Riding an Electric Bike is NOT Cheating. Here’s the Data to Prove It [VIDEO]

adam alter electric bike

Adam Alter and his Stromer ST2

By Paul Willerton

As the warm glow of the Texas morning sun rises over the State Capital building in Austin, a cyclist suddenly flashes by.

Flash is the right term. For someone seemingly commuting to work by bike, this one was really moving.

The rider, Adam Alter, is just finishing his 19 mile daily commute from his home in Round Rock to BSX Insight, a company making and using specialized human performance monitoring equipment in Austin.

Alter makes his living helping bike riders monitor and understand how their bodies and muscles, more precisely, are performing.


Adam’s electric bikes; A Stromer ST2 and Focus Aventura Impulse Speed.

On this day, Alter blazed into town aboard his Focus Aventura Impulse Speed. He was collecting data about the commute, using both a traditional pedal commuter bike and the Focus eBike.

His goal was to overlay the data sets and draw a conclusive comparison between these different bikes.

electric bike commuting data not cheating

Note that his heart rate and average watts (from his pedal power) is consistent across all of the bikes, yet with the eBikes he is traveling faster and cuts his commute time down.

Most of the eBike miles have been from riding the Focus Aventura, but recently Adam began commuting on a Stromer ST2. The Cervelo and Specialized bikes are conventional, non-electric bikes.

ebike commuting route round rock to austin

Adam Alter’s bike commute route from Round Rock to Austin.

Interestingly, before digging into the performance figures, Alter wanted to share some financial figures. “I live by a toll road, and my vehicle is a Yukon XL, because of the kids”, Alter says.  “It takes 3-4gal of gas to do 40 miles in Austin traffic.”

He adds,  “To park in my building is $24/day, exact same cost as paying the meter. So, it’s about $40 a day to drive to work and back.” Whenever possible, Alter prefers to ride.  “It’s so awesome to get out and pedal a bike, rather than pedaling the gas and brake pedals of a car in traffic.”

Of course time, as always, is critical.  “I’m very busy at work, and try to get as much time with the family as I can. With the eBike, I found I can still get great exercise, but actually move efficiently in 30mph zones while carrying all my commute and work gear.”

Alter doesn’t just ride to save money. He applies himself when he rides and wants to benefit from the exercise. He could tell he was exerting himself on the eBike, but wanted to know more specifically what his body was doing.

That’s when he began recording his output. “I took a sample of 2,000 miles over 11 weeks, where I was riding my Sirrus commuter as well as my Focus eBike commuter. I used the same power meter pedals, same heart rate monitor, used the same commute route.”

Then, a discovery. “I basically had the same intensity regardless of the bike I was on, as reflected in my heart rate average and max nearly matching perfectly.” Simply put, he could ride the eBike as hard as he wished.

bike vs ebike effort

“My average power input was actually higher on the eBike because it cut my commute time down so much I wasn’t destroying my body with over training.” Alter felt the shorter commute times on the eBike resulted in higher output, more intense workouts.

“Moving to the eBike added almost 7 mph to my ride. My body worked the exact same but for a shorter duration.” The gains showed up in other places, as well. “The five day commute felt more sustainable and freed up more time with family. Still, the 10.5 hrs of intensity each week is plenty to keep me in really solid fitness shape.”

bike vs ebike efficiency

Alter learned that his daily 40 mile commute adds up to 10.5 hrs a week on an eBike compared to 7.45 hrs a week by car.  “Investing three hours of additional commute time gives me 10.5 hrs of working out a week.” He adds, “Plus fun and money savings, when you compare the cost of parking, gas, and toll road.”

Alter pauses, not bothering to factor in wear and tear, depreciation, and auto maintenance costs, then adds “Another great thing about the ebike is, if I have a tough day, I can just cruise home on max assist, dropping my own power and still easily do 18mph+ and not take much longer.”

Here is a video that Adam created showing the costs:

Experienced riders know it’s easily possible to ride as hard as they want on an eBike. Equally as hard as they can on any other form of bicycle.

