Wednesday, April 10, 2019

So, Just What Is This?

Is it a bicycle with a motor, or a motorcycle with pedals?
Maybe you haven't heard yet, but the UCI, who are the World's governing body for Pro cycling events, has declared that they are holding a World Championship e-mtb event this Summer. While there has not been a lot of Hybrid Powered Cycle racing going on up to this point, there has been a total swing in Europe to HPC (e-mtb) mountain bikes. By the way, it is predicted that within five years "standard" bicycles will mostly become a thing of the past in Europe as Europeans are converting over to HPC's in a huge way very quickly. It is the number one growth segment for cycling companies, and the UCI wants in on the windfall. Organizing and occupying the preeminent place in HPC, (e-mtb) mountain bike racing is an important goal for the organization.

But a recent report filed by Selene Yeager for "Bicycling" reveals that the world federation in control of motorcycle racing, the FIM, are also planning their own HPC mountain bike event this June, with more coming. The UCI responded by warning UCI license holders that if they were found to have participated in "banned events" that they would be "punished".

Typical UCI tactics are being employed here which are reminiscent of the proposed bans to be placed upon ultra-endurance mountain bikers who were taking part in unsanctioned events several years ago now. The UCI then also threatened punishments to those riders participating in what were termed also as "banned events". This Draconian measure ultimately was overturned in favor of the riders. But this time the stakes are higher, money is at stake, and in my opinion, the UCI won't be so ready to give over.

However; the true point to be gathered from this farce was made by the FIM's president, Jorge Viegas. He stated in a very clear and concise way exactly what many electric powered bicycle advocates have avoided saying, denied, or have tried to justify in other ways. Here is what he said as quoted from the "Bicycling" article linked above:

Power-assisted bicycles and electric-powered cycles are not recent products and have long been part of the history of FIM,” said FIM president Jorge Viegas in a statement. “In fact the early motorcycles were much based on a bicycle frame with the addition of an engine, so the story has really returned back to the beginning of our evolution".

(Underlined portion for emphasis by me.)

Did you catch that? It's just what I've said all along. This is basically history repeating itself. The UCI knows that the motorcycle companies and the FIM are far more powerful and richer than they are. They know that if the narrative is directed by the FIM, this will have a detrimental effect upon the future of the UCI, as it will lose its position as the director of racing in Europe and beyond for those vehicles which happen to have an electric motor and pedals. You know, kind of like "mopeds", only without a gasoline powered motor.

Hybrid Powered Cycles = mopeds = "motor/pedals". Same-same. Call them whatever you want to, it is what it is.

UPDATE: 4/10/19 @ 10:50am- While working on the web I came across an excellent article in "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" here which covers the pains that legislatures/government bodies across the US are facing with regard to e-scooters. This issue is also something bicycle advocates are taking umbrage with since government wants to lump the scooters in with bicycles and electric powered bicycles to streamline bills and policy.

There are some great quotes dealing with "what is easier and cheaper" for the masses. Also- read the comments. (Normally I wouldn't suggest this), because there are some excellent views being shared here.

While my take is that this issue will be most felt in larger urban/metropolitan areas in places with better weather for most of the year, it does point up other reasons why the bicycle industry's reliance on HPC (e-bikes) to "save" the industry is a short sighted vision and ultimately will not work in the US marketplace. 


Rydn9ers said...

I loathe entering any cycling event that requires a UCI license anymore, while I'm not for a governing body for gravel racing it's nice to see someone other than the UCI leading that charge. I do question where the 5 year statistics are coming from for Europe or how accurate they might be. There may be a larger segment of folks on e-bikes both here and in Europe in 5 years but they are pretty pricey currently and unless that changes I don't see them totally replacing the standard bicycle. I know that most of the readers of this Blog probably paid more than $1000 for their last bicycle but I still think that most people riding bicycles are spending less than that on a bike. That factor alone puts any e-bike well out of the average cyclists financial means even if they like the concept.

Doug M. said...

I did some trail work with a local club last weekend, and to my surprise about 1/4 of the crew had eMTBs on their racks. Not many people ride trails here, but it's growing and we're building more sanctioned trails. The etiquette issues are working themselves out, I suppose.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers- Europe is a decidedly different market than here. I agree on your points about the level of acceptance for e-bikes here. The prices- at least for the LBS distributed brands- needs to come WAY down.

On-line vendors, according to a recent report in the industry, are accounting for half, and maybe significantly more than that, of US e-bike (HPC) sales. The shop where I work just took in a repair on one of these types of bikes. According to its owner, it is fully throttle, top speed of 27mph. Interesting to note that, and the fact that it weighs well in excess of 50lbs. But these are the types of motorized vehicles that look like bicycles people here are buying.

Anyway, European cycling is on its own course and what they do is never really reflected in the US market to a degree that is significant.

teamdarb said...

