Electric bike travel guide

There’s a silent revolution happening in the cycling industry – well, almost silent. You might hear a faint whirring. Electric bikes are making cycling vacations more fun. They get people who thought their pedalling days were long over back in the saddle. And they get you up the hills. E-bikes are brilliant for your vacation, and brilliant for the environment. They might be a little slower than going by car, but they get you places with less effort than a bike, and faster.
Watch out, pedal power, electric bikes are coming for you. But you shouldn’t fear the change. Try an e-bike and you could come back from vacation ready to ditch your car on your commute.
Lots of cycling vacations now offer e-bikes alongside regular bikes, but e-bike only vacations are a blast, too. Tour operators have realised that e-bikes offer a unique vacation experience, and want to showcase it. With an electric bike, you can see far more of a region and get to those lesser-visited sights and towns that will love your custom. What’s more, you’ll reach that next hilltop town with a smile, not a grimace, on your face.

Go on an e-bike vacation if...

...Mum’s keen but Aunt Sue is nervous. Electric bikes are fantastic for levelling the playing field, and let couples and friends cycle together. ...you think your cycling days are over. Think again! E-bikes are far easier on the knees and can make you fall back in love with the sport. ...you want to be part of the revolution. Electric bikes are already extremely common in Europe, and sales in the Netherlands have now outstripped regular push bikes. They’re poised to become the best way to commute car-free. ...you’re nervous about keeping up on a small group tour. E-bikes look like regular bikes, so you don’t have to broadcast your secret advantage: until you overtake everyone on the incline, that is. ...you hate hills, but love views. Imagine someone pushing you up the hill – that’s what it feels like to get a little kick from the engine.

Don’t go on an e bike vacation if…

...you’ve got a young family. In the UK children under the age of 14 aren’t allowed to ride e-bikes. It’s best for kids to stick to regular push bikes, whilst adults can upgrade to an e-bike if they want. You’ve earned the rest, and they’ve got all that ‘youthful vigour’ to burn off. ...you’re a masochist. If you’re out to beat a PB, then you might see e-bikes as cheating. ...you want to do the Tour de France. Some trips – like cycling up the infamous Alpine Cols of the Tour de France – are best done with specialist road bikes, not e-bikes. You’ll normally bring your own carbon fibre framed road bike from home. ...you’re unable to charge up every night. Your mileage may vary, but e-bikes need to be charged up after each day of cycling. E-bike tours will factor in all charging points. If it’s just you and your tent it will be less fun. ...you like staying put. Studies have shown e-bikers end up using their bikes more than regular cyclists – enough to get the similar physical activity gains. Whizzing about is e-ddictive, and you might find yourself signing up for all the optional excursions on your vacation.

What is an e-bike?

Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have been around since the nineties – Yamaha patented the common ‘pedal assist’ system in 1993 – and they’ve grown in popularity since. How they work is simple. Electric bikes have a battery connected to a small motor, usually on the back wheel. This motor kicks in when you pedal, giving you a boost. As people recognise electric vehicles are a better option for the environment and invest in battery technology, e-bikes are just getting better and better.
Nowadays, an electric bike looks like a regular bike. You can even turn off the electrics and use it as a regular bike, but you probably won’t want to, as these bikes are slightly heavier, and you’ll quickly get used to using the motor assistance. There are now even e-MTBs (e-mountain bikes) meaning that the hills have Es, too.
Words which were your friend before e-biking: ‘converted railway line’, ‘salt flat’, ‘riverside trail’. Words you no longer fear now you’ve got an e-bike: ‘hilltop town’, ‘steep climb’ and the dreaded ‘undulating’.
Electric bikes have a speed cap. Depending on the country you’re in, e-bikes cap power at between 25 or 32 kilometres an hour. You can cycle faster using sheer pedal power. They need their batteries recharged after a certain distance. Generally speaking, you’ll charge your bike battery up at the end of every day – it takes a few hours, so do it overnight. Charging an e-bike costs roughly same as boiling a kettle three times – that’s it. Most e-bikes on the market don’t charge up as you pedal. Systems that do so are often inefficient, as they add more weight to the bike.
Electric bikes are a bit more expensive to rent than regular bikes: you can expect to pay around £20 a day if e-bikes aren’t included. This is fast changing as the cost of e-bikes and their batteries goes down. Our e-bike only vacations include the rental of the e-bike in the cost of your vacation. Before you take the plunge and buy your own, hire one on vacation and find out how addictive whizzing is.

Why isn’t everyone using e-bikes, then?

Oh, believe us, they will be. But e-bikes are currently still a bit more expensive than regular bikes to buy, whilst to rent one is only a little more – or included in the vacation price if you book an e-bike tour. A vacation is a great place to try one out for the first time.

