Things I learned (or think I've learned) doing e-bike travel this past summer

JRA

Well-Known Member
Fair enough, but you didn't address the substance of my comment. My suggestion of seeding the route can take on two forms: either visiting the route itself in advance (dropping batteries off with people), or leave with a lot of batteries and drop them off as you go (leaving chargers as well, so that you can use them on the return trip).

I found your dismissal of the idea as impractical kind of strange when I reported that I had done it multiple times this summer. It could be as little as a single battery left in advance with a relative who lives along the anticipated route, and that alone could be a big boon to a trip.
This is what I was taking issue with: "Ask permission to send them a pre-charged battery and a charger." Which I assumed meant via post/shipment service and thus the need to meet the HazMat requirements. There are many scenarios that one could use to seed batteries and no doubt you and others have done or thought about the concept and it is a good idea overall especially for touring in your immediate area.

Sorry for seeming argumentative, it was not my intention. I really like the idea of the routes you have done and hope to use your format myself next year. Particularly using Ferry systems here in the PNW/BC/AK to your advantage.
 

Mass Deduction

Active Member
This is what I was taking issue with: "Ask permission to send them a pre-charged battery and a charger." Which I assumed meant via post/shipment service and thus the need to meet the HazMat requirements. There are many scenarios that one could use to seed batteries and no doubt you and others have done or thought about the concept and it is a good idea overall especially for touring in your immediate area.

Sorry for seeming argumentative, it was not my intention. I really like the idea of the routes you have done and hope to use your format myself next year. Particularly using Ferry systems here in the PNW/BC/AK to your advantage.
Ah, gotcha. Sending someone a battery could be passing it on via a friend of a friend kind of deal. Sorry for the confusion. I've never mailed a battery, but am aware of the challenges in doing so. :)
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
Fair enough, but you didn't address the substance of my comment. My suggestion of seeding the route can take on two forms: either visiting the route itself in advance (dropping batteries off with people), or leave with a lot of batteries and drop them off as you go (leaving chargers as well, so that you can use them on the return trip).

I found your dismissal of the idea as impractical kind of strange when I reported that I had done it multiple times this summer. It could be as little as a single battery left in advance with a relative who lives along the anticipated route, and that alone could be a big boon to a trip.
I can think of one application where seeding the route would be beneficial: a week-long bike ride like RAGBRAI. There are six overnight towns along the way. Many riders use companies to send their baggage ahead to the next destination. Or you could place batteries along pass-through towns.

For a day trip, I can’t imagine driving the route in advance. Time sink, and perhaps more importantly, where’s the spontaneity? Part of the allure of touring is the sense of freedom which is lost if you have to drive the route in advance with batteries. Another aspect of touring is the freedom to adapt to circumstances or just to the discovery of something interesting that takes you down a rabbit hole (but away from your planted batteries).

This summer I was on an e-bike from the end of June to the beginning of September. On some legs, I biked with non-electric bikers. Either I was way ahead or I was the delay, with my charging requirements during a lunch stop. It felt rigid.

I disagree with the “plentiful outlets” I always read about on EBR. Businesses are getting tired of outlet freeloaders and attitudes vary regionally in the US. The McDonalds in Jackson, WY has a 20-min charging limit! Starbucks was removing outlets in CA at various locations last summer. From a charging point-of-view, the best experience was in the Midwest. People have a “get stuff done” attitude, so outlets are everywhere. MN, IA and WI is definitely where I experienced the greatest freedom/autonomy from charging constraints.

I am on an academic schedule, so I’ve been super busy. Over winter break I’ll put up the details for an extended period of the trip cross-country on a Bosch bike. I recently watched a dealer video devoted to “bikepacking,” where one participant stated that they’d be in a hotel every night “because we’re adults.” Well I think the real issue is that touring on an e-bike is still quite cumbersome. Frankly, hitting the dirt is part of the fun, right @Mr. Coffee ? I see mostly adults “roughing it” to get away from it all.

Note that for some of us, “bikepacking” simply means no rack/trailer, with your gear affixed to the bike more directly. Touring is multi-day, away from your local area. Just trying to anticipate any confusion, not trying to change minds.

