Why electric bikes actually give more exercise than pedal bikes

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Believe it or not, electric bikes offer more exercise than pedal bikes on average. That fact might sound strange (and has been known to let the steam out of some fitness riders’ lycra outfits), but the science is clear. Now let’s talk about the “how” and “why”.

Study after study have shown that people who ride e-bikes get more exercise than those who ride pedal bikes.

That finding grinds the gears of traditional cyclists who seem to hold an “us vs them” attitude in cycling, but it’s a result that has been repeatedly demonstrated across many different countries and cultures.

When you actually break down the reasons for that surprising finding though, it actually makes a lot of sense.

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E-bike riders generally ride longer

Electric bikes, which include a motor and battery to assist the rider, tend to rack up more miles.

On average, studies have found that e-bike riders typically ride for longer periods of time than pedal bike riders. Not only do they log more hours, but they log a lot more miles, too. Even though they’re getting some pedal assist, they’re still doing a lot of pedaling – and in fact a lot more.

A major contributing factor comes down to the fact that the electric motor takes some of the pain out of the harder parts of cycling, namely hill climbs and tough starts.

Researchers have discovered that when riders find it less grueling, they tend to go on longer rides. A 2019 study of over 10,000 adults across seven countries found that the Metabolic Equivalent Task minutes per week was measurably higher for electric bike riders than for pedal bike riders.

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Another reason for those longer rides comes down to the perceived enjoyment of e-bikes over pedal bikes.

Researchers have consistently found that e-bike riders tend to report that riding an electric bike is more enjoyable. When the activity is more fun, it leads to more time spent participating in the activity. In the case of riding a pedal assist e-bike, that means more time spent pedaling and exercising.

As a 2021 study found:

“Positive perceptions toward e-bike riding occurred in most participants, and qualitative analyses included perceptions of commuting with an e-bike as “easier” and “fun,” among other positive terms.”

Of course, riders who use a throttle-enabled electric bike won’t reap the same level of benefits as pedal assist e-bikes that still require pedaling, though the outdoor benefits are still measurable even when using a throttle.

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E-bike riders tend to use their bikes more often

Studies have also found that electric bike riders tend to ride more consistently. For many riders, their e-bike has become a daily driver type of vehicle, replacing a car for a main commute or for daily errands.

For others, e-bikes are purely recreational devices but their increased enjoyment means that riders take them out of the garage more often than pedal bikes.

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Tough terrain is easier on an electric bike

Electric bike riders who take to trails will often attempt more arduous climbs than they would on a pedal bike.

Many pedal bike riders opt to take a chair lift to the top of mountain bike trails, while e-bike riders often use their motors to help them make the challenging climb back up on their own two wheels.

The motor in an electric bike certainly handles some of the power required to climb back up to the top of mountain bike trails, and it means that e-bike riders aren’t getting the full benefit of climbing purely on muscle power, but they are receiving much more exercise than those riders sitting on the chair lifts.

Even on fairly relaxed networks of nature trails, e-bike riders will often seek out more technical terrain with more inclines than they would have on a pedal bike, further increasing their exercise in comparison.

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All of this is to say that the misconception that electric bikes don’t offer exercise is long outdated. Not only do scientific studies show how much more exercise electric bike riders receive, but anyone who has ever ridden an e-bike can attest to how engaging they are.

Riders regularly stay out longer and spend more time on their e-bikes before rolling back in due to the fun of cruising around on an electric bike.

If that sounds like something you’d love to try, we’ve got a complete list of the best electric bikes out there. But whatever e-bike you ride, or even a pedal bike, you can’t go wrong on two wheels! It’s one of the best ways to have fun and get exercise at the same time!

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