Body of research dispelling electric bike “cheating” myth grows

Further credence has been added to the notion that electric bike users are getting similar levels of exercise to that of pedal powered cyclists with the release of another study on the subject.

Researchers at Brigham Young University, UT, took their study off road comparing regular mountain bikes with assisted units and measuring rider output via heart rate monitors.

33 regular MTB riders riders aged 18 to 65 formed the pool, with each participant tracked via Strava over a six-mile loop of hilly terrain. 700 feet of elevation gain was included, as well as a mile of 5% grade climbing.

The like-for-like challenge had riders complete a loop on both a pedal-powered machine and an electric mountain bike.

While some results – such as an average 12-minute faster completion of the route – were unsurprising, others make interesting reading to further dispel the notion that riders are”cheating”.

Aboard the electric bikes average heart rates were just ten beats per minute below those using entirely their own steam, who registered an average of 155 bpm. At 145 bpm the electric bike users are falling well within the range of “vigorous intensity” of workout, something that the researchers say makes the two readings negligible in beneficiary difference. For further context, the lower reading is still 94% of the higher.

What’s perhaps more significant is that, when asked, users of the electric bike generally had a perception that they had not exerted quite as heavily as they had. Users with assistance generally cruised at 4mph faster too, lending weight to the often reported extra distance covered when taking out an electric bicycle.

Having tried one, the authors of the study also gauged the user’s acceptance of an electric bike pre and post ride. It was discovered that 61% became more accepting of eMTBs having experience the assistance technology.

The study echoes previous researcher’s findings:

  • a 10,000 strong study of Europeans found that in usage terms pedal assisted riders reported significantly longer trip distances for both e-Bike (9.4 km) and bicycle trips (8.4 km) compared to cyclists for bicycle trips (4.8 km), as well as longer daily travel distances for e-Bike than cyclists for bicycle (8.0 vs. 5.3 km per person, per day, respectively).
  • Colorado researchers found notable improvements in cardiovascular health of participants using electric bikes.
  • A Norwegian study discovered that electric bike users experience physical exertion over 95% of their typical journey and that e-Bike riders used 51% of lung capacity compared to pedal cyclists’ 58%.