There are a lot of talking points and misconceptions when it comes to e-bikes. One of the more popular ones is that since there is a motor assisting your pedaling, you’re not getting much of a work out. While anecdotal evidence would have you believe otherwise, BYU just released their findings in a more scientific manner.

While the Brigham Young University study is fairly limited in scope, the results suggest that e-mountain bike use still offers substantial cardio benefit. In this case, the average heart rate during eMTB riding was 93.6% of the average heart rate (9.9bpm lower) from the same users riding a 5.5 mile test loop on a standard mountain bike. Out of 33 test participants, most were male with an average age just under 38 years, with half of them experienced mountain bikers. For the e-bike portion of the test, riders used a 2017 Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp Carbon 6Fattie model with a Class 1 designation and maximum assisted speed of 20mph. During the non-assisted test laps, riders could use their own bikes or the equivalent non-e-MTB, a 2017 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie.

Third gen Apple watches and Polar H10 heart rate monitors were used to monitor heart rates, and the watches were running Strava to record ride speed, distance, and time. In addition to the heart rate data, the study found that the same riders were on average 4.1mph faster when riding the e-MTB on the test loop.

Even though the test included a small sample size, the results are quite interesting. To read more, check out the full report here.

15 COMMENTS

  1. That’s cool, but until manufacturers can fix the persistent problems with the motor and wiring harnesses, I’ll stick with my non-motorized bike that also doesn’t weigh 55 lbs.

  2. Newsflash: If you ride with a similar effort level on an e-bike as you do on a regular bike you will get about the same workout but your average speed will be higher! Does this surprise anyone?

    I just started a go fund me campaign where I will set out to prove that if you ride both an e-bike and regular bike at the same speed, your heart rate will be higher on the regular bike.

    • Maybe a bit like skijoring with my dog vs. skiing the same loop solo? In both cases I get a good workout but with +1 dogpower I get to go faster.

    • This. One of the car mags found that an E-ped meant 44% fewer calories burned *and* a slightly higher average speed. Controlled for speed I suspect that the rider contributes less than half of the energy required to move the vehicle in most settings (on road or off) but would love to see a study.

      If we’re controlling for activity time, how would the UT study riders compare to an MX rider?

  3. Ebike owner here, it’s not even close to as much work as a normal bike, which is why I got one to commute on. I love it for commuting, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s as much exercise as a normal bike, it’s more like active leisure, which is awesome. Maybe if you rode up a giant hill in the lowest power setting, but isn’t that defeating the purpose of an ebike?

    • “…it’s not even close to as much work as a normal bike”

      We’re talking about eMTBs, not electric city bikes that can be either hub-powered or mid-drive.

      The so called “work” depends on one thing and one thing only:

      R I D E R I N P U T

      There is nothing inherently less about riding an eMTB.

      If you want to be lazy and let the engine do most of the work you can, but if you keep the same cadence as on your regular MTB you will not only go faster but also have to concentrate more resulting in higher intensity rides overall.

      Why do you think so many enduro and XC champions train using eMTBs nowadays?

      Keeping a steady heart rate in zone 2 (60-70%) riding eMTBs burns fat better than riding regular MTBs in zone 4 (80-90%) with the occasional redlining forcing you to take constant breaks on the climbs. While your average MTB-rider rests after each climb, the average eMTB-rider hits the downhill immediately and gets 3 rides in for every regular ride.

      Just ask Alan Milway the former trainer of Dan Athertons and Danny Hart.

      It’s tiring to read all these fallacies against eMTBs, educate yourselves and drop the hate.

  4. I’m sorry but the difference is huge. When I’m on the Ebike I have to check my HR Monitor all the time to make sure I’m riding on Z2. If I don’t pay attention I spend too much time on Z1. When I’m on my roadbike or my MTB I have to check my HR to make sure I don’t spend too much time on Z5…

    https://www.strava.com/activities/2662720468/overview
    https://www.strava.com/activities/2850322256/overview

    But even if the difference is huge, trainning on the Ebike is amazing, and if you need to lose some weight it’s the best tool for the job.

  5. Sounds about right. For me it’s about choosing your level of workout. I’ve been stoked to realize the health effects are better than I realized. This combined with the uphills being turned into fun flow has me completely stoked for the last 15 years of my technical single track riding life. Enjoy the ride on whatever you choose. Your ability to participate in Healthy activities only lasts for a precious amount of time.

  6. So. 94% of the effort has you moving 4 mph faster? And for a 5.5 mile ride, you’re only working out for about 73% of the time, maybe less… For example – riding a rolling/moderately hilly 5.5 mile course at an XC pace for most riders will take roughly 30 minutes. 11 mph. Now add 4 mph and that same 5.5 mile course takes about 22 minutes. Sorry, but .93 x .73 = .68. Nowhere near the same ‘real’ workout…

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