Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

e-Bikes. Mechanical doping?

Posted by Matt | June 9, 2010 | 14 comments so far

The recent controversy over Fabian Cancellara’s alleged use of an electric motor in the Paris-Roubaix has got me thinking about the whole subject of e-Bikes. Barely a week goes by without large scale manufacturers announcing new and innovative plans to build electric bikes so it seems inevitable that at some point this technology will crossover from commuting to recreational and sports use.

The question is, do we want it?

Cancellara’s rivals claim that the Paris-Roubaix rider had electrical assistance for his sprint work in the form of an electric motor hidden in the seat-tube delivering additional drive to the bottom bracket.

Far fetched as this may seem in the weight conscious world of Pro cycling, where carrying an extra pound or two of largely dead weight for much of the ride would be seen as suicide, the claims persist. Mechanical doping it’s called but it remains to be seen who the dopes really are. You can read a decent argument against it on the BikeHugger site.

The basic technology though is pretty simple. An external battery and some additional pedalling assistance for when things are really hurting. I think we can all imagine times when that would be helpful; and let’s not overlook the unpalatable truth of the years catching up on us (eventually). Would it allow us to enjoy our hobby for longer?

Is that something we want to see permeate our weekend warrior efforts? Would you be upset if your best efforts were undermined by someone turning up and leaving you in the dust through mechanical assistance? Or is it just an extension of the ‘more money buys more performance’ trend that’s been apparent for years? Is it just, well, cheating?

I can’t say I’m particularly taken by the idea of what would be effectively electric scooters clogging up our trails, they’re bad enough (and dangerous enough) round the shops these days!

Even so, like it or not, electric bikes are being pushed very heavily as companies try desperately for a quick wipe with the cooling moistness of the Eco/Green flannel. Where do we go from here?

Filed under Mutterings, Trends in June 2010


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 14 comments on ‘e-Bikes. Mechanical doping?’

We love to get comments from our readers - if you've spent a few moments to comment, thank-you.

If you haven't had a chance yet, jump to our comments form if you have something to say.

  1. kc says:

    As far as the use of such devices in series where they are prohibited I am dead against them; where the series permits the use then I guess I am ambivalent.

    As for more general use on our trails; if it allows some less able guys to take part in our sport then OK, (Grumpy Mode On) but the thought of slogging up Macphersons with a lardy bloke in front whistling as he thumbs the turbo button on his noise polluting electric assist motor peas me off arghh!! (Grumpy Mode Off)

  2. paul901 says:

    It’s a multi-sided one for sure. A family member who can’t otherwise cycle properly might get to join in the leisurely peddle around Bushy Park or similar. Maybe it helps more people out of cars so less traffic for us on the road. hat would help roadies and air pollution in general.

    I would be against it for enthusiast cycling though. Once you start pressing that button you will do it more and more when you should be learning to get up those hills and there is no short cut to it. I can now ride Coldharbour Lane, Ranmore Road, Ranmore Common Road and Combe Lane. Its only miles and pain which will add Crocknorth Road, Whitedown and Pebble Hill. These are my diet to get better at hills and work towards the equivalent off-road hills you guys tackle and that I try and follow you up.

    For commuting though, I like the idea of basically an electric lightweight moped that you can peddle without breaking into a sweat. Some work colleagues who smelt terrible and left a pile of also-smelling cycling clothes at work each day could have benefited from it!

  3. StevenD says:

    Last week in Holland there were many people riding electric assist bikes, but they were all 70+ and riding on tarmac.

    It was strange to use a tarmac cycle path in a nature reserve between forests, in the ‘middle of nowhere’, and suddenly come across of a group of c20 old timers on their bikes. I was gobsmacked until I looked more carefully at their rear hubs.

    If it enables people to stay on their bikes then I think it is a good thing, but in my youthful 50s – electric assist is for wimps. LOL.

  4. D'AndyC says:

    If you’re racing, it’s cheating. Easy to spot (with current technology) in a professional peloton, I would imagine, by simply weighing the bike and carefully checking those that are 1-2kg heavier than the rest.

    If it suddenly leads to a doubling of numbers out on our favourite trails as previously incapable riders suddenly develop a capability to tackle the hills, then I would be protesting that they should be classed as motorcycles!

    I suspect that the reality is as our sport involves technical descents and riding in filthy winter conditions, not just climbing steep hills in the dry, then a slight easing of the pain of a steep climb is not likely to lead to a surge in numbers on our favourite trails.

    There will be more of them on the towpaths and gentler cyclepaths, which I don’t have an issue with. I also suspect that older, experienced riders may start using them so that they can continue to enjoy the trails that they have come to know and love, but who are finding that physically the challenge is becoming a losing struggle.

    Mine’s on order then!

  5. Dave says:

    I agree, this would be easy to spot with our riders. You’d notice someone appear from the back and be next to you on longer rides. Someone might start riding from home rather than driving to the car park for example and seem remarkably fresh.


  6. D'AndyC says:

    I guess the giveaway is the lardy gut and spindly legs that couldn’t possibly manage that sort of performance without mechanical assistance.

    Luckily for me my six-pack and teak-hard thighs outwardly show where the power comes from!

  7. Matt says:

    Of course, some people seem to take the whole ‘mechanical doping’ idea quite literally…

    A hybrid scooter and push bike - but NOT a moped!

    From the BikeSnob NYC

  8. paul901 says:

    Urrgghh, that is hideous. How can anyone ruin a bike like that with a badly colour-matched saddle 🙂

  9. Bazza says:

    Interesting it does remind me of the orange 5s!….. and talking about discreet battery motors, I have suspicians about Tony’s Alfine gear hub!… me thinks he might have Cancellara’s trickery pokery thing in there

  10. Paul says:

    Hmmm…my brakes do smell a bit sometimes, especially when they pickup some ‘erb along the trail…

    I think most people will take a mechanical advantage given half a chance/money, and clearly many do – lighter bike, performance parts etc but that’s improving the bikes ability not your own so doesn’t impress when you go better. Recreationally I don’t mind, its rarely a level field anyway and if you’re too fast or slow for the group the chances are you’ll be on your own ride anyway

    However if its a race and allowed – I’ll have a supersport engine bolted on mine please. As blatent as you like, same for everyone, or its not really a race.

    If you hide it, you’re ashamed of it!

  11. tony says:

    Barrie you scoundrel. What are you insinuating? You know that my Alfine hub meerly contains lead ballast, it’s far too heavy for a motor.

    Cancellara didn’t have a electric motor (those jealous Belgians) he had a rocket up his arsenal. A 20Kw electric motor wouldn’t have propelled him at that speed over Paris-Roubaix. I know I’ve done the whole 265km 3 times on my electric bike…….I mean road bike.

  12. Bazza says:

    Hey tony no need to plug!.. your new bike man. Besides all the skulduggery that’s going on, with the amount of braking we do at times, maybe there’s a KERS system the Bookham geniuses could develop

  13. Muddymoles says:

    e-MTB: Battery powered Mountain Bikes

    The market in ebikes is growing fast with the mountain bike world catching on to battery powered bikes – e-MTB!

  14. Related: e-MTB: Battery powered Mountain Bikes | News, 2010 | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Leave a comment…

Have your say – we'd love to hear what you think.

If you have something to add, just complete this comment form (we will not publish your email address).

*Required information.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.