It’s been one year and one day since Portland hosted its last sanctioned, competitive cycling event. In many ways, 2020 was a lost season for local racers, but 2021 will look a lot different — not only because we are likely to emerge from the Covid cocoon, but because electric bikes will be welcomed into the racing scene for the first time.
In a statement today, Oregon Bicycle Racing Association Executive Director Chuck Kenlan announced that the 2021 season is already coming into focus. Weekly racing is slated to re-start in April and May’s schedule is filling up. “We are approaching the race season with caution and expect the earlier races to run using modified formats that follow the state guidance for outdoor recreation,” Kenlan shared. “Our plan is to work with promoters to help them make their races as safe as possible and still allow for a fun competition.”
Kenlan also said OBRA’s new liability insurance policy will cover events that include a category for “Class 1” electric bikes.
The surge in electric bike popularity has not been confined to urban utility bikes. A huge growth segment has been high-performance mountain and road bikes that have battery-powered motors small enough to not take away the fun, and large enough to make riding even more fun for more people.
“There are many folks that would never try racing, but if e-bikes are offered, they might consider it.”
— Clint Culpepper, race promoter
“Promoters have asked us about this in the past, but up until this year the insurance policy we had viewed e-bikes as motor vehicles,” Kenlan shared in a phone call today.
OBRA is Oregon’s official sanctioning body for bike races. USA Cycling, the national governing body of the sport, created policy to support e-bikes earlier this year. Here’s how they define Class 1 e-bikes:
- No throttle
- Freely operable pedaling system: rear wheel drive train of pedals, crank, chain and gear system.
- 750 watt or less motor (manufacturer’s label of compliance is the minimum standard)
- Motor engages only with pedaling
- Motor assistance cut off at 20 mph (32 kmh)
- Additionally, the following options for e-bikes in regulated competitive events, are allowable: A single battery, Limited start assist (no pedaling) up to 4 mph (6 kmh)
Most of the Class 1 e-bikes on the market that would be used for racing are mountain bikes. Kenlan says they’d only be allowed to race on courses where e-bikes are allowed by land managers. He expects gran fondos and gravel events to see the most interest initially.
Clint Culpepper is the owner/promoter behind the PDX Trophy Cup, a series of cyclocross races at Portland International Raceway. “It was inevitable e-bikes would move from recreation and transportation into competition,” he shared with me today. He’s excited about how e-bikes can broaden the appeal of competitive cycling. “There are many folks that would never try racing, but if e-bikes are offered, they might consider it… I’m stoked to see anybody doing anything related to bikes they wouldn’t do otherwise.”
Kenlan agrees. “I personally know a few people who ride e-bikes because of health issues and if the right event was offered, they’d jump at the chance to sign up.”
Kenlan says OBRA is working with a team of race officials and industry professionals to write a specific set of rules and policies for Oregon races. So far there are no e-bike events on the OBRA calendar, but that’s likely to change in the coming months.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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Fixies still aren’t allowed though. Probably cause old white men with money don’t ride them.
Wow, smear much?
Fixies are allowed. Just like e-bikes, they can’t be used with other types of bikes. But if a promoter wants to create a fixie category, they are absolutely allowed to do that under the current racing rules.
They still must have brakes, so not really…. fixie purists would disagree.
What’s wrong with brakes?
Ya they are. Monday PIR, Red Line Crit, the Twilight crit series in Eugene all had fixed gear categories in 2019. Plus you can run a fixed gear in any TT as long as it has a front brake.
Or maybe because both fixie riders willing to pay race fees don’t make for a worthwhile category given time constraints.
You can race your fixed gear bike without a handbrake at the OBRA sanctioned Alpenrose Velodrome.
I used to be fairly die-hard about riding fixed gear on the street without a handbrake until I went to Seattle. With the long, fast hills a front brake became a necessity. When I got back to Portland, I kept the front brake and enjoyed being able to ride faster and brake later. Unless you’re at some MASH or Cadence level of fixed gear riding, a brake on the street is probably a good idea, especially with all the idiots driving cars badly in Portland.
Yours sincerely, an old white man with very little money and a limited amount of knee-cartilage 😀
It’s not a bicycle. It’s not racing either. Yep, I will call out a moped every time. Thankful that I have my own motor.
This isn’t bike racing at all. It’s a travesty.
Aye. Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing gears, hydraulics, and pneumatic tires. Were will it end?
E bike enduro racing is a already a respected and legitimate form of racing(E bike EWS). The riders downhill skills are primarily what determines the outcome of the race, and the motors just help them get to the top of the course. This is likely to be the most popular type of e bike racing. It is a bicycle you pedal and it is racing. You sound like a Trump supporters in denial of the election results lol.
The Trump comment was unnecessary.
Why isn’t it racing?
Class 1 and class 3 e-bike will not go anywhere without the rider pedaling. They are more accurately called pedaclec since pedaling is fundamental to motivating the bike. The term “e-bike” is very vague. So, yes, it is a bicycle. Class 2 is more like a motor cycle with backup pedaling if you want. Whereas a moped is pedal start. You didn’t actually pedal a moped as you go.
We used to race mopeds in high school.
I’m rather surprised they also don’t specify the torque allowed. The Giant in the picture has a torque of 50nm, but most bikes these days have 70nm or even 80nm, which give users definite advantages when climbing hills.
