It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. In Europe, where the e-bike market has exploded, the European Cycling Union announced that it will create a new racing circuit for e-bikes, including e-road and e-mountain bikes, for the 2019 season. Following suit, the UCI said it will include an electric mountain bike competition in the 2019 World Mountain Bike Championships. Yes, there will be a rainbow jersey awarded to the world’s best off-road e-biker.
In addition to the pedal-assist feature, some e-bikes come with a throttle that engages the motor with the press of a button. These belong to a separate class of e-bike that, obviously, doesn’t offer a pure cycling experience; they’re also illegal in some municipalities. Interestingly, Benjamin says, people who aren’t already “cyclists” tend to gravitate toward throttle bikes at first, but then turn around and choose a pedal-assist for their next purchase.
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E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.