Bikepacking with e-bikes, is it a thing?

Updated: Jun 22, 2018


is it really as simple as adding more batteries?

"In this post information shared refers to peddle assist e-bikes only, Class 1 e bikes. Any e-bike with a throttle of any kind is in my mind a motorcycle."


In some countries e-bikes account for 70% of bike sales. It makes perfect sense that manufacturers are already designing e-bikes aimed at the fast growing adventure cyclist section of the market.

Kona as an example just launched the Remote, an adventure e-bike, and Riese & Muller are producing e-bikes with long range capabilities.


It stands to reason that being able to ride longer distances with an e-bike is now the reason why many new riders are trying bikepacking and bike touring for the first time.





Probably the most asked question about e-bikes is the speed and range you can expect when riding an e-bike.

SPEED is easy as the majority of brands are legally obligated to restrict e-bikes to 25-28 km/h for class 1 e-bikes (peddle assist with no throttle).

RANGE is the question not answered so easily and usually the responses contains many "If" and "depends" with no clear answers?!


THE NUMBERS

With legislative restrictions equalizing speeds, differences in weight, operation, torque and software are what set brands apart.


Range is sure to increase over time with battery technology evolving, but for now 500 wh seems to be the benchmark.

Giant are using the Yamaha mid mount motor with a claimed range of 112 km on the middle setting and 61 km on full assist. 100+ km sounds perfect for bikepacking and cycle touring, or does it?


Start adding weight with varying terrain and these distances start to shrink making reliable predictions on how far an e-bike will travel an uncertainty.


Specialized claim to have software functionality whereby you can enter the desired distance you are planning on travelling. The software then adjusts the peddle assist level accordingly to give your desired range.

I am still trying to find an answer as to what the maximum input distance is for the 400 wh battery used by Specialized. Entering 500 miles in my mind should set the assist to 0% as the battery is not capable of this type of range, more on this later...


Yamaha, Bosch, Brose and Shimano are leading the way with mid drive technologies.

The logical solution is to add a second battery pack, and that is exactly what some bike manufacturers are doing to reach the extra miles. This ups the battery capacity to between 800 - 1000 wh with an estimated range of 200+ miles.

Bosch is leading the way in this dual battery area with technologies using both batteries simultaneously. This approach limits the stress on battery discharge compared to using one battery at a time.


Planning:

With good planning and possible route changes bikepacking/touring with e-bikes is possible and lots fun. The video below is proof of that:


A good place to start is to first familiarize yourself with your e-bike on weekend rides at your local trails without any gear.

Ride a set distance 10,20,30 km. Adjust your speed to that of a bikepacking trip, 15 km/h is a good speed. Start with a fully charged battery and after the ride measure your battery usage.


This should give you a good feel for what the e-bike is capable of doing with just your weight and riding style. Remember to record your battery drain %.


Repeat the same rides, this time add 1/3 of your gear to the bike. Maintain the same pace (15 km/h) as with your first ride. Again measure the battery drain %.

Keep on recording your results as you work your way up to a fully loaded bike.


Once you completed the project you should be able to see the amount of battery drain and be able to calculate the estimated distance you can travel before you have to recharge your bike batteries.

  • 20% battery drain on a fully loaded bike at 15 km/h over a distance of 20 km should give you a total distance per charge of 100 km and take you 6.67 hours to complete.


"A simple technique to save on battery is to switch off assist when you are doing easy flat and downhill sections."


Conclusion:

I think that taking a trip on an e-bike is probably the only way to get familiar with e-bike travelling, something on my short list. Once this becomes reality I will report back and the experience might tell a completely different story.


Until next time.

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