2013: Year of the Illegal Ebike

April 28, 2013

April 28th, 2013  In the last few weeks, Stromer and Specialized have announced new electric bikes that would be illegally fast by USA federal law. According to the USA government, for a motor bike to be classified as an ebike, it must be  no more than 750 watts, and no faster than 20-MPH with no pedaling on flat ground with a 170 pound rider (read more on USA ebike law). Hats off to these companies for offering some fun bikes that are literally law breakers. Here is a list of  10 tips that will help you if  you choose to ride one these illegally fast ebikes on the street, and want to get away with it without getting your beautiful new machine confiscated by the police.

Here is a list of 10 Illegal fast electric bikes:


Optibike 1100,  and 850 (review)


Optibike has recently learned, that the faster they make their electric bikes, the faster they sell, even with premium price tags. This is one of the finest electric bikes on the market, and it comes with a mid-drive that has proven to be ultra reliable. Optibike made it to #1 on our list of fastest production ebikes with its all-around quality and lightweight performance.

The $12,000 Optibike 850 (watts) is capable of 30-MPH, the $15,000 1100 (watts) will supposedly hit 40-MPH, and Optibike is also now testing a 1500 watt prototype.

Optibike requires all new owners of the 1100R to sign a waiver that says they understand that the bike is for “off road use only

Stealth Bomber (review)


The Stealth Bomber comes from the factory with a jumper-wire on the controller that limits it’s top-speed  to 20-MPH. Remove that jumper, and it puts you in “off road mode” and transforms your bomber into a 50-MPH 5,000-watt  beast.

Stealth Fighter (review)

stealth fighter

The Stealth Figher is a lighter, and less fast version of the Stealth Bomber, but it’s still definitely illegal once you take off the factory jumper which limits it.


Specialized Turbo (review)

specialized turbo--2

This is an interesting one. This bike is pedal assist only, and has a modest 250-watt hub motor. Specialized claims it is not only illegal, but the worlds fastest production electric bike with a claimed speed of 28-MPH. I feel this bike without pedal assist (“throttle only” if it was possible) would not surpass 20-MPH and therefore is not illegal. I think the think tank at Specialized got together in a conference room…and the marketing guys said: “Lets build the worlds fastest production electric bike”,  the engineers said “we can do that!” and the execs said: “Let’s not…and just say we did!”  and the marketing guys said “We can do that too. ”  And the lawyer in the back of the room nodded his head.  High Fives.

Stromer ST1 Platinum (review)

stromer st1 platinum

The Stromer ST1 is capable (with pedal assist) of easily hitting speeds of 28-MPH. The controller does not cut off power  at 20-MPH as it does on other production bikes. Stromer has a “tamper resistant” sticker on the downtube of the bike  that says for “off road use only” and makes it very clear in their owners manual etc that this bike should not be ridden on the street.

Outrider USA (article)


This is the most unusual ebike on this list. Federal law still recognizes this as an ebike, even with 3 wheels (4 wheels? forget about it, even if it has pedals). The Outrider Trike (formerly known as FFR trike) comes with factory limits set on the Cycle Analyst to make it street legal. However, the new owner can easily change these factory settings, and transform their mild manner trike into a 6,000 watt 50-MPH super trike, capable of climbing big mountains on a single charge (read how FFR crushed Pikes Peak Race)


Hanebrink Sand Bike (review)


Dan Hanebrink is man with a need for speed, and has been racing electric bikes and motorcycles for years. Although the base model Hanebrink sand-bike is right at federal power limits, Dan Hanebrink is willing and able to make his customer’s Hanebrink as fast as they want (and are willing to pay for).

Hanebrink Hustler (article)

hanebrink with hustler

Speaking of Dan Hanebrink, here is his most prized creation. An 80-MPH electric bike, definitely NOT street legal. Dan Hanebrink argues that it’s legal…it has tiny operational pedals hidden under those fairings, and when he hand-delivers the $20,000 Hustler to your door, it is limited by the Cycle Analyst to put out only 750-watts max and 20-MPH top speed. Maybe Dan when he drops it off  will show you how to take that limit off ;).

Prodeco Outlaw

prodeco outlaw

This $2000 retail bike has a 750 watt direct drive hub motor, with a  1200 watt peak sending this bike to a claimed 28mph. The company was so brazen to call this bike “The Outlaw.”  But they do say  it is “for off road use only”.  The wild wild west the  ebike business is turning into.