Ebikes are suitable for shorter trips with nightly hotels. For longer tours, particularly through sparsely populated areas, not so much. The discussions of “sustainability” coming from European brands are limited to “oh look, we have solar panels at our site,” with little application to the riding experience. There is a reason why Bafang is overrepresented on SunTrip.

To this end, I’ve been working on making the Bosch experience more “sustainable.” Others here have expressed an interest in more autonomy from the grid. An additional factor for US riders is Bosch’s refusal to make the 6A “fast” charger available, so spending less time with the 4A charger is desirable. Last summer I made it across, but the charging issues made it more of a project than it needed to be. My benchmark is approximating traditional bike touring to the greatest extent possible. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll keep a Bosch bike for local commuting but will go elsewhere for distance touring. I will put up some (ad-free) YouTubes this spring of testing in progress., if there’s interest.
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
As e-bikes grow in popularity, it stands to reason that more dealerships will emerge across the country. As a way to further promote the sport, perhaps bike makers could induce their dealers to adopt a "battery swap" program. That way, riders could plan routes with stops at dealers along the way to exchange a dead battery with a charged one. The idea would be similar to the propane tank exchange service now offered at many retail locations. I for one, wouldn't mind paying a small fee for such a service.

perhaps over time, battery types and styles will become more standardized which would simplify this concept.
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
My $0.02:

There is nothing wrong with camping. Although I am certainly not too proud to find a Best Western if the camping is sketchy or the weather is just plain lousy miserable. The charging situation at campgrounds can range between nonexistent (e.g. 99 percent of USFS campgrounds) to luxury accommodations at locations like the Hiker-Biker camp in Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, OR -- where there are hiker boxes with outlets in them so you can charge in peace and also protect your groceries from the ubiquitous and very aggressive raccoons. Also, some private campgrounds are cyclist-friendly and they will also generally be okay with you charging your bike; and the security situation at nearly all private campgrounds is better than most any public campground.

I think on a long-distance day-in day-out tour where you expect to cover miles most every day it is reasonable to plan on hitting a hotel, motel, or hostel every 4-5 days and you should figure on a zero day (no distance traveled) every ten days to two weeks. Although again if the camping is sketchy or the weather is poor I am more likely to be sleeping in a bed more nights.

Most of my e-bike camping experience has been on single overnights with around 50-70 miles round trip distance. And with that I am often on my last electrons when I get home.

My own experience with three batteries is that in most imaginable terrain (and some unimaginable terrain) I can cover 70-90 miles over the course of a day without stopping to charge, and there often aren't really helpful charging options (or locations to drop off batteries) on many routes I like to ride. Given that most self-supported bike tourists on those routes are covering half the distance (or even less) per day that I am I can't really complain.
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
My $0.02:

There is nothing wrong with camping. Although I am certainly not too proud to find a Best Western if the camping is sketchy or the weather is just plain lousy miserable. The charging situation at campgrounds can range between nonexistent (e.g. 99 percent of USFS campgrounds) to luxury accommodations at locations like the Hiker-Biker camp in Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, OR -- where there are hiker boxes with outlets in them so you can charge in peace and also protect your groceries from the ubiquitous and very aggressive raccoons. Also, some private campgrounds are cyclist-friendly and they will also generally be okay with you charging your bike; and the security situation at nearly all private campgrounds is better than most any public campground.

I think on a long-distance day-in day-out tour where you expect to cover miles most every day it is reasonable to plan on hitting a hotel, motel, or hostel every 4-5 days and you should figure on a zero day (no distance traveled) every ten days to two weeks. Although again if the camping is sketchy or the weather is poor I am more likely to be sleeping in a bed more nights.

Most of my e-bike camping experience has been on single overnights with around 50-70 miles round trip distance. And with that I am often on my last electrons when I get home.

My own experience with three batteries is that in most imaginable terrain (and some unimaginable terrain) I can cover 70-90 miles over the course of a day without stopping to charge, and there often aren't really helpful charging options (or locations to drop off batteries) on many routes I like to ride. Given that most self-supported bike tourists on those routes are covering half the distance (or even less) per day that I am I can't really complain.
Your points are well taken. As I get older, I find my desire to camp is waning. These days, my hotel stays far outnumber those in campsites.

