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Electric bikes — fair game or foul play?

People often ask if using an electric bike is cheating. So we've rounded up the studies & arguments to show why it's never cheating to ride an e-bike.

Is it cheating to use an E-bike?

If you cycle anywhere on an electric bike, you're bound to get asked lots of questions. E-bikes are really taking off in the UK and people are naturally curious.

But sooner or later someone will ask you: isn't it cheating? It's a frustrating question for many reasons and it reveals just how prevalent misconceptions around e-bikes have become.

So to put this to bed once and for all, here are all the reasons why electric bikes are not cheating.

Is cycling with a motor cheating?

The most common accusation made about e-bikes is that the use of an electric motor in a pedal-based sport is cheating.

There is a common myth that electric bikes are like scooters or mopeds, but this simply isn't true. E-bikes are pedal-assist, which means they use a small electric motor to boost the power created by your own pedalling.

This means that to ride an e-bike you still have to pedal, which still takes effort. And that's why it's not cheating — you pedal and the bike just boosts your power.

Read our post busting other common myths about e-bikes here.

E-bikes make cycling easier

It's true that riding e-bikes is easier than riding a normal bike. It's more convenient and less effort. But this is the best thing about it — it makes cycling more accessible.

So yes, electric bikes make cycling that bit easier, but this only makes people more likely to do it. We applaud anything that stops people being put off by cycling, especially if it helps achieve what we all want — more people cycling and fewer people using cars.

Some people simply don't find the thought of slogging to get up hills appealing. They want the fun of being out on a bike without it feeling like an endurance challenge.

The truth is that even fit, experienced cyclists can reach for the car keys when faced with a long, tough journey that involves plenty of steep hills. So if e-bikes help people get up hills or bike around to run errands, that can only be a good thing.

They're also great for keeping cyclists active while they have injuries, or helping people keep cycling as they get older.

And electric bikes are great for commuters, because you can get there in good time without breaking a sweat. You can cycle in your work clothes without the fear of smelling like you've just finished an all-day session at Fort William.

E-bikes get people exercising

Trek Powerfly, taken atop the Alta Via trail in Italy.

E-bikes get people exercising

Some people consider cycling to be all about getting exercise, which makes them think that e-bikes are cheating. But that's missing the point. The electric motor is there to help you. And you can dial up or down the assistance and even turn it off if you want more of a challenge.

Several studies have shown that e-bikes have huge health benefits because they make you more likely to cycle in the first place. One study at the University of Brighton offered e-bikes to commuters and found many more of them would now cycle to work.

But other research has shown that e-bike riders work just as hard as regular cyclists — the motor just helps them go faster. A study from the University of Nebraska found that e-bike users expended the same amount of energy as manual bike riders and simply completed the circuit faster. Most importantly, they didn't feel like they'd exerted as much effort as the manual riders, even though they had.

This is why e-bikes are so good for exercise — you don't feel as drained after riding one. The same findings have been shown by an American rider who alternated between e-bikes and normal bikes for his daily commute, while wearing a range of tracking devices. After weeks of testing, he found that his heart rate and energy exertion were the same with both bikes, he just cut his commuting time by 4 hours a week using the e-bike. Essentially, he used the same effort from his legs and the motor helped him get home quicker.

All of this shows that you work just as hard riding an e-bike — you'll just go further or arrive quicker. And you'll be more likely to get the bike out again the day afterwards.

Plus, people who use e-bikes to commute are sneaking in a workout and keeping fit every day, which is much better for you than sitting in a car.

Cheating at what, anyway?

This is the most important point: e-bikes are not cheating because cycling is not always a competition. For most of us it's a fun, brilliant way to get around and spend time outdoors.

E-bikes don't give you some kind of unfair advantage because you're not cycling for a trophy. You're not in a race as you ride to work or the shops, or take a spin around the park. You're simply out on your bike, cycling, getting fresh air and enjoying yourself.

You can't cheat at having fun, seeing the world, trying out bike trails or cruising up hills. You're not competing at the Olympics every time you go out on your bike — it's meant to be fun.

And what if you do want to race? The e-bike's motor cuts out once your speed gets over 15.5mph. Which means that you'll still be doing serious speed cycling on your own leg power, with no electrical assistance. Plus, there are plenty of e-bike race events on the horizon anyway, so soon you'll be competing on a level e-footing anyway!

Electric bikes are brilliant — they remove the everyday barriers that stop people cycling, like feeling out of shape, the dread of a steep climb or just being tired after a long day.

E-bikes are a great way to cycle — book a demo or trial at one of our amazing locations and see how good they are for yourself!