A quiet revolution is happening on our streets and in our countryside with the escalation in sales and use of electrically assisted bikes (e-bikes) with 60,000 purchased in the UK in 2019 alone, compared with 3 million regular bikes sold in the same time-period. Correctly called a pedelec (not to be confused with a pedalo – which is an altogether different form of activity), e-bikes are enabling people of all abilities to experience cycling whether for recreation, adventures, active commuting or shopping.

Encouragingly, it also appears that people who cycle the least are the most interested in riding an e-bike (Fyrhi 2016). E-bikes offer many benefits and riding opportunities to potential riders, in particular those people wanting to increase their active travel, (replacing car journeys) or physical activity levels for individuals with physical limitations and low levels of fitness. E-bikes are also leading to people aged 50 and over having micro-adventures, increasing opportunities for fun and independence, and helping people embrace contact with nature and its array of sensory experiences (Spencer 2019). 

Studies have shown that e-bikers exercise at a moderate level of activity, promoting many positive health outcomes and behaviours. These include increased cardio-respiratory fitness, particularly for previously inactive people and lower body mass index (Bourne et al 2018).

For people who have existing health issues and poor fitness levels there may also benefit from riding an e-bike regularly, including obese people living with type 2 diabetes (Cooper et al 2018) and those with CHD recovering from surgery (Hansen 2017). E-trikes are also being used for people with neurological impairments such as multiple sclerosis as they offer increased stability. 

Currently I am undertaking research into the role e-bikes could have in cancer recovery and how e-cycling can be integrated into an individual’s everyday activities during and after cancer treatments. My PhD is about exploring the experiences that people affected by cancer have as they undertake nature based journeys on electrically assisted mountain bikes (emtbs). I am examining the potential restorative benefits this activity may have on their health and wellbeing, particularly self-efficacy, fatigue & anxiety, with an emphasis on the journeys through natural environs (rather than the physical activity from riding).

I leave you with a quote from an inspirational individual that captures the essence of e-biking:-

 ‘Having biked for years and then being diagnosed with Myeloma (a blood cancer) I never thought I’d get the level of confidence, freedom and fun back, but having an ebike has proved this wrong’.

Chrissie Lane- Consultant Nurse, Cancer Care, NHS Highland

Images: Unsplash

References 

Bourne, J.E., Sauchelli, S., Perry, R. et al. (2018) Health benefits of electrically-assisted cycling: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 15,116. doi:10.1186/s12966-018-0751-8

Cooper A, Tibbitts B, England C, Procter D, Searle A, Sebire S, et al (2018) The potential of electric bicycles to improve the health of people with type 2 diabetes: a feasibility study. Diabet Med. 

Fyhri,A. & Sundfør,H 2020 Do people who buy ebikes ride more? Transportation Research Part D ;86;102406 Doi 10.1016/j.trd.2020.102422

Hansen D., Soors, A., Deluyker, V., Frederix, I., Dendale P (2017) Electrical support during

Outdoor cycling in patients with coronary artery disease: impact on exercise intensity, volume and perception of effort. Acta Cardiology;73:1–8.

Spencer,B.,  Jones,T.,  Leyland, L-A.,  van Reekum,C.,  & Beale,N.,(2019) ‘Instead of “closing down” at our ages … we’re thinking of exciting and challenging things to do’: older people’s microadventures outdoors on (e-)bikes, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 19:2, 124-139, DOI: 10.1080/14729679.2018.1558080