At Cycling CME and in the Human Performance Lab at Colorado Mesa University, where we have many cycling advocates, we frequently discuss cycling, trails, and new bikes. Recently, e-bikes have become part of our discussions. Those discussion have ranged from types of e-bikes, where they should ride, and whether we might ever buy one. One thing that does seem clear is that e-bikes are here to stay, as sales of e-bikes have skyrocketed in the last few years and e-bike rentals have increased remarkably. This fall we have seen an increase in e-MTBs cruising our home trails around Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado. This will likely increase with the recent order signed by the Secretary of the Interior which will potentially allow electric bikes on BLM land and National parks. This may allow e-bikes onto any federal trail where non-motorized bicycles can ride.
Our debates in the lab include the speed of e-bikes, environmental concerns, commuting benefits, and how they might enforce different classifications of e-bikes on trails and paths. Although there are legitimate concerns related to e-bikes on both paved and mountain bike trails, there is clear evidence that e-bikes increase participation in cycling for groups of people who might not otherwise cycle. Even regular cyclists who buy e-bikes increase their time in the saddle. Of special interest to Cycling CME, early studies show that riding an e-bike is good for your health.
One of the first studies that evaluated the health impact of e-bikes was done at Colorado University, in Boulder, Colorado. In a group of sedentary individuals, they found improvement in cardiovascular fitness and blood sugar levels within one month and e-cycling helped them meet their physical activity recommendations. More recent studies have looked at the benefits of e-bikes in older riders. A study from Belgium showed an increase in activity in a group experiencing limitations in ability to cycle with e-bike use. A study published this year by Leyland suggested that both pedal bikes and e-bikes can increase physical activity. In addition, the authors felt that physical activity wasn’t the only health improvement component. They suggest that the ability to ride a bike outdoors improves both cognitive function and well-being in the older adults who participated in their study…cycling plus the outdoors.
Entering the discussion on where e-bikes should be allowed, and other e-bike related issues, is a topic we must continue to explore. Love them, or not, e-bikes and on the rise and they encourage people to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. At Cycling CME, we always encourage that.
Peterman JE, et al. Pedelecs as a physical active transportation mode. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2016
Cauwenberg JV, et al. Older E-bike users: Demographic, health, mobility characteristics and cycling levels. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2018.
Leyland LA, et al. The effect of cycling on cognitive function and well-being in older adults. PLOS ONE, 2019.