06 Aug How to Travel the World with Your Electric Bike
Traveling by bicycle is a dream for many people. What better way to experience this beautiful world we inhabit than by the seat of a bike, completely open and a part of everything going on around you.
Now traveling by electric bike – that’s really something else. With the assistance of a battery and a motor, you could ride further, see more, and with less effort than a regular bicycle.
With the right preparation and some additional gear, it is totally possible to travel with your ebike. There will be some limitations of course – such as plugging in – and you won’t necessarily be able to go everywhere, but wherever you end up, you will have way more fun.
In this article, we’re going to be covering what it takes to travel with your electric bike and what you need to do to succeed. We’ll be sharing some tips for organizing your own ebike tour as well as some suggestions for those who want to join an organized tour.
There’s a lot to consider before traveling anywhere, let alone with an electric bike in tow, but the extra effort will be worth it. Soon, it’ll be just you, your trusty electric stead, and the wind at your back.
Why would you travel with your ebike?
Long-distance touring using a conventional bike is already a very popular activity. There is an enormous community that believes that traveling around the world is best seen from the seat of a bike and done using one’s own human-generated power.
Now touring the world with an electric bike? That’s a relatively new phenomenon and you don’t hear too many stories about people crossing vast distances with pedal assistance.
Why is that? Why isn’t long-distance touring with electric bikes more popular?
There is no definite answer to this question but one can guess what some problems might be:
- Ebikes are more complicated thus they must be more prone to breaking down.
- They’re heavy, so heavy that traveling with them is impossible.
- You have to always be near some sort of charging point to keep the battery full.
Whilst these are all valid points, they can all be addressed relatively easily and once they are, the pros of touring with an electric bike far exceed the cons.
Here are some reasons why you should consider using or electric bike for your next big trip or tour:
- You can cover longer distances with less effort.
- Terrain is less of an issue and climbing hills is way less grueling.
- They’re stronger and more durable than people think.
- They have a positive impact on the environment.
- Physical ailments, such as injuries, are less of an issue.
- Traveling by bike is cheaper than traveling by car, public transport, or plane.
- Experiencing a destination by bike is extremely rewarding.
- They’re still a great way to get fit.
How to organize an electric bike tour
Just like touring with a regular bike, touring with an electric bike takes some planning. Not necessarily more planning, but different planning.
Most of what goes into undertaking a long-distance tour using a conventional bike also applies to using an electric bike. This includes:
- Having a set and reasonable itinerary e.g. not covering enormous distances in a single day.
- Choosing the right kind of bike for your trip.
- Being in good shape, whether or not you use an electric bike or not.
- Understanding your bike, meaning how the parts work and how to repair them.
- Arranging the necessary accommodation, food, gear, and shelter beforehand: enough to keep you warm, dry, safe, and satisfied.
- Knowing the terrain as well as the weather (wind storms are your worst enemy)
- Decide if and how much support you need on this tour.
- Not getting in over your head.
- Protecting your e-bike from potential thieves.
All of these things need to be considered, regardless if your bike has a battery and motor or not.
As mentioned before though, traveling by electric bike does come with some unique problems. Keeping your battery charged, maintenance, and transporting the ebike itself will be the largest pain points.
Charging on the road
Keeping your ebike battery charge will probably be your largest obstacle while traveling. But in reality, it’s not so much of a problem.
You’d be surprised at how many charging opportunities there are on the road, especially if you’re traveling in a western country. Restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, gas stations, even bathrooms all have plug-ins that you can use, and you should be using as much as possible.
Stopping for lunch at a restaurant? Charge the battery. Hitting the sack? Charge the battery. Get in the habit of plugging in whenever possible as well as asking permission from management if you can or not.
A fully-charged bike battery should last around 3-4 hours and work for around 25-50 miles, depending of course on how you use the bike and charge the battery.
When you’re going to be camping, double-check to see if there is some sort of public charging area. An oft-overlooked spot is also the camp bathrooms!
If you’re planning on touring around Europe, you might actually find ebike power stations in odd places as well. Bosch has stations all over the continent and these can be very handy in a pinch.
Of course, there might be times where you just can’t reach a plug-in for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s just not your day or maybe you’re totally off the grid. In cases like this, it pays to pack a spare battery or two. Peddling in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery isn’t ideal.
Maintaining your electric bike
Luckily, most electric bikes are reliable machines. Many are waterproof up to a certain degree, can handle high temperatures, and are resistant enough to withstand the elements e.g. mud, dirt, sand, wind, etc.
That being said, bikes still break and there will not always be a mechanic or shop around when you’re traveling with your electric bike. Being able to repair your bike by yourself in the case of unforeseen accidents would help your trip go much more smoothly.
Get to know your bike very well before going on an enormous journey. Like a new pair of hiking boots, you’ll want to break the bike in first. That way, you’ll know what to do in case you need to troubleshoot.
Every electric bike has a different way of working and so requires different ways to prepare. Always read the manual for your own ebike as well though.
One of the most common ebike problems is that it just won’t start. Usually, this is due to a dead, improper set-up, or faulty battery. Be sure to check to make sure that it is fully charged and plugged incorrectly.
Transporting your electric bike
Getting your bike to the starting point of your trip and getting it back home is also something you’ll need to consider (unless you plan to start at your doorstep). Depending on where you’re going this takes more or less some real consideration.
