For the past few months, I’ve been preparing for a trip through Scotland and England. If you’ve read any of my other lifestyle posts, then you know that I think the absolute best way to explore an area is by bicycle. So, when I was planning my trip, of course I decided to do an electric bike tour. I’ll be doing a John O’ Groats to Land’s End ride, approximately 900 miles. Let’s talk about the best electric bikes for bike touring.
What is bike touring?
But first–for those of you who might be wondering–what is bike touring? Bike touring, Bike-packing, or bike camping is basically exactly what it sounds like. It’s exploring an area with a bicycle as your main mode of transportation. Some bike tours can last hours, some days, weeks, some even last years.
Of course, there are really no set rules in terms of bike touring. Some people choose to camp, some people stay in B&Bs, and some very posh bike tourists stay in hotels (so fancy!). That’s the great thing about bike touring. Your main goal is to get from point A to point B via a bicycle. All the rest is up to you!
With the advent of electric bicycles and their continued improvement on how far they can take you, cycle touring is open to more people than ever before. Take advantage of this unique form of travel with an electric bike!
Considerations for your bike
Probably the most important thing to consider when researching the best electric touring bike for you is how far you need your bike to take you every day. Be realistic about this. If you purchase a lower end electric bike, don’t be surprised when it only takes you half as far as you want to go. Think about whether or not there are going to be opportunities to charge your battery in the middle of your daily riding. If not, it might be a good idea to buy an extra battery.
You should also think about how much gear you are going to need to carry. The reason this will affect your decision is because some electric bikes don’t have the capability to mount a front rack while others do. Plan on doing a 3-day trip? You could probably get away with just a rear rack. My advice though would to be to purchase an electric bike with the capability to mount a front rack as well. This way, if you decide to plan a longer trip in the future, you can simply buy a rack and be on your way instead of potentially having to buy a new bike.
The final major consideration is what type of riding you will be doing. Are you going on an off-road adventure through the mountains? You’ll want a very different electric bike than you would need if you’re riding on paved roads the whole time. Most bike tours are going to be on paved roads, but you should always research the area in detail during your planning process.
Best Electric Bikes for Bike Touring
While preparing for this ride, I did a lot of research on the best electric bikes for bike touring to make sure I was balancing battery range, carrying capacity, and reliability while not completely breaking the bank. Now I want to share my findings with you! Here are the best electric bikes for bike touring.
Riese & Müller have built their bikes to be masters of bike touring. They are some of the only electric bikes that offer a dual battery setup. This means that you are going to be able to go double the distance without recharging. This capability is truly invaluable during a bike tour. On Bosch motors, this takes you from 500 watt hours to 1000 watt hours. There are not any motors offering that type of battery range.
Another great thing about this particular electric bike is that it comes with a Nuvinci shifter and belt drive system. This replaces a traditional derailleur, chain, and cassette. This means there is no need to tune your drivetrain or fix a broken chain. Nuvinci systems are virtually maintenance free, which is great for beginning bike tourists who don’t want to spend half a day figuring out what went wrong with their drivetrain.
The final thing I love about this the Riese & Müller Delite GT Touring is the plus size tires. If you’ve ever been on a bike for the majority of the day, you know that any little bit of cushioning can make all the difference. Riese & Müller have provided this extra cushion in their tires. These tires are also excellent for wet weather and some light off-roading if you want to take a shortcut.
This is a more basic model by Riese & Müller. You still have the ability to turn this into a dual-battery set up, but part of the reason I wanted to highlight this bike was to show how many different options you have when you choose this company. You can even choose to have a bike that goes 28 mph if you want to cover more ground with less effort.
As you can see from the picture above, the Charger Touring comes with a traditional derailleur set up if you want to save some money and feel comfortable tuning along your tour. Check out how the seat post is a little different than the Delite. You’re looking at a Thudbuster suspension seat post. Again, anything for a little extra comfort.
This vast array of choices in how your electric touring bike is built is what makes Riese & Müller an ideal candidate for most customers. Of course, the upgrades do come at a cost, but most of them are well worth it.
Bulls electric bikes with Brose motors will always top the list for any long distance ride. Coming in with a huge 650 watt hour battery, Brose estimates that you can take these bikes over 100 miles on one charge easily. They also have 90 nm of torque, which will pop you right up hills even when you’ve got a full rack of gear in the front and the back.
Another reason I chose the Lacuba Evo E8 is because of its overall geometry. First, check out the upright position you’ll be riding in. This positioning is ideal for bike touring because you’ll be traveling long distances. You’ll be much more comfortable in this position than you probably would be hunched over a road or hybrid bike. I also love how the Brose battery integrates completely into the downtube. Not only does this hide the fact that you’re getting a little extra help (if you’re self-conscious about that), but it also leaves you space to mount water bottle cages, a frame pump, or even a frame-mounted bag. These are sometimes crucial items during a bicycle tour, and many electric bikes cannot accommodate these due to the protrusion caused by a battery.
You might notice that this electric bike also comes with a Gates Belt Drive system instead of a traditional drivetrain. As mentioned before, these belt drive systems can save you loads of time and frustration out on the trails.
I wanted to include an electric bike that would be ideal for off-road and trail bike touring, and I think the Bulls E-Stream Evo 3 27.5 Plus is it. This hardtail mountain bike would be perfect for bike tourists going out on the trails for a few days. You could conceivably go for a few days without needing to recharge the Brose 650 watt hour battery, so even if your camping in the wilderness with nowhere to recharge for 60-100 miles you would likely be fine on battery life.
The Nobby Nic tires would work equally well on road, loose dirt, gravel, fire roads, or anything of the like really. The hardtail geometry also isn’t so aggressive that it would be uncomfortable over long distances. Of course, comfort over long distances is key during bike touring. Even though the bike does not come with a rear rack, it does have eyelets for mounting. A rear rack should allow you to carry plenty for a 3-5 day excursion.
The best electric bikes for bike touring will be the ones that you feel most comfortable on. The most important thing you can do is assess your particular needs and wants and go from there. Don’t forget that it is nice to save money, but in the end you want an electric bike that is going to get you where you need to go. Comment below with questions! Happy riding!
Author: Scott Nickley
Scott Nickley is a writer, actor, cyclist, runner, and cafe loiterer living in Los Angeles. You can find his work on the Fly Rides website and find him in the flesh following all cycling laws in your nearest bike lane.