Electric bicycles sold as high power or “off road use”: There are no ‘grey areas’ It’s either a bicycle or a motorbike in the eyes of the law.

The picture is just for fun….but it’s a serious matter.

The Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BA) are reporting numerous enquiries regarding the exploitation of a ‘grey area’, whereby high powered (or “switchable”) E-bikes are bought for ‘off-road use’, in the mistaken belief that this makes them exempt from existing rules.

The technical details are below but simple answer is;If you are caught riding a de-restricted or tuned-up electric bike, or (more likely) if you are involved in an accident on one, irrespective of whether it’s your fault; the end result will be that you will be charged with using an unlicensed, untaxed vehicle on the road with no insurance and riding a motorcycle with out a helmet. You will probably lose your driving license and because you are not insured you will personally be liable to pay unlimited damages, including damages to third parties possibly running to many thousands of pounds (or millions in the event of a death or serious injury).

Needless to say… Eden-e-motion will not be selling illegal bikes nor meddling with the power of our legal ones. What we will do is continue to research and stock the most suitable bikes for you and the terrain around our locality. That means the highest legal power-to weight ratio, torque for hill-climbing and best battery life, for an affordable price. That’s plenty good enough, believe me…. or come and try one for yourself.

The legislation

In order for an electric bike to enjoy the same rights as an ordinary pedal cycle, it should have working pedals, not exceed 250 watts rated power and the electrical assistance should cut out when the bike reaches 15.5mph.

In the UK, an electric bike over 250W is legally classified as a moped if it is to be ridden on the road. Mopeds must be ‘type approved’*, registered, taxed, insured and have an MOT. The rider must have the appropriate licence/training and wear a helmet.

If an electric bike over 250W is intended for off-road use in the UK, then it must comply with the same rules which apply to off-road motorcycles. That means riders are barred from using public roads, common land, paths or tracks intended for cyclists and must be registered on an agreed list for off-road competition bikes, known as the FIM competition list.

MCIA and BA would also remind anyone who owns or is selling an e-bike that it makes no difference if the machine has a switch to flick between a higher and lower power setting. The higher power rating is the rating that the bike needs to be classified by.

Steve Garidis, Operations Director of the BA, said:

“The vast majority of the industry understands its obligations and is highly professional in the way it sells electric bicycles, but it’s vital all sellers understand there is really no ‘grey area’ when it comes to when an electric bicycle must be treated as a moped. ‘Speed pedelecs’ for example, a category of faster e-bike becoming popular in Germany and other countries, are categorised as mopeds in the UK. They have motors more powerful than 250W and offer power assist to a higher speed than 25km/h (15.5mph). Unlike in Germany, there are no regulations which exempt speed pedelecs from any of the standard moped requirements in the UK, so the machine must be type approved, registered, taxed, insured; the rider must have a suitable licence and wear a full motorbike helmet, and be over 16.”

Dave Luscombe, MCIA’s Project Manager for Alternative Powered Vehicles, explained the situation for off-road use:

“Telling someone they are ‘okay on private land’ is seriously misleading, unless you make them understand they probably need to own the land themselves. High powered off-road electric bikes currently fall within rules meant for off-road motorcycle sport. That means they can’t access areas where, for example, motocross machines are barred. They can’t use public roads, common land or any trails or paths intended for bicycles and the bike must be registered on the FIM competition list, which is a list agreed by all EU manufacturers for bikes used in off-road sport. Dealers must make the restricted access very clear to people who may believe they can use cycle trails.”

To recap

• For an e-bike to be treated legally as a bicycle in the UK it must be 250W or less, must have pedals and the power assistance must cut out at 15.5mph. Anything else is treated in law as a moped.

• Speed pedelecs are currently treated in UK law as mopeds, with no exemptions from moped requirements.

• Anything over 250W and intended for off-road use is classified similarly to a motocross machine and must be FIM registered and can only go where regular motocross bikes are legally permitted to go.