These days, everyone knows that cycling is one of the most effective types of cardiovascular exercise. And besides that, it provides myriad other benefits — such as strengthening your muscles and bones, burning excess cholesterol, and improving your heartbeat rate. Naturally, all of these contribute to weight loss as well.
But one of the things you’ll often hear in the cycling community is that eBikes aren’t effective for those purposes. However, the reality is entirely different.
First of all, let us put you at ease right away — you can definitely use eBikes to lose weight and get fit. Sure, electric bikes provide some assistance to a rider’s pedaling effort; but that only means you can work out longer if you don’t have the endurance of a cross-country cyclist in the first place.
You can use eBikes longer — and in the long run, you can also burn more calories with it than a traditional bike while incurring only a portion of the same fatigue. There are plenty of other benefits to electric bikes too.
You can use them to travel both faster and further, and use them as a green way to commute if the distance allows it.
Of course, with cycling putting such a heavy focus on performance gains, it’s perfectly natural that some people are skeptical about the effectiveness of eBikes — which is why we’ll get into how you can improve your fitness with an eBike right here!
You Can Push Yourself
The one thing people forget about eBikes is that they're still bikes. In other words, you do the cycling, and you control your own pace. This means you can still give the ride all of you've got and push yourself on an eBike — you'll just go faster and have some assistance when it's really necessary.
If you want something more concrete, research from the Brigham Young University in Utah corroborates this as well. When they tested the heart rate of seasoned mountain bikers on eBikes and ordinary pedal-powered bikes, they found that their effectiveness was astoundingly similar — especially in terms of fitness.
With an electric mountain bike, their test subjects reached a stunning 94% of the heart rate they reached on a non-assisted bike — meaning they got almost the identical level of exercise, with less fatigue.
As you can see, even though eBikes take the top of your ride’s sting, they give you an almost identical level of exertion. And interestingly enough, the riders themselves perceived that their heart rate was much lower because of the assistance; they simply felt less tired.
And if you think that experienced mountain bikers aren't the most representative example, the same group of researchers found a similar level of effectiveness while testing commuters who started using electric bikes as well. The study concluded that eBikes retain most of the cardiovascular health benefits of traditional cycling.
In addition, they found that eBikes could remove or lessen some of the major obstacles to traditional bike use — like physical fatigue, decreased convenience, and longer transportation time. And that’s especially true for people who were using public transport or driving to work before — switching to an eBike is bound to make you fitter.
Another European study came to the same conclusion when they examined the riding patterns among 10,000 cyclists and eBike users across seven different cities. While the physical exertion of eBike users was a tad lower across the board, almost all of them took longer trips — which meant they had the same gains in physical activity.
There’s an important correlation between training duration and improvements in fitness — it’s not all about intensity, seeing as many aerobic benefits are more closely tied to ride duration.
How To Get Fit On An eBike
We’ve already gone over how eBikes can help you get fit. And while we have a more in-depth fitness guide, we’ll also give you a couple of great tips on eBike beginners right here.
Take your time
Remember, the whole point of the eBike is to remove the peak exertion from your ride and help you achieve the same results by going further. However, if you’re not an experienced cyclist or you used to be more fit than you are now — it’s a better idea to start with easier routes and shorter rides.
You need to get a firm grip on what you're currently capable of first before you can be more ambitious. You'll see fitness benefits from shorter, more frequent rides as well — especially in the beginning.
Plan your route
Speaking of routes — if you’re new to the exciting world of cycling, make sure to try out routes that aren’t overly demanding at first. Don’t let the presence of a motor make you cocky — you can still reach your limit on extremely demanding climbs.
With that in mind, you should start on trails or roads that won’t exert you too much. And when you get used to the various levels of assistance your eBike can offer as support, as well as your own physical capacities — you’ll be able to take on something more demanding. Just make sure to gauge your bike and your fitness on low-intensity routes first. And make sure to plan them beforehand!
Progress by lowering assistance levels
As you start using your eBike more and more, you’ll become more confident both in your bike and in your fitness. Once that starts happening, you might want to get a more intense workout out of your rides. If that’s the case, you can do so by reducing the level of assistance provided by the motor.
Realistically, you should be able to handle a moderate hill or a flat road with minimal assistance or with the assistance turned off altogether. Save that support for the hardest uphills — that's how you extend your range most effectively on an eBike.
Leave time for recovery
Most people who start out with an eBike don't realize that some recovery is needed — just like with a regular pedal-powered bike. While you may get less fatigue than you would without any assistance, you're still getting a ton of exercise, meaning that a challenging ride will still tire you out. And seeing as an electric bike will let you ride longer, that's almost guaranteed to happen.
Still, the lower level of effort required for riding eBikes should ensure you need less recovery time — but that number is still not zero. If you plan for recovery on a regular basis, you’ll actually be able to ride more often and improve your long-term fitness quicker.
And remember, above all else, eBike cycling is supposed to be fun! So — go out and enjoy your next ride!