Derestricting e-bikes and UK law

woman riding e-bike

There’s a thriving market for tech that allows e-bikes to be derestricted. However, once an electric bicycle exceeds the power limits set out in UK regulations, it becomes a motorcycle in the eyes of the law. That means if you’re stopped by the police, or are involved in a crash, you can be charged with riding an unlicensed and uninsured motorbike. The result is likely to be penalty points on your driving licence if you have one. All-in-all, an expensive price to pay for getting a little more speed from your e-bike.

On a related matter, beware e-bikes that sold with speed limiters you can alter yourself. The ability to temporarily restrict an e-bike to 15.5mph does not make it legal for use on British roads. Apart from anything else, you won’t be able to insure this type of e-bike as a bicycle.

Is my e-bike legal?

There are so many different types of e-bike on the market, it can be tricky to know which are road legal – especially with some importers claiming that speed limiters are all you need to conform with British law.

E-bike legislation varies by country so buying second-hand, or online from abroad, can lead to confusion. Here in the UK, e-bikes used anywhere other than private land must not provide powered assistance beyond 15.5 mph (25 km/h) and maximum continuous rated power up to 250W.

If your cycle has pedals and an electric motor of no more than 250 watts that cuts out once you’re travelling more than 15.5mph (25 km/h), then in the eyes of UK law it’s an EAPC (electrically assisted pedal cycle) sometimes referred to as an e-bike, or pedelec. It’s important to remember that the 250W figure refers to the power of the motor and not the battery. If you’re unsure about the power output of the motor (it’s not always visibly marked), then make certain that motorised assistance cuts out at 15.5mph.

If the e-bike conforms to these requirements, you can ride it on the road or any cycle paths – anywhere a conventional bicycle can be used. It also means you won’t find it any trouble to insure.

For example, here at the ETA, we charge no extra for insuring an electric bicycle and include £2m third party cover and protection against battery theft as standard. If you break down – even if it’s a flat battery – we’ll arrange for you and your e-bike to be recovered.

Speed Pedelecs

If your electric bicycle is equipped with a motor that’s more powerful than 250W, or if it assists you when you’re riding more than 15.5 mph – in the eyes of the law it’s a motorcycle and as such needs to be registered, insured and taxed. You’ll also need the appropriate driving licence and helmet approved for motorbike use. These so-called speed pedelecs have been given their own type approval in Europe so that they can be ridden like bicycles subject to certain conditions but no such provision exists here in the UK.

These other kind of bikes (also called speed pedelecs) cannot be ridden on cycle paths and must be approved by the DVLA.

My electric bicycle has a throttle – is it legal?

Since January 1 2016, the only throttles legal on new bikes are those that provide starting assistance ie. assist the rider without pedalling up to a maximum speed of 3.7 mph. At that speed, the throttle cuts off.  If the cyclist pedals at the same time, the throttle can still assist up to the 15.5mph limit.

Bikes sold before January 1 2016 may have a full-speed throttle (you don’t need to pedal at all to reach the 15.5mph limit) but are considered legal due to having been sold before the law changed.

We cover all road-legal electric bicycles as standard. If the output of your electric bicycle does not exceed 250 W/15.5 mph, we’ll cover it under our cycle insurance at no additional cost.

We also include Cycle Rescue as standard. If your e-bike develops a mechanical fault, you can call on our breakdown team 24/7.

Every cycle insurance policy of ours includes the following as standard:

• Theft, accidental damage & vandalism
• E-bike battery theft cover
• Cycle Rescue (breakdown cover for your electric bicycle and you)
• No devaluation of your bike over time
• £2m third party PLUS £20,000 personal accident cover
• Shed and garage storage
• Low standard excess of 5% (£50 minimum)

Read a full list of everything we include as standard.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.


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