Conventional pedal vs E assist *calories burned*

GravelGrindR

Member
Region
Canada
Being new to Ebikes, but having been bicycling since 1960, I have run the gamut from paperboy, long distance riding, amateur MTB racing..at which I sincerely sucked...not a win...ever, loads of DNF's 😆
Anyhoo, in the advent of computed assistance, to keep track of every possible biometric and data point, I, being kinda geeky, embraced the advancement of cycling...geometry, speed, weight, materials, micro-processors etc. So, Ebikes were a natural progression for me. Sure I was a tad skeptical about the speed and enjoyment aspect...for me, as I still love my Specialized Diverge...22lbs, nimble, fast and a delight to ride. I live in a valley, and spend a great deal of my retirement riding up and down the the abandoned rail-trails up and down the valley and along the shores. But, I really missed the challenge of hills, but alas, at 67, my "desire" to climb and feel the burn was dwindling...until the advent of Ebikes. I closely followed with nerdy glee, each development and advancement as the years went by.

My wife who also loves riding expressed a keen interest in keeping up with me one day 😉...so she pondered and researched, and decided an Ebike would fit the bill.
So she bought one. Problem solved..right? no more me constantly looping back, her busting a quad trying to keep up with me...oh I'm sorry, I really tried to take it nice and..moderate, but it's not in my DNA...I don't exactly race down the trails, but..never mind, you get it..right?

At his point, I'm still thinking, this is a much more level playing field...she has an Ebike, and can now keep up, less fretting, more trail banter etc etc.
Then she spots a slightly used 2019/sold last November Giant Toughroad GX E+ at the LBS where she was finalizing the sale on her Ebike..turns to me and says.."Oh look! that's nice, do you like it? Well, do politicians lie? So, after an amazing test ride I was convinced, and we were both so excited that we actually forgot the whole point of
her getting an Ebike...to level the playing field..but of course the rationalization begins, and it's all "oh but of course we both need one if we want to ride up the the bay or down to the shore over the mountains...right? Right. And so it begins. 😜

So, to the caloric burn part...I have done no real scientific study, outside of repetition of distance, pre-ride meal, weather, tire pressure.
It started when I rode the bike home from the shop, a distance of about 14.5 kms. I use Cyclemeter Elite to track and record my data, so I have at least 2 years worth still on my phone, so I can easily pull it up to compare data from the same routes. The figure that jumped out at me was Calories burned. 577. Using all the available assist settings, for the Ebike, I burned almost the identical amount of calories as I do on my Diverge. Hmmm I thought, "interesting".

So today, I decided to do another well recorded route...25k, but this time, I decided to do the route on the Giant...with the power off. I know, who want's to pedal a 1X11 50lb Gravel bike 25k with no assist whatsoever *see geek* , but I was curious so I had to scratch that itch. Partly the calorie curiosity, and partly pragmatism...what would happen if I happened if my battery died, far from my starting point..right? Well, I was quite surprised at just how easy it was to roll along at a decent speed without destroying my legs.
Yes, my Diverge would have gotten me there and back a lot faster, but, the calories were almost identical. Quite odd, but I suppose it makes sense in a physiological sort of way.
I'm not sure of the formula concerning such things, the strange physics and bicycle alchemy, but it was reassuring to me.

My biggest concern about riding an Ebike was that I would degrade my fitness level because of the assist. It would appear I got the math wrong, or my perception of Ebikes was off, but I now looking forward to an enormous amount of fun hill climbing on my bike.
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
So today, I decided to do another well recorded route...25k, but this time, I decided to do the route on the Giant...with the power off. I know, who want's to pedal a 1X11 50lb Gravel bike 25k with no assist whatsoever *see geek* , but I was curious so I had to scratch that itch. Partly the calorie curiosity, and partly pragmatism...what would happen if I happened if my battery died, far from my starting point..right? Well, I was quite surprised at just how easy it was to roll along at a decent speed without destroying my legs.
Yes, my Diverge would have gotten me there and back a lot faster, but, the calories were almost identical. Quite odd, but I suppose it makes sense in a physiological sort of way.
I'm not sure of the formula concerning such things, the strange physics and bicycle alchemy, but it was reassuring to me.

My biggest concern about riding an Ebike was that I would degrade my fitness level because of the assist. It would appear I got the math wrong, or my perception of Ebikes was off, but I now looking forward to an enormous amount of fun hill climbing on my bike.
only if you user assist to make it easy. I use assist to go faster and climb better. really though if you dont have a HRM connected its hard to tell what's going on. I have found all my bikes but my e tandem are geared wrong for riding without power.
 

mschwett

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
that’s the interesting thing about bikes. the main driver of the power requirement per mile is either going fast (nonlinear function!) or going uphill. going uphill also leads to going downhill, aka going fast, and if you’re a fairly serious rider you’ll often be pedaling just as hard downhill as uphill.

so once you add a motor to the mix, the question becomes ”are you pedaling as hard as you would on a regular bike?” If the answer is yes, and you ride for the same amount of time, you’ll burn the same number of calories. You’ll just go faster, and further.

however, if you ride the same route with a motor at a higher speed (due to the motor contribution), pedaling with the same intensity, you’ll burn less calories because you aren’t riding for as long!

increasing speed ups the energy requirement SO FAST that it actually doesn’t take much extra distance to equalize the caloric expenditure if the speed goes up even a few miles per hour. all the motor is doing is supplying the power required to go from say 15 to 20mph on the flats, which is not insignificant! (Takes twice as much power….)

