Any news on anti-tuning?
16 March 2021 Christian
The major engine manufacturers had announced for the 2020 model year that they would stop tuning e-bikes as part of the EU standard.
This is happening, but it has not yet had the huge impact that was feared. But there are some, and the complexity of tuning is growing visibly. And with it the challenge to deal with it in advance.
The essence of the following remarks right up front:
It is better not to buy an e-bike with a Bosch Gen4 motor if you want to tune your e-bike.
And now for the longer story on the subject of anti-tuning. The badassBox manipulates the signals coming from the speed sensor of the e-bike. On the one hand, this is a valid and very proven way of tuning (at least so far) and on the other hand, it does not require any intervention in the drive system itself and can be installed and removed in no time at all, at least with our badassBox.
The wired tuning colleagues follow the approach of hidden tuning integrated into the system. In this case, the tuning usually works identically by manipulating the speed signal or by manipulating the wheel circumference and thus the speed, or they intervene even further in the control electronics. For this, the tuning kit usually has to be installed in the wiring harness of the engine (or that of the control unit). In the worst case, the motor must be removed from the frame. If you want to take your e-bike to the workshop regularly for service, you should think twice about this point. For those who do everything on the bike themselves, this is of course not so decisive, but perhaps the non-existent possibility of "Illegal - Legal in the blink of an eye": a wired tuning is always considered a tuning, even if it is switched off. If there is no badassBox on the bike, then it is fully legal in the sense of the StVZO.
Until 2017 or 2019, the classic tuning we prefer was not worth a countermeasure from any engine manufacturer. Initially, the real signal could still be divided by three (i.e. support up to 75km/h), then halved (up to 50 km/h) or even frozen (permanent support). It was initially Bosch with one (of their uncountable) firmware updates that made it necessary to further develop the manipulation. In 2019, Shimano brought another anti-tuning measure with their firmware version 4.7.0. Some believe to this day that Shimano had other reasons for the change and that it was virtually just a thankful side effect. In addition to the firmware updates that are regularly released by many manufacturers today and which always bring with them the uncertainty of whether tuning will still work with them, the drive manufacturers have come up with other things together with the bike manufacturers.
In the past, the speed sensor was - quasi standardised - freely accessible and screwed onto the chain stay. This is also where the shape of our badassBox comes from, which can simply be slid over the sensor. But at some point, someone in the bike development department must have realised that such a sensor can also be integrated into the chain stay (or the dropout), the magnet can no longer be mounted on the spoke, but on the brake disc, which has several advantages: safe installation position for the sensor, source of error of the magnet position excluded, sensor no longer accessible -> no more tuning possible. Points 1 and 2 are good and valid, point 3 only gave us a headache for a short time: using our adapters and Universal Mount, almost any integrated sensor can be relocated once to an accessible position for use with a badassBox. In cases of hardship, which our service is happy to take care of, sometimes only replacing the original sensor can help, but these are only exceptional cases.
And then came 2020 and Bosch started the big anti-tuning campaign with the Gen4 engines. Yes, a lot of fuss was made by Bosch and allies, a lot of PR and a lot of media coverage about the evil tuning of e-bikes and the great salvation of all pedal disciples by the glorious achievements from Swabia: Gen4 and the vilification by the error code 504.
Error 504 occurs when the system detects tuning. Then the maximum speed for engine assistance is lowered to 17 km/h for 90 minutes of riding. This "limb mode" can be annoying, but can also be stopped immediately with a readout using the Bosch engine diagnostics. Provided you have a friendly bike dealer who is not so averse to tuning. However, the detection is counted and there is a myth that the "limb mode" can no longer be reset on the third 504, but you have to go to Bosch for it.
We have already sent some Bosch Gen4s into various 504s, some came rather surprisingly, others had to be provoked hard. We have not yet been able to establish beyond doubt why and when they come. But what we have not been able to determine so far is a third 504 on one of our bikes. A few of our customers may already have had a third 504, but we haven't heard from any of them again. Not to mention how and what exactly the third 504 was all about. So we just keep on provoking...
In the meantime, it is a fact that tuning is not appreciated, is fought against by some, tolerated by others. As a tuning-minded e-biker, before buying a new bike, you should really gather in-depth information on what is possible in terms of tuning and how it works on the desired bike. And if the bike you want turns out to be a really bad tuner choice, then you'd better switch to another bike (if you can get anything at all). A little tip: high-quality second-hand bikes can usually be tuned very easily.
But you should also adjust your expectations to the new conditions. Our badassBoxes are currently calibrated at the factory for a speed of 40km/h, i.e. the motor gets its 25km/h signal when in reality 40km/h are present. We have made this value freely calibratable from 25km/h to 50km/h. Nevertheless, it is better not to go beyond 35km/h with Bosch Gen4, for example, and not much above 40km/h with Shimano. Other motors can still be operated at 50 km/h without any problems.
But in general, keep an eye out when buying a new bike. Take a close look at the bike you want. Is there a spoke magnet? If so, this is a good sign to probably find an easily accessible sensor on the chain stay (on the non-drive side). No spoke magnet? Then inspect said chain stay on the inside. You can usually see the integrated sensor quite quickly. And then also the magnet on the brake disc. If in doubt, take a photo of the sensor, because sometimes the sensor used is the necessary information. So, here's the simple rule of three for e-bike tuning: motor, sensor, sensor position. With this, there is almost always an answer as to whether and how tuning is possible.
And we are talking here exclusively about tuning mid-mounted motors. Hub motors can almost never be tuned, and unfortunately not at all with a badassBox.