Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 57 total)
  • E-bikes and fitness gains.
  • Premier Icon Kip
    Full Member

    Morning, I’ve looked through old threads and can’t find what I’m looking for (do link to the post if there is one).

    Basically, as someone of a sports science mind, I’d like to know the facts (proper peer reviewed studies if possible) on the fitness affects of e-biking.

    I’m not talking about people who didn’t ride much before getting an e-bike due to illness/injury etc, it makes sense that riding more when unfit will make you fitter. I’m talking about fairly fit riders who swap to an e-bike.

    I’m also not talking about people who ride for longer or more often with their e-bike. I know of people who now ride before and after work as they aren’t knackered like before. Generally more riding should equate to more fitness. I’m curious about people who are time limited so don’t increase their riding time, and the potential fitness effects.

    If you happen to have personal comparison stats (same length of time ride on analogue vs e-bike) then that’s great, but I’m calling on the Singletrack collective to give me proper evidence….is this a hope in vain?

    Premier Icon tomhoward
    Full Member

    I don’t have any stats or records or anything, but I wasn’t really riding much on account of lack of fitness, got an ebike, rode it loads, initially in turbo all the time, then wound it back as I rode more/further, to a point where I felt much fitter and started riding (and racing) normal bikes again. Fitness has dropped off recently due to injury but still ride normal bikes way more than the ebike.

    Premier Icon Kip
    Full Member

    I found this article from 2019 which found that yes MTB e-biking will give similar fitness benefits to experienced riders: Pedal-Assist Mountain Bikes: A Pilot Study Comparison of the Exercise Response, Perceptions, and Beliefs of Experienced Mountain Bikers

    Premier Icon Superficial
    Free Member

    is this a hope in vain?

    Probably. Peer-reviewed cycling data is pretty hard to come by, never mind all the constraints you have listed! Plus e-MTB is relatively new. I suppose you might get lucky.

    EDIT: The article above has a reasonable stab at it.

    Anecdotally the people I know who have done what you describe have lost CV fitness despite their claims that you still have to pedal hard. Hypothetically they may have gained some skill points by doing more downhill miles?

    The issue currently is that some people have e-MTBs and some don’t, meaning ebikers on mixed rides just get less exercise. If everyone moved en-masse to eBikes then your group rides might indeed be further/faster/longer with the same high intensity of exercise. I am skeptical though.

    Premier Icon mashr
    Free Member

    I’m curious about people who are time limited so don’t increase their riding time, and the potential fitness effects.

    Power is power. If a rider is putting out 200W for an hour ride then nothing changes apart from them going further on the e-bike.

    Premier Icon kerley
    Free Member

    If you had a power meter and maintained the same power on bike or bike then yes, but are you likely to be cycling as hard when you have some assistance?

    In the few times I have tried gears I tend to opt for a lower easier gear to get up a hill than I am stuck with on my fixed gear, i.e. when an easier option is there I tend to take it.

    Premier Icon docrobster
    Full Member

    the pedaling assist had lessened how draining the riding felt but not how much exercise it actually provided

    From here. First page of google search for “fitness gains ebike”

    I think that if you have x minutes to exercise and during that exercise your heart rate is y and you produce z watts, it shouldn’t matter what the exercise is in terms of cycling, ebike riding, running etc. As above though. Most actual ebike rides involve a rest on the ups because riding with others on non ebikes or just because a rest is nice.

    Premier Icon julians
    Full Member

    The issue currently is that some people have e-MTBs and some don’t, meaning ebikers on mixed rides just get less exercise. If everyone moved en-masse to eBikes then your group rides might indeed be further/faster/longer with the same high intensity of exercise. I am skeptical though.

    superficial has it – On a mixed ride, my effort on an ebike is way lower than it would be if I was on my normal bike. If I’m on my own, or with only other ebikes, then effort levels are similar to the normal bike, I just go faster/further in the same time.

    Looking at heart rate data from my garmin, on an e bike ride on my own, my average heart rate is remarkably similar to my average hr when riding the same route on a normal bike, but the peak hr is a bit lower on th ebike.

    BUt ultimately the rider decides how much effort to put in, and you can get away with very low effort on an ebike and still go uphill at a reasonably fast pace

    Premier Icon chiefgrooveguru
    Free Member

    “Anecdotally the people I know who have done what you describe have lost CV fitness despite their claims that you still have to pedal hard.”

    Personally I know I haven’t, despite most of my mileage being on an ebike nowadays.