First off, if you’re going to be traveling far away and want to take your ebike with you, there’s bad news: you almost certainly will not be able to take your ebike on a plane. This is due to the lithium battery as almost all airlines prohibit checking in or bringing onboard anything over 100 Wh.
If you yourself insist on flying, you may be able to transport your bike using a special delivery service.
Transporting your ebike is best done on the ground either using some private vehicle or the train.
Using a private vehicle to transport your bike is convenient because if you need to go elsewhere or want to bail, you can at any time. If you plan on doing a big point-to-point trip though, you’ll need to make sure there’s a car waiting for you at the end, which can then take you back to the beginning.
Whatever car you end up using – be it yours, your friends’, or an agency’s – it’ll need a rack to carry the ebike. Because ebikes are heavier than regular bikes as well, a special, stronger rack will be required.
Trains are also a great means of transport as they are usually bike-friendly. This is especially so in Europe, which makes the region, in our opinion, one of the best places to go on an ebike tour. You’ll just need to make sure and double-check the policies of individual train companies as they do differ from place to place.
The best touring electric bikes
Which electric bike you choose to travel with depends on how you’re going to use it.
Plan on covering vast distances over a longer period of time? You’ll need a larger, more powerful bike that can carry you further and longer.
Need a bike for recreational purposes but not necessarily as your primary means of getting around? Something more compact or foldable would be much more useful.
Serious ebike trips or electric bikepacking will require serious ebikes. The bike will need to be sturdy enough to carry multiple days worth of gear and to withstand the elements. Having a battery with a larger capacity will also pay off as you’ll need to recharge less often.
A larger bike will of course be heavier and harder to transport, not to mention much more expensive. A proper electric touring bike will cost at least $4,000 but you get what you pay for: more range, more durability, more mounting options, and more reliability.
If, on the other hand, you’re primarily traveling by car or train and just use the bike in between, you could get away with using something simpler.
Foldable electric bikes travel very well. Once collapsed, you can slide into your car, bring it on the train with you, or store it in the cargo hold under a bus. Easy! You won’t be able to bike very far at once or carry too much, but enough to get to the next guesthouse or cafe.
Linky foldable bikes make for great travel companions. They come with a rack that can hold a 35-liter bag and have a range of 60 km or 35 miles. They are especially useful on ebike tours in Europe.
Where can you go touring with your electric bike
Listen: there may be no better place to go traveling by electric bike than in Europe. The conditions are perfect for ebikers: lots of public transport, public charging stations, copious bike lanes, and a thriving cyclist culture. If you ever wanted to go on an epic trip, this would be the place to start.
Imagine biking from town to town along the charming Croatian coast, or conquering the Alps via Switzerland and Austria. In places like these, there’s usually never an inn or bike shop too far away either.
North America is no slouch either as electric bike tours are becoming quite popular. This is a great place to go on a more outdoorsy trip, relying more upon campgrounds and spending more time in the wilderness. The Pacific Coast route is particularly beautiful.
There are other opportunities abroad as well. Africa has always been the stuff of dreams for long-distance bikers: raw and untamed. Southeast Asia, in particular Vietnam, is emerging too as a potential ebike destination.
The thing about touring in these places though is that there is a lot less in the way of safety nets. If your battery dies in the middle of a savannah or you’re caught up in some hectic traffic in Vietnam, you could be in trouble. When going on more adventurous trips like this, it pays to have some support.
Organized electric bike tours
Sometimes, you can organize a big bike trip on your own. Other times, you might need some help.
The benefit of going with a tour company is that they can organize everything for you. Food, accommodation, itineraries, you name it. You’ll also be dodging entirely the thorny issue of transporting the ebike by going with a tour company since they usually have their own fleet.
With the additional support provided by the tour company, you can really go to places you never thought possible before such as Sri Lanka, Patagonia, and Bhutan.
Here are a couple of notable electric bike tour companies:
Other things to consider before traveling with your ebike
Before starting your trip, it would pay to know your electric bike very well. Is it going to stand up to the elements? What is the range of the battery? What happens in case something breaks? Knowing the answers to questions like these will help ensure that your trip goes smoothly.
Here are some extra bits that you know about specific parts of your electric bike:
- Range – Every ebike can cover a certain distance before it needs to be charged, which is also called maximum range. This depends on several factors including the size of the battery, the demand of the motor, the riding modes, and how you ride an e-bike. Before starting any ebike tour, you ought to know what the average range of your bike is and plan your itinerary accordingly.
- Speed and power – Certain ebikes travel more or less faster than others. Some ebikes can travel 30+ mph or 50+ kph. What you need to know is that most countries have electric bike speed limits. In Europe and the UK, it’s 25 km. In the USA, Class 3 bikes can go 25 mph but must remain in traffic lanes. Keep this in mind when transporting your bike.
- Motor – There are several kinds of ebike motors available. Mid-drive motors are effective and reliable but add extra bulk to the bike. Hub-drive motors are more popular and generally powerful but can affect the handling of the bike. Rear hub-drive motors offer more control than front ones.
- Battery specs – The bigger the battery, the further you can travel before charging it. The downside is that the battery will be heavier and take longer to charge. A happy middle ground – between 350 wh and 450 wh – should do fine. Having two batteries also pays.