University of Basel researchers reported that eBikes are comparable to conventional bikes in promoting health and benefits. Specifically, less-well-trained and/or overweight people can enhance their lives by riding an eBike.
For 10 years, Switzerland has been running a month-long ‘Bike to Work’ program inviting commuters to ride their bike or eBike, and this year nearly 65,000 cyclists participated. The start of the BtW campaign was the starting point for the pilot study.
In short, the researchers from the Dept. of Sport, Exercise & Health, when examining how eBikes compare to conventional bikes in exercise intensity, found them to be similarly effective with comparable health benefits. In addition, after just 4-weeks of training, they found that participants improved their cardiorespiratory fitness. Of the 30 or so volunteer participants who were untrained and overweight, half rode eBikes while the other half rode conventional bikes a distance of over at least 6 km for at least three days.
A month into the program the participants were tested again and found both groups had comparable fitness results as measured by their oxygen uptake capacity. By maintaining this pattern permanently, participants would see their risk of cardiovascular death fall to a clinically-relevant point. As well, both groups were found to have more efficiently working hearts.
A major finding suggested that eBikes can increase motivation in older, overweight people as a way to keep up their fitness training regularly. As well, blood pressure, fat metabolism, and mental well-being was also improved. Overall, the suggestion was that eBikes offer a grand potential for preventing adverse health problems.
Fast on the heels of the above article, Forbes Magazine just ran another article countering the wide-spread notion that using an eBike is ‘cheating’. The article reports that sales of European eBikes in 2017 rose dramatically with 9% increase in the Netherlands, 19% in Germany and a whopping 30% in France. The US was on a similar trend but the 25% Trump tariffs have put a halt to that trend.
At this point in history when climate change is hounding us increasingly, the conventional bike market is in decline. However, eBikes are in the position to help promote increased use of 2-wheel travel by more and more people as the sweat-free fun way to move about during their day.
With all change comes the resistance to said change, and advocates for conventional bikes remain unmoved with comments like ‘eBikes are gadgets for the laziest people’. These people, unfortunately, forget history and the various ways regular cyclists ‘cheat’ while cycling.
After a race in 1902 where a man was defeated by a woman using a bike with a derailleur, it was referred to as a new ‘gadget’ that made cycling easier. It was scoffed at. Of course, there are many more ways cyclists use to make it easier. Riding downhill, crouching over handlebars to create beneficial aerodynamics, drafting behind other riders, and the freewheel that lets a cyclist stop pedalling while moving, are all ways to make cycling easier. Nobody would claim those changes as cheating.
People using eBikes report good exertion levels as tracked by their wearable fitness-tracking devices. Researchers from the University of Colorado reported in 2016 that eBike riders got an ‘effective workout’ with similar benefits as pedal-only cyclists got.
All these studies and the anecdotal evidence suggest eBikes are definitely a healthy way to travel locally, but as evidence also shows, people who see their traditional way of cycling as the only true way to ride a bike will be the last ones to understand the health and societal benefits. After all, from the time it was introduced in 1902, it took another 32 years before the Tour de France allowed the use of derailleurs. As noted earlier, change is hard for some.
See you out there,
Cycling The 6ix