    “The issue currently is that some people have e-MTBs and some don’t, meaning ebikers on mixed rides just get less exercise.”

    That depends on how you use them. I’ve done a lot of group rides being the only ebike present and for most of them had the power off – and used full power to and from the ride (some cycle there and back, some drive). I like the challenge of staying with the group on a climb despite hauling a load of battery and motor weight that isn’t providing assistance.

    I really do think it depends on your mindset. I’ve seen people in the gym putting in almost zero effort on a static bike or rowing machine and others all but killing themselves.

    Recently I’ve been experimenting more with using the lower assistance settings when commuting to stop me destroying my cassettes so fast – and it’s made me realise quite how fast you can go in turbo with rather light pedalling. That’s not something I do because it feels weird, I want my legs to be pushing hard against the pedals or it doesn’t feel right to me.

    Premier Icon gazzab1955
    Full Member

    @superficial – “If everyone moved en-masse to eBikes then your group rides might indeed be further/faster/longer with the same high intensity of exercise”

    I don’t think this would be true. The same guys that get to the top of the hill on normal bikes would still get there first on an e-bike. Some would need Turbo to get up a hill and others Eco, then battery and motor performance come into play, e.g. an unfit rider on a full powered e-bike would probably beat a fit rider on a lite e-bike. While the playing field might be level in that they all have e-bikes within that field there can be significant tech differences.

    Also would rides be faster/further/longer? Faster means using more power which means less distance unless you want to peddle that heavy bike home unassisted. The three points of a triangle consisting of Speed/Time/Distance are intrinsically connected, affect one and you affect the others, e.g. more speed = less time/distance. A fit friend of mine who has gone totally over to riding his e-bike reckons the limiting factor for him is the amount of climbing on a ride. Anything over 3000ft and he is likely to get “battery anxiety” (the fear of peddling home unassisted), the distance doesn’t really matter.

    Premier Icon Superficial
    Free Member

    One of the interesting things is that roadies have known for some time that low-intensity long duration (“Zone 2” heart rate) training is useful. Intervals are useful too. Rides at 70-80% of your max HR for the duration are less useful – which is most of my MTB rides!

    Perhaps eMTBs will make more people ride in Zone 2 for longer?

    Premier Icon jameso
    Full Member

    A fit friend of mine who has gone totally over to riding his e-bike reckons the limiting factor for him is the amount of climbing on a ride. Anything over 3000ft and he is likely to get “battery anxiety” (the fear of peddling home unassisted), the distance doesn’t really matter.

    This would be the limiter for me – not meant as humblebrag, just that my fitness is biased towards endurance and rides are often beyond what I’d get from a 500-ish Wh battery. Would be interesting to see what a heavier e-bike would be like vs my light SS for those 1-2hr fast rides I get in mid week though. I can imagine the fitness effect being similar. I’d just adjust my route to suit.

    “Anecdotally the people I know who have done what you describe have lost CV fitness despite their claims that you still have to pedal hard.”

    Personally I know I haven’t, despite most of my mileage being on an ebike nowadays.

    Do you base that on consistent output on a non-ebike on familiar routes, or something else? Not doubting, just wondering what benchmark you’d use.

    Premier Icon docrobster
    Full Member

    I have had loan ebikes for commuting for a few months at a time over the last couple of years (thanks Sheffield city council and cycleboost). I’ve also done the same route occasionally on my road bike in Lycra on sunny days.
    The heart rate data showed about 20bpm lower average and peak on the ebike, and that it was slightly quicker but not by a lot. I figured this was because of the style of bike. Hard to stay on the rivet for long on a step through Raleigh with panniers etc in March wearing normal work clothes compared to a drop bar bike in summer in Lycra. Even though I tried to try hard it just wasn’t possible on that bike. Probably felt more time pressure in the non assist rides too.
    Do people wear warmer clothes on ebikes because more waiting around and does this prevent full effort too…? Loads of variables

    Premier Icon Hob-Nob
    Free Member

    A fit friend of mine who has gone totally over to riding his e-bike reckons the limiting factor for him is the amount of climbing on a ride. Anything over 3000ft and he is likely to get “battery anxiety” (the fear of peddling home unassisted), the distance doesn’t really matter.

    I think you just have to learn to get used to it. I can, and do fairly consistent 2000m days (which is what, 6500ft?) on the leg bike & can do that on the Eeb too, with a bit of sensible non turbo riding – I think the most i’ve squeezed out of a 625wh battery was a 2550m day at BPW, doing full laps in Eco. Mostly it’s used for lunch laps, so fast up & fast down. It’s definitely less tiring, but I get way more quality riding in the same time & it helps if i’m out running or doing other training – i’m not so wrecked I haven’t got the energy to ride.

