An article by Graeme McLaughlin
How an eBike Can Help You Build Strength and Fitness
Don’t worry, eBikes aren’t cheating!
Have you ever seen someone ripping by on an eBike and thought, “they’re not really exercising”? If you haven’t, you probably own an eBike.
But that’s okay, we’re here to debunk that myth and explain why riding an eBike can actually help you build fitness and strength!
There are different types of bikes and an eBike is a wise person’s choice. Let’s get started with a basic question that might be on your mind:
What is an eBike?
An eBikes (or, electric bicycle) is a bike that has added power by way of a motor. This motor can assist your pedaling to help make your ride more enjoyable and allow you to go a lot further than you would on a traditional bicycle. Ebikes are perfect for people looking to get back in shape, or simply for recreational purposes, as they are able to cover a lot more ground much more quickly than a simple commuter bike would.
How do eBikes Work?
As we mentioned, an electric bike is (super) basically a bike with a motor. But some of the most important systems on these bikes are the pedal assist and the throttle.
These systems are designed to allow the rider to decide how much they want to pedal (less or more, depending on the situation). For example, the EVELO electric bicycle pedal assist can control the level of power you will get out of the motor and the throttle will give you power whenever you want it.
How Does the Throttle Work?
If you’re familiar with dirt bikes or motorcycles, you probably have some experience with throttles. If not, don’t worry! They’re pretty easy to use.
On an eBike, the throttle is a thumb-triggered mechanism on the left-hand grip. By pressing the throttle you can access your bike’s power on demand, at any time throughout your ride. This can be useful when climbing a steep hill without pedaling, for example.
It also works on flat surfaces… so when you want to stop pedaling, use the throttle.
How Does Pedal Assistance Work?
EBike Pedal assist is a little different than the throttle, as you will still be using your eBike's pedals, it just won’t be as difficult. Almost like switching gears!
This mechanism is controlled using the plus and minus buttons where you can go from zero pedal assist up to five (to control the level of power from the motor that assists your pedaling). As you can imagine, zero is like riding a regular bike whereas 1-3 will provide a good amount of assistance and 4-5 would be for those really challenging rides or steel hills where you still want to pedal (not using the throttle).
If you are using a pedal-assist between 1-5 when you pedal you will hear (and feel) the motor assisting you. If you stop pedaling, the motor will stop assisting.
How can eBikes help your fitness?
As you can already tell, using a combination of the throttle and pedal-assist features will allow you to ride your eBike for much longer than you would be able to on a traditional bicycle, which is great when you are building your fitness.
Although you may not be using your full level of exertion to power up those steep hills or on long sprints, you are still exerting effort in keeping yourself and the bike upright (core strength) and by pedaling (cardio).
Using an eBike can also help prevent overuse injuries or sprains/strains from pedaling too hard before you are ready to take on big hills or longer rides. It delays your level of fatigue so that you can ride for longer while improving your fitness without “overdoing it”.
How can eBikes help your fitness?
By this point, you’re probably wondering how to use both of these mechanisms together to get the most out of your ride.
Using them together, these features allow you to decide when and how much you want to pedal. You can mix and match, or use the throttle for a little boost while in the midst of using the pedal assist if it doesn’t feel like enough help. All it takes is a little practice while you’re out and about on the bike to see how you like to use these features to get your momentum.
It’s easy to remember:
The throttle will drive the chain, moving the wheels forward (not the pedals) and the pedal assistance will only be activated if you use the pedals yourself.
Pro tip: the throttle does not drive the pedals, so your feet won’t go flying off! The pedals will never automatically move, as this can be unsafe. Instead, if you are not pedaling at all, the throttle will power the wheels by way of the sprocket, propelling you forward. If you choose to pedal, it will be exactly that, a choice!
So, why eBike?
It may seem like a lot of technology and some may call it “cheating” but when you’re out and about either commuting, going for a long ride, or mountain biking, it’s been proven that eBiking is actually almost as much effort as mountain biking (in this double-study).
Testing eBikes amongst groups of traditional mountain bikers has helped affirm their attitudes and even swayed a few previous nonbelievers to lean towards the motor assistance!
According to The Verge, when using an eBike, participants in these studies didn’t “feel” like they were getting an intense workout, but their heart rate monitors indicated they had indeed experienced a “vigorous” workout. A workout that doesn’t feel like a workout? Count us in.
So if you’re looking to invest in a bike that will increase your exercise, eBikes are not only more fun to use but will result in more calories burned in the end!
Basically, the overall sentiment towards eBikes seemed to be quite divided before many of these studies. The moral of the story? Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
About the Author:
Graeme is the Marketing Head at Evelo, a data nerd, and an E-bike enthusiast who is always excited about testing new bikes. After years of riding and coming from a career in cycle sales, he is still passionate about bicycles. Based in Vancouver, he enjoys riding everything from solo adventures in the mountains to big social night rides.