How the California Ebike law has brought fast ebikes into the mainstream

Before California came up with their ebike law it looked like mainstream ebikes in the US were going to stay 750 Watts and speed limited to 20mph forever. There were a handful of companies that were selling stuff that was more powerful, but they were total outliers who seemed to not care that much about the liability issues that selling ebikes that went faster than 20mph would entail. There were hordes of crazy kit builders that frequently would buy large Direct Drive motors from China and pair them with Lithium batteries, often purchased from Hobby King. California’s ebike law that went into effect about 3 years ago allowed for a new ‘Class 3’ ebike which allowed to go up to 28mph. This ‘3 Class’ system has now been adopted by 22 different states with no end in sight. It took some time for the industry to catch up to the laws, but over the last year, we’ve seen a proliferation of ‘fast ebikes‘ that are designed to go 28mph with pedal assist.

You have to wear a helmet and you can’t go in Class 1 bike paths, but ‘Type 3’ ebikes are a total game-changer

The Juiced Scorpion just raised 2.2 million dollars on Indiegogo selling a moped-style 28mph ebike with a 52v battery and a rear geared hub motor. It’s interesting to me that 3 years ago it’s unlikely that a campaign like this would have succeeded because people on ebikes worked hard to only buy ebikes that looked like ebikes because of their fears that if they bought a ‘moped’ style ebike that they would get harassed constantly by the police. Times have changed and it seems like the ebike world has to started to change with them. Although I’m not a fan of hub motors, I am happy to see that US companies are now marketing many more powerful ebikes that are capable of speeds of 28mph without being speed limited.

I haven’t ridden this ebike so I can’t speak to how it rides, but I like the design and it’s been incredibly popular

Looking over crowdfunding sites I can see more ebikes that are being powered with the Bafang 1000W Ultra Max drive units and other 1000W hub-motor bikes which can easily exceed 20mph. This is an exciting trend that I hope will continue. It seems like now companies are willing to sell bikes without speed limiters and just say that if you want to run it ‘off-road’ then you can go as fast as you can make the ebike go.

This is my newest baby, a 2000W X-1 with a ludicrous M600

Two months ago I purchased a Ludicrous X-1 (review here) for ~$4000 here with a ludicrous modified 2000W peak M600 torque sensing mid-drive unit (don’t even consider getting it without the Ludicrous controller). This is the bike I have been waiting for the last 5 years to come out. It’s lightweight, fast and incredibly fun to ride on singletrack trails. I can climb inclines so steep that I can barely walk up them (with my nuts pressed up against the handlebars). This ebike has exceeded my expectations in every way. The motor noise from the custom steel primary reduction gear was a little grating at first, but over the first hundred miles, it has gotten much quieter.

The Bafang M600 was originally designed for 500W but it can handle over 1000W continuous and 2000W peak power if the primary reduction gear is steel

The M600 was something of a bust initially as Bafang tried to release it to the public with a plastic gear which continually failed. With the Luna steel primary reduction gear, it’s a little louder, but there is no way that the gear will fail. The motor will self destruct long before the steel gear fails. This ebike is geared crazy low so expect a top speed of around 25mph. If you want it to go faster then just put on a larger front ring, just make sure it is a narrow\wide chainring. The ability to quickly and easily change the motor to drive ratios by swapping the front chainring is one of the nicer features of mid-drive ebikes.

For a high power ebike, this 1000W + kit is the one to buy, for an extra $200 you can get the 2500W Ludicrous controller

When it comes to high power ebikes there is a slew of BBSHD powered ebikes that Lunacycle is selling here, most of which can be ordered with a 2500W peak Ludicrous controller. Expect to pay about $2000-2500 for a BBSHD bike prebuilt for you. You can also easily add a BBSHD and battery kit to most bicycles out there for about $1000 right now here with the Black Friday Sale. If you’re going to spring for a BBSHD, you have to get the ludicrous controller, it’s only an extra $200 and it adds 66% of power to the BBSHD turning it into a total wheelie machine. If you want your ebike to go over 30mph and be able to easily carry two people then it’s the motor to get.

One of the problems with geared hub motors is that the entire motor is encased inside the shell of the motor which cooks the motor & nylon gears like a toaster oven under heavy loads

What will the future hold for high-speed\high power ebikes? I love the M600 for trail riding, but I’m not convinced it is going to be the future for commuters where weight is not as much of an issue. It seems to me like the torque-sensing 1000W Ultra Max and 1000W BBSHD are still the kings of the mid-drive ebike world. Geared hub motors will always have their place for the lower-end ebikes, but the strain of carrying 2 passengers (like the scorpion says it can) on a geared hub up steep hills is going to cause them to overheat and fail pretty quickly. I’ve never met a hub motor that I haven’t ended up destroying, although I’m sure that they are out there.

Will ebikes continue to look more and more like scooters over time and yet still evade a litany of tickets as this poor citizen has been subjected to?

Should I make a ‘street legal’ power shutoff on my ebike?

Lots of people seem to think that having a switch on their ebike which drops the power down to 750W will make a difference in the eyes of the law. If anyone has ever gotten themselves out of a ticket by doing this, I’d be curious to know, but my policy is to never talk to the cops. Ever. Period. Anything you say can and will be used against you. I believe that this video should be mandatory viewing for anyone who doesn’t want to end up putting themselves in jail. In short, there is absolutely nothing you can say to the police that will help you and anything you say to them will hurt you.

