Are E-Bikes Cheating? Here’s How They Can Affect Your Hard-Won Fitness (2023)

E-Bikes are here to stay. Not everyone is happy about that. I used to be one of those people. Why? Because of a nagging, if not irrational, concern that e-bikes somehow diminish the currency of my fitness and hard work as a trainer, coach, and athlete.

For those who have yet to hop aboard an electric motor-assisted bicycle, e-bikes are regular bicycles with a battery-powered “pedal assist.” When you saddle up and push the pedals, a small motor engages and gives you a boost, so you can whiz up hills with a loaded backpack and cruise over challenging terrain without gassing yourself. Most e-bikes come with a power switch that lets you adjust the boost setting from “eco” (low) to “turbo” (high). These e-bikes are technically called “pedalecs,” and they feel just like riding a bike, except you feel bionic because the motor assist lets you achieve a far faster pace with far less fitness and hard work.

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It’s that last part that has raised the hackles among those who like to “earn their turns,” so to speak. Because gaining the kind of wattage e-bikes give you with a push of a button takes weeks, months, even years to develop through training alone.

According to Hunter Allen, CEO of Peaks Coaching Group, who tracks this stuff for a living, if you’re already pretty fit, you have to work extremely hard for at least eight weeks to gain another 15 to 30 watts—about the amount needed to power an oven light. And even then, you can’t hang onto that peak forever. The currency of cycling fitness is hard to earn and easy to lose.

Whether we win a podium position, a KOM crown, or a drag race with friends to the ice-cream store, we cyclists feel extra satisfied—maybe even vindicated—because our result took so much dedication.

“The currency of cycling fitness is hard to earn and easy to lose.”

So yeah, I can’t lie: If you push a button and drop me like a safe up a 9-percent grade that I put in 12 hours of training a week for 10 years to be able to ride as fast as I do—well, it feels like I scrimped and saved for a dream vacation only to have the dollar plummet in value as soon as I get to the swim-up bar, which is crowded with hedonistic trust funders waving around bills worth more than mine.

I know, this makes little sense. Nothing changes the fact that I sacrificed and worked damn hard for my fitness. There’s an intrinsic value there that has nothing to do with other people. Yet, I can’t help wondering if someday those of us who favor acoustic bikes will be like modern fixie or single-speed riders, always needing to explain (even to ourselves) that we were only beat because the riders around us were using the latest technology.

Will that degrade the sublimity of that 100-percent empty, endorphin-flooded place—a place I’ve tried hard to find on e-bikes—that you get to when your only throttle is internal? I sincerely hope not. But I don’t know. In fact, nobody does. It’s something we’re all trying to figure out as we ride e-bikes and ride among them.

What I do know is that these battery-assisted bicycles are getting more butts on bikes, and that’s a good thing. Electric bike sales jumped by an incredible 95 percent between July 2016 and July 2017 alone, according to the market research firm NPD Group. It’s a nearly $65 million industry, and there’s no sign of a slowdown.

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Are E-Bikes Cheating? Here’s How They Can Affect Your Hard-Won Fitness (2)

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Are E-Bikes Cheating? Here’s How They Can Affect Your Hard-Won Fitness (3)

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We rodeour favoritelocal roads—and safely sat in group rides—with this smooth-sailing machine.

And yes, despite the critics that proclaim e-biking is “cheating,” e-bikes do count as exercise and may help even the fit get fitter. Skeptical? Consider this:

Riding an e-bike still gets your heart rate up.

Research comparing the energy used to pedal a plain bicycle versus an e-bike have found that the difference is similar to running versus brisk walking. Riding a regular bike is generally considered vigorous exercise—burning about 430 to 560 calories per hour for a 150-pound person, assuming you’re going at least 10 to 14 mph. Not surprisingly, riding a pedal-assist e-bike, takes about half the amount of energy—about 280 calories an hour for that same 150-pound rider—the equivalent calorie burn of brisk walking. Depending how hard you ride, whether you’re carrying a load, and/or what power setting you use (low or economy settings require more human energy than high or turbo), you could burn up to 390 calories per hour.

