Are e-bikes cheating?

April 3, 2024

A bike mechanics selling a bike to a customer at a bike workshop.

It's true, e-bikes enable cyclists to do less work. But with a “pedal assist” motor, you’re still exercising. So instead of viewing e-bikes as "cheating", we got seriously excited about the possibilities.

When you run cycling activities for people of all abilities and backgrounds you quickly see the positive impact of e-bikes. For example, some of the older people we work with can no longer ride a push bike due to disabilities or health problems. E-bikes have enabled them to continue their favourite form of exercise well into their eighties.

We wondered if e-bikes could also benefit people with other health problems. It turns out that The University of Bristol were asking the same question…

E-bikes and diabetes

We teamed up with the University of Bristol on their ‘PEDAL’ project, which aimed to measure the impact of e-bikes on people with type 2 diabetes.

18 people were selected to try an electric bike for several months. Our qualified cycle instructors were on hand to provide the support they needed, as most of the participants hadn’t cycled in years. We taught them how to use the electric bikes and gave them free cycle tuition so they felt confident enough to cycle anywhere they wanted to go.

A change is as good as a rest

By the end of the study, the participants had become fitter. Several people lost weight and saw a reduction in the severity of the disease. Many participants were extremely positive about the experience of e-cycling and 14 chose to purchase their bikes at the end of the study.

So, far from cheating – e-bikes can have a positive impact on health and well-being. And with prices coming down, and a growing second-hand market, there’s no excuse not to give one a go!

Get involved

Looking to get cycling but need some support? Check out our supported cycling activities.

This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research and delivered in partnership with the NHS.