It was only a matter of time. Electric-assist bikes have grown exponentially in popularity over recent years. Now, questions over the machines’ DNA are arising with governing bodies in the sport.
To the point: When is an electric bicycle actually just a motorcycle?
In early April, the cycling world’s foremost authority on sanctioned bicycle racing staked a decisive stand.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) took exception to the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme’s (FIM) announcement that its motorcycle racing circuit would include electric mountain bikes.
“The UCI was very surprised and disappointed by the announcement made by the International Motorcycling Federation concerning the organization of an FIM E-Bike Enduro World Cup in France on 1-2 June, with no regulatory basis,” UCI said in a terse statement.
UCI officials called the FIM e-bike races “banned events” and went on to say that any rider holding a UCI license who participates in them risks disciplinary measures.
The pedal-assist e-mountain bikes used have motors with a max output of 250 watts and do not add power above 20 mph.
In the organization’s March announcement, FIM President Jorge Viegas drew a comparison between modern e-mountain bikes and the very first motorcycle designs.
“I am very happy that the FIM is starting to provide competitions for electric bikes,” Viegas said. “For the FIM it is a recurring story because the first motorcycles were based on a bike frame, with the addition of a motor.”
He continued, “In recent years the electric technology has evolved considerably, and we are convinced that the FIM E-XBike World Cup will offer the manufacturers a great platform for further development.”
UCI President David Lappartient echoed Viegas’ enthusiasm. But he made clear he views e-bikes as entirely in the cycling realm.
“I am delighted by the boom currently enjoyed by e-mountain bike, a specialty that enables a new public to take up mountain biking — a demanding discipline — and which is also appreciated by high-level riders,” Lappartient said. “The UCI means to develop this activity which, as with other forms of cycling, comes under its exclusive jurisdiction.”