Still, eBike riders are sometimes cited as “cheating” by the traditional pedal crowd. Perhaps insight such as what was put forward here by Adam Alter will help break down those misconceptions and lack of understanding.

As he says, “On my eBike I can always do intervals, sustained efforts, and hammer until I’m ready to pass out, as if I’m on my regular road bike!”

Thanks to Paul Willerton for this report!

P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips!


  1. Eugene says

    Thanks Paul,

    I am very familiar with the trip from Austin to Round Rock and your analysis was very helpful as I will do 40 miles a day on my planned trip around the world on an e-bike.

  2. says

    I am so happy to read this article. I work with Pedego electric bicycles, ride them and have a kinesiology degree. I am regularly explaining to people that you will work as hard as you choose to on e-bikes; you simply have more options, go faster and there is no need to strain due to distance or hills. I ride more often, go farther and only use my car for specific reasons (reversal of former relationship with bike/car!). Thank you for putting it into irrefutable statistics.

  3. David Castro says

    My 42-mile round trip on my ebike takes me 3 hours compared to an hour by car. It’s still worth it, though!

  4. Harry Lieben says

    You know, one could make the exact same story using a normal bike versus a velomobile with the additional benefit of being protected from the weather. Also the body of the velomobile gives good protection while an e-bike at those speeds is far from safe. So I’m really at a loss why people choose an e-bike over a velomobile. I can understand from roadies wanting to ride a UCI certified bike so they can participate in UCI races, but why would a commuter choose an uncomfortable, unsafe and bad-weather prone e-bike?

    • says

      I have a commuter bike, ebikes, AND a velomobile. They are all very different. Where I live the terrain varies widely. The velomobile as a pedal only vehicle is slow to work. It’s a long steep uphill. In other scenarios it is faster. Not everyone wants an odd 3 wheeled vehicle. I use it mainly during the rainy season now. I find the ebike more fun on other days. I can take more varied routes, trails, etc. I might as well say an electric velo does the same to a standard one! Add a motor for even more speed to decrease commute time! Then there’s cost, they are simply more expensive than ebikes. I’ve done the math, an electric bike is cheaper to run than paying for food to cycle harder. I like them all for different reasons. If I had to choose one, I’d keep an electric velomobile.

  5. says

    Paul, Thank you for your report. I have been riding and promoting e-bikes now for a couple of years and I here repeatedly, “E-bikes are cheating”. I recently purchased a Trilogy property in Brentwood Ca. which is a 55 plus active adult community. Mondays, Wednesday and Friday a ride begins and covers on average between 15 and 20 miles per ride. I have a E motion mountain bike I ride and I am riding often with an assortment of ex Centurion and Triathlon riders whom are very strong riders. During the ride I limit my us of the assist available to the absolute minimum. There is a significant difference between the weights of the e-bike and the road bikes the others are riding. The course is mostly flat we ride and I enjoy drafting behind these very accomplished riders on my e-mountain bike. My point is you can cheat at any thing yet riding an e–bike does not mean you are cheating. It all comes down to the discipline you have and the condition you maintain. I love my e-bikes and only the ignorant call it cheating. I ride my e-bike all the time where the others stating they would never ride an e-bike because it is cheating only ride the bike occasionally “for exercise”. Who do you think gets more exercise? Me riding a 60# e-bike al the time or some one who rides a 14# road bike occasionally.

    • Al says

      I’d also add that many older bicyclists have some sort of injury, hip, knee & etc and an ebike can reduce the stress needed so one can still be out riding as opposed to vegging out.

  6. Al says

    I commute over Mt Tam in Marin 15 miles on an Optibike. When I get a comment that I’m cheating (which is usually on the weekend when the warriors are in town and I’m stopping at the store on my ebike) I reply “when I’m commuting M-F I don’t see any of you guys (bicyclists) ever–I’m commuting with lots of pedaling all by myself and you guys just go riding on the weekend for recreation.” They usually reply with a blank stare or the smarter ones smile & nod a silent “touche.”

