Double the fun with half the suffering -
is still a great workout
New study shows that eBikes deliver comparable benefits to regular bikes - opening up fitness opportunities for more people.
There’s something that feels right about the burn in your thighs as you climb winding singletrack through the forest. You’re earning that hill, you’re getting fit, those thighs are getting stronger.
There’s no way an eBike could tick those boxes…
Well that’s what most of us thought - until a surprising new study was released from three Brigham Young University (BYU) public health professors. They found eBikes can provide essentially the same level of workout as conventional bikes.
BYU’s Cougar Hall, Josh West and Ben Crookston pitted e-mountain bikes versus regular mountain bikes on a 9.6km (6 mile) test loop and found users reached the upper-half of the vigorous intensity zone for target heart rate on both the e-mountain bikes and the conventional mountain bikes.
The study revealed that participants didn't feel riding the eBikes was physically taxing, even though they were exercising at nearly the exact same physical intensity. According to recorded heart-rate data, the average heart rate on an e-mountain bike was 94 percent of the average heart rate for a conventional mountain bike.
"This study helps adjust the mindset a lot of riders have that they are cheating themselves or their fitness if they jump on an eBike.
It’s also encouraging for a large portion of active mountain bike considerers, who would love to go for a ride, but don’t feel fit enough to enjoy it on a conventional bike.
Those feeling intimidated about riding, can be confident that they can enjoy an eBike ride without unnecessarily struggling, while still getting a good workout - they can also keep up with any fitter mates, making for more inclusive fun riding,"
said Bosch AU/NZ eBike marketing manager Andy Pike.
Hall, West and Crookston, avid mountain bikers themselves, recruited 33 amateur cyclists for the study, fitted them with Polar H10 heart rate monitors and Apple Watches (using the fitness tracking app Strava), and then set them out on a 9.6km (6 mile) loop on either a conventional or electric mountain bike. The study loop included approximately 200 metres of elevation gain spread throughout the ride, with the most intense climbing section averaging a 5 percent incline over a 1.6km (1 mile) stretch. After finishing the loop, the bikers then rode the loop again on the bike they didn't use the first time.
The test subjects completed the course an average of 12:40 minutes faster using the e-mountain bikes, with an average speed 6.6km/h (4.1mph) faster than the conventional bikes. While the average heart rate for e-bikes was about 10 beats per minute lower (145 for the e-bikes vs. 155 for the conventional bikes), both of those measures reach the threshold of the vigorous intensity zone.
"Those who used e-bikes still had elevated heart rates and enjoyed their experience. I think this is a game changer for those who have found biking too difficult. It makes this important form of exercise accessible to a broader community,"
Crookston said a lot of his friends are skeptical about eBikes, but most of that skepticism goes away once they take a ride. This study's results may also help change perceptions about eBikes for people even before they take them for a spin. Either way, eBikes are on the rise. According to market reports, e-mountain bike sales will represent 30 percent of the mountain biking market by 2020.
"Perhaps the mountain biking community's resistance will work itself out in time. We are at least encouraged from a health promotion standpoint that we now have another tool to promote an active lifestyle,"
Lead author on the study Hall says many of us have perceived barriers about exercise being hard and painful - all we can remember are bad memories from our 8th-grade gym class.
"This study could be a critical catalyst for populations who struggle to exercise. The participants got cardiovascular results, but didn't really feel like they were working out."
The new study also supports previous research by the trio that found e-bikes (not e-mountain bikes) are capable of providing much of the cardiovascular health benefits that conventional bikes provide.
Source: Brigham Young University (BYU): Cougar Hall, Josh West and Ben Crookston.
Study: Pedal-Assist Mountain Bikes: A Pilot Study Comparison of the Exercise Response, Perceptions, and Beliefs of Experienced Mountain Bikers, JMIR Formative Research (2019)