“Can I actually get fit riding an eBike?”
Great question, and the short answer is–absolutely!
Whether you’re an experienced cyclist or just off the couch to start your fitness journey, there are plenty of health benefits–backed by research–to be gained from riding an eBike.
The different types of electric bikes: Throttle Assisted vs Pedal Assisted.
First, let’s cover the basics.
For those who have yet to take a spin on an electric bicycle, there are two different types.
eBikes with motors that work by simply engaging the power are known as “throttle assisted” and they zap along without the need to pedal. Throttle assisted bikes are currently.
On the other hand, the eBikes we’re talking about here are called ”pedal-assisted” – you still need to physically pump the pedals. This engages a small motor which gives you a boost to your pace as you pedal along.
Pedal assisted electric bikes usually have the option for you to increase/decrease the level of assistance provided by the motor.
In Australia, there are regulations around the legal maximum amount of power throttle assisted and pedal-assisted bikes can reach. Refer to the Department of Transport in your state for guidance.
A great starting point for a more active lifestyle.
Electric bikes promote physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.
If an eBike is your first step to getting off the couch and moving more there are plenty of health benefits headed your way.
Researchers in a study at Colorado University1 handed out eBikes to a group of participants with sedentary lifestyles and instructed them to ride for 40 minutes, 3 days a week.
The results? The participants rode more than the minimum required, experienced fat loss, improved their blood sugar levels, and increased fitness in just 1 month.
The fitness benefits of cycling, in general, include increased muscle and bone density, aerobic exercise plus improved balance and coordination.
If you’re recovering from injury, joint pain or age-related stiffness a pedal-assisted electric bike could be a great choice too. It can allow you to exercise outside without the risk of over-taxing your body.
Research says riding an eBike gets your heart pumping.
The idea that choosing a pedal-assisted eBike is a ‘lazy’ option, or that your fitness levels will take a hit if you’re accustomed to regular cycling, isn’t true.
The first-ever study of motor-assisted mountain bikes showed that riders still worked up a sweat on a mountain eBike. The study compared the cardiovascular response of riders using an eBike vs a conventional mountain bike.
The results? Riders heart rates rose to and stayed at almost the same level during both rides.
According to the study, the average heart rate while on the eBike was 94% (31/33) of the average heart rate during conventional mountain bike use.
When it comes to energy exertion another study on eBikes likened the difference between pedalling a normal bike vs an eBike to running vs brisk walking.
You’ll use your eBike more and get more adventurous.
eBikes are super fun and chances are you’ll be motivated to use it more than your regular bike.
You know, the one you haven't ridden in 6 months that’s just collecting dust in the garage!
A survey2 of almost 1,800 eBike owners definitely proved that owning one can increase how often you get out for exercise. 55% of survey respondents said they rode conventional bikes daily or weekly but after getting an eBike, the number jumped to 91% riding daily or weekly.
The mountain bike study mentioned earlier also showed that while riders were engaging in plenty of cardiovascular exercises with the eBike, they said it felt easier than riding a normal mountain bike.
Essentially, the pedal-assist didn’t feel as taxing but they were still getting an awesome cardio workout.
If exercise feels easy and fun we’re more likely to do it, right?
Longer rides and more frequent quick trips all add up to increase the amount of exercise you’re fitting into your day and week.
A trip you might balk at on a conventional bike (and take the car instead) isn’t intimidating at all on an eBike. Meeting friends for Saturday morning coffee at a cafe 20kms away? No problem!
eBikes can also give less experienced riders the confidence to tackle more challenging terrain - like riding in the mountains.
Entry into adventurous biking is less intimidating when you have more control over the intensity that suits you. Over time, challenging yourself with longer or more technical riding will help increase your fitness levels.
eBikes are healthier for you and the planet.
Getting around on your electric bike isn’t only healthy for you it’s also a greener mode of transport compared to jumping in the car.
An electric bike doesn’t produce the carbon emissions a car does so you’re lowering the greenhouse gas impact of your environmental footprint.
The bottom line? From beginners through to regular cyclists, riding eBikes are a great way to increase or maintain fitness levels. It’s fun, social, and gets you out moving in the fresh air - the kind of exercise we all need in our lives!
1Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode
Authors: Associate Professor Rodger Kram, Associate Professor William Byrnes and undergraduate student Kalee Morris, all of the Department of Integrative Physiology at CU Boulder. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2016 Aug;116(8):1565-73. doi: 10.1007/s00421-016-3408-9. Epub 2016 Jun 14.
2A North American Survey of Electric Bicycle Owners
Final report by John MacArthur, Michael Harpool and Daniel Scheppke (Portland State University); Christopher R. Cherry (University of Tennessee) for National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC). March 2018.
Pedal-Assist Mountain Bikes: A Pilot Study Comparison of the Exercise Response, Perceptions, and Beliefs of Experienced Mountain Bikers
Authors: Cougar Hall, Taylor H Hoj, Clark Julian, Geoff Wright, Robert A Chaney, Benjamin Crookston, Joshua West. JMIR Form Res. 2019 Jul-Sep; 3(3): e13643. Published online 2019 Aug 13. doi: 10.2196/13643. PMCID: PMC6711045.
Physical activity when riding an electric assisted bicycle
Authors: Sveinung Berntsen, Lena Malnes, Aleksander Langåker, Elling Bere
Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14: 55. Published online 2017 Apr 26. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0513-z. PMCID: PMC5406898.