Harvey Downard from our e-bike specialists Cycling for Softies:
“More and more people are using e-bikes. It opens the doors for people who are scared of doing 40km a day and it’s great for multigenerational tours.”

“It’s cheating”

E-bikes are getting more people into cycling, and that’s only a good thing. Whilst we have some operators who make no apologies for providing gentle, Lycra-less adventures, we also have e-bike vacations that will challenge you to cycle further, for longer. You’ll be overtaking pelotons of professionals up really steep hills, and you’re far less likely to give up and use the support vehicle. Who knew ‘cheating’ could be this rewarding?

The win-win of using an e-bike

If you couldn’t tell already: we really rate e-bikes. We’ve seen e-bikes empower people who wouldn’t normally book a biking vacation to take the plunge. They help level the playing field between friends and couples so that everyone can cycle together.
E-bikes are brilliant for your vacation, and brilliant for the environment. They might be a little slower than going by car, but they get you places with less effort than a bike, and faster. E-bikes mean you can cycle in hot countries without working up too much of a sweat (you’ll sweat three times less, scientists say – in case you needed to know). You won’t need to change your shirt for dinner.
Counter-intuitively, if you choose to use an e-bike you could end up getting more exercise. You can cycle for longer and you can cycle faster without getting fed up and frustrated. You’re also less likely to have to stop due to injury, as e-bikes reduce strain on your joints and muscles.
“It was doable for my husband who is an avid biker but I was glad to have an e-bike (we're both in our 60s).” – Laurie Crossman booked a Porto to Lisbon self-guided vacation

Our top Electric bikes Vacation

Electric bike cycling holiday in Devon

Electric bike cycling vacation in Devon

Explore Devon's Unesco Biosphere Reserve by electric bike

From £320 to £455 7 days ex flights
Tailor made:
Vacation is for two people for one week April-mid July and September-mid October.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Electric bikes or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What does an e-biking vacation entail?

E-bike vacations are almost exactly like regular cycling vacations. That’s the beauty of them. There’s not really any special considerations you need to make – except for remembering to charge them in the evenings. Most cycling trips are point-to-point cycles, but you will only need to carry the stuff you need for the day’s cycling, as vacations include luggage transfers to the next hotel. You may carry a spare battery alongside your puncture repair kit, but most of the time a support vehicle or ground staff are nearby to help. Some e-bikes have built in sat-nav systems, making the whole business of exploring a new area exciting rather than daunting – though don’t forget to ask for directions too, you might uncover a hidden local gem.

If you use an e-bike on a regular cycling vacation, you can expect distances of 16-60km, depending on how challenging the vacation is. These distances are well within the scope of the average e-bike battery, which normally has a range of up to 100km before you need to charge the battery.

If you go on an e-bike only vacation, the distances you’ll travel will be longer, and there will be more hills – but it’s nothing that you and your bike can’t handle. Take Tuscany and Umbria, where you can cycle for 40km a day, and reach elevations of 500m – blame all those charming hilltop villages.

Self-guided or small group?

The choice is yours: do you want a social cycle with a small group of like-minded people? In which case, you can join a group of up to 16 people on your vacation. If you’re all on e-bikes you’ll be a formidably fast force on the trails. If you’d rather tackle the trails alone, you can go on a tailor made e-biking trip. Are you worried about leaving your partner in the dust, or scared that you’ll hold your friends up? Electric bikes can make you the perfect match again.

How fit do I need to be?

Not nearly as fit as if you were to rent a regular bike. E-bikes make things exponentially easier, especially on hills, which can be where you’d normally start feeling the strain in your knees and quads. E-bikes are offered in abundance in easy cycling areas, to make those areas as accessible as possible. Go to the Loire Valley, for instance, for totally flat riverside cycling, and very short distances of 16-45km a day. That means more time for Loire Valley wine. If you want more of a challenge, you can use e-bikes to tackle hills and distances that would be superhuman on a regular bike. The intrepid can use e-bikes to test their endurance on the hillsides of Provence or Devon.

Practicalities

Like many of our cycling vacations, you’ll normally need to bring your own bike helmet for your e-bike vacation. You might also be most comfortable if you bring proper cycling gear too: padded shorts make a world of difference, especially by day two or three of your trip. You won’t sweat as much as on a usual cycling vacation, but sports kit is preferred.
It varies from country to country, but e-bikes aren’t recommended for younger children, so an e-bike only vacation isn’t suitable for families. That doesn’t stop Mum and Dad going electric and kids having regular bikes.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: toxawww] [Go/don't go if...: k.steudel] [What is an ebike: smoobs] [Win-win: Bad Kleinkirchheim] [Practicalities: Bad Kleinkirchheim]
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