In this head-to-head comparison of my five-mile roundtrip commute to and from the Bicycling office, my relative effort was much lower on an e-bike ridden in its two highest settings, but the calorie burn was equivalent to walking, definitely higher than driving, and absolutely still exercise. And if I wanted more exercise, I could have set the pedal assist to a lower setting.

Are E-Bikes Cheating? Here’s How They Can Affect Your Hard-Won Fitness (4)

E-bike riders ride more.

Getting an e-bike can dramatically increase how often you ride, according to a recent survey of nearly 1,800 e-bike owners in North America. Before owning an e-bike, 55 percent of the respondents said they rode daily or weekly. After getting an e-bike, that number soared to 91 percent riding daily or weekly. More striking, 94 percent of non-cyclists rode daily or weekly after getting an e-bike—nearly every single one of them!

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For many e-bike owners, their e-bike doesn't replace their traditional bike; it replaces their car. That same e-bike survey found that owners replaced 46 percent of their car commutes and 30 percent of their driving errands with e-bike rides. All you need is a great commuter bag to carry your stuff, and you’re set. Nobody’s fitness is devalued by that.

E-bike riding delivers health benefits.

If you’re straight off the couch, the health gains of e-biking are significant. In one study, when Colorado University researchers gave otherwise inactive people e-bikes and told them to to ride a minimum of 40 minutes a day, three days a week, the volunteers willingly rode beyond the minimum, boosted their fitness, improved their blood sugar levels, and trimmed some fat in just one month.

Low-intensity rides are really fun.

Building your base has never been such a blast. Riding an e-bike in one of the lower power modes lets you get your heart rate in a steady endurance-building zone while also covering lots more ground than you normally would on an acoustic bike when you’re trying to keep your heart rate low.

[Find 52 weeks of tips and motivation, with space to fill in your mileage and favorite routes, with the Bicycling Training Journal.]

You can ride on recovery days.

Knackered from yesterday’s hammerfest? You don’t have to ride the couch to let your crushed quads properly recover, even if you live on the streets of San Francisco. You can just cruise on your e-bike, racking up #happinesswatts while you get the circulation moving. Doing so will flush out the metabolic waste and bring in healing, nutrient-rich blood so you’re good to go on your next hard ride.

Are E-Bikes Cheating? Here’s How They Can Affect Your Hard-Won Fitness (6)

Selene Yeager

“The Fit Chick”

Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, Pn1 certified nutrition coach, pro licensed off road racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.


Is it cheating to use an e-bike? ›

Most club riders use those rides as an opportunity to pedal with others, not ride away from them. There may be a little competition, but it's usually pretty friendly. So assuming you have neither a hidden motor nor a hidden agenda, riding an ebike is not cheating.

Does riding an ebike count as exercise? ›

Ultimately, the study concluded that electric mountain bikes appear to be an “excellent form of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, even for experienced mountain bikers who regularly engage in this fitness activity”.

Can riding an e-bike actually make you healthier? ›

Strengthen Your Cardiovascular System

As we have previously reported, “cycling on an electric bike just a few times each week can improve an adult's cardiorespiratory performance and general health in ways similar to riding a conventional bicycle or taking vigorous walks, according to several clinical studies.”

Is it better to exercise on an ebike or regular bike? ›

Many people believe e-bikes give the easy way out. How does that really affect your fitness? found that those who ride e-bikes get more exercise minutes per week than those who ride normal bikes. E-bikers also reported significantly longer trip distances, whether riding and e-bike or conventional bike.

What is the negative impact of e-bikes? ›

Electric bikes use one car-sized lead acid battery per year. Each battery represents 30-40 percent of its lead content emitted to the environment in the production processes, resulting in about 3 kilograms of lead emitted per battery produced.

What is the disadvantage of e bicycle? ›

Electric Bikes May Cost More Than Traditional Bicycles

eBikes typically cost more to buy and maintain than traditional bikes. You may need to replace the batteries after some time, for example.

Do ebikes build muscle? ›

Stimulates Your Muscles

It not only strengthens your lower body and eliminates any signs of stiffness but can also help athletes build better overall endurance. Just like a conventional bike, every pedal stroke on an e-bike stimulates your quads and hamstrings, one of the major muscle groups in the human body.

