It was in an edition of Electric Bicycle Worldwide Report at least half a decade ago that Dr. Frank Jamerson, the editor reported on the results of a study overseen by Geoffrey Rose in Australia that found there is surprising little difference in the workout one receives riding an electric-assist bicycle versus a non-electric model. While Rose's research found the heart rate peaked higher riding the standard non-electric bike, the electric model offered a more controlled, healthier level of physical exertion.
A couple of subsequent studies in Europe seemed to confirm this, but all of these studies where outside the United States, so I decided to see if we could do one here in the USA. Fortunately, the Human Exercise Physiology lab at the University of Nebraska Omaha was interested in doing it, though it took nearly three years to find the right grad student willing to take on the project. Currie Technologies contributed two of their iZip electric bikes and the University provided additional funding for Taylor LaSalle's research .
What he discovered surprised everyone, including his professors. You can read about his findings here, but in a nutshell, he found that the level of exertion is virtually the same whether in non-electric mode or with electric-assist on, though in electric mode the 15 research subjects - 8 men and 7 women, all college students - finished their rides about a minute sooner than during their non-electric rides. The real surprise came in how they perceived each ride, the electric ride seeming to be a third easier: scoring a 10 compared to the 15 of the non-assisted ride.
Adam Alter in Texas conducted his own research and arrived at similar findings.
Now comes yet another study, this one conducted by the University of Colorado and first reported by the New York Times.
Here what Gretchen Reynolds wrote in the Times about the program:
The researchers first brought their 20 sedentary volunteers into the lab to check their body composition, aerobic fitness, blood sugar control, blood pressure and cholesterol profiles. Then they provided each with an electric bicycle, heart rate monitor, GPS device, instructions on the use of all of this equipment, and asked each volunteer to don the monitors and ride his or her new bike to and from work at least three times a week for the next month, spending at least 40 minutes in the saddle on those days.
And what were the results after a month?
A month later, the volunteers returned to the lab to repeat the original tests and turn over heart rate and GPS data. All of them had ridden at least the prescribed minimum of 40 minutes three times per week and in fact, according to their monitor data, most had ridden more than required, several about 50 percent more.
The riders also had ridden with some intensity. Their heart rates averaged about 75 percent of each person’s maximum, meaning that even with the motor assist, they were getting a moderate workout, comparable to brisk walking or an easy jog...
Perhaps most important, the riders were healthier and more fit now, with significantly greater aerobic fitness, better blood sugar control, and, as a group, a trend toward less body fat.
Just as importantly, the volunteers reported riding their pedal-assist bikes was "a blast." According William Byrnes, the study’s senior author and director of the university’s Applied Exercise Science Laboratory. “It’s exercise that is fun.”
I hear similar comments from the men and women who rent Quikbykes from us. Their comments, penned on the wall of our prototype Qiosk here on the corner of 10th & Dodge are "awesome" and "best thing since sliced bread."
No one here is interested in creating lazy cyclists. What we all want is a more physically active citizenry and if removing one of the chief barriers to that outcome is clean, quiet electric-assist, so much the better.
Posted By: Bill Moore [12-Jul-2016]
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