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Do Ebikes Actually Provide Exercise Or Are They Cheating?

Is An Electric Bike Considered To Be Exercise?

One hesitation about purchasing an e-bike is the thought that they don’t give you any exercise and it’s cheating. It’s not real cycling. 

Is that true? Do e-bikes provide exercise?

They do! In fact, studies have shown that there’s only a 10% difference in relative effort levels between riding an electric bike and a standard bicycle.

One thing you often hear people say about e-bikes is that the electric bike does all the work and therefore you don’t get any exercise or at least, you never really strain your body enough for it to be counted as exercise. 

A lot of this comes from the belief that e-bikes are similar to scooters or mopeds and that simply isn’t the case. 

I’m perhaps jumping the gun a little bit in saying that because there are electric bicycles out there that don’t require any effort on your part to use them. Though in the UK they face the same restrictions that mopeds face so they aren’t terribly popular. 

As an e-bike does assist you when you’re pedaling, surely you aren’t getting the same amount of exercise you would if you were doing all the work?!

Can You Count Using An E-Bike As Exercise?

It’s a natural thought process, having a motor has to mean that the amount of calories you burn is minimal, right?…it’s certainly a thought I had, though now I’ve discovered that’s not the case. 

Yes, the actual cycling is made easier when the motor is switched on but what you have to factor in is that the cyclist is still using energy to rotate the pedals and engage the motor. 

It gets even more interesting when you look at the studies…

It has been shown that the effort difference between using a traditional bike and an e-bike is actually less than 10%.

A real plus about electric bicycles is that because you can vary the amount of assistance you get from the motor, you can decide how much you want to exert yourself on each ride. 

In fact, studies have shown that there is a huge psychological benefit to using an e-bike. 

Whilst cycling on an electric bike seems less strenuous, you’re actually more likely to go out on your bike more often because it increases your motivation to go out.

As someone who has a road bike and an electric road bike, I can relate to this. Sometimes I fancy cycling to the coffee shop, just to get a bit of exercise in. To get there, there’s quite a hill and it’s a busy road or I can take the less busy road and face a steeper climb. 

It’s far less appealing on my traditional road bike. I know I’m going to end up sweaty and it’s going to be hard work. I know I can do it but motivation is lacking when I just want a coffee.

That’s the serious upside to an electric bike. I’m still going to put some effort in, I’m still going to get some exercise but it doesn’t seem like such hard work so I’m up for it. 

As a result, I end up riding more often than I would if I didn’t own an electric bike so I’m actually getting more exercise in. 

Can You Go More Quickly On An E-Bike?

This is another question that is debated often. A lot of people believe that because an electric bike has a motor that it’s naturally faster than a traditional bike. 

Something which isn’t strictly true.

UK law states that once an e-bike reaches 15.5mph, the motor must cut out, meaning you are left to pedal power alone – just like a conventional cyclist.

15.5mph is a speed that many traditional cyclists achieve, some averaging speeds higher than 20mph. If you want to achieve an average of 20mph on an electric bike, you’re going to have to put the work in, not the motor. 

Having said that, there’s no getting away from the fact that the acceleration on an e-bike is far better than that on a standard bicycle. 

There are certain models out there that even have launch control so you get a nice boost when you start – especially handy when you’re at the traffic lights. 

Whether or not your e-bike has launch control, you’re still going to get off the line more quickly than a standard cyclist but whether you can keep up with them, is possibly going to be down to you!

What Is Cheating About Using An Electric Bike?

Sure, you get a small advantage with acceleration but does that really mean that using an electric bike is cheating?

You could argue that there is some speed advantage as you can get assistance from the motor until you reach 15.5mph but don’t forget, you still have to work and how much you have to work is depending on the setting you choose. 

The key thing to take away from this is that you burn almost the same amount of calories using an electric bike as you do using a standard bike. 

Let’s also not forget that you don’t have to have the motor switched on all the time and you probably won’t. An e-bike is heavy, much heavier than your traditional bikes so you’re actually working harder than your conventional counterpart when you’re using pedal power alone! 

Can E-bikes Replace Cars?

When the alternative is jumping in a car, it’s difficult to say that e-bikes are cheating. 

Studies have shown that electric bikes reduced people taking journeys in their cars. People were choosing to ride an electric bike instead of driving their car 35 – 76% of the time. That’s a whole lot of exercise people wouldn’t be otherwise getting!

What seems to be common is that those who buy e-bikes don’t realise quite how much they will end up using their bikes instead of their cars. 

Another study in 2017 showed that people in the Netherlands were buying e-bikes to replace their conventional bikes but they ended up taking fewer journeys in the car as a result.

So is an E-bike Cheating? – Final Verdict

We’ve looked at the physical benefits and found that e-bikes and traditional bicycles are more similar than most people realise. 

When e-bike users use the pedal assist, they tend to go further so even though they may put in marginally less effort, it balances out as they go further. 

Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how you got out and went for a ride, it’s the fact you got out at all. You didn’t grab your car keys and you got some exercise and really, that’s all that matters.

What are your thoughts? Could you replace your car with an e-bike?

Last Updated on October 5, 2022 by Evan

Evan Medders

Evan Medders

I'm Evan an avid cyclist and bike consultant. Besides my biking, I enjoy being a dad to two, a husband to one. Cycling is a fun and sustainable means of transportation, something not only our planet but also your body craves. We need to stay in physical shape, and keep our Earth in a good condition so we face fewer natural disasters. Biking is our way to see we do our part :)

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