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E-Bike Controversy: World Cycling, Moto Racing Organizations Clash

International Cycling Union officials denounced the International Motorcycling Federation for sanctioning electric mountain bike races and warned of penalties to any rider who took part in them.

It was only a matter of time. As e-bikes continue to grow in popularity, questions over the machines’ DNA inevitably arise: When is an electric bicycle actually a motorcycle?

And last week, the cycling world’s foremost authority on sanctioned bicycle racing took a decisive stand. In a terse press release, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) took exception to the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme’s (FIM) announcement that its motorcycle racing circuit would include popular class-1 pedal-assist e-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 its 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.

UCI: E-Bikes Are Not Motorcycles

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. 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.”

The class-1 pedal-assist e-mountain bikes in question have motors with a max output of 250 watts and do not add any power above 20 mph.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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