Photo by Julian Hochgesang

E-bikes, once a niche concept, have now pedaled their way into the mainstream. The evolution of electric bicycles over the past couple of decades has been nothing short of remarkable. From their reinvention in the early 90s to becoming a household term in the early 2000s, e-bikes have undergone a technological transformation that has fuelled their surge in popularity. Thanks to advancements like enhanced battery technology that made them lighter and longer-lasting, and pedal-assist technology that changed the way we ride, e-bikes have ushered in a revolution in how we explore, exercise, and commute.

Are e-bikes cheating?

One of the most common debates surrounding e-bikes is whether they constitute “cheating” in the realm of cycling. Traditionalists argue that e-bikes provide an unfair advantage, allowing riders to effortlessly conquer terrain that would otherwise be challenging on a conventional bike. But is there any truth to this assertion?

The Scientific Perspective

We decided to take a scientific approach to settle this debate. Recent research conducted by BYU public health professors offers valuable insights into the workout intensity of e-mountain bikes compared to conventional mountain bikes. The study involved 33 amateur cyclists riding a 6-mile loop with elevation gain, first on e-mountain bikes and then on conventional bikes, and it found that both types of bikes provided essentially the same level of workout, with riders reaching the upper half of the vigorous intensity zone for target heart rate on both e-bikes and conventional bikes.

The Surprising Results

E-bike participants didn’t perceive riding e-bikes as physically taxing, despite exerting nearly the same level of effort. So, not only did e-bike users achieve comparable cardiovascular benefits to conventional bike users, but they also completed the test loop faster with a slightly lower average heart rate.

This challenges the notion that e-bikes are merely a shortcut to fitness. In fact, e-bikes can be a valuable tool for promoting exercise among those who find traditional biking too strenuous, potentially widening access to physical activity.

Beyond Performance: The Practical Utility of E-Bikes

Roxburgh Gorge Trail

It’s important to recognize that many e-bike users are motivated by practical considerations rather than performance. Whether it’s being able to return to biking after an injury or simply accessing places they wouldn’t be able to otherwise, our tours are a prime example. In them, riders can extend trail rides beyond what was ‘humanly possible’ for them before e-bikes. That is why we offer our customers the chance to ride an e-bike at no extra cost on all our tours. This way, everyone can experience the breathtaking landscapes that New Zealand’s Great Rides, such as the Alps to Ocean or the West Coast Wilderness, have to offer with a sense of effortless wonder.


The debate over e-bikes may continue, but the scientific evidence suggests that they are far from being a “cheat code” for cycling. Instead, e-bikes represent a powerful tool for promoting active lifestyles and expanding access to cycling for a broader range of individuals. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist seeking new challenges or someone looking for a more accessible way to stay active, e-bikes offer a compelling solution. So, to e-bike or not to e-bike? The choice is yours, but one thing is clear: e-bikes are here to stay, revolutionising the way we move and exercise, because as it turns out, pushing physical boundaries is achievable on an e-bike too.