If You Ride an eBike is it Cheating?

There’s a common public perception that electric bicycles (e-bikes) fall into the realm of exercise “cheating.” This perception is wrong from a cardiovascular perspective. Many road and mountain bike riders scoff at the notion e bikes have a place in their world.

Researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study of riders between the ages of 18 and 65 using mountain bikes on a six mile rolling single track course. What they found was that the heart rate of eBike riders was about 94% of those on a traditional bike. Both were in the range of “vigorous” exercise.

This has amazing implications for encouraging non exercisers off the couch onto an e-bike. The cardio benefits are tremendous. Riding an eBike “seems” easier and the barrier against getting started is much lower.

This is largely a “perception” issue. Traditional cyclists perceive eBikes as lacking authenticity as “real” cycling and don’t feel they are getting the same heart rate workout when, in fact, they are probably extremely close to the same. At the same time, actual eBike users “perceive” they are not working as hard when they are actually putting out much more effort from a cardiovascular perspective. Of course, our hearts don’t know the difference.

Many eBike riders will tell you they ride much further and for longer periods of time once they get an eBike. Of course, more riding means more cardiovascular benefits. A win-win.

Another interesting finding from the BYU study was that the eBike users were, on average, 4 mph faster than traditional riders. This has some pretty interesting implications and most likely feeds into the notion of those who use them as cheating. The most likely problem area is when someone is suddenly 4 or more mph faster without having the skill or experience earned from working up to those speeds on a traditional bicycle. This will have to be addressed on the club level as eBikes become more main stream, which they will certainly become.

On balance, Jim is a proponent of eBikes. Not only are they fun to ride; they have the potential to revolutionize cycling and make it very much a part of the personal transportation mix. They are encouraging non-exercisers into a much healthier lifestyle and are allowing many to experience this wonderful sport after injury or simply due to slowing down with the passage of time.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.
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