I find however that hotel touring has it's own set of problems. My request to take my bike into my room has been denied at a few establishments. Other "bike friendly" hotels permit bikes in rooms but either have no elevator or it's too small to accommodate the bike. I'm past the point where I can carry a heavy ebike up a flight of stairs and I don't get much sleep with the bike out of my sight. Even locked up, there are too many chances for disaster to strike. On one such trip, my brother had both his tires punctured by a vandal with a pen knife.

During the route planning stage, I call each hotel directly to check their bike policy and request a first floor room. I also ask about the size of their elevator if any. Some hotel rooms are quite cramped and finding space for two ebikes can sometimes be a challenge. I find that requesting a handicapped accessible room solves many issues since they tend to be more spacious. A couple of items I found to be essential for a hotel stay is a pair of AC outlet cube taps and a short extension cord. Many rooms do not have enough outlets to handle 4 battery chargers.
 
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Mass Deduction

Active Member
I can think of one application where seeding the route would be beneficial: a week-long bike ride like RAGBRAI. There are six overnight towns along the way. Many riders use companies to send their baggage ahead to the next destination. Or you could place batteries along pass-through towns.

For a day trip, I can’t imagine driving the route in advance. Time sink, and perhaps more importantly, where’s the spontaneity? Part of the allure of touring is the sense of freedom which is lost if you have to drive the route in advance with batteries. Another aspect of touring is the freedom to adapt to circumstances or just to the discovery of something interesting that takes you down a rabbit hole (but away from your planted batteries).
[…]
Great post. I just wanted to reply to this particular point. With the exception of the e-bike-friendly gran fondo I did, all of my lengthy e-bike trips this summer were work-related. So spontaneity was already off the table. I had specific travel days, and a specific destination, and taking the most efficient route was necessary. I had to travel to Whistler, and Bellingham, and Ferndale, and North Vancouver, and other places to visit dealer events for my suppliers. I don't own a car, but I do own a bike shop and decided to practice what I preach and cycle to all these locations instead, and it was awesome! :D

So once I seeded a route with a spare battery, I was generally able to go past there different times on different trips and swap out a dead battery for a charged one in each occasion. That meant the dead battery remaining there, already seeded for the next trip. In my cases I left it with relatives, they were happy to help.

I totally get that this wouldn't work for everyone. But maybe you have a friend or relative who lives near a major junction between routes and the odds are you're always go past it, no matter how spontaneous the trip. Or maybe not. The idea of seeding a route with spare batteries is just a tool in the toolbox that may help for some trips. :)

Our electricity here is pretty cheap and businesses in my experience are fine with it so long as you're not in their way. But if a business objected to the electricity I'd be happy to pay them. Starbucks may not have a mechanism for charging a customer that, but a family-owned establishment or other small business would have the flexibility to accept payment in exchange for wall outlet use.
 
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Cowlitz

Well-Known Member
I've been reading about renting e bikes in Switzerland where dealers have places along routes where you can exchange the battery for a charged one and keep going. Might be an opportunity for somebody.

Batteries are charged up and then provided to renters at hotels, restaurants, and even farms along the way.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
As e-bikes grow in popularity, it stands to reason that more dealerships will emerge across the country. As a way to further promote the sport, perhaps bike makers could induce their dealers to adopt a "battery swap" program. That way, riders could plan routes with stops at dealers along the way to exchange a dead battery with a charged one. The idea would be similar to the propane tank exchange service now offered at many retail locations. I for one, wouldn't mind paying a small fee for such a service.

perhaps over time, battery types and styles will become more standardized which would simplify this concept.
The RAGBRAI event has six (I think) bike shops participating directly to get people riding again f they have a mechanical failure.
My $0.02:

There is nothing wrong with camping. Although I am certainly not too proud to find a Best Western if the camping is sketchy or the weather is just plain lousy miserable.
Of course.
work-related. So spontaneity was already off the table.
Ha. This is always true.

