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What Is An E-Bike and Why They’re Great for Camping

What Is An E-Bike and Why They’re Great for Camping

E-bikes and camping go hand in hand. Remember when you were young, and your bike made camping an adventure? Can camping and biking really be that thrilling again, years later?  It can if you’ve got an e-bike by your side! But what is an e-bike?

Let’s explore that question and how it can make the possibilities of biking and camping wonderful again! 

What Is an E-Bike? 

E-bike is a shortened term for electric bike. It’s just like any other bike, but it also includes a motor, a rechargeable battery, and a controller. At a glance, you may not notice a difference between an e-bike and a typical bicycle. 

The battery kicks in when you pedal to propel you forward. It offers assistance with pedaling, so you can get where you’re going and enjoy the wind blowing in your hair without tiring yourself out! 

e-biking with friends
E-biking with our friends Peter & John of The RV Geeks in Arizona

How Does an E-bike Work? 

So, what is an e-bike and how does it work?

Electric bikes work just like the bicycle you loved as a kid, with one main exception: You don’t need someone to push you from behind to help you pedal; it comes from the attached motor instead.  

Do You Still Need To Pedal An Electric Bike?

All e-bikes have pedals. This differentiates them from electric motorcycles and mopeds. However, depending on the electric bike, you may not even need to pedal to get moving.

Some e-bikes have a crank motor, and others a wheel hub motor. Either will switch on automatically when you pedal, giving you that extra oomph when needed.

However, if you want the bike to do all the work, many e-bikes feature an electric throttle-only mode. On the opposite end of the spectrum, e-bikes can work like a standard bicycle, operating solely on human-powered action. 

These two categories are important to understand when you start shopping for an e-bike.

Rad Rover E-bike with lithium-ion battery
Rad Rover E-bike with lithium-ion battery

What to Look for When Buying an Electric Bike

Researching before you buy is always wise when making a motorized purchase. Knowing the purpose of your e-bike is the first place to start. From there, consider battery types, how it’s powered, and weight capacity. 

And don’t forget to read the reviews. Learning from others can be very beneficial when purchasing an unfamiliar product.

The Battery

The battery affects the weight and size of the e-bike, so it’s a vital component to choosing the right e-bike. Most batteries on e-bikes fall into one of two categories: sealed lead acid or lithium.  Both have advantages and disadvantages, but both will do the job.

Sealed lead-acid batteries were standard in electric scooters and e-bikes when they first started. They’re inexpensive and work well; however, they’re bulky and heavy. They also need to be recharged immediately after use and have a short life span of only 100-300 cycles.

Lithium batteries are the technology of today and offer three times the life of a standard battery. They’re very lightweight, require little to no maintenance, and can last up to three years of daily usage. This is a lifespan of about 800 charges. The drawback? They’re expensive!

You’ll notice that a replacement battery for any modern e-bike makes up a substantial amount of the purchase price. But honestly, without the lithium-ion, your e-bike won’t have as much power and won’t take you as far.

You charge either battery like you would a phone or laptop. Plug it in and wait four to six hours for a fully charged battery. The good thing is you can plug it in whenever it’s not in use, so it’s ready to go when you are. 

Riding desert two-tracks on e-bikes
Riding desert two-tracks on fat tire e-bikes

How Far & Fast the E-Bike Can Go

How far and fast an e-bike can go will largely depend on its battery. However, not all e-bikes have the same distance or speed capabilities. This is going to be something you want to consider in your shopping to make sure the bike aligns with the distance and speed you want to ride.

Keep in mind that the distance an e-bike can go is going to depend on how much assistance you provide by pedaling. The more work you do, the further the battery will last you.

Similarly, the speed you go will also affect the battery discharge rate. If you do 20 mph all the time, you’ll use the battery faster than if you cruise at a leisurely 10 mph.

Regarding e-bike speed, you may be thinking of getting the bike that goes the fastest. However, since e-bikes are bikes and generally allowed on pedestrian/bike paths, they need to be used as bikes and not motorcycles. Because of this, local and nationwide laws limit the throttle max speed depending on the e-bike class for pedestrian safety.

For Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes, max speed tops out at 20 mph. Class 3 e-bikes have a max speed of 28 mph. You can pedal hard to try to go faster than 20, but you will not get any pedal assist beyond 20 mph.

How It’s Powered

E-bikes use either a pedal-assist or throttle-base controller. Either way, you control the amount of assistance, usually measured in watts.

If you have a pedal-assist controller, it activates once you start pedaling. There’s a handlebar-mounted controller that lets you adjust the assistance level. 

A throttle controller lets you dictate pedal power with a twist grip or a thumb press throttle. It gives you easier access to full pedal assistance. All you have to do is activate the throttle, and you’re off–no pedaling required.

No matter the control type you choose, there are three ways of operating the bike: pedal only, pedal-assist, and electric only. By selecting the pedal-only option, you power the bike, not the battery. But be warned – many of these bikes are bit heavier than your standard bike, so you’ll have to put in a bit more effort!

With the pedal-assist option, both your legs and the bike’s power keep you moving. And if you need the bike to do all the work while you steer, the electric-only option is there when you need it.

Weight & Weight Capacity

An e-bike typically weighs anywhere from 38-75 pounds with a carrying capacity of 220-300 pounds for the rider and cargo. Each e-bike will be different based on the size of the battery, motor, and bike framework. What you carry and the terrain you ride will dictate the type of electric bike you need. 

Be sure to note the weight of the bike, as you’ll likely need a bike rack suited to carry it to bring it along with you. For example, if your e-bikes weigh 75 lbs each, two on a bike rack will be 150 lbs. You’ll need a bike rack rated for at least 150 lbs.

