Ebike Touring 101
June 24, 2021
Bike touring is idolized by both amateur cyclists and e-cyclists that have felt the joys of accomplishment after completing a day out riding. As with every other element of cycling, cycle touring is seeing the introduction of the e and the ebike -ebike touring!- to the disgruntlement of some but the excitement of so many!
Commuting via electric bike is something we’ve discussed from a few angles before, but, electric bike touring is an under-exposed topic and an even more under-discovered way for everyone to have the ability to venture out and explore the world at a much more casual pace from an entirely different perspective.
Hold on. Touring. Yes, by touring we mean traveling via electric bike. Ebike travel for such long periods might sound like a foreign idea, more foreign even than bicycle touring, but it is possible and the considerations to take when planning an ebike tour are just the same, if not less, than those you would take when planning a road bike tour.
Is it Worth Touring With an Electric Bike?
In short. Yes. Whilst this may be seen by some as the ultimate cheating it has been proven -not only through the firsthand experience of many- that riding an ebike is not cheating. There is no worry about reliability -besides battery life which will be discussed later- as ebikes are sturdy machines that can withstand rain, shine, snow and dust storms, and temperatures outside of those which anyone wants to be cycling in! Ebikes are no less capable of the job than a regular bicycle.
Who Can Consider Electric Bike Travel?
People from all walks of life, of all ages, creeds, and colors have considered and undertaken an ebike tour. Ebike travel can be undertaken solo, as a couple, or as a larger group. One of the best things about electric biking travel -or indeed any form of ebiking- is that you can tailor it to suit you.
How Much does Ebike Touring Cost?
Electric bicycle touring can be tailored to suit pretty much everyone's budget. Yes, there is the upfront cost of the ebike, the cargo-carrying equipment along with any other equipment you may want or need, but after the equipment has been purchased the costs of ebiking travel can be tailored to suit your budget.
The overall cost will be multiplied by the length of your tour, but the real defining cost factor when you're touring is how you eat and sleep. Sleeping in hotels and eating out at restaurants is the luxurious, lighter way to tour, as you'll need to carry less equipment; but it will also significantly lighten your bank account. Camping and cooking your own food is a much cheaper, and some would say more serene, way to tour but it does require carrying all the necessary equipment.
But, is it Safe?
Bad news always makes the news and this is what gives us the perception that the world is a dangerous place. In reality, the world is waiting for you with open arms, especially if you’re a cyclist. People don’t perceive cyclists, or e-cyclists, as dangerous and they’re often welcomed, treated warmly, and looked after by the strangers they encounter along their electric bike traveling adventure.
The Nitty Gritty of Ebike Travel (Planning an Ebike Tour)
If you've gotten this far then we -and maybe you- have done something to at least partially convince you that ebike touring could be in your future. But combing through the details is where every grand idea has the potential to fall flat on its face. However, like all vacations, the details are the fun part and here we've laid out the points that should be considered when planning a bike tour.
Fitness - Whilst some level of fitness is a necessity, and prior training is highly recommended, proper planning can help anyone factor in their personal level of fitness. One of the positives noted by many in the electric bike touring world is how ebikes provide the opportunity for those of different fitness levels to tour together comfortably, at the same pace. Many of the next points will be considered with one eye on your fitness level which, no matter what, will improve as your tour progresses.
How Far to Travel - Destinations, time scale, as well as the availability of food and accommodation along the way, all factor into the planning of an ebike tour. Proper planning is essential to ensuring that you always have food, water, and a safe and comfortable place to sleep. To help you work out how far you can travel in a day, take a few test runs in your local area to gauge both your’s and your battery’s average range.
Where To Travel - Where you travel is entirely up to you. Of course, where you travel is dependent on the availability of food, water, and accommodation; however, these are quite widely available. Bike tours can be planned both on-road and off-road, however, it is usually suggested that, for many reasons, your first tour be a road ebike tour.
Type of Ebike - For ebike touring, you’re going to want a cross of comfort and practicality. Being able to add fenders and multiple racks to an ebike is necessary in order to facilitate your trip, but you’re also going to want an ebike that fits you right and is, over everything else, comfortable to ride. One thing to consider is a step-through ebike, as a fully loaded touring setup is heavy, and a step-through makes it that much easier -and safer- to mount and dismount.
Weight Considerations - Every mode of transport, be it a semi-truck or an ebike, has a weight limit assigned to it. When choosing your ebike, your gear, and how you're going to be traveling make sure you keep the overall weight limit of the ebike in mind. Don't forget to include the weight of self when calculating weight!
Carrying Your Gear - We’ve already mentioned panniers and racks, but there’s the less seen option of pulling a small trailer for your gear. Both options have pros and cons and whichever you choose depends on personal preference.
Battery Range and Power - Your range is going to depend on the size of your battery, your fitness level, and how much assistance you plan on using on a daily basis. As previously mentioned, taking some test runs loaded with gear can give you a realistic gauge of how far you and your battery can travel each day. Importantly, terrain, i.e. hills, are going to factor into your range and you should do your test run on similar terrain to that which you’ll be completing your tour over.
Second Battery - Range anxiety is a real thing and will be a part of your thinking both before and during your tour. A good way to cure this is to carry a second, backup battery. You should not, however, plan to use your second battery, and therefore it will be there as a reassurance should your primary battery run out of juice.
Charging - Charging is possible at many places including: cafes, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, churches; and even office and grocery stores if you ask nicely. Many campsite hosts will also have power sockets they’re willing to let you use and pretty much any and every building or business will allow you to use their power if you ask nicely and patronize their business.
If you’re not staying in locations where you can regularly charge your batteries overnight, you may want to consider an inverter battery pack that you can charge with a solar panel whilst you're riding. This is dependent on the availability of sunlight throughout each day you’re riding; another reason to carry a spare battery with you.
Final Word: Where to Start?
Ebike tours need to be properly planned. There’re many resources online to help people of all skill levels and travel styles plan their trips; however, sometimes local knowledge can be the key to turning a good time into a great time! Check out local and regional guides, for both bike and road travel, as well as information supplied by state tourism agencies. Bicycle clubs local to the area you want to travel through can also be exceptional resources and, once you get on the road, make sure to send us a postcard!