I agree that when you are car-free and have to attempt the type of circuit you describe, seeding is ideal.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
My $0.02:

There is nothing wrong with camping. Although I am certainly not too proud to find a Best Western if the camping is sketchy or the weather is just plain lousy miserable. The charging situation at campgrounds can range between nonexistent (e.g. 99 percent of USFS campgrounds) to luxury accommodations at locations like the Hiker-Biker camp in Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, OR -- where there are hiker boxes with outlets in them so you can charge in peace and also protect your groceries from the ubiquitous and very aggressive raccoons. Also, some private campgrounds are cyclist-friendly and they will also generally be okay with you charging your bike; and the security situation at nearly all private campgrounds is better than most any public campground.

I think on a long-distance day-in day-out tour where you expect to cover miles most every day it is reasonable to plan on hitting a hotel, motel, or hostel every 4-5 days and you should figure on a zero day (no distance traveled) every ten days to two weeks. Although again if the camping is sketchy or the weather is poor I am more likely to be sleeping in a bed more nights.

Most of my e-bike camping experience has been on single overnights with around 50-70 miles round trip distance. And with that I am often on my last electrons when I get home.

My own experience with three batteries is that in most imaginable terrain (and some unimaginable terrain) I can cover 70-90 miles over the course of a day without stopping to charge, and there often aren't really helpful charging options (or locations to drop off batteries) on many routes I like to ride. Given that most self-supported bike tourists on those routes are covering half the distance (or even less) per day that I am I can't really complain.
The problem is when you’ve used the three batteries and are overnighting w/o access to an outlet. Factor in that 3 depleted batteries is at least an 8hr commitment to charging unless you are bringing multiple chargers with you.

I’m sure I was indoors at least 8-10 nights. But my point is that contrary to e-bike advertising, lots of adults do enjoy camping and various off-grid activities, which become less tractable if you have a heavy dependence on the grid.
 

Rob NJ

Active Member
All the bike touring sounds great. I bought a Trek SuperCommuter 8+ in September two years ago, decided to take the bike from New Jersey to Vermont when my wife went back to work (teacher). Figured that she could always come pick me up after work if I got tired. Did anywhere from 50 to 70 miles per day on one battery and stayed in hotels. While i love camping, I have reached an age where I don’t mind traveling lighter and staying in hotels. With one battery I would leave the hotel at 7am, get 30 miles under my belt, find the best diner in town by 9 am and have a long breakfast and recharge. Do another 20 or 30 miles to the hotel for the pool and mojitos. Was normally finished by 3, and stopped at lots of fun places along the way. So with all the talk of multiple batteries and seeding them along the route, I am in the camp of both making some distance and taking advantage of the route. Saw things that I never would have seen or thought about stopping at if I was in a car. For me, that is what the bike is about. More in touch with your route. Thanks for getting me to think about this again, and start planning another tour with our SuperCommuters!
 

Rob NJ

Active Member
I’d love to hear about the route you chose!
I used Google Maps and Garmin Connect to plot the route. Essentially followed the NY State Bike route. Then went cross country as best I could to get to Rutland. With the SuperCommuter I felt pretty good in traffic. Doing it again, I would choose a route that would take me through all the small villages along the river. This was more a road biking route. Anyway, stayed in West Nyack, Hyde Park, Hudson, Bennington and then Rutland. Image is the actual Garmin connect route.

1576322469930.jpeg
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
I used Google Maps and Garmin Connect to plot the route. Essentially followed the NY State Bike route. Then went cross country as best I could to get to Rutland. With the SuperCommuter I felt pretty good in traffic. Doing it again, I would choose a route that would take me through all the small villages along the river. This was more a road biking route. Anyway, stayed in West Nyack, Hyde Park, Hudson, Bennington and then Rutland. Image is the actual Garmin connect route.

