A new study on the effects of riding an electric bike during a simulated commute has found that most people (even those new to cycling) can complete a journey often faster and with less effort than required with a pedal cycle, but with enough of an elevated heart and breathing rate to build meaningful exercise into the routine.
Countering a common excuse for not cycling – that is both the notion that it will take longer and you will arrive sweaty – researchers at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio found that a three mile commute had been completed on average between 11 and 12 minutes, versus 14 minutes on a pedal only cycle. During this time heart rate monitors tracked both rides with the data later revealing that the electric bike commute qualified as moderate exercise; something that over time the scientists qualify to substantial health and general fitness benefits.
The study does expand to go into detail on the variables between pedal assist modes, adding that on the assistance levels at the top-end of the scale the exercise gained was not substantial enough to make the same health contribution. It is worth bearing in mind that, being a US-based study, the top assistance speed hit 20mph and had substantial torque input. It could, nonetheless, be used as a stepping stone into lower settings and improved exercise.
In calorie terms, the iZip electric bike users averaged in the region of 30% less burn that when they undertook the same ride on a pedal cycle. The range for electric bike users completing the three mile ride ran at between 344 to 422 calories burned per hour, while the pedal powered cycle marginally topped 500. It is reasonable to conclude that most e-bike users are getting around 70% to 80% of the calorie burn benefit.
One of the study’s authors, Dr Helen Alessio concludes that electric bike users stand to discover the greatest health benefits putting to use the lowest setting that they are comfortable with.
Published in the Translational Journal of the American College of Sports medicine, the study is based on 30 inexperienced rider’s aged 19 to 61, each of whom were given a lab based assessment of their fitness prior to the trials and asked about their attitudes to electric bikes. Many raised concerns over safety initially, but were later found to be more relaxed after just a few rides.
The findings align to earlier studies from Europe where metabolic rates have proven similar across both an electric bike and standard cycle commute. One found just a 10% difference in physical exertion, while another concluded that for 95% of the time in the saddle electric bike users were experiencing physical exertion.