CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS
Latest update: 4/20/2023
This article (Over the Alps on a Bike With a Boost)
caught my eye as it suggested a way to let those who aren't
quite as strong (significant other, physical limitations, slowing down but still yearning
to get out on that bike) enjoy the camaraderie of cycling with a partner or group.
But for regular riders there are worries about the impact of ebikes. This
summarizes them as well as outlining the positives health and social impact of getting more people out on a bike.
A couple things to keep in mind if you are considering an ebikes:
- There are three classes of ebikes:
For more descriptive detail, scroll down a bit
in this article.
- Class 1 - bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you're pedaling, up to 20 mph.
- Class 2 - models have throttles that don't require the rider to pedal in order to get a boost.
Class 2 models have throttles that don't require the rider to pedal in order to get a boost. They
are really not ebikes but rather electric scooters.
- Class 3 - also known as "speed pedelec," can also have up to a 750w motor, but it can assist you up to 28 mph.
- Stick with a major supplier: Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and Brose for the motor.
is a nice review of ebike motors circa 2022.
- The rating of watt hours (Wh) takes into account battery output and life to give a more accurate
reflection of power (higher Wh equals bigger range).
- Confused about the power (watt) rating of the motor?
This article goes over how
much power you will really need. (quick answer - 200 watts as a minimum).
- Because e-bikes are capable of greater speeds for longer periods of time than standard bikes, you want
extra control. Wider tires provide traction and some bump absorption with little penalty. You also want strong
brakes to slow you (and all that extra weight) easily. It’s worth looking at the quality of the brakes and
investing in bikes with better ones if you can.
- Batteries are expensive, so make sure there's a good way to lock the battery to your bike if
you'll be keeping it outside.
WILL YOU LOSE CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS ON AN E-BIKE?
If you are using a pedal assist ebike (not a throttle controlled bike which is
essentially an electric motorcycle) talking about cardiovascular fitness, the answer is an unqualified no.
With the power off (or battery out) an e-bike is just a heavy cross bike. You work the
same muscle groups and sit on the bike in a similar position. Are you going to be able to push
that extra mass of slightly less aerodynamic metal as fast as your lightweight road bike?
No. Will your maximal power delivered to the pedals remain at the same level? Yes.
Pedal ASSIST e-bikes and are not electric scooters. So if your ride with the
same level of exertion, riding an e-bike should be no more detrimental to your
fitness (assuming you continue on a regimented training program) than riding with
the boost of a tail wind or from riding in a peloton. But if you start to enjoy
the ride, and back off on your level of input, then, of course, de-conditioning
is the inevitable result.
Let's say you are using a 25% pedal assist. That means the motor will add 25% of the
effort you put in. If you use perceived exertion (or a heart rate monitor) and not road speed
to measure your input, the output at the wheel will be 125% of the wattage you could develop
with the motor off.
This means you can train just as effectively on an ebike as on an unpowered
road bike. But this means achieving the same level of perceived exertion (or heart
rate) on both. And you will need to continue with your intervals. If you
do, you will end up at exactly the same level of fitness as if you had done the
same PE or HRM monitored training as on your lightweight road bike.
This study of regular MTN bikers
shows them maintaining a training level heart rate (I'm assuming they rode their circuit using
perceived exertion) on ebikes. To quote: "...well trained MTBikers reached an average heart
rate during eMTB use that was 94% of their average heart rate over a conventional mountain
bike route. This was high enough to exceeded established thresholds to improve cardiovascular fitness."
I understand the resistance to e-bikes. I enjoy being able to keep up with my weekend group,
knowing that I am doing it all on my own (without electric assist). And I will miss that sense of
accomplishment on an e-bike. But as I get older, I face the inevitable slowing that comes with aging.
If I want to keep the enjoyment of a group ride, I have to stay with a peer group that ages
right along with me...or get an e-bike. We all get older, and as we do, are abilities to churn out
watts of power decrease - no matter how hard we try to fight it. If you are barely hanging on with
your weekend riding group, an ebike may be the answer. You may get a few comments, but
then just point out that no one escapes father time, and their time will come.
If I want to continue to measure myself against my peers on a weekend ride or against my own PRs on
a solo training ride, then I'll take my old road bike. But if this is about training to the
maximum possible (for my age), that training can be done just as effectively on an
Another special case is multi-day rides. Riding day after day does take its toll unless you have put in
the long miles in training. But if it is early in the season or circumstances prevent
a dedicated training schedule, an e-bike will let you enjoy every day of the trip rather than
experience the common day 2 or 3 fatigue.
Finally, there is the special case of someone with heart disease who has been told to
limit their maximum heart rate. Electric assist cuts off the peaks of maximum exertion (if
you monitor your heart rate and use more assist when it starts to head up).
This graph from this blog
demonstrates that benefit, and note that total exertion over the ride was still 80% of that
on an unassisted ride. (Blue line - no assist Red line electric electric assist.)
The big plus of the e-bike revolution is that these bikes are engaging more riders and
increasing the level of health of many of them. Friends whose "significant others"
never wanted to ride, now relate that with an e-bike, their "other" is now pushing them to
find a time to ride together.
And an e-bike is just plain fun. You find yourself looking around as you spin at at
an easy rate rather than focusing on how many more intervals you need to finish that day. As one
who scoffed at e-bikes for many years, fighting the trend for
longer than I might have, an e-bike adds a pleasant boost to many of my rides.
RISKS OF E-BIKES
can be a definite hazard, especially if you buy cheap equipment or try to modify the
Two aspects of an ebike need special attention, and care. If not, long term maintenance
cost will be higher.
Reports has a nice summary.
Increased strain in the drivetrain (chain, rear cluster) that
are a result of the motor applying more torque than a non motorized rider. A
few tips will minimize that impact.
Lubing the chain needs a special technique - try backpedaling and you will see the chain does
not move (which helps you to spread the lube along the full length). But you really don't
need a special tool as suggested by this video
I checked and indeed you cannot "backpedal" the chain on an ebike to lube it. But rather than buying another
tool for $40 a simple hex wrench does the trick. These 3 pictures explain it all. My hex wrenches didn't fit the
chainring bolt, but a hole in the bolt let me to use a smaller hex and achieve the desired result. Just make
sure you don't insert it so far that it scores the motor casing behind the chainring. Pictures:
- downshift to an easier gear ahead of a traffic light so you can resume
pedaling without having to "mash" or stand on the pedals to make the bike move.
- don't stand on the pedals with maximum force when shifting. It’s always best to
lighten your pedaling as you shift gears.
- keep a moderate cadence of 70 to 90 rpm to put less torque on the system with
each pedal stroke.
Then there is the battery which is a pretty costly item to replace. And just as with other
parts of the bike, it will wear out over time (just as your iphone battery needs replacing
after long use). (This article from Bicycling is a nice summary of
And when it is time for a new battery,
recycle the old one.
- Don't let the battery get below 10 percent charge too frequently.
- Recharge the battery after each ride, but unplug the bike once it's fully charge.
- Storing at 100 percent charge is actually bad for longevity. Guidelines recommend
storage at between 40 and 80 percent charge.
- Riding in the cold is not a problem, but the battery should not be stored in a
cold garage in the off season. And when you ride in the off season, using a battery that
has been charged indoors (and is warm) will perform better.
WHAT'S NEW IN TECHNOLOGY
Bosch eBike Systems 2020 innovations - Lighter and more responsive motors. 50% smaller than
the previous models and weighing 2.9 kilos (25% lighter). "...manufacturers have been able to build the frames with shorter chainstays, giving the bikes a more lively feel. " And as to on the bike performance,
"The pick up from the motor was instantaneous and there wasn't any moment when you were left
wanting for assistance from it."
E-bike 2.0 - the future for road ebikes. Current e-bikes are, well, clunky. But you knew
that some company would develop something a bit more elegant and appealing to regular cyclists.
The price is high as with all new products - computers and electric cars are good examples. But
with mass production it is just a matter of time until the prices come down and they become
competitive with other high end bikes.
- Artificial Intelligence is coming. This article
is a great example of the convergence of AI (artificial intelligence) and self driving technology to
solve the problem of "shared scooter litter" on many urban streets. And it eliminates the need to
chase down scooters to recharge the battery. I'm sure we will see something similar in shared bikes too.
- A nice summary of available road e-bikes.
Amazing how much things have changed in the last few years - and prices dropped as well. Most are in the 20 pound
range (without the battery).
- A 15 pound ebike. It's
just a prototype. But ideas like this push the technology. I was
impressed with the weight saving with a friction drive motor. 600w isn't too shabby.
- And this is what is
available commercially at the moment. 24 pounds! With a glowing review to
- This ebike eliminates
another barrier to urban ebiking.
A great alternative for the daily commute. No more need to chain your bike outside at work. Just fold it
up and store it near your desk. For those interested in the
- Fast-folding frame - fold and stow the bike in just 10 seconds.
- A range of up to 50 miles
- And at 39 pounds the weight of a heavy suitcase.
- This e-roadbike leads the
pack as "state of the art" for the avid road cyclists looking for just a little extra energy boost on their
rides (maybe catching the group, on a hill, or end of a long day) but don't want to sacrifice the feeling of agility
that drew them to the sport.
- Light at 23 pounds with the rear wheel (and motor) in place, 18 pounds if you swap out the rear wheel
for a non motorized one.
- Not as much power as you'd get from a heavier city or mountain bike with a heavier battery to power that
- And a reasonable assist range of about 60 miles, which most would consider a nice days ride. (I suspect
with a little "nursing" of the level of assist you could eke out another 10 miles.)
- Hacking your own ebike.
Bicyclists are natural tinkerers - modifying and maintaining their own fleet of bikes.
This interesting article from the NYT that tells me ebiking has reached the tipping point
where all the parts are available to modify one of those extra bikes hanging in your garage.
- And the motors are getting
lighter and improving in performance.
EBIKES IN THE NEWS
- E-BIKES GET ANOTHER BOOST - Paris to subsidize ebikes. Electric cars will address the pollution problems but
not the congestion. An electric bike seems the best fit to improve both of them.
Paris will probably be just the first of many cities to come to the same conclusion.
Subsidies are the least expensive way to move things in this direction.
- WIRELESS CHARGING - With the movement toward electric bikes (electric assist or
electronically controlled adjustments on the fly) I suspect wireless charging will have a place.
When you park the e-bike in the garage, this option will eliminate the extra step of
plugging it in, or changing out batteries.
- THE TOTALLY ELECTRIC BIKE - Technology in cycling marches on.
Here we see a different slant - a smart bike that adjustments on the fly to adapt to varying riding conditions.
I was particularly intrigued by the idea of a dynamo in the rear derailleur to power the electronics.
- AN EBIKE MADE LIFE GOOD AGAIN!! A sad story to read,
but a great example of perseverance, never giving up,
and how it was an ebike that made a difference in this rider's life.
- ANOTHER USE FOR AN EBIKE - PACED
TRAINING. Why you might ask. It is much more realistic training
that following a motorized scooter. Besides being loud and foul smelling, a scooter doesn't handle modulations in
climbing pitch the way a cyclist does. Pacing behind an e-bike mimics the psychological effects that riders experience
during a race. And finally, "When you have someone else watching and holding you accountable, you don't want to fail"
....even if it is an e-bike.
ROBOBIKE DELIVERY VEHICLES. We all thought e-bikes were going to be our nemesis
as they clogged city lanes and mountain trails.
Its been speculated that rather than decrease city congestion, self driving cars might aggravate
the problem. No longer would you sit behind the wheel, get frustrated with the time suck of
commuting, and decide to join a car pool to share the driving. With an autonomous vehicle you
could just sit back and work on your computer while the car worked it's way through slowing
traffic. No car pool hassles. So actually more, rather than fewer, cars would be on the road
at any given time. Likewise for Uber and Lyft. They haven't decreased the congestion problem
by keeping cars at home. Now they roam the roads waiting for fares, and as a result
we actually do have more cars on the roads at any given time.
Bet you thought you could get an e-bike and escape into the bike lane, beating those
dummies stuck in traffic to work? Well, cyclists now have their own potential bike
lane congestion aggravating vehicle - the autonomous food (and packages) delivery robot.
Maybe drones will end up being more cost effective and save us.
- THE MARKET is booming in
2019 with more and more choices of bikes.
- E-RICKSHAWS - a
fascinating look into the dynamics that are extending the reach of e-bike technology into the third world.
- EVEN HARLEY DAVIDSON IS JUMPING ON THE EBIKE BANDWAGON. Can't afford your "bike" ( Harley) just yet?
This may help for the short term.
But of course you will also need a pair of these "leathers"
All questions and
appreciated and will be answered.
Cycling Performance Tips
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