Riding An Electric Bicycle Is Good For Your Health


There is a popular misconception that riding an electric bicycle has no health benefits. Real bicyclists do without help from electric motors and batteries. All that pedaling makes for a good aerobic exercise, they say, while people on e-bikes are “cheaters” — lazy slugs who get no health benefits.

Electric bicycle study
Researchers William Byrnes (left) and James Peterman demonstrate a pedal electric bicycle in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Sydney Chinowsky / University of Colorado Boulder)

They might as well stay home and watch videos of the Tour De France while sitting in their La-Z-Boy eating popcorn drizzled with butter. Actually, the debate gets pretty ugly at times, with traditional bikers wanting electric bicycle riders banned from bike paths and mountain bike trails.

Not so, say researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder. They recruited 20 sedentary volunteers who agreed to ride an electric bicycle to work at least three times a week for a month. The riders were free to choose the level of assist they preferred. The only requirement was that the trip to and from work take at least 40 minutes.

First, the volunteers were given a full fitness workup to determine their overall health, blood glucose regulation and fitness. After a month, the volunteers had the very same tests conducted again. All 20 had noticeable improvements in their cardiovascular health, with improved aerobic capacity and blood sugar control noted in all cases.

“Commuting with a pedelec can help individuals incorporate physical activity into their day without requiring them to set aside time specifically for exercise,” said James Peterman, a graduate researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology at CU Boulder and lead author of the new study.

“Participants rode a pedelec in the real world at a self-selected moderate intensity, which helped them meet physical activity recommendations. Pedelec commuting also resulted in significant improvements in 2-h post-OGTT glucose, and power output. Pedelecs are an effective form of active transportation that can improve some cardiometabolic risk factors within only 4 weeks. The results of the study were published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

The research was funded in part by the City of Boulder, which is trying to decide whether to allow electric bicycle riders to use city bike paths, which some traditional bicycle riders are opposed to. At one time, people who started their own cars with a hand crank may have looked down their noses at people driving cars with self starters.

Now that there is research showing riding an e-bike actually has positive health benefits, those bike snobs will have to think of some other way to feel superior to pedelec riders.

Source: Cycling Industry News


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Epicurus

    Is there a distinction between an electric bicycle and an electric motorcycle, and if so what is it?

    • Rick Danger

      Basically the same distinction as between a bicycle and a motorcycle.
      E bikes are bicycles with small electric motors, generally limited to somewhere between 16 MPH and 28 MPH. In the US, e bikes with throttles are limited to 20 MPH, while speed pedelecs (e assist is only available when you pedal) can go up to 28 MPH.
      Besides a growing number of purpose-built e bikes you can buy, there are many kits available to convert regular bicycles to electric. This often saves money, and allows you to build exactly what you want.

      • Epicurus

        Any recommendations on E bike makers?

        • Rick Danger

          I think if I were going to buy a factory-built e bike, in the US I’d look at Rad Power Bikes 1st. I’ve heard good things about Juiced Bikes too. I think both offer good bang for the buck. You can spend more, but there’s no way I’m going to pay $2,500-10,000 on a bicycle I have to lock up outside anywhere I go.
          Honestly though, I would explore the conversion kits, especially if you already have a bike you like. Even if you don’t, when you buy a ready-made model, you get what they give you; going the conversion route lets you get the exact bike you want, and lets you decide exactly how to electrify it. Some kits are really simple to install too.
          A good source of e bike reviews on YouTube: Electric Bike Review
          A good source for learning about converting your own on YouTube: E bike School
          Both of these also have websites.

          • Epicurus


          • Rick Danger

            rick period danger at aol dot com. I spent many months learning about e bikes, glad to help a fellow Jimmy Dore viewer with questions 🙂

          • Epicurus

            Not ready to buy one yet, but I may take you up on the offer of help down the road.

            E bikes bring the benefits of an EV plus better health for the owner. Governments all over the world should be pushing them, especially in countries where most people already ride bikes and motorcycles for routine transportation.

          • Rick Danger

            Reply to my email and I can take it down from here. Use it down the road 🙂

          • Epicurus


  • Epicurus

    How about an article reviewing some reasonably priced electric bicycles?

  • Epicurus

    With E bikes and E trikes as well as the EVs on the road now, I wonder why some small town somewhere, maybe a college town, hasn’t banned ICE vehicles already, with maybe an exception for long haul delivery trucks. It’s possible now, isn’t it?

    Paris wants to wait until 2030 to ban ICE vehicles. Someplace else said 2040. Ridiculous.

    • Rick Danger

      Search YouTube for Davis CA bike capital. They haven’t banned cars everywhere, but they have an amazing array of bike paths.
      If you read some of the comments on other biking stories, you can see that too many people are still stuck in the massive consumption lie we’ve been fed all our lives. They see riding bicycles as a sign that they are too poor to afford a car. Heck, when I turned 17 and got my license, I relegated bikes to a childhood thing, and for decades, never even considered riding again. Now that I’m in my 60s, I have come full circle, in large part, thanks to e bikes. I will bet that most if not all of those “pure” cyclists are still young. Wait until another 30 years of injuries and age have taken their toll and we’ll see how many of them change their tune.