Probably because they have a power limit specified. Granted, it’s misstated as a “750 W motor” when they really mean (or should mean) the power supplied to the motor by the controller, not some inherent limit of the motor itself. At speed (i.e., neglecting initial phase current spikes), power is just battery current times battery voltage (P = I*V), and torque is proportional to current times a motor’s torque constant. These torque constants do not vary much between motors with common speed windings. For example, compare any two different motors with similar windings (i.e., motors that produce the same top speeds for a common battery voltage and controller current) on http://www.ebikes.ca/tools/simulator/html — their performance curves end up being almost the same. You increase torque by increasing current allowed through to the motor by the controller, and so you run into a ceiling with a ‘motor power’ limit.
This HAD to happen. It was unstoppable.
As someone who likes to drop in on a race to embarrass myself now and again, I don’t see the point of electric assist racing but that doesn’t mean that I want to take this away from others. Eventually, a new skill and ability set will emerge in this field and it’s about time organizations dealt with it. Who knows, maybe new race formats will emerge and end up being fun for spectators too?
What will be interesting is to see what happens on the moto side of things as they will likely deal with pressure to allow electric motorcycles into their races as well. There are two very different cultures vying for this space.
Perhaps ushering in a new approach to derny racing.
Other than that, I’m hard-pressed to wrap my brain around it.
How is this competition between racers and not their machines?
It’s about selling $600 bikes with $1,800 motors and making huge profits for both the manufacturers and bike shops. Buyers need to justify their overpriced purchases with their skeptical significant others – “it’s for racing, really!” – as they fork out yet more cash.
“How is this competition between racers and not their machines?”
I’m not sure how things are in bike racing, but that question has been asked in triathlons for years. The racer with a $10k bike has a significant advantage over the one with a $5k bike, who has a significant advantage over the one with a $2k bike.
Good luck policing this in down level races. Rest assured that people can and will find a way to get around the restrictions.
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That was my 1st thought E-bikes can be hot-rodded without it being obvious
April Fool’s Day joke, right?
I get the impression many posting critically about this have never done much riding on an e-bike. Lot’s of racing happens above 20mph, at which point you are just pedaling a quite heavy bike under your own power. Throw in the fact that many mountain bike trails have technical features that enforce “speed limits” and I don’t understand the widespread sentiment that this is “cheating”. Yes there are some specific cases when a e-bike will be faster (notice I didn’t say easier), like on a climb but overall it changes the race to just be raced tactically different, it isn’t turned into a motocross race. For example, the emtb world champs are regularly won by elite mountain bike athletes (not motorcycle racers) at average speeds above the motor assist limit.
Personally I have a bigger “purity” bone to pick with cyclists that also do a lot of fossil fuel based activities than also ride bicycles with electric assist.
Like using a car to drive your bike to a bike race?
Yes that is not ideal however understandable given travel distances and specialization of race equipment. Driving across town to a group ride one of my personal dreaded activities, however even this is understandable given few have the time or ability to ride 30miles THEN start the actual enjoyable “ride”. My initial statement was more just about auto/moto hobbies.
This is a good comment, I am spurred to share my “go to” counter argument. If it’s cheating, it is breaking a rule. So, what rule is being broken?
If only someone used an Astro Flight motor.
OBRA is a fantastic organization. I trust them to make decisions that are in the best interest of it. Sea Otter added an e-mtb class around 2016, I believe. I’ve seen some elite class e-mtb race vids and they are pretty fun to watch. I guess I don’t see this as that big of a deal worth getting worked up about. Race what you want.
Cancelled for your health
Less Barstow to Vegas, more motorized wheelchairs for disabled elderly. Everyone gets a trophy. Typical entertainment in “the city” .
Glad to see OBRA is finally going to allow E-bikes as a lot of people with disabilities can compete now.
Why not let them have their own category? Feel like OBRA has a lot of categories, this one may bring some new people that’d have a blast.
I’m curious where they will fit into the racing picture. Interesting that Chuck thinks they’ll be adopted in fondos and gravel. Which is actually where I worry a bit more about them. But if they max out at 20mph I think it’d get sorted out pretty quick. I’ve ridden a class 1 on the streets, and it was pretty easy to hit the motor cut off if there was a slight downhill. Maybe eBikes will get a separate XC or CX category.
“Kenlan also said OBRA’s new liability insurance policy will cover events that include a category for “Class 1” electric bikes.”
Sounds like there is an E-bike category in the plans. I can’t imagine they would win many fans by letting an e-bike line up with the cat-5s. However I’d probably watch them, since it would be like restrictor plate racing on a road course. Granted, the barriers and runup on CX races would be extra fun as people have to shoulder the e bike for a bit.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is amending its off-road vehicle (ORV) regulations to add a definition for electric bikes (e-bikes) and, where certain criteria are met and an authorized officer expressly determines through a formal decision that e-bikes should be treated the same as non-motorized bicycles, expressly exempt those e-bikes from the definition of ORV. The regulatory change effectuated by this rule has the potential to facilitate increased recreational opportunities for all Americans, especially those with physical limitations, and could encourage additional enjoyment of lands and waters managed by the BLM.
This final rule is effective on December 2, 2020
It’s pretty clear eBikes are only going to become a larger presence in the cycling community. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
I’m all for it if you have a doctors note, but if you are able-bodied why ride an e-bike? The reason I was drawn to cycling in the first place was how pure it was, easy to maintain, without complications, healthy etc. I’m all for e-bikes as a commuter tool for those who don’t want to shower upon arriving to work… but restricted to 15mph and 10mph on hills (witnessed some serious wreckless e-passing). Another fragmented story I will tell is that of the e-cargo bike renter who “rode” their heavy cargo bike to the top of tabor and then had a horrible accident due to brake failure on the descent. These tools give access, but we need to consider the hazards associated with that access. There is a place for these gismos, but we need to consider what need they are meeting rather than want.
I’m all for it if you have a doctor’s note, but if you are able-bodied why drive a car?