  7. says

    Pete, great coverage on a critical topic. I think the entire industry in North America would make a quantum leap if an organization like LEVA or the bike parts consortium (thru Larry P) would create a unanimously adopted infographic visually showcasing cost, commuting, health, time-saving, carbon footprint, and fun benefits of ebikes as compared to cars, manual bikes and motorcycles. Then distribute the graphics to be posted on every bike website and on every IBD retailer wall (huge 6′ × 10′). PS good luck in Tempe. PH

  8. says

    I’m in Gracywoods, in North Austin. I ride a FeltElectric SPORTe95 10.5 miles to just north of the Capitol.

    I make it in about 45-50 minutes, which is quicker than driving it.

    I’m 62 and have back, neck and knee problems, ane the technology helps eliminate the effects of hills and headwinds.

    Besides, it’s just macho punks who denegrate older, beat up riders.

    An electric bike is no worse than an electric guitar. Nobody says Clapton is cheating by playing an electric! Same diff.

    • says

      I am in Austin, too, half the year. Have a a Felt Electric Sport in Austin which I love, and half the year in Italy a Whistle. Both have the same Bosch motor. I am 60 and obese, but who the hell cares, I am doing 30 miles a day every day. Only problem I have with the Ebike is that it is a bitch going over the motor’s limit. Bikes in Italy can do 45 kilometers and hour, much better. And just let me observe that cyclists in Italy are FAR better behaved, and a pod of them wouldn’t dream of forcing a middle-aged woman doing “only” 25 mph over to the side of the road where the glass and gravel are. Also, I wish the article told which route is being taken from RoundRock to Austin. I 35 access road?


    1. Those who use the bike for exercise.
    2. Those who use the bike as a means of transport.

    Neither needs to look down her knows at the other … but hey, I am a bit sick of people who think a road is their personal gymnasium while their peloton holds up traffic.

    The heavier the car traffic the happier I am on my e.bike.

  10. David says

    The problem with electric bikes isn’t that’ they have a motor. Its the bikes with throttles that are the problem.. A torque sensing ebike will make you work almost as hard as a normal bike but you’ll move much faster. This is the future of bike commuting. Just increase the speed and battery life while driving down the price. BTW, that ST2 in the story above is around $7k. That’s WAY too expensive for all but a handful of hard core bike commuters.

    • Al Mayberry says

      My ebikes have throttles but I love pedaling–maybe I’m lucky. After a trip on my ebike I feel really dumb just sitting there on my motorcycle.

      The ebike throttle gives me more controlover the power. I supose if some peeps have a tendency to loaf and just throttle along you might be right (except in my case of course)

  11. Tommy says

    Ebikes are cheating ? I always laugh at that comment . If that’s the case then we all should just be walking . Because according to that analogy Any advance in technology is cheating . Bicycles were advanced technology to speed up commute from walking . As is the automobile . I’m curious to know if the rider in the data was using X amount of pedal assist on his commute ? Knowing that would have helped unless I missed that point ?

  12. says

    My wife is actually looking for the hard facts of whether the electric bikes were worth it or not. I had no idea that while riding an e-bike that you were basically getting the same workout with the added bonus of being shorter. Thanks for all the great data you’ve collected on your e-bike!

  13. François Lavoie says

    Hi Paul, Thanks for this post ! I kept this study to explain to my friends that the effort you put in riding an e-bike is almost the same than on a regular bike, except that you ride a lot faster, wich is pure fun ! I own a Ohm bike, manufatured in Vancouver,Canada with Bionx Technology. The specs are really comparable with the Stromer.
    Riding as fast as shown in the video is not always possible. You need decent road quality, otherwise it could be dangerous. Also it depends of the traffic on the bike path. I live in Montreal where the flow of bikes in the rush hours is really heavy ; I canot see somebody riding at 28 mph in that situation. I keep my level assitance at 2, on a possibility of 4. My average speed is between 18 to 22 mph. I put the machine at his maximum only when the weather is very bad and i whant to go home in a hurry. The weight of the E-bikes make it almost inacessible for people that have strairs to climb. Don’t worry about the fitness that an e-bike will provide you. Everybody have his own peace of riding, so you will ride has hard as before, and probably you will get on your bike more often than before. I love it !

