Hidden Motors In The Pro Cycling Peloton

Professional cycling has had to work hard to clean up its image, particularly since Lance Armstrong admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs during his Tour de France successes. You might argue that the sport hasn’t recovered from that, since a huge amount of cynicism is still observable online and in the press after any extraordinary cycling performance.

Apart from administrative failures, it appears to the neutral spectator that cycling has cleaned up its act in terms of doping. However, there is still controversy surrounding possible use of electric motors in racing bikes. This was amplified in 2016 when a motor was found concealed in the bike of a Belgian cyclo-cross racing cyclist.

Several unsubstantiated claims have pointed to supposed evidence of concealed motors in the professional cycling circuit. For example, there was a wheel that appeared to spin too long of its own accord after a crash in the Vuelta a España one year. Then, a French TV station and Italian newspaper joined forces to produce some secret thermal camera footage, which was claimed to reveal hidden motors during two Italian races. While these accusations don’t do much to settle the sport, they do draw attention to the benefits of riding a motor-assisted bike.

Extra Power

Compared to the average cyclist, professional cyclists generate a huge, almost unbelievable amount of power. This is partly down to intensive training and partly luck of the draw—genetic makeup. The power a cyclist generates is measured in watts. An average cyclist rides with a power output of about 80-100 watts up to approximately 200 watts depending on his/her condition and weight.

Now, imagine if a hidden motor in a bicycle gave you an extra 250 watts of performance, which some do. That would make the performance of a moderately fit rider akin to that of a pro cyclist, at least until the battery expired. Professional cyclists that maintain 400 watts for, say, half an hour or more win stages and races. It’s easy to see, then, how even a minor boost in wattage would give a pro-level rider a huge advantage over rivals.