Paul Norman - BikeRadar.com, Feb 09 2022
Electric bikes are growing quickly in popularity, but what are the benefits of adding a motor to your pedal power?
Whether you’re new to cycling or are already a regular rider, there are a number of reasons why you might want to try an electric bike, from health and fitness, through to financial and environmental benefits.
From riding to work, to fast-tracking your route to the top of mountain bike trails, here are 14 benefits of riding an electric bike.
An e-bike will improve your fitness
Like cycling any bike, riding an electric bike will up your aerobic fitness level.
The effort required to keep yourself moving may be less than on a normal bike, but you’ll still be turning the pedals and putting in a significant amount of the energy required to move yourself along.
Studies have suggested that e-bike riders’ hearts can be working at more than 90 per cent the level of riders of non-assisted bikes, but they perceive less effort.
Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah monitored the heart rates of seasoned mountain bikers riding e-bikes and bikes without motors.
The participants on e-MTBs reached 94 per cent of the average heart rate they did when riding purely pedal-powered on a 10-kilometer test circuit. This effort placed them in training zone four.
The same scientists concluded that riding an electric hybrid bike to work brought most of the benefits of commuting. Riders on e-bikes averaged 89 per cent of the mean beats per minute they recorded riding without a motor.
In a similar BikeRadar test, 2021 National Hill Climb Champion Tom Bell hit 198bpm, close to his maximum heart rate of 208bpm, riding an eMTB on his favorite off-road test loop.
Bell says: “You can still push as hard as you like on an e-bike, you just have added assistance.
“So, although it can be used to make climbing and riding in general easier if you want to back off, it’s also possible to put in a lot of effort but just go faster for that effort.”
The exercise will strengthen your muscles and up the efficiency of your cardiovascular system, so you’ll be able to do more off the bike and feel fresher too.
An e-bike will help you keep up with your mates
One of the major benefits of electric bikes cited by their users is the ability to keep pace with faster riders. It makes group rides more enjoyable, as less fit riders don’t feel that they’re holding fitter ones back. It’s also good for family rides, where abilities may differ.
That also makes them a social form of exercise, meaning that you can chat with your friends as you ride.
For those with disabilities, it’s a good way to get out and get fit with less exertion and frustration.
E-bikes make it easier to get up hills
Many cyclists struggle on hills, and even if you’re a climbing ace, your speed is likely to drop below 15mph on many climbs. That means that the motor will cut in and provide assistance, with the amount dependent on the level of support you’ve selected.
Once you’ve crested a climb, you’ll be fresher too, so you’re less likely to want to stop to recoup and more likely to press on.
An e-bike will enable you to ride faster, regardless of your fitness level. That’s down to quicker acceleration and the faster hill climbing.
An e-bike’s motor will cut out once you ride over 25kph/15.5 mph in most countries (although that increases to 20mph in the USA), so you might find you’re riding unassisted if you’re already quite fit and riding a performance machine.
But even so, unless you ride somewhere absolutely pan flat, your speed is likely to increase overall.
An e-bike will help you explore new places
An e-bike should enable you to ride further too.
An analysis of health and transport data from seven European cities found e-bike riders took longer trips than cyclists without motors. Therefore, e-bikers gained a similar amount of fitness to pedal-powered cyclists.
Range varies hugely between bikes, but you have the option of fitting a second battery to extend it. This enables you to take in places further afield, while the assistance will help you get up climbs and into terrain that you might not have been able to reach before.
The e-bike’s motor will help you get up to speed from a standstill, cutting in to help you accelerate faster and with less effort. That means it’s easier and less stressful to keep in the traffic flow at junctions and lights.
You’ll ride cooler, as your effort level can be less thanks to the motor.
If you’re commuting, that means you’ll arrive at work less hot than if you were riding a non-assisted bike.
Less muscle strain
Extra assistance means less strain on your muscles and joints, particularly since the motor will give you most support on hills and accelerations, when most effort is needed. That means you should need less recovery time and you’ll be fresher for another ride.
It’s helpful if you’re just getting into cycling, too, and maybe haven’t yet developed the muscles you need to move fluently on the bike.
Less stress on the heart
Your heart will be less stressed riding an e-bike than a normal bike.
The motor helps smooth out the periods of harder exertion, but you’ll still get an aerobic workout from riding. Evidence from a Norwegian scientific paper backs this up.
Better mental health
Any form of cycling, or indeed any form of exercise, has big benefits for your mental health.
British Cycling quotes five mental health benefits of cycling, including reduced anxiety and stress, and greater happiness. It says that exercising outdoors delivers these benefits better than in a gym.
You should sleep better too, thanks to the anxiety-busting effect of cycling, along with the exercise and fresh air.
For short-to-medium length journeys, an e-bike is more efficient and less expensive than using a car.
You don’t need to tax an e-bike to ride it, and although it might be a good idea to buy cycling insurance, this will be far cheaper than for a car.
The cost per mile is also tiny relative to a car and for urban trips an e-bike is often faster. Plus, it’s non-polluting, so it’s better for the environment.
If you need to get to the shops for a top-up, an e-bike may get you there faster than a car journey, and there’s not the hassle of finding and perhaps having to pay for parking. Once you’ve shopped, the motor helps with carrying the extra weight of your purchases home.
An e-bike journey is cheaper than public transport as well, and it’s point to point, so you probably won’t need to walk as far at either end of your trip.
According to e-bike maker Volt, owning one of its Metro e-bikes is about £10 a day cheaper than a one-day Transport for London Travelcard for Zones 1-3.
Easy to store
If you’re tight on space (who isn’t?), you can find e-bikes that fold away into small packages that you can store under the stairs or in a cupboard.
Even a non-folding e-bike will be a lot easier to find a space for than a car, if you live somewhere without off-street parking.
Most e-bikes are heavier than their non-assisted counterparts, which is worth bearing in mind if you have to carry it up any stairs.
E-bikes can be tax efficient
There’s a significant price premium for an e-bike over a normal bike, due to the extra cost of the motor and battery.
But you can reduce that by buying your electric bike using the Cycle to Work scheme, which has now been extended to include purchases over the £1,000 mark.
Buying an e-bike using Cycle to Work is tax efficient, as you make monthly payments over several years by salary sacrifice, reducing your gross pay and hence the tax and National Insurance you pay. At the end of the plan period, you can re-lease the e-bike for a further period, pay its market value or return it.
If you live in Scotland, you can also take advantage of a scheme funded by Transport Scotland with the Energy Saving Trust. This offers an interest-free loan of up to £6,000 to buy an e-bike.
E-bikes are quiet
Electric bikes are a quiet way to get around, enabling you to relax and enjoy your surroundings.
There’s usually a faint whirr as you accelerate or when climbing hills; the rest of the time, an e-bike makes little noise, so there’s no noise pollution or atmospheric pollution.