How far can you ride an ebike in a day? ›

On average, most ebikes will take you somewhere between 20-100 miles. The exact range will always depend on a range of factors that are important to pay attention to and consider if you want to get the most out of your charge (the planet will say thank you).

What are two pros and two cons of e-bikes? ›

Cheap transportationExpensive initial investment
Improved healthHeavier than conventional bicycles
Tailor exercise to your needsSpecialized, complex parts
Time with family and friendsPotentially confusing legal status
3 more rows

What happens if you ride a bike everyday? ›

Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout. You will breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, which will improve your overall fitness level. The health benefits of regular cycling include: increased cardiovascular fitness.

What happens if you ride a stationary bike everyday? ›

Daily aerobic exercise on a stationary bike provides many benefits in addition to helping you burn calories and lose weight. Exercise can improve mood and help you relax which will have an effect both mentally as well as physically.

Should I walk or ride an electric bike? ›

While an e-bike will burn about the same number of calories as brisk walking, its energy expenditure is less than consistent light jogging. Nevertheless, riding an e-bike is much easier on your body than walking. Both are excellent for your health, but the e-bike is more convenient and faster.

Is A electric bike better than a treadmill? ›

Stationary bikes are typically safer than treadmills in terms of reducing the risk of injury. Cycling is a low-impact exercise, so it puts less stress on bones, joints, and connective tissues than running or walking on a treadmill. If you deal with chronic injuries and pain, an exercise bike may be a smarter choice.

Can you ride an electric bike like normal? ›

You can ride most electric bikes like a normal bicycle. The ability to ride it like a regular bike often saves riders when their bikes run out of battery power. However, it is essential to know that the battery can make the electric bike heavier.

What is the life expectancy of an e-bike? ›

On average, ebikes last around 10 years. That number can be higher or lower depending on the type of bike and how you use it. If you are conscientious about caring for your ebike, it can last well over a decade. However, various parts like motors and chains will need to be periodically replaced even with proper care.

What are the most common injuries from Ebikes? ›

Tibia, femur, and other leg bone fractures from being thrown from or falling off an e-bike at speed. Lower spinal cord injuries sustained especially in collisions involving vehicles.

Do electric bikes charge when you pedal? ›

Generally speaking, most electric bikes do not charge when you pedal. They need their batteries to be plugged into a power outlet to be powered. However, some models offer the possibility of charging while you pedal, although this is often very inefficient.

What is the best e-bike for a 60 year old woman? ›

The VoltBike Elegant is the best e-bike for seniors, thanks to the included Bafang 500 watt geared hub motor that can reach 20 miles per hour and is designed to excel on both steep inclines and city streets.

What muscles does electric bike work? ›

Improved muscle tone

You'll notice firmer muscles, especially at the main muscles doing the work, including your quads, hamstrings, calves and even your glutes. At the same time, riding a bike involves balance and an element of steadying yourself, which means that your core gets a workout too.

Are electric bikes easier on knees? ›

More generally, pedal assist is an excellent tool for knee rehab or for someone with frequent knee pain. These low impact bikes allow you to pedal as much as you can (or want to) while helping to propel you forward. Electric bikes help strengthen knees and get you out in the fresh air to help improve your health.

Can you ride an electric bike without pedaling? ›

The answer is yes—and no. There are some e-bikes that feature a throttle, which will allow you to ride without pedaling. However, that feature does come with some downsides. Other types e-bikes, including both of the Bluejay models, require riders to pedal in order to engage the battery and the motor.

Is it harder to pedal an electric bike? ›

Although electronic bikes aren't harder to pedal in the literal sense, they require more effort than regular bikes. It would be best to practice riding to get comfortable with your e-bike. Once you get accustomed to pedaling and riding your e-bike, then it will be easier to pedal than a regular bike.

What are the 3 types of e-bikes? ›

There are three basic Class/Types of electric bikes:
  • TYPE 1 E-Bike: Pedal Assist, is an electric bicycle on which you must pedal in order to use the motor. ...
  • TYPE 2 E-Bike: Throttle Only, is an e-bike equipped with a motor controlled by a throttle. ...
  • TYPE 3 E-Bike: Pedal Assist 28mph.

