Guest blog: Considerations for an e-bike tour

Published by Lyn on 18 April 2015

Gary and Rachel Corbett are attempting to set a world e-bike record using the EuroVelo routes through Europe. Gary has this advice for other e-bike tourists.

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Modern e-bikes effectively iron out hills, negate headwinds and help reduce the burden of carrying your own luggage, making long distance touring doable for many people who would never have previously considered themselves capable of completing a lengthy tour.

Even though it is still a relatively new travelling genre, e-bike touring may be on the cusp of a boom given the huge advances in e-bike reliability and battery technology.

If you are taken with the idea of setting out to see the world on your e-bike, as we have, what specific considerations have to be taken into account?

Surprisingly there aren’t that many, with issues relating to general bike maintenance, proper hydration, nutrition, camping, immigration visas if you are travelling overseas, safety, what to take with you etc, etc much the same as for people setting out on long distance tours on conventional touring bikes.

In short, there are three main additional points that anyone planning an e-bike tour has to consider.

These are: e-bike batteries, suitable route planning and e-bike specific maintenance.

E-bike batteries

Clearly the number one consideration for anyone setting out on a long distance ride is the limitation that e-bike batteries impose on you. No matter what make of electric bike you ride and what brand of battery it uses, the fact of the matter is that at most you have probably got a maximum range per battery charge of about 100-plus kilometres depending on the amount of electric assist you use.

As a result, depending on your budget, you have therefore  got one of four choices.

1. You plug into mains electricity at the end of every day and at every opportunity during every day just in case you can’t find an electrical power point at night.

2. You invest big dollars in solar technology.

3. You consider the merits of carrying a lightweight electrical generator or

4. You carry multiple backup batteries with you.

One thing is for certain, no matter where you plan to travel there is never going to be a guarantee that mains electricity is always available, so it is imperative you employ one of the above strategies.

So what is best?

All four in their own way have their advantages and drawbacks, with solar a clear winner if cost is not an issue.

Unfortunately if you are riding an e-bike that features the Bosch performance crank drive motor along and the Bosch 400Wh PowerPack battery, as we are, the complexities of the Bosch system mean that there are very few people in the world with the expertise to build a suitable system. And even if you can track down someone to supply a suitable solar system for you, you are likely to recoil in horror when you are told the price.

The good news, however, for anyone with many other e-bike battery systems, is that solar technology is much more readily available and therefore cheaper.

If you can’t afford solar, what's the next best option?

The answer to that question really depends on where you will be travelling. If you plan to cycle in remote destinations for days on end, the best choice is to carry a small electrical generator weighing anything between 10 and 13kgs.

Given that you have the advantage of electrical assist, the extra weight should not be a problem, meaning that you can top up your batteries wherever and whenever you want.

If, however, you know you will be closer to mains electricity on a regular basis, the best idea is to carry at least one or two spare batteries per bicycle and charge them as often as possible.

Route selection

The second point for would-be e-bike cycle tourists to consider, depending on what type of battery charging method you plan to use, is sensible route selection.

If you are going solar, make sure you are cycling somewhere in the world where there is a lot of sun, because remember no sun = no solar power.

Just as importantly if you decide to use a small generator make sure you are cycling somewhere where you can get regular supplies of unleaded petrol, because remember no petrol = no power.

Maintenance

Finally, and far from least, if you are planning an e-bike cycle tour, make sure you invest some time into learning the basics of how your e-bike drive system works. While major breakdowns will always be the domain of the experts, if you are capable of some basic repair work it could help get you out of a difficult situation – and, hopefully, a long walk for help.

We'll be following Gary and Rachel as they make their way across Europe – including France – on their e-bikes. You can see their website here.

See our electric bike touring article for more top tips.

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