by Rob Potts May 26, 2023

How to Lose Weight While Riding an E-Bike

If you're looking to lose weight, riding an E-bike (or regular bike) can be a great way to do it. E-biking is a low-impact exercise that is easy on your joints. It is also a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air.

Nothing in here will be groundbreaking, but I hope you'll find a few helpful tips.  I've long said I am going to write a weight loss book that just says - eat better, exercise more!   That's really what most weight loss programs and books are about.  Though I'd add a third - have fun!   I think that's one of the biggest issues that E-bikes solve.  There's very little fun about burning more calories than one takes in.  At least with cycling, you're participating in a fun activity that's good for us not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. 

Like others, I struggle continually with this.   Some would say it's my several nights a week ice cream habit that causes me issues.  I'm skeptical and am looking for someone to conduct a study to prove that ice cream and cookies don't negatively affect me.   Plus, in spite of my best intentions, every winter I add 10 - 12 lbs and take it back off with cycling in the summer.  Though there might be a better way to get expertise in weight loss. 

What are the main factors?

I'll boil it down to 3 main factors.   

1) Time spent on a bike.   My experience and reading has been that the average person needs to be spending 3 hours a week on a bike for good results.   

2) Frequency.   If you're riding 3-4 hours a week, riding 3 times a week is infinitely better than one long ride on the weekend.   The key is to do metabolic boosting exercise more frequently.  In fact, 2-3 times a week I commute to work on my bike for the 18 mile round trip.  I've found that two 9 mile rides during the day boosts my metabolism more than if I did one 18 mile ride in the evening.  That's even with me mostly riding in a higher pedal assist mode to get to work;  

3) Intensity of the ride.  I'll cover this later. 

Here are some tips for losing weight while riding an E-bike:

  • Set goals. Before you start riding, set some goals for yourself. How much weight do you want to lose? How often do you want to ride? Having goals will help you to stay motivated.
  • Find a route. Choose a route that is challenging but not too difficult. You want to be able to ride for a long period of time without getting too tired.
  • Start slowly. If you're not used to riding a bike, start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you spend riding.  I'd start with 30 minute rides and work your way up.  If you can spend 3 hours a week on a bike after a couple of weeks, that's good.   4 - 5 is even better.  
  • Vary your routine. Don't just ride the same route every day. Try different routes and different types of terrain. This will help to keep your workouts interesting and prevent boredom.  Your body will get used to the same workout all the time.  
  • Listen to your body. If you're feeling pain, back off. Don't push yourself too hard.  I'm not talking about the normal pain from riding, it's pain from something that just isn't right.   
  • Stay hydrated. It's important to stay hydrated when you're riding an E-bike. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your ride.  On average, drink a bottle of water every hour.  
  • Eating. Eating a healthy diet is essential for weight loss. I'm not going to get into this much, as you can find plenty of information on what to eat / not to eat.   Also, many get frustrated when they start riding because they're now hungry a lot more and need to eat more.   I'll readily admit one motivating factor for me to ride more is that I get to eat more!    It's okay to eat more when you start cycling.   I'm not an expert on diet, but you'll be building muscle when you start cycling and you will need more food to do that.  How much more - it's trial and error. But you do not want to be hungry on a ride.  If you start going on long rides, eat regular snacks.   

The intensity of cycling for weight loss

This is a question I hear all the time, and the answer surprises many.  It's also one of the 3 main factors I listed above.    The intensity of cycling that is best for weight loss depends on a number of factors, including your fitness level, goals, and the type of bike you are using. In general, however, moderate-intensity cycling is the most effective for burning calories and losing weight.

Moderate-intensity cycling is defined as cycling at a pace that is challenging but allows you to maintain a conversation. Your heart rate should be in the range of 120 to 140 beats per minute (also depends on your age and doctor recommendations). You should be able to breathe comfortably, but you should be working hard enough to feel a slight exertion.  High exertion rides are not conducive to weight loss.  This is where in a hilly area, E-bikes have an advantage over conventional bikes.   When you hit big hills on a conventional bike, your exertion level and heart rate go way up, which is not as conducive to weight loss as moderate intensity riding. 

If you are new to cycling, start with shorter rides at a lower intensity. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of your rides.  This is where E-bikes really excel at weight loss.  In fact, they have some advantages over conventional bikes in this respect as you can cover more ground right from the start.   If you were starting on a regular bike, I'd say start off with 15 - 30 minute rides.   On an E-bike, you can start off with 30 - 60 minute rides (or more).  The main thing is that your butt will be sore when you start off, no matter what. But more so if you overdo it starting out.   

With an E-bike, you can use more pedal assistance starting out and work your way down to lower pedal assistance as you get in better shape.  This is different from a conventional bike where it's more about starting with limited time/miles.  Now, with an E-bike as a regular one, if you're not experiencing some discomfort, well, you're not getting a tremendous amount of benefit from the exercise you're doing.  

In this manner, here's how I use mine.   When I'm riding the paved trails, I usually will have my pedal assist off on the flat areas.  When I hit a moderate hill, I'll put in a low pedal assist.   A big hill, and I'll do a moderate level of pedal assist.  I rarely use high even though I'm tempted.  Why?   Well, I'm trying to get in a workout and lose weight and taking it really easy does not help with that.  

Heart rate, cadence, speed, and level of exertion

Your heart rate is a good indicator of the intensity of your workout. A higher heart rate means that you are working harder. However, it is important to find a heart rate that is challenging but still allows you to maintain a conversation.

Cadence is the number of times you pedal per minute. A higher cadence means that you are pedaling faster. A faster cadence can help you to burn more calories and lose weight.

Speed is also important for weight loss. However, it is more important to focus on intensity than speed. If you are new to cycling, start with a moderate speed and gradually increase it as you get stronger.

The level of exertion you feel is also a good indicator of the intensity of your workout. You should feel a slight exertion, but you should not be gasping for breath. If you are struggling to breathe, you are working too hard.

If you follow these tips, you can lose weight while riding an E-bike. Just remember to be patient and consistent. It takes time to lose weight.  Personally, I cannot maintain more than 1 lb of weight loss a week.  

In all this, there's one big factor that I have to mention.  Riding an E-bike is fun!  I've found that at the end of a tough day where I normally don't feel like a strenuous ride, I may ride around the neighborhood with my wife for 30 - 60 minutes and get in a light workout.  I'll ride my bike a mile to the grocery store, etc.  Adding in several miles a week just doing really short errands, with the bike in a high pedal assist mode - well, I'm getting more exercise than I would be in my car.   If riding a bike is fun, even if it's a light workout, it's much better than taking my car or sitting on my couch.  

Studies.  Here's a summary, with the links to them below. 

These studies suggest that E-biking is a safe and effective way to lose weight, improve your health, and reduce your environmental impact. If you're looking for a fun and easy way to get exercise, consider getting an E-bike.




My wife and I loving our bikes on adventures together.    Sorry, I couldn't find any pictures of us on the paved trails here - this is the Katy Trail, Missouri.  We ride E-bikes everywhere because we can explore so many more miles and see and do a lot more.  Regular bikes are great for bike riding, E-bikes are amazing for exploring.  




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