    I tend to measure my rides in elevation anyway – distance is irrelevant to me, as my riding is primarily about descents. I’m sure if I wanted to put some semi slick tyres on the Eeb and ride fire roads all day in Eco, I could probably do 100km on it.

    You can ride them as hard, or as easy as you want. Where I really suffer is leg bike days with other e-bikers. They hurt.

    Premier Icon sailor74
    Free Member

    i was thinking about this last night when i went out with my Mrs, her on her ebike me on my gravel bike at the local trail center.
    unsurprisingly i struggled to keep up on the pedally bits, i was blowing hard she was hardly breathing.
    i sold my ebike a month or two ago. from my personal experience i can categorically state that doing the same ride on an ebike vs normal bike is so much easier therefore the fitness gains are reduced. the main problem was hitting the bike speed limiter whereby you have to put in a huge effort to gain even a small amount of additional speed which isnt worth it, so i just sat on the limiter all the time until the trail was steep enough that it didnt matter.

    you will still get a workout on an ebike, and i would say they are more fun as you can ride further, or do more in a given amount of time, but the fitness gains simply arent comparable to a regular bike.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Full Member

    You can work just as hard on an ebike and maintain fitness and I’m sure some people do. But I’d guess that if you took a population of ebikers and a population of regular cyclists who rode for the same time then the unassisted riders would be fitter on average. It would be interesting to see how much overlap there was between the populations though.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    The average heart rate during eMTB use was 94% (31/33) of the average heart rate during conventional mountain bike use. Therefore, eMTB use in this study achieved a majority of the exercise response

    From that study linked earlier, is clearly claptrap.

    1) Your heart rate isn’t linear with exertion, you go up to your threshold, and any exertion above that is done anaerobically. And while the heart might pump a constant volume of blood each beat, that doesn’t tell you how much O2 it’s pumping. 6% less blood being pumped means nothing if that 6% covers the threshold between your O2 saturation dropping, blood lactate and CO2 going up sharply etc.

    That’s why when done in a lab they measure CO2 exhaled rather than heart rate.

    2) Heart rate doesn’t need to be metabolically appropriate. You don’t burn off many calories on a rollercoaster. Similarly just because your heart rate is the same on a descent as it was on the climb doesn’t imply that you burn the same number of calories on an uplift day Vs a day of XC.

    There’s a different study done where the participants were put on an exercise bike, but one was calibrated to under-read (i.e. the opposite of an e-bike, everything feels harder). The group given the under-reading bike beat their real targets whilst trying to match the false numbers on the screen. Which goes against the idea that the rider of an e-bike will put in as much effort as a person on a normal bike over the course of an hour.

    One of the interesting things is that roadies have known for some time that low-intensity long duration (“Zone 2” heart rate) training is useful. Intervals are useful too. Rides at 70-80% of your max HR for the duration are less useful – which is most of my MTB rides!

    Perhaps eMTBs will make more people ride in Zone 2 for longer?

    I think there’s a very big swing and a roundabout to this though.

    Riding off-road is inherently more “high-intensity intervals”, “over-under”, or whatever training methodology you’re subscribing too. A 20-minute climb on the road is as near as you can judge it 20 minutes at FTP. 20-minutes off-road is a constant series of little sprints to get through rough bits or steep bits. This is largely why I’m happy doing 90minute MTB rides and being knackered, whereas a similar evening with the roadies is 3+ hours.

    500Wh = 1800 kJ ~ 1800 food calories, so there’s that too, so your eBike Z2 rides would need to be that much longer to stimulate the same adaptations in your muscles as a normal ride.

    Premier Icon yorkshire89
    Free Member

    Personally I found that I’d push more on a climb when on the ebike because the climb would only last 1 minute instead of 5, and I’d do more of them in the same time.

    I had 2 months pretty much only riding the ebike. When I jumped back on the normal bike the only place where I felt I lost a bit of fitness was stood up sprinting where I’d let the motor do alot of the work. It felt like I’d forgotten how hard you actually have to work. That did come back after a few rides though.

    Premier Icon intheborders
    Free Member

    Two pals and I rented ebikes at Glentress just before the original lockdown.

    One of my pals went through their entire range in the morning, whereas I and the other pal had about a 1/4 left.

    Needless to say that he was the ‘more’ unfit one on normal bikes too.