I think that the only bikes which ought to be assisted are niche or specialty rigs. Tricycles, work-alongs, cargo, velomobiles, and trucks are where this should fall. Can we E bike a UniCycle or wheelchair?? No idea. Wait a minute, an assisted mid-drive wheelchair?? Is that a thing?I like the idea of an E-bike race league, but I do not understand why they would limit the speed. Is the point of the competition to focus on the technology i.e. battery performance and tech durability/integration. I agree the term "E-Bike" needs to be dropped. They are mopeds. As my father used to say, "The difference of a moped and motorcycle is one is powered by an armature and the other an engine".

Greg said...

Couldn't agree more. These are electric mopeds.

baric said...

One thing not mentioned much is how hard motorized two or four wheelers are on single tracks or any other dirt road or trail especially wet and muddy ones, even to the point of quickly rutting and destroying them to the point of making them completely and permanently unrideable, even unwalkabe by anyone. There is a reason you see
NO MOTORIZED VEHICLE ALLOWED signs posted at the entrance to many trailheads.
Most national parks don't even allow pedal power on their trails, which is kind of a bummer, but I do understand it.

MTBer said...

I recently started riding a E-MTB class 1 to better uderstand them. I am an avid mountain biker which rides almost daily and have many years of cycling experience. I had a lot of questions myself and wanted to experience what it would be like to ride one of these offload.
There are three classifications for e bikes.
The three classes are defined as follows:

Class 1: eBikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.
Class 2: eBikes that also have a maximum speed of 20 mph, but are throttle-assisted.------(MOPED)--------
Class 3: eBikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph.

All classes limit the motor’s power to 1 horsepower (750W).

Class 1 and 2 are most commonly found and sold at bicycle shops and are considered bicycles . Class 2 which assist riders up to 28 miles an hour may have restrictions at parks or rail trails. Class 1 assist riders up to 20 miles an hour. Both class 1 and 2 don't have throttles riders still have to pedal/shift gears the assist just gives the rider a little extra boost. Most e-motors have four assist modes depending on how much assist you may need.
I'm using a class 1. Twisty rolling singletrack I didn't notice much of a diffrence in speed between my non assisted mtb where the it becomes noticeable is climbing. On rolling single track where a short climb may come up robbing momentum the e assist maintains your momentum which is pretty neat/fun.
As for trail wear I didn't experience any difference between an e and non e mtb. E-MTB's can't "BRAP" and don't have high enough torque to turn up soil.
Back in the day attending meetings for trail access for mountain bikers many argued mountain bikes were harmful and destructive to the trails. I ask please consider carefully your arguments against e-mountain bikes(Class 1) ) we might align ourselves with those who argued that mountain bikes eroded trails. When the air clears with facts to back that class 1 e-mtbs and non e-mtb's have the same impact on trails we don't want the opponenets of mountain bikers to come back to say "see even the mountain bikers say that they cause trail damage. It's just a different way to pedal. Ride on and have fun!!

Guitar Ted said...

@MTBer- Thanks for your comment and for the lesson on HPC

I think we're all VERY familiar with the "Class" system for these motorized vehicles. I cannot think of an advocate for them that has commented here that has not brought that up. Interesting...... Anyway....

Look, I'm getting pretty glazed over by that "classed vehicle" thing because in my experience at the shop where I work, "class 1,2,or 3" is NOT a thing. Sure, it's a "law". Whatever. Most motorized bikes we see are completely throttle controlled and the latest brought in, a B-Rad, is one such vehicle with a top speed of, (owner claimed) 28mph and the thing weighs at least 50lbs.

Also, it's common knowledge that electric motors have higher torque output instantly upon power up than any gas motor does. More than a human can generate. So, if these bikes are out there,being sold or modded to bypass the pedals, then what? I don't think anyone knows for certain what is going on out there, but judging from my observations, I willing to bet there is a high probability that certain individuals have such machines and are using them.

Mountain biker access to trails was never an issue grappled with because ALL users were abusing their privileges. It's always been a problem because a few people ruin it for everyone. I get that maybe your HPC mountain going two wheeled rig isn't tearing up the trail, but it only takes one that is.

To sum up, one example, or even 20, of "decent usage" examples doesn't mean we shouldn't take a hard look at trail damage possibilities from heavier, higher torque, higher braking pressure vehicles like motorized mtbs. Also- the "law", so-called, for classed motorized vehicles with pedals is certainly not effective, and as far as I know, is not being enforced. In fact, I wonder if it is enforceable at all.

baric said...

Saw a video a couple of years ago of a "modified" electric assist mountain bike built by a small Colorado bike builder and they were out on the trail demonstrating it. Really a very nice build. It had a top speed of somewhere around 40 M.P.H. and it was a TORQUE MONSTER. I am sure from what I saw, that bicycle was just as capable of "TEARING UP" a trail as much as any gas powered motocross or enduro motorcycle could under the right circumstances. At the time there was also a petitioning and court case by maintainers of the Colorado bike trails to [..hate this word..] BAN these particular "bicycles" from said trails and also have them classified as motor vehicles. Never ever heard or saw what happened with that petition/court case though.