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What counts as a legal e-bike?

There are strict power and speed limits on “e-bikes” - anything that goes faster without you pedalling (or going down a hill...) is a motorbike.


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E-bikes are increasingly popular in the UK but behind this catchall name there are more complicated legal definitions of what is and what is not a legal e-bike and where it can be used.
Understanding the rules can help you avoid a fine, penalty points or a collision resulting from an illegal or illegally modified vehicle.


Legal e-bikes in the UK are cycles which have limited electric powered assistance. They are popular with older people, who find them easier to use on longer journeys, and also with people cycling children to school. Legal electric pedal-assist cycles (or EPACs) account for the bulk of those sold in major UK bike shops. We see legal e-bikes and e-bike converter kits as a welcome addition to Londoners’ transport options.

E-Bikes must:

  • Not have a motor exceeding 250 Watts
  • Not have power assistance exceeding 15.5mph (if you are travelling downhill at more than 15.5mph the motor will cut out and you then have to pedal to exceed 15.5mph.)
  • Not have a throttle: must be propelled by pedals to trigger the power assistance
  • Not be ridden by children under 14 years

Several firms offer conversion kits that enable a rider to turn their pedal cycle into a power assisted one. Conversions within the above specifications are legal but you should make sure you have good well-adjusted brakes to cope with the extra weight.

Legal e-bike

Drop-handlebar e-bike

Shared hire e-bike

Shared hire e-bike

Fat tyre e-bike

E-bikes are governed by the same rules as pedal cycles. They do not require a helmet, insurance or driving licence. When buying an e-bike or conversion kit, take care to buy from reputable shops and sources to prevent you ending up with a vehicle that is not road-legal, not road-worthy, or both.

Legal pedal-assist e-bikes are the only official “e-bikes” and the only e-bikes allowed in cycle lanes, cycle gaps and other cycle infrastructure.

Everything else in this article is legally a motorbike.


Dangerous gaffer-taped battery

Overly powerful 750W motor

Light electric motorbikes are:

  • More powerful (with motors above 250W)
  • Faster (has power assistance above 15mph)
  • Have a throttle – even if they have pedals
Such motorbikes may not be ridden in cycle lanes or use cycle cut-throughs regardless of whether or not they are exceeding 15.5mph. 

They may only be ridden in the main carriageway and must observe all rules governing motor vehicles. The vehicles must have type approval and meet relevant safety requirements to be ridden on the public highways. They require insurance, number plates, registration, a driving licence, a motorcycle helmet and motorcycle training.

If a rider, or their vehicle, fails to meet any of the above requirements they can be charged with illegally riding a motorbike, lack of insurance, helmet, training etc. This can mean a significant fine, points on a driving licence and seizure of the bike in question.

Hacked e-bikes

Some riders chose to modify regular e-bikes through illegal conversion kits to provide higher power than 250W or higher speeds than 15.5mph. If used in a public space this automatically makes them a motorbike in the eyes of the law and they have to meet all the regulations for motorbikes above.

These vehicles may not legally be used in cycle lanes or cycle cut-throughs. Overly powerful conversion kits are also unlikely to be type approved for use on public roads and would therefore automatically make the rider liable to penalties (see above). The police can readily recognise illegally modified e-bikes and may seize the bike and charge the owner.

Hacked or illegal e-bikes may also represent a danger to you – their batteries or chargers may work improperly and represent a fire risk.

If buying a used e-bike for on road use make sure you have checked that it fulfils regulations regarding motor power (max 250 Watts) and speed assistance (max 15 mph). If in doubt walk, or scroll, away.



The UK Government previously promised to bring new legislation in the form of a Transport Bill to Parliament in autumn 2022 but this did not get delivered and now appears to have been indefinitely delayed. We call on the UK Government to bring this legislation back before Parliament as soon as possible.

We previously prepared reports to assist with this new legislation:

In particular we share the concerns of the British Bicycle Association of the broad use of the term “e-bike” to describe all nature of light two-wheeled electric vehicles – even when they can travel at speeds above 50mph. This can confuse readers who may think they can ride such vehicles on the road without the required licence, insurance and safety equipment, or think they may legally use cycle lanes and cut-throughs.

We ask journalists to clearly distinguish between legal “e-bikes”, illegal hacked e-bikes, and motorbikes in their reporting. We also encourage national reporting bodies to clearly separate collision statistics based on cycle or vehicle type.


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Women cycling on a yellow bike on a quiet road