How Cryptocurrency Came into Cycling

By Adam Marsal

Mining cryptocurrency has not traditionally been an activity associated with cycling. However, in 2018, the UK-based bicycle retailer 50cycles has changed it all with their new model, the Toba e-bike. The company founded by Scott Snaith launched a brand new bike that was intended to generate its own cryptocurrency by cycling, and thus stand at the forefront of digital currency technology.

The idea was simple. Instead of making money in business or a regular job (like being a professional cyclist, for example), the bike users were encouraged to spin the cranks to hear the virtual bills rustle. The company claimed that everybody who bought the Toba e-bike could generate “LoyalCoins”, a currency similar to Bitcoin but earned in a reward program at a rate of approximately USD 26.50 per every 1,000 miles people made by riding the bike. The users of the bikes were advised to redeem the tokens in a special shop or trade them on the market for other cryptocurrencies.

Soon after the news was shared by cycling websites, Scott Snaith’s accounts were frozen in two major British banks. The financial institutions stated to take measures because Snaith openly mentioned the word cryptocurrency in the business. What made banks angry about using cryptocurrency? With its decentralized system and peer-to-peer technology, independent currencies have the potential to dismantle a banking system in which a central authority is responsible for decisions that affect the economic fortunes of entire countries.

Scott Snaith himself said that he has become a victim of the high-street banks abusing their power. Despite rumours of the company going to liquidation, the 50cycles company keeps on selling e-bikes online under the slightly modified name with no visible relationships to cryptocurrency these days.

Cryptocurrency by a professional cycling team

Scott Snaith’s story was followed by the US professional Rally Cycling team that announced to become the first cycling team ever to launch its own cryptocurrency. Labelled a breakthrough moment in the history of professional cycling, the team introduced the cryptocurrency WattCoin nine months ago. Even in this case, the cryptocurrency is about to be generated through the simple act of pedalling. Every Wahoo KICKR home trainer can apply to the program and convert watts generated by daily indoor exercise. The WattCoins are not tradable yet but Rally Cycling’s founder Charles Aaron promises they would be soon.

Because the alternative cryptocurrencies are hard to trade for tangible goods in the real world, the Rally Cycling team put up a team-issue Felt AR1 with a full set of a team kit, a helmet and a nutrition package for as low as 50 $WATT. Unfortunately, the team spokesperson did not specify when the campaign was intended to start.

NFT issued by Colnago

Most lately, the non-fungible tokens (NFT) entered the cycling realm too. If you’re a newcomer to the topic, you’d most likely need to know that NFT is a digital work or media associated with reproducible digital files such as photos, videos, and audio guaranteed to be unique. The non-interchangeable unit of data is stored on a digital ledger, and since they could never be copied, the price of the original can be significantly pushed upwards by the interest on the online auctions. For example, the NFT collection of Pokemon characters was sold for 530 million dollars just a few days ago in December 2021.

This year, the Colnago cycling company issued an NFT depicting a 3D rendering of a special edition road bike that doesn’t exist. The design used on the C64 frame is promised to never be produced in reality. The colours used on the frame design refer to the company’s milestone in the history of racing. The token has been sold with full validation on Bitcoin’s ledger system, for 3.2 wETH tokens which amount to about 6,000 euros. What do you think, is that sum worth having a picture of a virtual bike?