Hi Power Cycles

hi power cycle

Hi Power Cycles has been selling illegally fast electric bikes on Ebay for 5 years. They have a bad reputation for grossly exaggerating performance numbers, but their bikes are fast enough to be illegal. They are basically conversion bikes built around the BMC or Crystalyte hub motors, and KHS mountain bikes. Hi Power Cycles sells these bikes as “off road only” and requires all their customers to sign a waiver.

Pedego City Commuter (read review)

pedego city commuter

This is the most unlikely ebike to make this list. But a simple dashboard tweak will take the limits off of this bike, and transform it into a 900 watt peak, 22-MPH electric bike.  Putting a new meaning to the “Fun” slogan of Pedego, blasting around on an Illegally fast City Commuter, that looks like a girls bike.

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003187700928 Pi Po

    Your excellent articles on ebikes and the law are timely. However, while human bike laws can be broken with at worst a fine, violating physical laws has swift and ugly consequences.

    Mixing of bikes and cars on the same roadway will produce a certain percent of amputations, paralysis, and death. I suggest more focus on “bike freeways”. In Holland such a 25 km freeway is being paid for
    by businesses along the route.



    • ElectricBIke

      Thanks for the comment and the link to the bike freeway story…really awesome, I wish I lived in Europe where they were more bike-friendly.

      I really believe a faster ebike is safer. 30-35mph seems like the safest top speed? Why? Top speed allows you to go the speed of traffic and you can take the lane. Less cars passing you and less likely to get drilled from behind from some one messaging on their cell phone.

      • Bike sporter

        Holland is the country where people use their bikes most, that’s what I knew. But I didn’t know this fantastic thing, the “bike freeways”. In Sweden they just started publication of the project. There are some fast ways in Örebro, the cyclists can ride as fast as they want, they can ride across the streets and they don’t have to mind about to veer for the motorists, the motorists have to veer for the cyclists. Usually when a cyclist rides on a usual bike way the cyclist has to veer for the motorists on the streets, but not in the case of those fast bike ways in Örebro. They also started building a way between Gothenburg and Helsingborg, the distance between those towns is 230-260 kilometres. I’ve been cycling long distances too, my record of how far I was cycling is 45 kilometres. Anyway this will be exciting if there will be many cyclists on that way because not many travel by bikes that far. But there are bikers travelling in months, they can travel 1200-2000 kilometres per month without any bigger stress. Anyway, the distance is attractive to make me try travelling my bike between Helsingborg and Gothenburg, I would like to beat my own record of 45 kilometres.

        • Mannuel Corona

          I honestly don’t understand the 20mph limit. As a fairly fit cyclist without any assistance I’ve averaged well over 20 mph on a bike ride. I even rode a 100 miles and avged 22mph. When I race I ave 25/28mph. On any given day I can power my bike over 20mph, I just don’t understand what the issue is.

          • Bike sporter

            I don’t think I am an expert of American e-bike law. The only things I know is that the motor effect of e-bikes can’t exceed 750 watts and the top speed can’t exceed 32 kilometres per hour (as you wrote, 20 miles per hour), American e-bikes can be more powerful and faster than Swedish ones. In Sweden an e-bike having a motor effect exceeding 250 watts, top speed exceeding 25 kilometres per hour with or without a PAS (Pedal Assistent System) are mopeds or motorbikes depending on the motor effect.

            In New York e-bikes have been banned and I don’t understand the point of banning e-bikes. When I was reading an article on EV World they wrote that politicians say e-bikers are or may be dangerous to pedestrians. And I also don’t know if all bikes are completely illegal or pedalable motorbikes or mopeds are legal in New York.

          • Mannuel Corona

            I live in California and we are not allowed to go faster than 20mph (33kmph) regardless of the wattage over here it’s less than 1,000 watts but there is no point to the watts when you are governed by speed. The fact that a fit individual can travel faster than 20mph proves that the speed limit is uncalled for. In Cali, you can have a moped, ebike, etc. But you need a licence for all of them other rhan an ebike.

    • HardwareLust

      >Mixing of bikes and cars on the same roadway will produce a certain percent of amputations, paralysis, and death.

