E-Bikes and Active Travel 

How do e-bikes fit with active travel? Isn’t the point of active travel to challenge yourself by physically making your own way from one location to the next? Yes, this is certainly part of the draw… but would the essence of active travel really be compromised with a little ‘assistance’? 

Dunelands Trail in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island |  <i>Tourism PEI/Paul Baglole</i>  Dunelands Trail in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island | Photo courtesy Tourism PEI/Paul Baglole

Firstly, let’s clarify that the ‘e-bikes’ we are referring to are not electric motorcycles or mopeds, but bicycles that must be pedaled to activate the integrated electric motor. They are simply used to assist the rider’s pedal-power and give them an extra ‘boost’ when needed. Terms commonly used for this type of e-bike are ‘electric assist’, ‘pedal assist’, ‘pedalec’, or ‘step-through electric assist’ bicycles. 

With this definition in mind, the growing popularity of e-bikes in the adventure travel industry makes perfect sense. And here’s why. 

1. Accessibility
Simply put, e-bikes make cycle touring possible – and more appealing - for more people. Not everyone has the stamina or strength for multiple days of cycling; however, plenty of people are interested in being active and experiencing the sights and landscapes that are accessible during a bicycle tour. And, for those with physical limitations such as joint or back pain, the boost that comes from the pedal-assist motor reduces strain and makes riding more comfortable. 

Bridge crossing on the Rum Runners Trail, NSBridge crossing on the Rum Runners Trail, Nova Scotia

2. Pace
E-bikes are not subject to the same road rules and regulations as mopeds and other motorized vehicles. They are permitted on paths and trails just like regular bicycles. As such, they can only go so fast. In Canada, to fall under this category, the motor must not be capable of providing assistance when the bicycle attains a speed of 32 km/h on level ground. So, the pace and terrain remain similar to regular cycle touring. The boost also allows those with a slower pace to keep up with stronger cyclists, particularly on those long uphill stretches. 

3. Relatively small environmental impact
Just like touring by conventional bicycle, environmental benefits can be realized by substituting vehicle-based tours with touring by e-bike. Since they run on rechargeable batteries and don’t burn any fuel, electric bicycles don’t release any harmful gases into the atmosphere. 

Quebec's Petit Train du Nord rail trailQuebec's Petit Train du Nord rail trail | Photo courtesy Tourisme Laurentides

4. They’re fun!
One of the main reasons that people decide to participate in a cycling holiday is because they are fun. It’s fun to get to know a destination at handle-bar level, to explore the nooks and crannies along the way, to stop places you wouldn’t have stopped in a car, to get your heart racing, and experience the kick of adrenaline that comes with being active. E-bikes literally kick it up a notch, making those climbs less of a chore and more of a thrill and allowing you to go farther and faster than you may have with your own pedal power. 

So, not to worry, renting an e-bike on your active holiday still means you can and will put in the effort during your journey; you’ll just get a little ‘boost’ when you need it. Happy cycling!

 

 

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