    They’ve both gone and bought eBikes, and looking at their Strava feeds (not ridden due to CV as they live outside of my area) they’re not riding any further than I and the fitter one use to ride, as the unfit one is still unfit.

    Premier Icon bri-72
    Full Member

    In my experience (anecdote not fact) I can believe that my cardio effort and fitness could be the same / maintained on my ebike. Heart rate and lunge effort often feels the same on climbs as on normal bike. Often because I’m doing a very high cadence on ebike perhaps more so than on a normal bike.

    The counter to that is the muscle or strength bit. I’m just not having to stomp down on pedals or produce same drive on ebike. So I do notice that on normal bike quads and calf’s work way harder. And I’d believe over time if only used ebike that muscle bit I’d notice the loss in most.

    To me it’s best of both worlds if can have and use both ebike and normal and between the two get out more than I might otherwise.

    Disclaimer no science nor fact in these opinions!

    Premier Icon clubby
    Full Member

    Had my ebike since September but still ride my normal bikes as well. Bigger rides have all be on ebike. From longer road ride at weekend, I reckon I’ve lost a bit of outright power especially for repeated efforts. Standing efforts especially hurt. Oppositely, I found sitting spinning the legs away at a steady pace felt easier. Difficult to tell as coming out of a winter of shorter local rides with no big climbing days.

    Fit, trained riders would definitely lose fitness. Mr Weekend Warrior could go either way. Often said that most riders do the easy rides too hard and the hard rides too easy to make efficient fitness gains. My local ride on ebike is 50% faster but still get back fresher. I’m diabetic and local ebike rides need less insulin adjustment, which shows I’m burning less carbs. On bigger climbs I still get a workout even with assistance as I’m generally riding the whole climb in one go, whereas before I’d have to resort to rest breaks and some walking. Even with a motor a steep off-road climb can still have you on the redline. Fire roads are different though as it’s easy to tap away keeping the motor spinning below the speed limiter.

    Premier Icon i_scoff_cake
    Free Member

    The sub-text here is that people are trying to assuage their guilt about taking the easy way out 😀

    Other than making a seriously long commute possible, or riding when ill or injured, I’m not in favour.

    But that’s just my view of course.

    Call me a purist. 😉

    Premier Icon VanHalen
    Full Member

    I’m 100% definitely less fit since getting the ebike.

    I 100% ride more and have more fun since getting the ebike.

    I’ve started dabbling with the non ebike ht for the fist time in 6 months as a way of getting some of that lost fitness and power back.

    Premier Icon jam-bo
    Full Member

    If i could afford one I’d 100% have one. I run for fitness and ride for fun.

    I’ve borrowed my mates a couple of times and ride for the same amount of time, just twice as far.

    they are definitely more popular with the huffers and puffers groups round here though that do the same rides but just slightly quicker than they always did.

    Premier Icon scruff
    Free Member

    All Ebikers on Cannock Chase wear big coats and full facers even on a hot day, thefore it’s obvious they aren’t putting any effort in.

    Premier Icon HoratioHufnagel
    Free Member

    All the muscles in your legs disappear and move to your upper body and arms IME:

    Picture of ebike rider

    Premier Icon ac282
    Full Member

    If you compare and ebike to a bike, for the same effort on the hills you climb them quicker but descents are about the same speed.

    On an ebike you will spend a smaller proportion of a ride climbing so the training effect for a given length of time will be reduced.

    If you aren’t time limited and ride to exhaustion every ride then I suppose an ebike will be about the same.

    Premier Icon nstpaul
    Full Member

    As per Vanhalen, Since I got my eMTB back in November, more riding, more distance, more climbing, less fitness and thats with conservative use of assistance. Very noticeable drop off, to the point now where most of my rides are going to be non-assisted to try to regain what I have lost.

    Premier Icon chiefgrooveguru
    Free Member

    “ Do you base that on consistent output on a non-ebike on familiar routes, or something else? Not doubting, just wondering what benchmark you’d use.”

    I’m not an XC rider or racer, just a one night a week MTBer plus daily MTB commute which sometimes goes the long way via the trails. I guess I compare vs the climb segments and vs other riders on group rides. Sometimes on my hardtail but pedalling a Levo with the power off is a pretty good reference too.

    I’ve not traditionally thought of myself as sometime who rides for the climbs but I guess I do like those painful moments so I push myself to get to that point on the ebike.

    Premier Icon Kip
    Full Member

    Thanks all for your responses, I’ve been out with child all day and am just checking back.

