Ask a cycling coach: 'Can you get fit on an electric bike?'
Harnessed correctly riding an e-bike can actually improve the training process rather than being a cop out as some may think
E-bikes typically offer variable levels of assistance and often cut out at certain speeds. Therefore, they still allow you to push on the pedals, they just add some extra watts to help you go a bit faster. From everyday practicalities to helping you keep up with your mates, there are many benefits of using an electric bike.
But back to the question at hand, can you get fit on an e-bike? Well…. spoiler alert - the answer is 100% yes. Cycling coach James Spragg takes a look at how you might use an e-bike to get fitter.
Sports scientist and coach James Spragg is one of the experts who will be answering your questions in Cycling Weekly's ASK A CYCLING COACH series which comes out every Wednesday. Working both in research and applied settings, he currently runs Intercept Performance Consultancy.
As a result, it can be really useful to do recovery rides on an e-bike. The ability to go at a decent speed while keeping the power low is perfect for those easier days. In fact so much so that some pro mountain bikers have been known to use e-mtbs on recovery days to enable them to work on their off-road skills while keeping the intensity nice and low.
Riding with others
E-bikes can be a great leveller. The extra bit of assistance can help less fit athletes train with their fitter friends. Cycling is not just a physical process but also a social one. Spending times out training with mates is a great way to spend an evening or weekend. However, as we have all experienced, finding people you like spending time with who are at the exact same level of fitness can be tough. E-bikes broaden the scope of people you can ride with.
As I discussed in a previous article when answering the question 'How far is too far to cycle commute to work?', commuting is a great way to get more overall training volume. The issue with adding more volume is that it can be quite fatiguing. This is particularly true when you push too hard! Doing your commute on an e-bike means you can comfortably make that early morning conference call without needing to increase the intensity.
For some people that live in very hilly areas, it can be tricky to keep the intensity under control. I am lucky enough to live in a very hilly area but that can mean that every ride is a bit of a slog. While this is sometimes beneficial the option of doing a controlled easy Zone 2 endurance ride (with my current level of fitness!) is only really possible on an e-bike.
E-bikes allow you much greater intensity control - you can still pedal away but will simply go a bit quicker. Harnessed correctly riding an e-bike can actually improve the training process rather than being a cop out as some may think.
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James Spragg is a sports scientist and coach, working both in research and applied settings. When not working with athletes James can be found skiing, climbing, cycling or drinking coffee!
Alongside Dan Lorang and Peter Leo, James runs Intercept Performance Consultancy. Over the last 8 years in various roles, as coaches, performance consultants, performance managers, and sports scientists, Dan, James and Peter have played a role in helping athletes achieve more than 10 World Championship titles, several Olympics medals (including a Gold and Silver Medal in Tokyo 2020) and several Top 5 results in some of the biggest sporting events on the planet (Tour de France, Olympics, World and European Championships). Our single focus is on improving performance in all settings.
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