Is Riding an Electric Bike Really a Sport?


You may have heard the claim that “electric bikes are for lazy people.” Isn’t that annoying? Especially when you realize that riding an electric bike is a legitimate sporting activity! Whether for sporty outings or quick trips around town, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of arguments to demonstrate that a motorized bike provides similar benefits to traditional bicycles.

Riding an Electric Bike: A Legitimate Sport

Established Health Benefits

It’s undeniable that cycling is beneficial for your health. While riding an e-bike provides adjustable assistance and may require less effort due to its moderate-intensity nature, it’s important to note that an electric bike still involves… pedaling!

Research conducted by the University of Glasgow involving over 260,000 participants revealed that cycling to work reduced the risk of premature death by 41%. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

Here is the abstract of the study (available in full on the BMJ website):

University of Glasgow study on the benefits of active commuting for health

Commuting to work in just 15 minutes on an electric bike meets these criteria and promotes a long and healthy life:

  • Cycling reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer by 25% and type 2 diabetes by 30%.
  • Although we haven’t conducted conclusive studies on prosperity yet.

Sustainable Weight Loss and Muscle Strengthening

Electric bicycles remain an active form of transportation. Regular use contributes to significant and sustainable fat loss, surpassing even intense fitness sessions, as demonstrated by research conducted by Professor Bente Stallknecht of the University of Copenhagen in her study titled “Effects of active commuting and leisure-time exercise on fat loss in women and men with overweight and obesity: a randomized controlled trial“.

Abstract of the University of Copenhagen study

Cycling on an electric bike increases calorie expenditure without necessarily leading to increased food intake, thanks to the moderate level of effort. Specifically, an average effort of 5.5 METs is achieved, which is slightly lower than standard cycling (6.8 METs) but higher than walking (3.5 METs), according to measurements by Bruno Chabanas, an engineer and public health intern. It’s an effective way to regain fitness!

Cycling also engages over 32 muscles. When pedaling, the quadriceps, glutes, and knee flexors (including the hamstrings) are activated. Additionally, upper body muscles are engaged when you adopt a certain posture or pull on the handlebars, including the triceps, pectorals, and elbow flexors. Indeed, cycling is a more comprehensive sport than commonly perceived!

For those seeking to optimize performance, consider complementing your electric bike rides with indoor training using a smart home trainer.

Electric Bikes: A Sport Accessible to Everyone

Riding an e-bike allows for a more moderate effort, which is why the sport is attracting a broader audience, including senior citizens adopting e-biking. Cycling is a weight-bearing activity that, compared to road running, reduces impact on joints (knees, ankles, hips…) while offering orthopedic benefits.

Most notably, it is the average or recovering athlete who stands to benefit the most from adopting an electric bike. What could be more reassuring than on-demand electric assistance, readily available to support you on steep inclines? Electric bikes promote healthy habits and serve as a natural companion for virtually pain-free daily physical activity.

Furthermore, it combats sedentary lifestyles by offering comfort that encourages more frequent and longer rides, including on challenging terrains! The motor enables new challenges, transforming the electric bike into a social vehicle. Many users enjoy group outings, confident in their ability to keep up with the pace.

Climbing steep trails that once seemed impassable? No problem, the assistance system is there to help! The joy of the sport is maintained and, similar to other activities, extended rides on an electric bike promote the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones.

Cycling: A Comprehensive Sport with Physical and Mental Benefits

Regularly riding your bike improves cardiorespiratory capacity quickly and significantly. Just a few sessions can make you feel less breathless. Cycling has been shown to enhance cardiovascular health and reduce high blood pressure.

Furthermore, according to a Danish study conducted in 2016 on 25,329 men and 28,394 women, the risk of heart attack is reduced by 11%, and even 18% if you use your bike for commuting (“velotaffer”). You may wonder, do these results also apply to electric bikes?

Indeed, as demonstrated by scientists from the University of Basel in their study titled “Effect of E-Bike Versus Bike Commuting on Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Overweight Adults: A 4-Week Randomized Pilot Study“.

Study published in the clinical journal of sports medicine

Over a period of 4 weeks, 30 overweight volunteers with low physical activity levels rode 4 miles a day, 3 times a week. Half of them used electric bikes, while the other half used conventional bikes.

The result for both groups was a similar improvement in their oxygen uptake capacity (VO2), demonstrating that cycling, even with electric assistance, enhances endurance, heart and lung health, and reduces cardiovascular risk.

Furthermore, participating in sports not only enhances physical fitness but also promotes mental well-being, contributing to an overall sense of wellness. These findings are from a study conducted by Concordia University, Canada, titled “Cycling, car, or public transit: a study of stress and mood upon arrival at work“. Outdoor electric cycling can be akin to light therapy, known for reducing stress and improving mood.

Lastly, cycling enhances memory, stimulates neurons, and improves cognitive abilities.

Electric Bikes in Competitive Cycling

Electric power in cycling goes beyond comfort and opens doors to new sporting disciplines.

Electric-assisted mountain biking is especially suited for this. Alongside the French Electric Mountain Bike Championship organized by the Fédération Française de Motocyclisme (FFM), there is also the Coupe de France Electric Mountain Bike Enduro.

The 2018 edition included three stages, with two stages shared with the classic bike competition, indicating that electric bikes are emerging as a standalone sport in the eyes of organizers, who are designing routes to maximize mountain bike performance.

Motorization enhances the bike’s capabilities, with climbs and descents at full throttle, placing greater strain on the calves, while battery management adds a tactical dimension. Thus, mountain bike and electric mountain bike racing complement each other.

Electric mountain biking competition is undoubtedly growing, becoming more organized and appealing to both the public and racers. The French Cycling Federation (FCF) has capitalized on the electric mountain bike trend by organizing the French Electric Mountain Bike Championship, featuring double Olympic mountain bike champion Julien Absalon. This demonstrates the natural overlap between motorized and non-motorized cycling sports.

The 2004 and 2008 gold medalist, who became France’s first electric mountain bike champion on this occasion, emphasized that electric mountain biking is both technically and physically demanding. In an interview with Vélo Vert magazine, he mentioned that his heart rate during the event was among the highest of his season!

Electric road bikes are currently slow to develop in competition, although some models have been used in recent editions of the Tour de France.

Riding an electric bike as a sport offers genuine physical and mental benefits, without the pain and exhaustion of marathon running. In fact, riders of electric bikes experience fewer illnesses compared to others!


According to “The association between commuter cycling and sickness absence“, a scientific publication from 2010, riders experience 15% fewer illnesses. Clean, good for body and mind… electric bikes are indeed a comprehensive sport!

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