As a Mountain Biking Motivator, Add a Little Electronic Assist

As a Mountain Biking Motivator, Add a Little Electronic Assist


It turned out that riding an e-mountain bike had confirmed some of the cyclists’ expectations an subverted others. More of the riders felt afterward that pedal assistance would make riding appealing to average people and fewer suspected that e-mountain bikes would be a passing fad.

Meanwhile, their personal, physiological responses to the riding proved to be complex. The cyclists had been swifter with pedal assist, about four miles per hour faster on average, but reported that the e-riding felt less taxing, physically. At the same time, their heart rates rose to and remained at about the same level during both rides.

In other words, the pedaling assist had lessened how draining the riding felt but not how much exercise it actually provided, says Cougar Hall, an associate professor of public health at B.Y.U., who oversaw the new study with his colleagues Benjamin Crookston and Joshua West, all of them avid mountain bikers. (The study was funded by the university, which purchased the necessary e-mountain bikes.)

That dichotomy between the perceived and actual effort involved in the riding might make e-mountain biking practical for and attractive to new riders hoping to pedal into shape or keep up with practiced trail-riding partners, he says.

“If these bikes can be a catalyst to get people outside and riding trails that they might have thought were too intimidating, that’s a victory for them and for public health,” he says.

This was a small, very short-term experiment, though, involving a single e-ride on one forested trail by accomplished mountain bikers, most of them men. Results might be different for riders who are female, inexperienced or who live in cities.

E-mountain bikes also tend to be pricey, and their top speeds, which can exceed 20 miles per hour — at which point, the bikes’ motors are designed to switch off — may be alarming. Dial down the amount of motorized assistance if you wish to maintain a sedate pace and not outstrip riding mates, Dr. Hall says.

He also suggests that if you have never tried an e-mountain bike and are curious, check with local bike shops about rentals, demo days or the possibility of briefly testing a model or two on a nearby trail.



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