What is a Class 4 ebike? ›

Class 4 Electric Bikes

Class 4 e-bikes have nominal motor output above 750W and aren't limited to any max speed. They may have any combination of throttle and PAS. Pedal Assistance: Optional (may be throttle-only) Throttle: Optional (may be pedal-assist only) Max Assisted Speed: No limit.

Can you ride a lot farther on an e-bike? ›

With relaxed pedaling expect 22-50 miles on a single charge for most e-bikes. In some cases you'll go even farther. We have bikes that are getting 80+ miles on a single charge. Range will also be impacted by the battery capacity, the hills, wind and your size.

How fast is too fast for an ebike? ›

The maximum speed of an electric bicycle is dependent on local speed limit laws. In the UK and Europe, e-bikes are not allowed to go faster than 15.5mph on public roads, while in the US e-bikes can go up to 28mph depending on the class of e-bike. In Australia, e-bikes are limited to 25kph (15.5mph).

Do Ebikes use a lot of electricity? ›

An ebike battery takes around 500 - 800 watts for charging, which means that your bike would consume 0.4 - 0.8 watts per hour, and it could easily go up to 50 miles at 5 cents. An ebike would take 0.10$ per hour, which is affordable and convenient for all age groups.

What is the difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes? ›

Materials: Cheap e-bikes are often made with lower-quality materials that are more likely to break or wear down over time. Expensive bikes, on the other hand, are made with higher-quality materials that can withstand more wear and tear. Plus, they often have serviceable components that you can replace if they wear.

Why are ebikes so heavy? ›

Why are electric bikes heavy? These bicycles are heavy because they include a motor and battery, which (obviously) regular bikes don't have. The entire motor system (motor plus components) usually weighs about 8 kg – a large proportion of the weight of an ebike. The motor itself weighs about 4-5 kg.

What is better exercise walking or biking? ›

Cycling can be better for burning more calories, and it helps increase your lower-body strength. On the other hand, walking may help with bone density and tends to cost less than cycling.

Can riding a bike lose belly fat? ›

Besides being a recreational activity, cycling is an excellent cardio workout that helps one shed weight and lose belly fat.

Is cycling hard on your knees? ›

Even though cycling is low-impact, it uses a lot of repetitive motion and positions that put strain on your knees if you're not careful. Just like any sport, you can hurt yourself if you don't take precautions or prepare correctly.

How long should a 70 year old ride an exercise bike? ›

The elderly will experience various benefits from regular exercise, and as an exercise bike is low-impact, it would be a perfect choice for them. As with beginners, the elderly should ride a stationary bike 20 minutes a day. Two to three sessions per week will suffice.

Is it better to pedal faster or harder? ›

Pedaling faster puts more stress on your aerobic system, but with training, your aerobic system will adapt and you'll be able to sustain a high pace on flat ground and hills for longer periods of time.

How long is too long on a stationary bike? ›

How Long Should You Ride a Stationary Bike? Stationary bike workouts can be anywhere from just a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on your fitness and health goals. If you're just getting started, aim to ride a stationary bike for 10-20 minutes and slowly build up to 30 minutes or more.

What is the most efficient way to ride an ebike? ›

Ride with a faster cadence.

An e-bike is most efficient when pedaled at a faster cadence than is typically used on a regular bike, especially when climbing hills. It's not that you can't have a lower cadence, it's just that your e-bike rides more smoothly and gets better battery life if you spin the pedals faster.

Are electric bikes easy to ride uphill? ›

If hills are the obstacle to your cycling ambitions, then an ebike is the obvious solution. The extra power that the pedal assist motor delivers takes the pain out of the climbs, so you can cruise up every incline. You can also choose to ride up faster if you put more effort in.

Do you still lose weight on electric bikes? ›

Electric Bikes help burn calories

But on a traditional bike, that can be hard work, especially if you have a few extra pounds at the outset. A Pedego electric bike is the best of both worlds because it still encourages you to pedal, just like a regular bicycle, so you're still burning calories and fat.

