UCI v FIM for eMTB

Is an e-bike still an e-bike when it’s in a race organised by a motorcycling federation? The FIM and UCI are battling in out for the future of e-bike racing.

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Last month we had confirmation that the UCI would be putting on the first ever e-bike World Championships this year.

Last week we had the motorcycle federation FIM announce that they’re are hosting an e-bike World Cup race this year.

And now the UCI have released a press release announcing their surprise and disappointment at this rival series and some tough talk about penalising any racer who competes in any of the FIM e-bike races. UCI classifies FIM races as “banned events”.

The UCI even goes as far as threatening action against racers who compete in rival e-bike races run by the FIM.

UCI: “The UCI wishes to announce that events in domains under its exclusive jurisdiction that are registered on the FIM calendar or those of its member Federations will be considered “banned events” in line with its Regulation. Consequently, any UCI-licensed rider participating in one of these events would risk disciplinary measures.”

The UCI state that they first informed the FIM back in September 2017 that the UCI were going to start up with UCI-sanctioned e-bike events. It seems that the FIM were not overly troubled by the UCI’s intentions and have carried on with their own e-bike racing plans regardless.

What sort of e-bike racing is FIM going to do?

The format of the FIM events is not yet 100% clear. Nor is which pushbike brands are taking part in the FIM races. It seems that motorbike brands are on board first and foremost (Yamaha, Kawasaki, Fantic, Ducati, Husqvarna KTM) with bicycle brands not really yet confirmed.

The 13 minute video at the top of this page of the FIM press conference goes some way to explain things. The first e-bike FIM race will be in Imola (at same time as the motocross grand prix and using the same motocross circuit) and is being cagily talked about as partly a test event almost. There will also be a motocross enduro format e-bike race in France. It sounds like 2020 will see the FIM e-bike racing commence in earnest, when there will be a World Championship Series.

The future for FIM will be “multi-discipline”, which we assume means different types of e-bike. “Production class” bikes will be e-bikes as we’ve come to know them (pedal-assist, 250w motor) and there will be at least one more class; a “more powerful class where you don’t need the pedals that you just pedal when you want to go quicker in the going up [climbing]”, so essentially an unrestricted twist-throttle e-motorbike.

How will this play out?

We don’t know. No one does. One things for sure, it’s the spectators and bike buyers who will decide.

Frankly we’d be surprised if any motocross spectator was overly interested in watching normal pedal-assist/250w e-bike racing. The FIM’s main focus must surely be on electric-engined motocross racing (and bike sales thereof).

Similarly, the UCI e-bike racing is going to be spearheaded and/or steered by pushbike brands wishing to sell normal pedal-assist e-bikes.

Ultimately these two rival e-bike races are arguably not that much in conflict. The FIM e-racing is surely going to be for promoting throttle-operated e-motocross bikes. The UCI e-racing is for promoting e-bikes.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see historically motorcycle brands (KTM, Fantic etc) ditching the UCI in favour of FIM. Similarly, we don’t expect to see pushbike brands (Specialized, Giant etc) hopping into bed with FIM.

The only clear thing here is that things are still too unclear. When it comes to electric two-wheeled machines anyway.

Will someone who buys an e-motocross bike from a Kawasaki dealership understand that it’s not allowed on the same public rights of way as a bicycle? Does the average rambler or indeed motorist know/appreciate/care what is and what isn’t a regular “e-bike”?