Is Using An Electric Bike Cheating?

Cycling in the UK, FAQ -

Is Using An Electric Bike Cheating?

A common complaint about eBikes is that the motor does all the work and your body does not go through enough strain for it still to be counted as exercise.

This likely stems from the popular misconception that electric bikes are the same as scooters and mopeds, i.e. they have a throttle which allows the user to not have to pedal at all.

While this is the case for electric bikes in some countries, like China and the US, the only electric models allowed under British law are pedelecs. Short for pedal electric cycle, on these bikes the motor only boosts the power created by pedalling, rather than being offering on-demand output.

Nevertheless, the stigma that using an eBike is somehow cheating remains. But is there any truth to this?

Does using an electric bike count as exercise?

The addition of a motor instantly makes those suspicious of eBikes think that any calories burned are minimal, but this is false.

When riding an eBike, the sensation of cycling is made easier when the motor is active, but the user must still exert energy in rotating the pedals.

Moreover, studies have shown that the difference between the amount of exertion of those using conventional bikes and eBikes is less than ten percent. And because you can lower the pod’s power levels whenever you like, you can make the journey however physically strenuous you want.

Indeed, the real benefit of using an electric bike for exercise comes from the psychological aspect. Because eBike journeys feel less of a strain, studies have shown that electric bikes are more likely to be taken out than their conventional counterparts.

Whether it be hilly routes, going at it day in and day out, or feeling not fit enough, the eBike has a profound effect on your motivation to cycle, and can be the cornerstone of a more sustainable exercise routine.

Are e-bikes faster?

This is debatable. Some critics argue that the motor means that eBikes are naturally faster, which is a problem in their mind as being another unfair advantage. But this is not quite the case.

Under UK law, eBikes can only reach a top speed of 15.5 mph before the motor must cut out. Conventional cyclists also regularly achieve speeds like this, with some often going over 20 mph. More importantly, work needs to be put in by the user for the eBike to achieve this speed, just like a conventional bike.

That said, acceleration is markedly better on an electric bike, especially if the pod's launch control feature is activated. This gives the user a boost at traffic stops to get ahead of other vehicles and is unique to the pod amongst available conversion kits. But the feature only lasts 3 seconds and is designed more for safety rather than speed.

Cheating at what?

Yes, eBikes offer an acceleration advantage, but is this cheating? There is only a speed advantage if the user is putting in enough work to benefit from it, and it cuts out anyway once 15.5 mph is reached. Perhaps more importantly, using an eBike over a conventional bike is a minimal reduction in calorie expenditure.

Nevertheless, those who believe electric bikes are cheating are probably committed to this impression, but does getting to work or going to the shops without breaking a sweat really count as cheating? Or is it just a way of making your life easier.


  • Roger Tapley

    I feel I have the best of both worlds when riding my Brompton e bike with ARCC motor as I can switch this off or not add battery at start of a journey if I want the extra calorie burn.

  • Dan Gleebitz

    I had knee surgery a while back and walking is limited to less than a mile. With my e-bike (2nd one I have owned) my knee is ok for miles of cycling. As a mountain bike I love climbing hills and trails with it that a normal bike I would struggle with. E-bikes give you confidence to go that extra yard 🚴‍♂️

  • Viv Fouracre

    Ebikes are wonderful, it’s like being 7 years old again. If you haven’t tried one you definitely need to. An ebike really will change your life – just get on and do it!

  • Robert Markham

    My wife has a dodgy knee and she would not want to ride a conventional bike, but an e bike overcomes this. Furthermore our e bikes enable us to cycle longer distances than we would with conventional bikes so yes we do exercise just as much.

  • Des Mckeown

    I would like to go out cycling but since suffering a stroke find pedalling difficult , 10% easier doesn’t sound like much help to me

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