Electric bike or eBike sales have steadily increased each year since their release into the mainstream market in the late 1990s. However, with the global pandemic, eBikes have exploded in popularity, even beyond the original predictions of 2020 sales. This is likely due to their versatility and people’s reluctance to take public transportation. Additionally, those looking to start on their health and fitness journey often opt for an eBike over a regular bicycle. So, can you get a workout on an eBike? First, let’s look at what an eBike is and how they work.
An eBike looks very similar to a regular bicycle, just with the addition of an electrical drive system. The system includes a motor, battery and a display screen or controller. The battery powers the motor, which then helps to propel you as you pedal. Unlike an electric scooter, an eBike is meant to help increase human power, not replace it. Each eBike will have a lithium-ion battery and either a crank or hub motor. The crank motor powers the eBike by assisting the pedals for a classic cycle experience whereas a hub motor drives the wheel itself.
By using the handlebar control or display screen, you are able to control the level of electric assistance for your eBike. Some eBikes offer pedal assistance, which means the motor is engaged as you pedal. You simply just adjust the assistance level, from no assistance to the maximum assistance. Other eBikes have a throttle mechanism, either a thumb-press or twist-grip. With this you simply pull back or press the throttle to determine the assistance level. As an added bonus, a throttle mechanism allows you to ride without pedaling.
Many people, especially cyclists will say that it’s cheating to use an eBike. This is largely due to the common misconception of the motor doing all the work for you. However, in 2019, Brigham Young University conducted a health study showing the health benefits of riding eBikes. During the study, participants rode eBikes and mountain bikes over the same course and tracked their heart rates. The results concluded that bikes and eBikes can provide an intense workout and elevate your heart rate for fat burn. In fact, the pedal-assisted eBike almost requires the same amount of physical exertion as a mountain bike. However, many participants said they didn’t feel like they got a good workout, even though the heart rate monitors were showing an increase in their heart rate.
This development is a major breakthrough, as it can help to get those more sedentary individuals off the couch. Having an exercise routine that doesn’t immediately feel like exercise is a great way to encourage a more active lifestyle. As the user gets fitter, they also have the option to turn down the amount of motorized assistance they use. Additionally, eBikes have an additional advantage over regular bikes as you can travel much further, often resulting in a longer workout.
Put simply, yes, you can get a workout on an eBike, however, due to pedal-assist you will likely burn less calories than on a standard bicycle. Whether you like them or not, eBikes are continuing to encourage more people to start cycling and that is definitely a good thing. The key to a good workout with an ebike is to only use the power-assist in a low to moderate fashion and to plan your route so that you perhaps go longer to keep your heart rate elevated over a longer length of time. The good news is that with an ebike you can cover more distance, see more spectacular views, and perhaps tackle some tougher climbs that you were hesitant to before knowing that you have some power-assist to help you.