The Tour de France starts on July 4, but bicycles of another kind are on the rise around Europe. While the professional cyclists work their way up the grueling French Alps routes, this year they may find themselves being passed by another demographic: well-heeled men and women leisurely riding up on their electric bicycles.
That e-bikes are growing increasingly popular in Europe is not surprising; after all, they caught on in China as far back as the 1990s. What is unexpected is their sudden popularity with wealthy Europeans.
An e-bike comes with an electric motor that adds an extra speed boost as you pedal. This allows you to easily cruise their way up mountains, or glide to work without breaking a sweat. Sales of the motorized bikes have risen steadily in Germany, Holland, and France—even as sales of the regular, muscle-powered variety have dropped.
Now, a new generation of e-bikes is growing popular among the yacht-owning class. According to a recent report by CNN Money, high-end manufacturers are selling slick, souped-up e-bikes to the wealthy. The founder of Trefecta, one of the new e-bike makers, tells Quartz that his bicycle is different from the norm because of its integrated design. While the typical e-bike company just “took an ordinary bicycle and stuck a motor on it,” Haiko Visser claims Trefecta “had to custom design everything, from the suspensions to the wheels.”
That, he says, is why his cheapest model costs €22,500 ($25,000).
Visser says his bikes are not just toys for the wealthy, but represent an environmentally-friendly alternative to a car. “I don’t expect all owners to give up having a car, but I think that there are many situations where you can use the bike,” he says. Bikes are obviously easier to use in urban areas, and often require no parking fees.
That’s also the vision of Armin Oberhollenzer, the founder of the e-bike maker Leaos. In an email to Quartz, he writes that “if you want to change urban mobility, it does not work with the zero carbon footprint argument but with a stylish and emotional product.”
You be the judge: