Average heart rate during eMTB use was 93.6% of average heart rate during conventional mountain bike use

Science says: average heart rate during eMTB use was 93.6% of average heart rate during conventional mountain bike use.

>>> The best Black Friday deals on electric mountain bikes

Another week, another study into pedal-assist electric bikes. This time though it’s specifically about mountain biking and e-bikes.

A study called Pedal-Assist Mountain Bikes: A Pilot Study Comparison of the Exercise Response, Perceptions, and Beliefs of Experienced Mountain Bikers has been recently published.

Here are the edited highlights

The study aimed to compare conventional mountain bike and eMTB use. This was done by investigating two questions:

  1. What proportion of exercise response (AKA ‘effort’) is retained for an experienced mountain biker while using an eMTB when compared with a conventional mountain bike?
  2. What are the perceptions and beliefs of experienced mountain bikers toward eMTBs both before and after riding an eMTB?

Upon arrival at the trail, participants were fitted with a heart rate monitor and corresponding Apple Watch. Each Apple Watch was paired to the heart rate monitor and Strava app to record the participant’s ride data.

Participants were randomly assigned to ride a 6-mile study loop on either a conventional mountain bike or an eMTB. The loop included approximately 700 feet of elevation gain, the most intense climbing section averaging a 5% incline over a distance of one mile. Upon completing the study loop on their initially assigned bike, participants’ heart rate and Strava data were saved. Participants then rode the loop again on the other bike. After completing the study loop a second time, participant heart rate and Strava data were again saved.

The ebikes used were 2017 Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp Carbon 6Fattie models with a maximum assistance speed of 20 mph (32 kph). Participants were given the option of either riding their own mountain bike or a 2017 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 6Fattie model to ride the non-eMTB lap of the loop.

Participants also completed both a pre- and post-ride questionnaire to see how their opinions about ebikes changed.


Participants completed the course an average of 12 min and 40 seconds faster when riding the eMTB.

The average speed of travel on the eMTB was 4.1 mph (6.6 km/h) faster than on the conventional mountain bike.

Participants’ average heart rate during the eMTB ride was 9.9 beats per minute (bpm) lower than during the conventional mountain bike ride.

With a mean age of 37.8 years, participants’ estimated maximum heart rate was 182 bpm.

Riding both the conventional mountain bike and the eMTB placed participants’ in the upper half of the vigorous-intensity zone.

The average heart rate during the eMTB loop was 93.6% of the average heart rate of the loop ridden on a conventional mountain bike.

Despite this measurement, participants’ perceived exertion while riding the eMTB was low. In other words, riders didn’t think they ere working as hard as they really were whilst on the ebike.

Though heart rate, energy expenditure, oxygen consumption, and intensity was generally lower compared with a conventional bike, e-bike use still produced moderate physical activity in comparable settings.


Experienced mountain bikers aged between 18 and 65 years were recruited to participate in this study. The majority of participants were male (88%; 29/33). The average age was just under 38 years.

Only three participants had previously ridden an eMTB before participating in this study.

The sample of participants holding positive attitudes about eMTB at the onset. Only 18% of participants indicated they were opposed to eMTB on the preride survey. Those volunteering to participate in this study likely had more positive views of eMTBs and were excited for the opportunity to ride one.