With the introduction of production electric bikes that are illegal on city streets because of their high top-speed and power (read our article on 10 illegal production ebikes 2013), it is time to question if and how you can get away with riding these bikes on the streets. Its nothing new for the DIY ebike community to ride illegally-fast electric bikes on the streets, and some have been using the following strategies for years to avoid getting ticketed…or their ebikes confiscated.
Always remember this simple rule: “It’s an ebike…if you can ride past a cop and not get pulled over.” Here are some tips below to help you on not getting pulled over, while other tips might save you after you are stopped.
Know Ebike Law
Educate yourself. Start with our article on ebike law. Read the wiki entry on ebike law. Research local laws in your state and city. The first thing you should ask yourself “Is my ebike legal”?
Learn the art of “Clown Pedaling”
“Clown Pedaling” means to pedal the bike as fast as you can at top speed to give the illusion that you are an incredible athlete who is actually pedaling your bike at that amazing speed. Of course, pedaling at 40-MPH does not make much sense. For any single human, pedal output at this speed is almost meaningless (you would be better served to focus on ducking down into an aerodynamic position), and secondly, most ebikes are not geared high enough to add any pedal assistance at this speed. However, it is a great idea for legal protection to appear as if you are pedaling and not just motoring.
Put a misleading sticker on your ebike
The ebike in the above picture is, as of this writing, the fastest electric bike in the universe. (see our list of 10 fastest electric bikes) However notice it has a “super slow bicycle” sticker on its down-tube just in case it falls into view of police eyes.
Other good stickers are: “750 watts” or “250 watts” depending on what the laws are where you live.
These stickers could give you great arguing points if pulled over the the police, and maybe help convince him that your ebike is within legal limits…even if it isn’t.
Wear a helmet…but not a full faced helmet
Full faced helmet screams “motorcycle”. Most bicyclists do not wear full faced helmets…neither should you. But you should wear a bicycle helmet if most bicyclists in your area wear helmets, especially if required to do so.
Buy or build an electric bike that looks as much like a bicycle as possible
If you are buying a production illegal ebike: Shop for one that is as stealthy looking as possible. TheSpecialized Turbo, the Stromer ST1, and even the Optibike are good examples. If you are building an electric bike, pick a small hub motor like this builder did for his mountain bikes, hide all your components, and pick a motor system that is quiet. Having your electric bike appear like a bicycle will really protect you if you’re riding in hostile territory.
Have a hidden “turbo” switch
For those James Bond types a hidden turbo switch can be cool. This way you know if you get pulled over the cop can’t test ride your bike and deem it illegal and then confiscate it. In reality this never happens…but its cool to brag to your friends that your bike has a “secret turbo switch” just in case of a cop test ride.
Do not ride on a Motorcycle looking ebike
If it looks like it needs registration, insurance and paperwork…that is bad. Anything that looks like a motorcycle is bad, including the Hanebrink Hustler. By the way, the Hustler actually has pedals hidden under the fairings so you can at least argue that you are an electric bike when you are pulled over…good luck with that.
And including electric Vespa style scooters with pedals…bad bad bad. Trade this bike in as fast as possible for something that looks like a bicycle.
Do not ride like a Hooligan
Obey traffic laws. Do not do tricks. Do not ride like a jackass. Avoid congested roads. Do not endanger others when you ride. And for heavens sake do not be like this guy and rid with an open container: (read DUI on electric bike)
Learn the right ways to talk to to the Police
Learning to talk to the Police is mandatory for anyone who decides they want to ride on the margins of what is legal or not. Keep a copy of the vehicle code in your pocket. Have a prepared statement as to what you are going to say, and practice being respectful (which may be hard to do when you are suddenly and unexpectedly upset). Watch the following educational video which pertains to car stops, but with a little common sense can be applied to ebikes:
Getting pulled over a lot? Then rethink the way you are presenting yourself
Can you tell what this guy is doing wrong? That green thing behind him will never pass as an electric bike. If you get pulled over and ticketed a lot you are probably doing something wrong.