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Are eMTBs better for health than standard mountain bikes?

For those struggling to get into a regular exercise routine, a boost from a motor might be the answer

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If you have a friend who’s hesitant to get into cycling, the kind who’s keen to become more active, but only seems to dabble, you should tell this rider-to-be about a recent study. Your friend might just need some pedalling assistance, from an ebike that is.

A recent study, conducted at Brigham Young University, involved 33 participants riding a 9-km trail on both an eMTB and a conventional mountain bike. Researchers collected heart rate data on each run of the trail. Surprisingly, the average heart rate of participants during eMTB use was 94 per cent of their average heart rate during conventional mountain bike use. This data shows the participants were working almost as hard on the eMTB. They didn’t, however, perceive the workout to be cardiovascularly taxing. All participants in the study were measured as having done moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity despite feeling as though they weren’t working as hard on the eMTBs compared with the standard mountain bikes.

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The low level of perceived exertion while using eMTBs could have a massive effect on individuals who are having trouble getting into the routine of regular exercise. The health belief model (HBM), cited by this study, states that when considering whether or not to engage in a health-promoting behaviour, perceived benefits (how beneficial or enjoyable an exercise will be to them) and perceived barriers (whether psychological, physiological or financial) are predictors in whether an individual decides to engage in health-promoting behaviours, such as cycling. According to the HBM, an activity such as riding an eMTB, which has a low perceived barriers (it doesn’t feel too difficult) with high perceived benefit (it elevates your heart rate and gives you a good workout) is ideal for getting someone into the habit of regular exercise. Additionally, the added speed provided by the power assistance on an eMTB—measured in this study at approximately 6.5 km/h faster than a standard mountain bike—helps new riders keep up with others who have more experience, letting them join in on the fun.

While you’re getting a friend into eMTBs, don’t forget to try it yourself. This study also found that 61 per cent of participants became more accepting of eMTBs after trying one for the first time. Who wouldn’t want to go a little bit faster?