Can you get any exercise from an electric bike? ›

Ultimately, the study concluded that electric mountain bikes appear to be an “excellent form of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, even for experienced mountain bikers who regularly engage in this fitness activity”.

Which is better for seniors treadmill or stationary bike? ›

"The exercise bike is typically better suited for geriatric populations due to the ability to be in a sitting position while exerting energy," Camargo says. By comparison, a traditional treadmill is probably the better option for people with no injuries or mobility issues and those wanting a more intense workout.

Is a bike or treadmill better for belly fat? ›

A study concluded that treadmills are optimal indoor exercise machines for enhancing energy expenditure. Since a treadmill workout is a weight-bearing exercise, you will burn more calories and belly fat per minute on a treadmill than on a regular stationary bike.

Are e bikes worth the money? ›

An ebike is cheaper (and faster) than a car or other transport. For short-to-medium length journeys, an ebike is more efficient and less expensive than using a car. You don't need to tax an ebike to ride it, and although it might be a good idea to buy electric bike insurance, this will be far cheaper than car insurance ...

Should you remove ebike battery after every ride? ›

Remove your battery after each ride where possible so it is not exposed to these temperatures longer than necessary. Storage – Experts recommend that if you are storing your battery for long periods of time between riding that the levels are between 70 – 90% rather than fully charged to maximize lifespan.

Are people stealing ebikes? ›

E-bike theft is rampant. Simply put, electric bicycles are prime targets for thieves. They're readily available, they're easy to flip, and they're often quite expensive.

Are ebikes cheating reddit? ›

When the e-bike has gained a popular usage in the US, some people will have this doubt : is the E-bike cheating? An e-bike using a motor to power itself does not mean your effort as a rider is insignificant. Your effort and the bike's power are simultaneous, so it is no different from conventional bikes.

Do you lose weight with Ebike? ›

In a recent study, it was proven that riding an electric bike that has the pedal assist mode engaged helped the rider burn 444 calories per hour versus pedaling a traditional bike, which burned 552 calories per hour. That's only a 20 per cent difference!

Why do people hate on Ebikes? ›

Some cyclists hate e-bikes because they think that e-bikes are cheating, not real bikes, or can degrade trails on national lands. However, with some temperance, it's easy to see that everyone rides bikes for different and equally viable reasons.

Are electric bikes bad for your health? ›

Those researchers, who compared the physiological effects of e-bikes and standard road bikes during a simulated commute, determined that the e-bike riders elevated their breathing and heart rates enough to count as a meaningful workout. However, those health benefits varied from person to person.

Why are ebikes blowing up? ›

However, these bikes often need to be charged at home overnight, and many of them have, unfortunately, been designed with cheap and poorly-made batteries that end up exploding and causing these deadly fires.

How fast can a hacked ebike go? ›

The maximum permissible speeds vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the general consensus is at around 32km/h (20mph). This speed limit can be quite frustrating to some riders as the engine cuts off the pedal-assist you get from the motor as soon as you hit the maximum speed.

Why do some trails ban Ebikes? ›

Most commonly, e-bikes are seen as motorized vehicles, and all trails that do not allow such vehicles therefore also ban the use of electric bikes.

What is the lifespan of eBike battery? ›

Generally speaking, a high-quality eBike battery can last anywhere from 2 – 5 years. Of course, that depends on a number of things including the type of battery itself and just how well you take care of it. The most common battery found in electric bikes nowadays is a lithium battery.

Are Ebikes more efficient than walking? ›

While an e-bike will burn about the same number of calories as brisk walking, its energy expenditure is less than consistent light jogging. Nevertheless, riding an e-bike is much easier on your body than walking. Both are excellent for your health, but the e-bike is more convenient and faster.

Do bike machines help lose belly fat? ›

Yes, cycling can help lose belly fat, but it will take time. A recent study showed regular cycling may enhance overall fat loss and promote a healthy weight. To reduce overall belly girth, moderate-intensity aerobic exercises, such as cycling (either indoor or outdoor), are effective to lower belly fat.


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