E-bike tours are on the rise – which is no surprise really given e-bike sales have gone crazy in the last few years.
E-bike touring lets everyone, whatever their fitness levels, enjoy exploring the world by bike. It’s this ability to level the playing field that is seeing more and more cyclists take e-bike tours.
John Vincent and his wife are from Canada and describe themselves as e-bike touring seniors. In the last few years they’ve been on e-bike adventures all over Europe.
In this article, John explores what e-bike touring is, why people e-bike tour and who e-bike tours are for.
What is e-bike touring?
There’s no great mystery here: e-bike touring is just going on a bike tour riding an electric bike. There’s nothing more to it than that!
E-bike touring gives cyclists the advantage of using a bike with a motor that provides electrically assisted pedalling. This lets cyclists ride with less effort than would be required on a traditional bike, while still experiencing the same joys of discovering a country by bike.
In this article, we refer to e-bike tours and e-bike touring interchangeably. We do not distinguish between e-bike tours that are organised and supported by a third party business and those that are self-organised. The motivation behind the trip is the same!
Why go on an electric bike tour?
The answer to the question “why e-bike tour” is the same as the answer to “why bike tour”. So we start by looking at the reasons that people go on cycling tours.
The truth is that the reasons people bike tour are as varied as the cyclists themselves – but here are some of the most important to us.
We enjoy cycling for its own sake.
It’s worth pointing out that often e-bike tourers don’t ride e-bikes to the exclusion of all else. They might ride e-bikes in one location and conventional bikes in another. This is the case with us. We ride conventional bikes at home in Canada and e-bikes in Europe.
Cycling enhances both our physical and mental health.
We find touring by car too fast to appreciate the surroundings we pass through. We find we don’t meet many local people and that it’s inconvenient to park the car in cities.
Touring on foot with a backpack we find too slow and cumbersome.
On a bike we can cycle through a city as easily as through the countryside, carrying our belongings on our bikes, stopping wherever and whenever we wish. For cycling enthusiasts such as ourselves, touring on an e-bike provides just the right pace to absorb and savour the areas we tour, while experiencing the joys of cycling itself.
One thing we’re often asked is how fast it’s possible to go on an e-bike. The answer is that in the UK, Europe and Australia the top assisted speed on an e-bike is 15.5mph (which is 25 km/h)on public roads. In the USA it’s faster – e-bikes can go up to 20 or 28 mph (which is 32 to 45 kp/h), depending on the class of e-bike.
Those who bike tour tend to be at least slightly adventurous. Whether it is a tour around Provence or a tour around the world, cyclists like us want to see it!
Bike touring can be as economical as we want. Some cyclists economise by camping out and cooking all their own meals. Others stay in hotels or guest houses, eating most of their meals out.
Our personal preference is the hotel and guest house route, but the beauty of bike touring is the ability to flex the accommodation to your budget.
An e-bike’s motor means that your heart, as well as your muscles and joints will suffer less strain. This means we find we need less time for recovery and that we are more ready for the next day’s ride.
Explore new places on an e-bike tour
An e-bike lets you cover distances and terrain you might not otherwise be able to manage.
For most cyclists, bike touring around 80 kilometres per day is common. For many, carrying loaded panniers would be too exhausting without an e-bike. What value is there in arriving at the end of a cycling day too exhausted to enjoy touring about the destination? Isn’t the objective to tour on a bicycle versus just to cycle on a tour?
Climbs of 1,000 metres a day are common in some of the best cycle touring areas, like the Alps, Tuscany and others. If there is one thing e-bikes excel at over conventional bikes, it is hill climbing. E-bikes let you tackle this kind of terrain. There’s no need to stick to flat lowland cycle routes if you have an e-bike. E-bikes extend the range of areas one can bike tour, even the most hilly.
Drawbacks of e-bike touring
It’s true, there are some downsides to touring on an e-bike over touring on a conventional bicycle.
E-bike batteries have to be charged regularly, usually every day. However, e-bikes are becoming so prolific, that virtually everywhere one might stay, be it a campground or guesthouse, has a means for charging e-bikes.
E-bikes are also heavier than other touring bikes. However, if one wisely minimises total weight, then there is no such thing as an e-bike too heavy, only a battery too small.
Who tours on e-bikes?
E-biking is for everyone that wants to give it a go.
There’s a perception that touring on e-bikes is just for seniors, but that’s not true.
While e-bikes are particularly popular amongst those that are less able or willing to ride an unassisted bike, head to Europe in summer and you’ll find people at all ages and stages of life on e-bikes. Yes, there are lots of seniors on e-bike tours but there are also lots of younger cyclists touring on e-bikes – for example the less fit cyclist in a couple or group and those recovering from injuries.
Is e-bike touring cheating?
For those competing in the Tour de France, e-biking is cheating.
For those who enjoy tackling Tour de France climbs, it might be cheating.
Otherwise, it’s not cheating if you are not competing against others (or yourself).
Those that prefer e-bike tours/e-bike touring do so because they understand and embrace their limitations, whether they’re due to age, fitness or experience.
E-bike holidays are not for everyone; touring on an e-bike may not appeal to those who are more capable or competitive.
However, for many, e-bikes are the great equaliser, levelling the playing field and allowing them to ride distances and in places they couldn’t otherwise with ease.
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