View attachment 42702
Google Maps and Garmin connect are indeed good tools to use in planning a route. In addition to these, I also use Google Earth to more closely examine the roadways I'll be using. Often trouble spots, like narrow curvy roads with little or no shoulder or bridges with no pedestrian walkways can be pinpointed. Safer, less traveled, parallel roads are easily found and incorporated into the route.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
I used Google Maps and Garmin Connect to plot the route. Essentially followed the NY State Bike route. Then went cross country as best I could to get to Rutland. With the SuperCommuter I felt pretty good in traffic. Doing it again, I would choose a route that would take me through all the small villages along the river. This was more a road biking route. Anyway, stayed in West Nyack, Hyde Park, Hudson, Bennington and then Rutland. Image is the actual Garmin connect route.

View attachment 42702
A little less hilly than I thought it would be, but I think you would have been well-served by two batteries. Even traveling light, what was your ratio of charging time/riding time while on the road? Something like 3/4?
 
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Rob NJ

Active Member
A little less hilly than I thought it would be, but I think you would have been well-served by two batteries. Even traveling light, what was your ratio of charging time/riding time? Something like 3/4?
Yep, I agree, another battery would have meant been nice. The SuperCommuter came with 4 amp chargers, so I could top up pretty well in 1.5 to 2 hours over breakfast. And if necessary, do the same thing over lunch. Then a full charge overnight at the hotel. For my first ride I did not want to spring an extra $900 for another battery. It was a leisurely trip. Stopped at the FDR Library in Hyde Park for a half day, enjoyed my long morning breakfasts with some interesting locals. The battery definitely dictated the pace, but I was just retired and not in a hurry.

I did not train for the ride, other than riding my mountain bike a bit. I retired early, so I was 55 and in decent shape. A few days before I left, I did the NJ Fondo of 42 miles with no issue. So I just went for it. Again, my wife could have come picked me up any day after work, so I did not sweat it.

Certainly less hilly as I was riding along the Hudson River Valley.
 

Mass Deduction

Active Member
The problem is when you’ve used the three batteries and are overnighting w/o access to an outlet. Factor in that 3 depleted batteries is at least an 8hr commitment to charging unless you are bringing multiple chargers with you.

I’m sure I was indoors at least 8-10 nights. But my point is that contrary to e-bike advertising, lots of adults do enjoy camping and various off-grid activities, which become less tractable if you have a heavy dependence on the grid.
Oh totally, I absolutely get that. The kind of e-bike travel I've been doing is very speed/efficiency focused, and structured, and not for everyone! And yes, I always travel with just as many chargers as I do batteries. :)
 

Captain Slow

Well-Known Member
I have a Garmin Fenix and use it all the time so I'm in Garmin Connect on an almost daily basis and I had no idea you could use it to plan a route? Seems like it's common knowledge to those in this thread. How does one do it?

Mass, they let you do the Tour de Victoria on an electric bike? I thought most Fondos didn't allow electric bikes? Then again, what are they going to do to stop you?

Retirement is coming for me, hopefully in a half dozen years or so. I plan on doing some bike trips and by that point hopefully will have something like a Specialized Creo. Reading this thread has made me realize that having an internal battery that isn't easily removed could be a problem. I believe the only way to remove the internal battery on a Creo is by removing the motor, which might be fine once in a while but I can't see that being practical for charging the battery.

That means bringing the bike into the hotel room, and hotels not allowing that would obviously be a problem. Geez, so many considerations when choosing my next ebike. Sounds like I might end up having multiple ebikes.
 

BBassett

Active Member
...I have some observations I'd like to share.

I chose to carry multiple batteries, and as many chargers as I had batteries. I didn't always fully drain one battery dead before switching to a second, as I might get a recharge opportunity mid-ride. So you might want to (for example) have two batteries at 40% rather than one at 0% and the other at 80%. So how far you drain one battery before switching to the other is a key strategy. Disagree totally. Large batteries take you further and can be charged more quickly without stressing the battery. 60% of my 30Ah. pack is 18Ah of usable power that has taken me over 80 miles with a light load (50 lbs. of gear) with no undo stress.


If you have two or more people who can use the same battery, amalgamate those riders together in your battery charging strategy. Consider how drained the other people's batteries are in deciding when to swap out yours, and in how many batteries of that type that you take. So some communication is recommended here. I bow to your extensive knowledge, I'm not one to ride in a herd.

The other thing that I found was key was to figure out how many batteries I could get away with, and then take one more battery than that. Yes, two 30Ah packs are optimal for touring.