  14. says

    Great report and video. The articles shows us the detailed contrastion between an electric bike and a car. I also own an ebike and it is real interesting bike

  15. Dave Kraft says

    Not sure if anyone remembers the history, but when cars became popular, horse drawn wagon and coach drivers would swear at them and shake their fists. Government even made punitive laws against them.

    It’s an old story with a new twist.

  16. says

    I’ve been commuting by e-bike for 6 years and will pass 40,000 miles on my custom Kalkhoff with Panasonic mid-drive. My commute is 15 miles each way from Boulder to Longmont, CO. While relatively flat (500″ gain into Boulder) we do have lots of wind. I see a few bike commuters on nice days but rarely on windy days, which is much of the time. I’m guessing those would be bike commuter have retreated to their cars – who is cheating? I’m getting 1.5 hours of good exercise every day and on average, I’m 10 minutes slower that driving a car each way. So for 20 minutes invested, I’m getting 1.5 hours of exersise, not pouring oil and its many harmful derivatives into the earth and atmosphere, not taking up space in an expensive parking garage, not spending money on auto maintenance, insurance etc… But most of all, I’m not cheating anything except the effects of time on my body.
    Cheers to a well written article.

  17. Ken says

    Great article hope it gets around..

    I’m one thousand k’s short of 20,000 km over the last 18 months in all kinds of weather (Vancouver Canada can be somewhat damp at times) on my Ohm XU 700 ebike. Ya, I do get a few looks and comments from regular (fair weather) cyclists about “cheating” at times but I really don’t let it bother me as I know what this mode of transportation is and is not doing to/for me. In the end I arrive at my destinations, both work and play, with less frustration, a bigger smile, in better shape, without as much wear and tear (at my age that is important) with lower cost, and in almost the same amount of time than driving.

    It’s like a no brainer.

    I did have to put out some cash for a car cover and a trickle charger the other week as it was getting really getting dusty after parked and not used….

  18. steve clayton says

    I’m so happy this article has gotten such a positive response. Personally, I’m 69 years old, in pretty good shape considering I’ve had 5 arterial stents installed and a femoral artery bypass that allows me to do silly things like WALK.. Four years ago, I bought 2 e-tour electric bikes from an advertiser on this website. One for my wife and one for me. They were not the most expensive product nor the fanciest, but they fit our needs. We lived in San Diego at the time and we were able to cruise around our neighborhood hills and all, with relative ease. Some complain about the throttle ruining the experience but I can attest that you can use as much or as little of the boost as you feel appropriate for the moment.

    I retired, we moved to Oceanside California in a plus 55 community and I took a part-time professorship at an architectural and design college back in San Diego.

    Anyone who has ever commuted on Interstate 5 in California will tell you that it is named the I-5 is because that is the average speed between the hours of 6 and 11 AM.. (Also 3 and 7 PM) I can ride my e-bike to the Coaster, a train service from Oceanside to San Diego, from the Santa Fe Depot and school in a little longer than I would take to drive. As a bonus, I can watch the ocean on my commute, rather than some knucklehead try to text and drive. Often, I am able to put finishing touches on class presentations while riding on the train.

    Other than having the joy of riding again, I know that I am doing my part to stay healthy and help preserve the environment.

  19. Steve Cardarella says


    Indeed, the electric bike is an efficient mode of transportation, though let me share the “heed to safety” message… I know, you don’t want to hear it.

    I’ve biked all my life, and know that biking adds much value to ones life! Though, a concentration on the “time” element of riding an e-bike is a dangerous path to ride along.

    I purchased my Stromer last spring, and rode it daily, every day! Wow, what a change of pace…. I was traveling everywhere, any time, and at much and such higher speeds!