    @docrobster
    , yep, that article in a newspaper was referring to the scientific article I posted a link to. I’m not that lazy, I did do a bit of looking into it but instead of just clicking on the first page of Google results I actually looked for the source data.

    I know there are a number of studies out there looking at e-bikes, fitness, commuting, increased number of rides or length of ride, I just wondered if anyone else knew of any articles or studies I hadn’t found that was looking specifically at it under lab/research conditions.

    I did find an article which showed that e-bikes are good for high intensity interval training but the point mentioned by @thisisnotaspoon re:

    here’s a different study done where the participants were put on an exercise bike, but one was calibrated to under-read (i.e. the opposite of an e-bike, everything feels harder). The group given the under-reading bike beat their real targets whilst trying to match the false numbers on the screen.

    sounds interesting. If you have a link to the article is be interested.

    Cheers anyway, all interesting reading, even if it’s only from an anecdotal point of view.

    Premier Icon tomhoward
    Full Member

    All the muscles in your legs disappear and move to your upper body and arms IME:

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    I’ve a feeling it’s referenced in the Hunter Allen Power Meter book, I’ll have a look later.

    Premier Icon daveylad
    Free Member

    I must say I dont & have never ridden a bike for fitness. Im simply not interested in this aspect of biking.
    My ebike allows so many more runs at the local dh spots im battered the next day. Upper body has taken a serious beating from the amount of riding I get in compared to spending most of the day pushing a bike uphill.

    Premier Icon chrishc777
    Free Member

    A fit friend of mine who has gone totally over to riding his e-bike reckons the limiting factor for him is the amount of climbing on a ride. Anything over 3000ft and he is likely to get “battery anxiety” (the fear of peddling home unassisted), the distance doesn’t really matter.

    Is he fit though? If he can’t do 3000ft on a normal bike ride that wouldn’t really qualify, let alone on an ebike!

    I classed myself as fit last year when I smashed out two 7,000ft rides (normal bike) within a couple days at the Golfie, now I can only do 4,000ft and I’m worrying about my fitness for the summer

    Premier Icon couchy
    Free Member

    The problem is cyclists mainly ride for fitness and enjoy the hard climbs, they struggle to understand ebikes as it takes away the bit they enjoy the most. I ride my ebike a lot and use it because for the same effort as a normal bike I get speed and lots of it, I ride a mtb for the adrenalin of that and not for fitness which is a secondary benefit and ebikes give enough speed meaning a 50 yr old can match or exceed the times of the quickest normal riders especially on XC courses and this extra speed gives the extra excitement 👍

    Premier Icon iainc
    Full Member

    I haven’t been able to get out for a ride for over 3 weeks. Rode yesterday and today on eroad bike, 30 plus miles and 2500 feet both days and feel ok. I’d never have managed the second day without some help. So I guess it’s beneficial to me.

    Premier Icon el_boufador
    Full Member

    I’ve got an ebike and normal bikes too. Depending what I’m doing and what the weather’s like I ride about 70% normal bike 30% ebike.
    Often I ride the same kind of trails on each type of bike, or ride even completely the same route.
    Ebike is way easier, even if I chuck in a load more climbing. The only ebike ride I’ve done I can ever remember being ‘hard’ (ish) was a 60km 1400m climbing ride in the cold, so the battery didn’t work very well and I did it almost all in eco.

    However, where I think an ebike CAN help you out with both fitness and skill is enabling rides you wouldn’t otherwise have done.
    For example, doing a hard normal bike ride on the first day, ebike may enable you to go out the second day to get some less demanding leg spinning in where otherwise you’d have sacked it off.

    Premier Icon Kip
    Full Member

    Cheers @thisisnotaspoon, I’d find the psychology of that particularly interesting.

    I ride road and MTB, MTB for fun, road for all sorts of reasons but that that tends to be the fitness bike. I can see the benefits of an ebike for the fun side of MTB and suspect that one day I’ll get one. Finances and bloody-mindedness mean it’s a while off though.

    To throw another question into the mix, I’m 5′ 2″ and weigh 51kg soaking wet, just how much upper body strength would I need to ride one properly?

    Premier Icon Aidy
    Free Member

    If you happen to have personal comparison stats (same length of time ride on analogue vs e-bike)

    I reckon riding a television would be *much* harder than riding an ebike.

    Premier Icon Kip
    Full Member

    I reckon riding a television would be *much* harder than riding an ebike

    Could’ve been worse, I could’ve called it a muscle bike!

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