Electric bicycle research

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With a growing popularity for e-bikes, riding a bike could mean less pain and more game.

A BYU group of three public health professors – Cougar Hall, Ben Crookston and Josh West – conducted a study showing that mountain pedal-assist bikes provide nearly identical workout levels compared to normal bikes. 

“There is a way to make cycling way more fun and way easier, and that’s the pedal assist,” said Hall. 

E-bikes could change the game. Going to work could look like more people biking and less people driving. The doors could also open for a broader community to hop on a bike and work out.

Hall says the United States has a polarized perspective on working out. “For many of us, we have this perception that to engage in physical activity, it’s painful and it’s unpleasant,” he said.  

In the study, the team recruited a little over 30 active mountain bikers and kept track of their heart rates with monitors and apple watches while biking through a 6-mile trail. 

Each participant rode through twice – once with a conventional bike and the other with an electric bicycle. The team found that riding either bicycle raises the heart rate into a vigorous intensity zone, with the difference being a 10 beat per minute lower rate for electric bikes. Best of all? Most participants felt it was less rigorous.

The idea for the research study came as an inspiration from the streets of Europe. Crookston recalls, “I saw especially older people that were biking into their really advanced years, and I was wondering how are they doing that…they’re now using pedal assist bikes.”

Combining the trend they saw in Denmark with the colleagues’ personal interest in biking helped them identify this as a potential tool in the United States to reduce obesity, improve environmental health and get more people moving. The research team says an e-bike has the potential to overcome some of those barriers.

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