Add pedal power to your travel adventures on an electric bike


From an airplane, it’s easy to miss the sights, small towns and back roads that fill trips with surprises. Hiking the city streets allows you to check out the must-see sites, but it can feel touristy. But on a bike tour, you can explore off-the-beaten-path vistas and experiences at your own pace.

You don’t have quads worthy of the Tour de France? Even novice cyclists can enjoy the benefits of an electric bicycle or an electric bicycle.

While the idea of ​​an organized tour through the countryside, pedaling from one hotel to another, has been around for years, it is only recently that battery-powered e-bikes have made a difference. “We’ve offered optional e-bikes on most of our tours for about six years,” says Chris Skilling, vice president of rural cycling at VBT Bicycling Vacations, a Vermont-based international tour provider. “About 25 to 30 percent of our customers are opting for them now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number exceeds 50 percent in the next five years.”

Other bicycle tour operators confirm this growth. “At first I think there was this stigma of ‘you cheat’ or ‘I don’t need an electric bike, I can do it myself’, but now it’s almost 30 percent. percent of our business, ”says Tania Burke, president of Wisconsin-based Trek Travel.

On an electric bike, even novice cyclists can cycle through quiet back roads, national parks or European countryside. This opens up those experiences, sights, and routes to travelers interested in an active vacation, but not necessarily racing. “I want to enjoy the countryside and not rush from point A to point B,” says Peter Montanino, who, with his wife, traveled through Italy for about a week with Inspired Italy, a tour group. electric bike based in England. “I want to stop at wineries and visit farms and stores.”

Riding an electric bike is definitely a workout – you’ll earn a glass or two of wine – but with a tour it’s about the hardest part. Once paid, almost everything from your hotel and dinner reservations to step-by-step instructions is handled for you. You need to focus on the holidays instead of worrying about the logistics.

Electric bikes explained

An electric bicycle uses a motor powered by a rechargeable battery to give riders a sustained thrust while pedaling.

Some e-bikes include a throttle option – imagine yourself sliding on a Vespa – but versions offered by tour operators require pedaling to engage the battery.

Think back to your first bike: when the engine starts, it feels like an easy, helpful push on the back of your seat from a parent. The result: Hill climbs are less intimidating, headwinds don’t drain your strength, conversations while riding are easier, and crushing 70 miles in a few hours is doable. All e-bikes have a customizable level of assistance, and the power can be completely shut off, leaving you with a traditional bike, if you want to go the old-fashioned way.

The larger bike tour operators, like Trek Travel, VBT, REI, Butterfield & Robinson, and Backroads all offer e-bike options on many trips. These companies specialize in multi-day tours in the United States and abroad.

Melody Shaw and Lindsay Colburn take a break from VBT Lithuania and Latvia: Baltics Guided Bike Tour in June in Nida, Lithuania.

Regionally, you might find smaller guide companies that focus on day trips. Most often, the e-bike option is aimed at a novice rider who may not have the stamina to keep up with a partner, an older rider who could use the extra assistance, or in some cases, an injured person.

Kym Mauseth rides a bike with her husband on weekends and had just had a hip replacement before Bryce Canyon and VBT’s Zion National Park took a walk in Utah the last time around

spring. “I wouldn’t have enjoyed the trip so much… if I hadn’t had an electric bike,” she says. “The hills were, by my definition, brutal. But the electric bike allowed me to do it all and I had a great workout.

What you can expect

Guided bike tour operators provide online itineraries with maps that show the pace of the tour, how many kilometers you will travel, the names of hotels and restaurants, and what’s included in the price. Most meals are covered by tour fees, although operators leave a few lunches and dinners for travelers to set out on their own and explore. Budget for dining, shopping, hotel extras like spa treatments, and tips for guides. Typically, travel costs do not include plane tickets, and most suggest arriving at your departure city a day or two earlier to avoid jet lag.

The number of runners on a circuit ranges from four to 20, with an average of around 14. Most circuits attract a mix of like-minded travelers, including couples, groups of friends or families and a pinch. of solo runners. Many tour operators will create a personalized or private trip for groups as small as four, depending on a common interest.

Wine is a very popular theme. “If we know the group loves wine, but the hotel’s bottle list might not be great, our guide will show up with a fantastic wine,” said Jonathan Lansdell, Director of Travel Relations for Butterfield & Robinson, based in Toronto. .

Guides are the backbone of every tour. Abroad they will speak the local language (along with English) and you can expect them to know the routes. They take care of everything from adjusting the bike to describing the day’s route over coffee.

Tours typically use two guides – one bike with the group and the second follows the riders in a support van.

A group of cycle tourists stop on a small wine road west of Pommard in France as they make their way to Bouze-les-Beaune in July.

A group of cycle tourists stop on a small wine road west of Pommard in France as they make their way to Bouze-les-Beaune in July.

During the tour, you are free to stop and take photos, catch your breath, visit an interesting shop, or take a break for a snack. If you don’t feel like driving at any time, the van is right at your fingertips. You can jump in and continue until the next group stop. “The guides are there to answer your questions, make sure the bikes are ready to go, everyone is hydrated and the ride is safe,” says Chris Jolley, program manager for REI Co-op.

After booking you will receive a packing list specifying the riding equipment you will need, which includes basic items like a helmet (although some tours offer one), sneakers, padded bike shorts, a cycling jersey and a lightweight shell.

Don’t know what to buy? Most tours can send you links to suggested amenities to make sure you’re comfortable. Tours provide the bike, water bottles, lights, and step-by-step instructions, plus bike bags to carry repair kits and provided snacks.

With all the encounters, experiences and, yes, exercise you’ll get on an e-bike trip, it’s not uncommon to find regular participants. “We made our first trip with e-bikes in 2019 across Scotland,” says MarySue Howisey of the tour she took with her husband through Trek Travel. “Getting e-bikes was the best decision because your focus is on the vacation and the views, not the hill in front of you. And you can breathe after you reach the top.

USA TODAY GoEscape Magazine Winter 2022

USA TODAY GoEscape Magazine Winter 2022

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ride the Open Road on an Electric Bike

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