I used to be one of those people, a lycra-clad road cyclist
weary of people on motor-assisted bicycles (aka e-bikes). I mean, c’mon! I’ve spent years and years hauling my butt up the mountains using nothing but my own strength and determination. Who do these people think they are, athletes? No way!
But after watching e-cycling explode during the pandemic, I decided to invest in an e-bike of my own and see what all the fuss was about. Almost a year on, I’m a convert. Here’s why e-bikes - both road and mountain - are a legit, and fun way to improve your fitness while “riding like you stole it”.
E-biking makes cycling fun and attainable. Multiple studies have shown that sedentary folks given e-bikes for commuting end up riding more than those with analog bikes [1
]. So, even though e-biking requires less energy than riding an analog bike (energy expenditure on an e-bike is about 24% lower than regular cycling), e-cyclists tend to make up for it with extra miles 
. Moreover, e-cyclists record higher levels of enjoyment after their journey than people on conventional bikes 
“Commuting on an e-bike allowed me to ride at high frequency, intensity and volume without incurring too much training load and fatigue. I could approach the weekend fresh and get in 100+ miles on the road bike. Plus it was really fun”, says Thomas Gross, a regular in the Northern California road racing scene.
For him commuting on an e-bike was so appealing he rode it rain or shine. Besides gaining fitness Gross assures the cost and time savings commuting on an e-bike “were huge.”
Does e-biking make people fitter?
Fun aside, many people think motor-assisted riding doesn’t make you fitter and healthier, but that may not be entirely true.
Regular e-cyclists record metabolic equivalents (MET) consistent with moderate to vigorous intensity exercise [2
]. The CDC
currently recommends 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous intensity physical activity per week for optimal cardiovascular health.
A study done on electric mountain bike (eMTB) riders revealed that when riding an eMTB, average heart rate was 94% of that achieved during a non-assisted ride. Cyclists also reported lower perceived exertion levels on the eMTB, although they rode faster and completed the route quicker 
Some studies also indicate that e-biking may improve V02 max (a measure of fitness), although the benefits seem to be smaller among the physically fit 
These studies clearly show that if e-bikes can replace cars for at least some of the trips, they’re well worth the price, at least from a public health point of view. Moreover, e-bikes have a couple of assist modes that can make a ride more or less rigorous and enable riders to progress as they gain fitness.
E-biking advantages for competitive athletes
In the USA there are three classes of e-bikes
defined by the type of assist and how fast they’ll propel you forward. By law, the maximum speed for an e-bike is 28mph. If you’ve ever done more than a casual cruise around the neighborhood, you’ll know that’s a pretty good pace and difficult to sustain on a conventional bike.
Rumor has it that most pro teams now use e-bikes for training purposes because they expand training possibilities for the team. For example, when the team is training on mountains you can have one member on an e-bike, going at a slightly faster clip, to help everyone on the team get fitter and stronger