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Since I started riding an electric bike back in 2016 I have successfully managed to lose 25kg in weight. In this article I will share 5 tips to help you lose weight riding an electric bike – losing the weight is one thing, but keeping it off requires commitment and consistency.
Disclaimer: I’m not a fitness expert, but in this article I’m sharing what’s working for me – it’s very important that you consult a doctor before undertaking any vigorous exercise regime, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions.
People buy electric bikes for many reasons – some use them for commuting and others use them as a cheap way of getting around. One of the more popular reasons for getting an e-bike is to lose weight and improve fitness. Losing weight can be a struggle and often means a life long commitment with permanent lifestyle changes. There’s no secret recipe for success – it takes focus, perseverance and hard work. My own personal challenge involved breaking habits that I’d formed over a twenty to thirty year period. What you have to do is get into the mindset of replacing bad habits with good ones.
When I was younger I played fast and lose with my health – I drank heavily for most of my adult life, I smoked heavily and I ate what I wanted when I wanted and didn’t have any consideration for the negative effects this lifestyle would have in my later years.
I didn’t start a family until the age of 37, and by the time I was 45 I was a father to five beautiful girls. At 42 years of age I was given a ‘yellow card’ by my doctor – all the warning signs were there. I was clinically obese, I had developed increasingly high blood pressure, sleep apnoea and insulin resistance. Every time I ate a large meal I would fall asleep, I felt tired all the time and suffered from mood swings.
I have always loved cycling
I learnt to ride a bicycle at 5 years old and growing up in Somerset in the 1970’s was idyllic. Back then we had the kind of freedom that a lot of children nowadays unfortunately don’t get to experience. By the time I was 14 years old I had completed my first 100 mile bike ride, and I regularly went off cycling around the Mendip hills for hours on end. At 16 years of age I was introduced to motorbikes and alcohol and sadly my love affair with cycling waned
Cycling was always my ‘go to’ exercise of choice – I’d spent a few years in my early 20’s and 30’s going to the gym, but I really enjoyed cycling. Immersing myself in the sights, sounds and fresh air of riding a bike in the countryside always left me feeling positive and energised. Unfortunately as I continued my journey through life my cycling became more sporadic until I stopped altogether.
I moved to from Somerset down to Cornwall in 1996, and started cycling again, but found the constant short and steep climbs would quell my enthusiasm. I worked and lived in Ireland for a few years in the early 2000’s and brought myself a bike and would often go cycling around North Kerry, taking in routes around where the Shannon meets the Atlantic.
Riding an Electric bike changed my life
I managed to quit smoking in 2013, but it wasn’t until three years later that I started to take the steps that would eventually lead to the new, healthier me. Discovering the health benefits of e-bikes was a turning point for me and had a massive impact on my health. It’s fair to say that riding an electric bike changed my life.
At first there was a lot of trial and error. I didn’t understand electric bikes and to be honest I brought the wrong one – it was crude and heavy, but it did help reignite my passion for cycling. From 2016 – 2017 I reckon I covered over 2000 miles on an e-bike and it had a profound effect on my general health and well-being.
By the summer of 2017 I decided to buy a regular bike and thanks to using an e-bike regularly for the previous year the transition was fairly painless. At the time of writing, I’ve covered over 15,000 miles on a regular bike and usually do several 100 mile rides each year – I’m planning on doing the Lands End to John ‘O’ Groats ride sometime in the next couple of years.
I still own and ride an e-bike for trips to the shops and recovery rides, and I’ll always be thankful for the technology.
Here are my top 5 Tips to Help you Lose Weight Riding an Electric Bike
When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off there’s no magic bullet – in my experience it involves making permanent lifestyle changes and sacrificing some of the vices you’ve come to love. There has to be a trade-off between the food you enjoy, alcohol, other things and your long-term health and well-being. It also requires fortitude and consistency – in the UK we get a lot of awful weather, if you stayed in every time it rained you’d only get to go cycling for a fraction of the time needed.
The 5 tips I’ve listed below will help you to lose weight by riding an electric bike – you will lose weight just by cycling regularly, but if you want to see drastic changes you may want to implement all of them together.
1. Ride your e-bike as often as possible
Consistency is the key – you need to build yourself up to about an hour a day. The great thing about riding an electric bike is you can tailor the assist to suit your personal needs. If you live in a fairly flat area then you shouldn’t need to use full power mode, if you live in a very hilly region then only use full power if you find yourself struggling. Most modern e-bikes produce very intuitive assist and will produce power in relation to how much effort you’re putting in.