    Having put my Trek’s aside, I was on my new investment in transportation daily, and taking my experience along the route(s). I never crashed a bike, ever…. had a certain “safety” history… since losing my brother to a bike crash nearly 50 years ago, he was 10 at the time, and he was my younger sibling.

    Speed on the E-bike became an element for the ride, always comparing my effort on and off the bike.. I was passing bikers everywhere, and moving through traffic seemingly without effort…. it is a fast rewarding feedback that e-bike provides.

    Though, the day came. riding away from traffic,, I made a drastic and unrealistic estimation of the control of my E-bike. I had become accustom to my new speed and control., so I thought.

    Losing control into a round-about on a residential street, I experienced my first e-bike crash. Results, no bicycling for the rest of the season… a broken femur, crushed knee, fractured tibia….. a 60 pound bike can do that to you, once you lose control.

    Of course, helmeted, and geared up with all my safety efforts did not prevent me from being “altered” into the experience of safe e-biking. … making every ride faster, and in my thought process… more efficient.

    So, I share this with you my fellow e-bikers, enjoy the ride, limit your speed, the results can be drastic if you ride irresponsible to this new environment of bicycling. And yes, it was NOT the e-bike that caused the crash, it was the rider on that new e-bike., though I believe I’ve learned a lesson on limitations… be it speed, energy, cost effectiveness, time saved… you see, I’ve had lots of time thinking aobut this the past 10 months.

    Oh, by the way, rode my e-bike once again for the first time yesterday!

    Take care, Steve

  20. says

    Paul, Thanks for this article. I bought an iZip Express and have been doing a lot of my commuting by eBike since November. I also have an approximate 40 mile round trip commute and make each leg in about an hour on the eBike vs 35-40 minutes in traffic. I find its a great way to unwind after the work day and get my thoughts together before working. I look like a rolling Christmas Tree as I’m a bit paranoid of being hit on some of the roads I ride on, but have 2 front lights, a bright rear light, a lighted vest, monkey lights on the wheels and those clip in lights for my shoes. Extreme perhaps, but I work in health care and often work with accident victims. Doing my best to be as visible as possible and avoid the trauma surgeon’s OR table! It’s been all good (minus a few rear flats, but I think I have that solved) and I’m loving the fact that I can exercise while doing something good for the environment.

  21. Ed says

    Thank you, Paul for this article. And thank you, Mr Alter for the data you provided.

    The “proof that ebike riding is not cheating” would work out better if there were a randomized collection from a bunch of ebike riders using the same method of measurements that Mr. Alter used.

    One data point, Mr. Alter’s 11 weeks of ebike riding, doesn’t mean that everyone is getting more of a workout like he is.

  22. Andos says

    If you ride only 5-6 miles to work on a ebike vs a regular bike you will get a better workout on a regular bike especially if there are hills. No research is required for this to make sense as a logical statement.

    This article is about someone who would overtrain with a very long commute on a regular bike. I agree that if you have a long commute that you probably wouldn’t bike too often with a regular bike, then a ebike will give you more exercise simply because you would drive or take the bus otherwise.

    • says

      But, as a regular ebike user I can attest that what you say is true absolutely for the hills, provided the ebike uses maximum assist on those. But over time I have downgraded my assistance level and no longer require the maximum for really steep hills. So much depends on how many hills and how steep they are. As for the rest of the trip, if I go over 25 kilometers and hour I get no assistance from my 50-pound bike. And normally I go about 30-35 km an hour. So I not only get through my 25-35 km. route faster, but I am getting a much better workout by going above the “motorized-assist” speed.
      If I were to go under 25 km and use maximum assist, well, it would be like sitting in my armchair and what would be the point?

      • George says

        The “POINT” is an effortless mode of transport for fat old bastards like me! No need for a guilt trip if you relax and enjoy max assist dear fellow cheaters.
        Let the Lycra purists take the high ground. I am enjoying passing them on the way up there!

          • GEORGE says

            The “CAUSE” is to promote cycling in all its forms …and the e.bike is particularly for the less athletic among us. No shame in that. You would not want to see me in lycra, Sandra, believe me!!


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