warranty, if your e-bike came with one.
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way…
Tip #1: Stay charged up
A battery that is at a higher state of charge has a higher voltage. The speed of a DC motor (like the one in your e-bike) is entirely voltage dependent. So higher voltages = higher speeds.
By keeping your battery at a higher state of charge, you’ll inherently travel faster.
This means that you’ll want to charge more frequently, perhaps after every trip, instead of stringing multiple trips together on the same charge. A good way to do this is to pick up an inexpensive charger to keep at work or wherever you often commute to during the day. That way you can stay charged up for your return trip.
Just don’t forget that letting your battery sit at full charge for long periods of time (weeks or more) can be detrimental to its long term health.
Tip #2: Swap to a higher voltage battery
Since motor speed is voltage dependent, using a higher voltage battery is the quickest way to substantially increase your speed. However, before you upgrade your 36V battery to 48V, for example, you’ll want to check that your controller can handle the increased voltage (most can accept slight over-volting). If you don’t feel comfortable checking the voltage rating of your controller (usually written on the capacitors) then check with the manufacturer. Do not just swap out your battery without checking – you could risk frying your controller if it can’t handle the higher voltage.
Also, note that any battery meter you currently have likely won’t read accurately anymore unless you swap that out for a new meter of appropriate voltage.
Tip #3: Swap your motor
Another way to increase speed is to use a motor that has a higher RPM rating for your specific voltage (known as the motor’s KV rating). This is especially easy for hub motors, which are often designed with multiple motor windings for different models.
You’ll simply want to source a motor that has a higher KV or RPM rating than your current motor. For example, if you have a 48V e-bike that travels at about 20 mph (32 km/h), you can swap on this hub motor and reach speeds closer to 28-30 mph (45-48 km/h).
Tip #4: Use smoother tires
Knobby tires for mountain bikes are great for grip, and their wide contact patch can really help smooth out bumps. However, they’re terrible for speed.
Lose the knobbies and go for a smoother tire meant for street or hybrid use. They have less rolling resistance and can actually add an extra 1-2 mph in some cases.
Tip #5: Pump up your tires
While we’re talking about tires, another way to reduce rolling resistance is to use higher tire pressure. Keeping your tires pumped up closer to their max pressure rating will not only help prevent snake bite flats, but will also help boost your speed.
However, the downside will be a harsher ride. You’ll feel each bump a bit more without soft, spongy tires to absorb road irregularities.
Tip #6: Tune your brakes
Poorly tuned brakes can rob speed from your e-bike by adding unnecessary friction from brake rub.
Either learn to tune your brakes yourself (it’s easy with a cheap bicycle multi tool) or visit your local bicycle shop and ask them to do it for you.
Tip #7: Add a windshield
I know this sounds crazy, but it really works. Adding a windshield to your electric bike can have a big impact on speed. I’ve seen it add 3 mph (5 km/h) to an already higher speed e-bike, though it won’t have as dramatic of an effect on lower speed e-bikes which are less impacted by drag.
The windshield can have such a big impact because it prevents your body from acting like a big sail. Instead, it gently curves the air around you more efficiently.
You can find windshields meant for motorcycles that easily attach to bicycle handlebars, or windshields meant for scooters that are cheaper but require a bit of modification to attach to bicycle handlebars.
Tip #8: Crouch
Go into a tuck. This is easier than adding a windshield but has a similar effect. By reducing your cross-section that catches the wind, you’ll make yourself more aerodynamic and increase your speed.
Of course this isn’t the most comfortable way to commute for many miles, which makes that windshield suddenly a lot more attractive.
Tip #9: Keep your battery cool
A cool battery is a happy battery. And a happy battery has less voltage sag, which is when the voltage drops under load. And as we already learned, lower voltage equals lower speed.
So make sure your battery is getting adequate cooling air to keep it from heating up more than necessary. Most e-bikes already have adequate cooling, but some that keep the battery hidden in a bag can have heat issues, which might be robbing you of a bit of top end speed.
Tip #10: Hack your e-bike
[Cue the techno music and 90’s hacker graphics]
Depending on your e-bike, you might be able to hack it to remove speed restrictions and trick it to go faster.
There are two ways this is commonly done. The first is to alter the settings in the e-bike’s display to tell it that it has a smaller wheel size. Since the e-bike measures speed by counting wheel rotations, it will suddenly think it is going slower and may remove the speed restriction.
The second method is to look for a speed limiting wire jumper at the controller. This is often a single wire connected together with an electrical connector, which can be plugged together to limit speed to an EU-legal 25 km/h (15.5 mph), or removed to allow for a higher top speed for other countries. If your e-bike is designed to be EU legal, you might be able to find a jumper like this that can be unplugged to remove the speed limiter.
Remember that with great speed comes great responsibility. Obey traffic laws. Wear a helmet. And please don’t attempt to do anything on your e-bike that you don’t feel comfortable with or aren’t prepared to handle.
As much fun as it can be to go fast, at the end of the day, sometimes it can be nice to simply slow down and enjoy the ride.