Monday, July 04, 2022

Utility Cycling

 I do a lot of utility cycling around my suburban LA area since I bought an eBike. It's so easy to stop and take photos when out on bikes, I document some of the delightful or ridiculous things I see along the way. If you follow me on Twitter, you see the photos. 

There are some bike snobs who insist that riding eBikes is cheating and we are not exercising. So I wrote a Twitter thread about a recent 9.2 mi loop covering 3 errands. 

I found some numbers in a 2013 LA Times Opinion 

Sure enough, bicycling 10 miles in an hour burns 484 calories, according to the chart. Walking three miles in an hour burns 353 calories. And driving 30 miles in an hour burns — wait for it — 170 calories!

That presumes a lighter person on a lighter bike. My 53# eBike, 9# U-lock, 2" wide tires, middle-aged weight, and groceries mean I'm burning over 500 calories/hour if not using e-assist. I turn on e-assist only when going up steep or long hills, to get started at traffic lights/stop signs, to hit green lights (which are timed for car speeds), or to keep up with traffic on fast/busy roads.

I'm also a bit obsessed with data so I bought a Kill-a-Watt device to track how many watts I use recharging my eBike battery. I typically use 9-10 watt-hours (Wh) per mile in utility riding. 

1 food calorie = 1 kilocalorie of energy = 0.0011622 kWh

I used 90 watt-hours = 77.44 kcal/food calories of electricity. 

If I had ridden a non-assist bike at 10 mph, I would have used at least 500 calories. Assuming 77.44 of those calories came from e-assist, the breakdown would be 15% motor, 85% myself. 

I did a little more searching for cycling speeds and calories burned. This website lets you plug in a weight and it calculates calories for a variety of cycling speeds. I put in 175# for myself, my gear, my heavier-than-usual eBike. Stationary cycling doesn't have wind resistance, which is why outdoor riding uses more calories at higher speeds. 

40 minutes of 15 mph riding on an eBike would be about 500 calories, same as the earlier estimate.  This is reassuring confirmation. I'm using my eBike to ride faster and further. Hills will not stop me! Numerous studies show that I am not alone.
The people who bought e-bikes increased their bicycle use from 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) to 9.2 kilometers (5.7 miles) on average per day; a 340% increase. The e-bike's share of all their transportation increased dramatically too; from 17% to 49%, where they e-biked instead of walking, taking public transit, and driving.

I take my eBike instead of my car for more of my errands. That's a win for me (exercise in a busy schedule), for my community (no wear tear and parking to provide) and for my region (no air pollution). 

I hope you try an eBike soon. If you have, drop a comment with your experiences. 

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