      Bikes and cars mix on the same roadway every day, and have since cars were invented. I think having bikes that are capable of reaching a higher speed while in mixed traffic actually will make them safer because they can keep up with traffic, and reduces the closing rate when they can’t.

  • Nanook

    I found your reporting biased and short on facts, not particularly good traits for a writer. Now, I work in the industry, and have personally ridden five of the bikes listed above. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but your characterization of Hi-Power Cycles as “selling illegally fast bikes” and then additionally bashing them as “grossly exaggerating performance numbers” shows a lack of industry knowledge, and worst of all you displayed unprofessional bias. I was further disappointed to see your seething contempt boil over with your decision to post a poorly photographed picture of a filthy bike carelessly abandoned next to a tree, which is more reflective of your writing style.

    Contrast your disparaging remarks with your glowing characterization of the Pedego as being able to perform a “simple dashboard tweak” in order to “blast around on an illegally fast City Commuter. I would also point out that although the photo of Hi Power’s bike is stunningly bad, it is not so bad that we can’t see the Cycle Analyst attached to the riser. That same style computer is used to adjust and
    de-tune, several of the bikes listed. Additionally, you claim Stromers displays a “tamper resistant” sticker on the downtube of the bike that says for “off road use only” and makes it very clear in their owners manual etc that this bike should not be ridden on the street. Putting that sticker on a rigid frame, that is better suited for city streets, is a “tort” case just waiting to happen.

    You should know these bikes are NOT illegal as you state in your article. While they can and do exceed the Federally mandated limits on motor watts and speed, any owner has the choice, and more importantly the obligation to register their bike if it exceeds these limits, making the bikes street “legal”. The downside is of course they are no longer considered a bicycle, and cannot be ridden on bike paths. If your writers were better informed you would also be aware that many of China’s manufacturers of e-bikes have begun to openly flaunt the federal and state laws, simply because it is the will of the people.

    I have enjoyed some of your articles, but if you cannot do better than this you should resist the temptation to review bikes.

  • Chris

    Hi There. A couple things I want to clear up:

    1) We don’t sell any bikes on Ebay. We did at one time, but no longer do. If you see bikes on Ebay, it is one of our dealers, not us.

    2) Our frames are NOT off the shelf, they are custom made specifically to our application. The goal for half our fleet for 2014 is to LOOK exactly like a normal Mountain bike with a frame bag. That is the objective. For those wanting a frame with a battery inside, those will come later this year, and are made 100% in the USA. Half of our customers prefer a normal-looking bike, while the other half prefer the clean look of a battery inside a frame (although sometimes they can raise eyebrows). When we started out we did install kits on KHS frames as your picture shows. We also still have a close relationship with KHS and actually still install kits on their bikes for some of our monthly specials to keep costs down.

    Keep up the good work. If you are willing to do a fair and honest review of one of our bikes, we would love for you to put it through its paces and test their “grossly exaggerated performance numbers”. Please give us a call when you are in the LA area, and we can go for a ride.

    • ElectricBIke

      I know your bikes well. I have owned 2 of them. I have already written a LENGTHY review but have not published it because I want to give you guys the benefit of the doubt, that maybe you have changed your ways since then. I had a very bad experience with your bikes. But it always seems you guys are about what’s coming up around the corner. You should level with everyone, instead of hyping up prototypes etc…and should definitely not sell prototype batteries, motors etc to the public or you will continue having reliability problems.

      Also your warranty is a joke.

      Sorry but you just seem like a vaporware company from everything I know about you…and I am fairly knowledgeable about your product.

      And the new frames you are selling seem like a step down from the KHS frames you were selling.

      If you want, I can go ahead and click “publish” on the review I wrote about you, and I can lay out in 4,000 words what I know, and my opinion on Hi-Power Cycles.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kurt.pearson1 Kurt Pearson

        Dear Moderator,

        I find much of your work is unclear, inexact and dishonest. If you want to continue to write blogs like the one I see above, may I suggest Fox News or the Enquirer. The only “shady practice” as you so wildly state above, appears to be your claim to be an expert on electric bikes.

        • ElectricBIke

          I am so sick of hi power cycles Spam. I am not paid for doing this why would i make anything up about hpc? I paid the price and bought two of your BS bikes, I know exactly what you guys are about.