I have gotten thrown downstairs, beaten up, almost shot while running away with my dick stuck in my zipper and verbally threated by police in my wild youth and I have to say that the best thing to do is to let the police write you whatever ticket they want to and fight it in court. Incidentally, I want to be clear that I totally deserved almost all the abuse I got at the hands of the police. The officer who threatened me ended up getting fired after I gave a written statement against him which ended his career. He refused to give me his badge number, threatened me, was drunk while on duty and threatened to rape my 14-year-old female friend. Dude was not model cop material (true story).

In my 5 years as a firefighter and EMT, I learned that most cops are actually pretty amazing people, but some of them are really not

I’m glad the mainstream ebike world is catching up to the California ebike laws and not being afraid to sell higher power motors that run off larger, more powerful batteries. As the technology keeps getting cheaper, more and more people will fall in love with ebikes and I predict that most of them will go faster than a measly 20mph. Can you imagine a world where every car sold can only go 55mph? The reality is as Americans we expect to be able to break the laws and get punished for it, it really is the American dream. If I’m riding a 750 Watt ebike that is speed limited to 20mph how am I going to make a nuisance of myself and get harassed by the man?

The freedom to break laws and get away with it. This is the American dream in a nutshell.

Ride On.

Karl Gesslein is a degenerate hooligan of the highest caliber living in upstate NY. His passion for e-bikes and all things sustainable causes him to be obsessed with climate change and finding solutions that will keep humanity from becoming extinct from our own hubris. His personal blogs include electricbike-blog.com, awaken-spirit.org & chestnutparadise.com.


12 Comments

  1. Just FYI, your motor is not 2000w. You have a Bafang m600 which is a 500w motor. Hence your top speed being 25mph. Having the controller send more amps just increase peak output, which isn’t the same thing. Also why you’re probably thinking hub motors overheating is more of an issue than it is. Most bikes aren’t designed to send 2000 watts to a 500w motor. This misinformation is also incorrectly listed on Luna’s site – 750 watts continuous, 2000 watts. Bafang’s head of sales has confirm they do not make a 750w mid-drive.

  2. I built a 36Mph Jamis for under $600.. 52v Battery, 1500w Hub motor. Most pre built Ebikes are slow and way over priced. Build your own if you want to save money and go faster.

  3. The problem I have with these high powered bikes is their use on bike trails. Those higher speeds can be very unsafe on multi-use trails. And use of high-powered ebikes on off road trails is controversial as well. At a certain power point, they can do more damage to the trail than conventional or lower-powered ebikes.

  4. Higher speeds are not an issue … I have actually gone faster on my Yeti without issue. You will always have the potential of meeting someone head on at blind corners, so slow down and be prepared.

    As for an ebike damaging the terrain, racers cause more damage as they skid through turns trying to maintain momentum. I’ve seen the damage as it happens during the race.

    Tom Payne, please show us the links where you get your facts from.

    Remember when snowboarders started sharing the hills with downhill skiers? There was a definite bias against the snow boarders that no longer exists. Why? Because the facts disproved all of the original complaints against them. Same will occur with ebikes. Share the roads and trails responsibly and there won’t be any concerns.

    Comments from someone that was an avid cross country and downhill biker for 20+ years before owning an ebike.

  5. Great article and definitely glad the laws are finally catching up!

  6. Nice One,
    Especially the poem, everyone should write their own.

  7. Great write up. I actually read the whole thing. That’s a first for me 🙂

  8. A high powered ebike is no more or less dangerous on a multi use trail then a high powered car driving through a school zone. Operators should be aware of their surroundings and operate in a courteous manner at all times.

  9. Per Federal law any e-bike that goes faster than 20 mph is a motor vehicle not a bicycle. Bicycle liability is covered by renters or homeowners insurance. The biggest risk of riding a 28 mph bike is not getting a ticket it is the legal liability of riding an unlicensed and uninsured motorcycle. Liability for an accident on a 28 mph e-bike is paid out of pocket. That could be hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in medical bills and pain and suffering. Ride at your own risk.

  10. There are issues that need to be addressed when you introduce disruptive technology on society. When bicycles first hit the city streets every newspaper in america lambasted the two wheeled menace, a decade later automobiles would takeover and dominate the roads and captivate our culture. Far from being the wild west a strict set of rules was adopted and now licensing, insurance, & identification of vehicle and driver is required to operate a car. Today the freedom of the open road has been traded for rush hour gridlock and fighting for parking. E-bikes offer a solution to this mallady but as the numbers of riders increases the infrastructure and society as a whole will need to change too.

    The biggest issue I am noticing with the faster bikes is that cars have no idea that we are going over 20mph and drive like maniacs trying to pass us. When I am all kitted out on my road bike and spinning at 20mph in the bike lanes I look fast and do not get the dreaded “left hook” nearly as often as I do on the E-bike. I just expect to be “left hooked” by motorists every time I venture onto a shared road. As an experienced cyclist I am prepared for this but new riders may not be expecting such homicidal behavior from motorists.

    High powered offroad e-bikes will also need to address the issues of increased speed uphill. I build trails and design switchbacks for gravity powered bikes and found myself blowing through corners and having poor “flow” on the e-bike compared to my normal bike. Trail users do no expect a cyclist to be hauling 20mph up hill and I can see this being a problem down the road.

    I think it is up to the industry to address these problems and not just dump it on consumers or expect government to do the the rational thing.

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