Talk to the people who will be at your destination in advance, to make sure you know what bike storage and recharge opportunities you'll have. Easier said than done unless riding from motel to motel or campground to campground.

If you have the opportunity to purchase faster chargers for your e-bike, that's probably worth the investment. Ditto if you have the opportunity to invest in larger capacity batteries. Remember, you're doing this instead of driving, flying, etc., so don't be afraid to invest in it. Invest is the correct word... get a Grin Satiator for proper maintenance.

With ferry trips, make sure you get to the ferry early enough so that they let you on before the cars, but whenever you get on the ferry grab all your batteries and chargers and run like stink upstairs and find a base camp to plug them all in for recharging. These are ferry trips in the 1.5 to 3 hour range, for those unfamiliar with the typical length of a ferry trip from Vancouver Island to the mainland, so there's enough to put a significant amount of recharge into an e-bike battery. Yes, use any and all 120V charging opportunities available, not a lot of ferries in Montana I'm assuming.

Don't be afraid to seed the route with pre-charged spare batteries. Know someone who lives along the route, or have a connection with a business along the way? Ask permission to send them a pre-charged battery and a charger. Why a charger as well? So that you can leave a battery charging there for the return trip, of course! :) I doubt the U.S. Mail Service or Brown will be thrilled with shipping a fully charged lithium pack. Just be self-contained.

Don't be afraid to seek out a recharge opportunity with branches of businesses that you patronize. For example, I stopped at a branch of a financial institution that I bank with along the route to Whistler. I actually needed to do some banking, but I also hung around for a long while in the lobby with my batteries recharging the whole time. I even left my bike and batteries there during the recharging and briefly hit a grocery store in the same complex. Gauge the situation and guess whether it's better to ask permission, or to just do it and beg forgiveness if necessary. Also have something to do during that time, like stretch, or read, or catch up on work in your mobile office. Make the recharging stops worthwhile rather than wasted time. Covered already... Yes, use any and all 120V charging opportunities available. However, with a pair of 30Ah packs you won't find yourself stopping and begging for an hour worth of charge time nearly as often.

I found my average speed was nearly identical for both the solo and the group e-bike rides, and that was true no matter how hard we pushed our bikes on the group rides. But we did find that by taking drafting seriously we could significantly extend our range for the group e-bike rides. Is average speed important for some reason?

I want to do more long distance travel by e-bike. It's been tremendously enjoyable and rewarding. Some people might find the degree of battery management I engaged in would be crazy-making, but I am a strategist at heart and I enjoyed the charge level management challenge! You are making it more difficult than it really needs to be.

In the past my solo bike touring was about 18-19 km/h (over hill and dale, it's hilly here). (A reminder that you divide by 1.61 to approximately convert from km/h to mph.) On a class-3 e-bike I was able to push my solo touring pace to about 35-39 km/h, so approximately double. So that was extremely satisfying. Still slow enough to experience things along the way better than I would if it was a car trip, but fast enough to really get somewhere in a day. My group bicycle touring pace in the past would typically average about 23-25 km/h, but group e-bike touring averaged 33-39 km/h, so closer to 50% faster than by muscle bike. Those numbers may understate the difference, as I was more physically fit in my prime muscle bike touring days, so were I as fit now as I was then I might enjoy an even bigger advantage for the e-bike riding. The solo riding was mostly in high assist, the group riding was taking full advantage of the entire range of assist from low to high, with the person sucking the headwinds usually in medium or high assist and the people drafting often doing so in low or medium. On a Class-3 ebike you are restricted from all Class-1 biking infrastructure, all National Parks, curbs and all sidewalks. With those restrictions why not just buy an electric-motorcycle, they are a lot easier to mount the license plate. Why is top speed or average speed important when you know it will be faster than when you were riding a standard bike?

Maybe this is old hat and discussed to death here, but in case there's something interesting there I thought I'd post it.
I have racked up over 10K miles on my bike now and use it for everything from hundreds of miles of single-track, to long-distance touring, to bringing a weeks worth of groceries home. Observations are great when caveated as "limited" observations.