also note that calorie estimates from bikes computers and calculators are way off, but if you have an accurate power meter, they’re very accurate.
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
that’s the interesting thing about bikes. the main driver of the power requirement per mile is either going fast (nonlinear function!) or going uphill. going uphill also leads to going downhill, aka going fast, and if you’re a fairly serious rider you’ll often be pedaling just as hard downhill as uphill.

so once you add a motor to the mix, the question becomes ”are you pedaling as hard as you would on a regular bike?” If the answer is yes, and you ride for the same amount of time, you’ll burn the same number of calories. You’ll just go faster, and further.

however, if you ride the same route with a motor at a higher speed (due to the motor contribution), pedaling with the same intensity, you’ll burn less calories because you aren’t riding for as long!

increasing speed ups the energy requirement SO FAST that it actually doesn’t take much extra distance to equalize the caloric expenditure if the speed goes up even a few miles per hour. all the motor is doing is supplying the power required to go from say 15 to 20mph on the flats, which is not insignificant! (Takes twice as much power….)

also note that calorie estimates from bikes computers and calculators are way off, but if you have an accurate power meter, they’re very accurate.
yes but if you ride longer and more like I do then it makes up for the speed I doubt I could ride 30+ miles a day everyday without a e bike. . My bosch has a power meter and has my HR and my garmin just has my Heartrate. but they are both pretty close on calories burned. but my Apple Watch or or strava on my watch even with my heart rate is way too high.
 

mschwett

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
yes but if you ride longer and more like I do then it makes up for the speed I doubt I could ride 30+ miles a day everyday without a e bike. . My bosch has a power meter and has my HR and my garmin just has my Heartrate. but they are both pretty close on calories burned. but my Apple Watch or or strava on my watch even with my heart rate is way too high.
i think most people ride for the same amount of time that they would on a regular bike - i generally plan my rides by how much time i have, selecting an appropriate route for the time. so really as long as i’m pedaling hard, for X hours, the exercise is the same.

the heart rate / distance / speed / weight based estimates for me are comically low, but my heart rate is unusually low. they may be slightly more accurate for others 😂
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
since we are going faster we can travel farther so its more interesting. so I ride more because I enjoy it more. I work out how many miles I feel like I can do sometimes time sometimes not. calories burned is always going to be different for different people. myself I cant eat carbs they make me sick and fat does not really give me much of a boost so most of my energy comes from protein. sometimes I thin 9th calorie count is low as I can feel like I am starving. I wont usually gain or lose weight.
 

mschwett

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
since we are going faster we can travel farther so its more interesting. so I ride more because I enjoy it more. I work out how many miles I feel like I can do sometimes time sometimes not. calories burned is always going to be different for different people. myself I cant eat carbs they make me sick and fat does not really give me much of a boost so most of my energy comes from protein. sometimes I thin 9th calorie count is low as I can feel like I am starving. I wont usually gain or lose weight.

so true, that’s also why i love road bikes and pavement. 75 miles on a big loop in four hours from my front door is, for me, about 10x as satisfying as throwing your bike on a car, two hours of driving plus 20-30 miles in two hours of trail riding. you can see so much, and around here even the weather changes in those distances.
 
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fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
so true, that’s also why i love road bikes and pavement. 75 miles on a big loop in four hours from my front door is, for me, about 10x as satisfying as two hours of driving plus 20-30 miles in two hours of trail riding. you can see so much, and around here even the weather changes in those distances.
we dont even have a car we ride everywhere.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Mazovia, Poland
Yes, my Diverge would have gotten me there and back a lot faster, but, the calories were almost identical. Quite odd, but I suppose it makes sense in a physiological sort of way.
I'm not sure of the formula concerning such things, the strange physics and bicycle alchemy, but it was reassuring to me.
Hi.
I intentionally skipped reading all other comments to allow me present my totally unbiased viewpoint (I'm sure @mschwett was right on the spot, even without reading his posts).

A human person, especially an enthusiast cyclist can only output as much of energy as it is possible for the body. As I own both a lightweight low-power e-bike (Vado SL) and a heavier full power one (Vado), and both e-bikes allow deep insight into recorded ride parameters, I can state what follows:
  • The power my legs can deliver is the same regardless what e-bike I have ridden and at what assistance level. Also, with the power off.
  • The number of calories burnt is the same for the same net ride time
  • The more assistance only means I can ride farther in the same time and with the same number of calories burnt.
An interesting ride of last Saturday:
I and brother set off for a long ride. I rode a powerful Vado and he rode a powerful Giant e-bike. We both manipulated with assistance level of each e-bike to be able to ride at the same speed with maximum continuous effort each of us could deliver. Verdict:
  • His legs are twice as strong as mine. My measured assistance output was twice compared to his e-bike.
  • His battery range was twice of mine, or
  • I had to ride twice what he actually rode to burn as many calories as he did.
In other words, his average contribution to the ride was twice of mine.
 
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GravelGrindR

Member
Region
Canada
Thanks SO much for all of your thoughtful and encouraging replies :)
Speaking of bike racks, we have a very robust Yakima 2-bike carrier, but rarely use it, as we are fortunate enough to live right next to a trail, that will take us all over the province, but we do plan "bike holidays" up in the Cape Breton Highlands, PEI etc, but for the most part, it's just hop on and gooooo.