          I will go ahead and publish the review tomorrow that i spent so much time working on (it is 5000 words) which takes the time to explain why i think hi power cycles is shady. It is pretty obvious to anyone in the industry. Just research them on Endless sphere and see what comes up.

          • Chris (HPC)


            Think about this! We do not ever come to defend our product under a false pretense.. You can quote me on that! Nor do we tell people to stand up on our behalf. All of the people that stick up for us are probably actual customers.. Do some digging and contact these people yourself! I implore you. They are most likely customers of ours that have had a great experience. Same goes for everyone on E.S. I don’t come on to defend our brand any longer because plenty of people like Kurt above have probably bought our products and have been 100% satisfied. Something to mull over before you do something impulsive.

        • TK

          Kurt, Maybe you do not know the moderators back ground. Over 15 years in the industry. Owned and operated E-bike stores in SF before anyone even new what an E-bike was.

      • Chris (HPC)

        Hi. Appreciate your honesty. I hope you realize we started 5 years ago building bikes in a garage. We have come a long, long way since then. I am sorry 3 or 4 years ago when you bought a bike you felt as if you were wronged with our warranty policy. We definitely have stepped our game up with customer service and offer a full one year warranty on everything now. We definitely have learned as a company over the past 5 years, made mistakes, released some products that probably were rushed to market… However now, you will NOT find one person unhappy with our products or service in the last couple of years. Because if someone was unhappy, we stepped up to the plate and made things right. We stand by our bikes 100%- they are a top notch product and take great pride in our built in the USA electric bikes. Our products now are refined, polished, fast, and most importantly eminently reliable.

        Compared to the KHS days, ALL of our bikes have shot up in component quality. Our high end HT-3 and XC-3 are much higher spec than anything KHS has to offer. Also, for 2014, we are making another huge leap in component quality. Even our entry level XC-1 will be at the level of a mid/high range KHS bike.

        We don’t advertise anything shady at all in my opinion. For power levels, we advertise peak power (Volts x Amps). For range, we use an industry standard 20 Wh/mile at a constant 18-20 mph (explicitly stated on the website for reference). For top speed, we physically take each bike, measure with GPS and Radar, and give a two way average. There is not one thing we lie about. In all honesty, we are probably one of the few that are completely truthful. If there is something you would like us to improve/change, let us know and we will discuss it as a company.

        How about this? When we are ready to launch the 2014 bikes, I will personally call you and schedule a time where we can go test them. You will see there is nothing on the market with such high quality and high power for anywhere near the price. A bit of exciting news is that we have battery in frame bikes and motors/transmissions/controllers coming that are both designed by HPC and assembled here in the USA. As far as I know, no other company offers this. They have been a long time coming and will soon be released.

  • Chris

    Sorry, By the way this is Chris with Hi-Power Cycles. I guess that wasn’t clear!

  • peter@electricbikeworks.com

    Can you share the “simple dashboard tweak” on the Pedego?

    • ElectricBIke

      Not without getting in trouble :( …oh well, I guess this is the illegal thread. Go into the dash set-up mode. There you can change the speed limit if I remember right. If you can’t change the speed limit, then change the tire size to a smaller tire than what you really have.

  • MauiOrigin

    The 800 lbs Gorrilla not being mentioned here is that “illegally fast” e-bikes are great for people who are big and heavy. Fat guys like me cannot achieve the advertised speeds on these bikes, but we get much better performance than “normal speed” bikes which are simply underpowered for hauling heavier loads. The largest market in the world for e-bikes could be to allow fat people to go out and enjoy some exercise without an ambulance ride.

  • John W

    I agree with the statement about larger “fat guys” choosing an “illegal” e bike. I’m 270 and just ordered a Prodeco Outlaw after seeing one in person. I don’t think for a second that this bike will go 28 mph with my butt on it. However it should be able help me climb the hills in the area where we have our cabin and its strong enough to deal with someone my size.At our shore home I will stick with my Rans Stratus.

  • Jim

    I find that none of these bikes reflect what I want, which isn’t an electric motorcycle, but a bicycle first, electric assist second. If I want a motorcycle I’ll go buy one.

    I want simplicity, and light weight. I am importing two, single speed, 30 pound, “fixie” style bikes, (one 24 volt, the other 36) and will be testing the heck out of them to see if this is what I want, or am I wrong and I really want an overweight beast that really isn’t a bicycle at all.

    Smaller is better sometimes.