It would be worth investing in some mudguards and wet weather gear and you will need to wrap up warm in the winter – if you’re in it for the long-game you’ll need to be cycling all year round in some pretty grim weather.
If you aren’t comfortable riding in bad weather it maybe worth investing in an indoor trainer – you can use an e-bike on a turbo trainer, but if it’s a front or rear hub motor you’d want to make sure the motor’s switched off!
2. Use a heart rate monitor and fitness tracking app
This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me personally it’s been a great help being able to track my progress. The other important thing to know about heart rate zones is that the optimum range for burning body fat is about 70% of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t already know your maximum heart rate you can do a calculation to get a rough estimate. For men it’s 214 – (0.8 x age) and women it’s 209 – (0.9 x age). This puts my maximum heart rate at 173 bpm which I would say isn’t far off the mark.
I use a chest strap-mounted heart rate monitor which are meant to be more accurate than the wrist variety. You will also need to pair your heart rate monitor up with a fitness tracking app like Strava, or even better buy a bicycle computer – I use a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt which has proven to be 100% reliable and has a great battery life.
Strava is great for tracking your progress, although you will need to pay £5.99 per month to unlock the premium features – I have found it a great motivational tool and it’s you can monitor your progress over the months.
3. Challenge yourself
Riding an electric bike is a great way to get fitter and lose some weight, but the real results happen when you start to challenge yourself more. This can be tackling more demanding, hillier routes or maybe riding in a lower assist level than you’re used to.
When I was using an e-bike to lose weight, I incrementally reduced the assist levels and my body adapted – I started challenging myself by riding up hills without the assist (just to see if I could) – this payed dividends when it came to making the shift to a regular bike as pedalling a heavy e-bike up hill without assist is hard, even for a seasoned cyclist.
It’s also worth experimenting with your pedalling cadence (rpm) as this will also have an effect on weight loss and endurance – it seems that pedalling at a low to moderate cadence of 40-60 rpm you use less energy and burn more fat whereas pedalling faster tends to expend more energy, and burns more carbohydrate.
4. Diet and lifestyle
This is one of the most important factors for losing weight. Sure you’ll initially lose a bit of weight riding an e-bike, but if you don’t make changes to your diet it’s likely the weight loss will slow or even stop.
You don’t need to go on a full-on diet, but cutting out things like sugar and high-carb foods will have a big impact. When you eat is also quite important, it’s widely accepted that you shouldn’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime.
Try and get more fresh green vegetables and salad in your daily diet and maybe try replacing one meal with a smoothie. Avoid snacking in between meals if you can and avoid soft drinks – they’re full of nasty chemicals and artificial sweeteners.
Intermittent fasting can also be beneficial. I’ve only recently started doing this and it was difficult at first, but now I feel more energised with increased mental clarity plus I sleep better and awake feeling fresher. I usually try to eat within a 6-8 hour window and do not consume anything with calories outside of that window – I just drink water and have the occasional cup of green tea with lemon juice and ginger. Intermittent fasting forces your body to be more efficient and use fat stores as energy – since I started doing this I find I have more energy on my daily morning bike rides despite not having eaten anything for the previous 12-13hrs.
5. Set realistic goals
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight is to set themselves unrealistic goals. I’ve always been told that around 2-4lbs a week is a sensible weight loss to aim for. If you lose weight slower and more consistently then you’re likely to keep it off.
Another thing is not to completely deny yourself the occasional indulgence. I love Indian food, and treat the family once a month to a takeaway, I’ll also have a Pizza maybe once a fortnight. As for alcohol? That’s a personal choice, unfortunately for me I’ve always had a very unhealthy relationship with booze and I decided the best course for me was complete abstinence.
Trying to get fit and lose weight can be a daunting task. Riding an e-bike is not only enjoyable but very good for you as well. Cycling in a very hilly area can be very difficult for an unfit rider, but having e-assist adds a whole different dimension to the cycling experience. I used to dread the endless short steep hills where I live and it hampered my progress, once I started using an e-bike I was out on it all the time and the novelty didn’t wear off for me.
If you are thinking of buying an electric bike with the primary aim of losing weight, it has been proven in numerous studies that the e-bike can be a great fitness tool – but remember, at some stage you’ll need to start pushing your limits a little in order to make progress.
Apart from changing your diet and eating habits it’s also worth adding other activities if you have time – cold water swimming is amazing! I enjoy swimming in the sea with my wife, all through the winter months without a wetsuit and it really does give you a boost for the day.
There is another e-bike fitness related article on this blog with more detailed info on the kind of electric bike that is best – Can you Get Fit Riding an Electric Bike
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you have any questions or comments regarding this topic please feel free to leave a comment below.