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Wheels Roundup: UK Considers More Powerful E-Bikes and Other News

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The Guardian daily reported on Thursday that UK ministers would begin consultations on raising the maximum allowable power of an e-bike motor from 250W to 500W despite concerns by the Bicycle Association, which speaks for the cycling industry. Another plan under consideration would allow e-bikes to be powered by a throttle, like a motorbike. Currently, the rider must use the pedal for the electric motor to kick in.

It is not clear why these changes are under consideration but the newspaper speculates that one could be that the increased power would enable the bikes to carry more cargo. In addition, disabled cyclists would find it easier to use a throttle, rather than start it by pedalling.

However, the Bicycle Association said, in a briefing seen by the Guardian, that 500W non-pedal bikes would be much quicker to accelerate and would require significantly larger batteries, which would make them heavier and therefore more dangerous in crashes.

Fire departments are likely to be concerned about the larger batteries in view of a recent surge of fires involving e-bike and e-scooter batteries. In May of last year, the newspaper reported that fires in faulty e-bikes and scooters injured at least 190 people and killed eight. But the Bicycle Association’s biggest worry may be that raising the wattage would change the e-bike’s category from “not a motorized vehicle” and therefore require registration and licensing of riders. The Bicycle Association said in its briefing that it regarded the e-bike’s current status as “key to its role and potential as a universal mode of transport.”

Cavendish says cycling has radically changed

“You cannot imagine how much cycling has changed” since he started riding professionally in 2006, 38-year-old Mark Cavendish told GCN in a recent interview. “The whole world has changed with information and the things that are available. We raced, and the race was reported on. Now, it’s everything you do” that is reported on.

The Astana Qazaqstan rider added that “pro cycling was a closer community. Everyone knew each other, we all knew we had a similar kind of job and were all in it together. Then the stakes became higher, there was more money involved, and that changes everything in life, doesn’t it?”

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish says cycling has radically changed. © Profimedia

In terms of riding, the unanimously best sprinter ever noted that Team Sky, a former iteration of INEOS Grenadiers, changed the way races were ridden. “Sky came along and instead of it being slow then fast – there were two speeds – there was [now] one constant tempo, and it changed the demographic of riders. You had to be able to sustain a high tempo the whole day.”

The use of technology and data also disrupted the sport, he said. “Science came in, data was […] analyzed, and riders were no longer picked on if they could win races or not; it was on how strong they were,” Cavendish explained. “That changed things a bit then because there were only a couple of riders who could win races, [but] now everyone is strong.”

Cavendish said again that he was “pretty sure” that he will retire after this year, though his qualified answer suggests that he may stick around for another year if he is again unsuccessful in besting the record he currently shares with the great Eddy Merckx’s of 34 Tour de France stage wins.

US cycling team suspended for dressing a mechanic as a rider

Cycling’s ruling body the UCI has suspended a US women’s racing team  Cynisca Cycling for dressing a mechanic as a rider in order to have enough riders to participate in the Argenta Classic. In a statement, the UCI said that the team had appeared at the start of the race with only four riders, instead of the required five. The riders told the head of the Commissaires’ Panel that a fifth rider was present but ill. This was an untrue statement that the riders made at the demand of the team’s sports director, Danny Van Haute, the UCI said.

After being informed that the team could not participate if five riders did not sign the start sheet and did not appear at the start of the race, Van Haute told the team mechanic, Moira Barrett, to wear a rider’s clothes and a face mask, sign the start sheet and present herself at the start.

After the ruse was discovered, all participants were judged to have participated in fraud, according to UCI regulations. Van Haute was suspended until the end of 2025, Barrett was suspended from any cycling activity until September 1 of this year. The team was suspended for one event and fined. The judgment remains subject to an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.