E-bike rack setup on The RV Geeks‘ to carry 150lbs of bikes

Type of E-Bike

Just as there are many standard bicycle types, there are many e-bike riders. There are mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, and everything in between–there’s bound to be a bike for you too. 

Do you find yourself tooling around the boardwalk or chugging up a single track? Do you want your bike for transportation, entertainment, or both? Once you know the purpose behind the bike you want, you can narrow and define your choices.

Read E-Bike Reviews

While you shouldn’t necessarily rely on reviews alone, you should use them! If other customers have tried out a product that you like, it can be helpful to hear what they say about it.  

However, when reading through reviews, factor in potential user error. If a user becomes disenchanted with the e-bike they purchased, don’t turn away from it before performing your own research. One person’s mistake could be your best investment.

How Much Do E-Bikes Cost? 

Because of the added expense of the battery and motor, e-bikes generally cost more than traditional bikes. And just as with conventional bikes, you’ll almost always get what you pay for. In other words, the quality and cost often go hand in hand. 

E-bikes still vary vastly in cost ranging anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars. The average e-bike will run you around $2500.

what is an e-bike

If you want a decent-quality option, expect to spend a grand at the very least! But if you’re in the market for something under $1000, assume you’ll get a lower-quality build and framework along with off-brand batteries and limited durability. 

If you’re seeking a top-of-the-line e-bike with custom builds and a carbon framework, you might pay thousands. 

Keep in mind that a less expensive option upfront might not be so in the long run. It might break and cost you more in repairs or replacements than you would have spent on a higher-quality model.

Why E-Bikes Are Great for Camping

What is an e-bike’s purpose in camping? E-Bikes can be an excellent recreational activity as well as a much-needed tool for transportation. Anyone can use them, regardless of physical stamina. 

As a transportation tool, the e-bike can be a blessing. You can head to nearby stores or recreational sites without having to tow a car with your RV. You might be more apt to hop on your bike than in a car just because you have one.  

Exploring a new campground or a new town is enjoyable and straightforward when on an e-bike. You can stop and visit with your new neighbors, pick up firewood from the camp host, or just see the sights. You can also ride with friends while conversing and exercising at the same time. 

It’s something you’ll have to experience for yourself to truly appreciate! 

Riding e-bikes with Drivin’ and Vibin’ and Getaway Couple

The Best E-Bikes to Bring Camping

We’ve been avid e-bike riders since 2019 and love them. We have been using Rad Power Bikes* to explore further from our camping locations in all types of terrain. From desert mountains to forests of the Midwest, these bikes have taken us hundreds of miles we would have otherwise never seen.

*Disclaimer: Rad Power Bikes is a friend of The RVers TV Show that we co-host.

RadRover Fat-Tire E-Bike

The RadRover Fat Tire Electric Bike is our top pick for general purpose e-biking and to bring camping.

These fat-tire e-bikes make you feel invincible. It doesn’t matter what surface you’re on – pavement, gravel, sand, or raw forest floor, these 4 inch fat tires conquer it. Whether we want to cruise from the campground to the grocery store or go off-roading, these bikes do it all with stability and comfort.

These bikes also won Electric Bike Review’s “Best Electric Fat Bike of 2021.” At around $1700, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and ours have lasted years of pretty hard use and travel.

Battery & Motor Specs: Each bike has a 48-Volt, 14 Ah (672 Wh) battery with Lithium NMC Samsung 35E cells, rated for 800 charge cycles. Has a 750W brushless geared hub motor with 80 Nm of torque, with 5:1 planetary gear reduction.

Rad website claims up to 45+ miles per charge. Max throttle speed 20 mph.

Weight & Weight Capacity: The RadRover weighs in at 69lbs and can carry 275lbs.

Propulsion: Select from 5 levels of pedal assistance to aid your effort, or use the half-twist throttle for pure electric motor propulsion.

Other Features We Love: The RadRovers, like the other Rad Power Bike lineup, comes with all kinds of accessories and add-ons to customize your bike to fit your needs. Front and rear fenders prevent water, dirt, and mud from spraying you. Front and rear racks and baskets are also available. One of our favorite features, however, is the headlight and brake light for easy visibility at night.

Click here to learn more and read through more of the RadRover Specifications.

Step-Thru Model: We had the opportunity to also try the RadRover Step-Thru (pictured below) and found this to be a great design. The step-thru area makes getting on and off these relatively large bikes much easier, with no impact on the ruggedness or overall performance of the bike.

We found ourselves hopping on this one for quickly getting around even more frequently because of it!

Radrover step-thru electric bike
RadRover Step-Thru E-Bike

RadRunner 1 E-Bike

We use the RadRunner Electric Utility Bike for beach cruising when we spend time on our RV lot in Florida. This model has a second seat option on the back called the RadRunner Passenger Package with footpegs so you can ride two-up.

This is the perfect machine for zipping back and forth to the beach and cruising through the RV park together for fun. The fat tires give this bike a great stable ride, which is especially important for having that second passenger!

RadRunner 1 E-Bike with Passenger Package and Center Console in forest green
RadRunner 1 E-Bike with Passenger Package and Center Console

Battery & Motor Specs: Each bike has a 48-Volt, 14 Ah (672 Wh) battery with Lithium NMC Samsung 35E cells, rated for 800 charge cycles. Has a 750W brushless geared hub motor with 80 Nm of torque, with 5:1 planetary gear reduction.

Rad website claims up to 45+ miles per charge. Max throttle speed 20 mph.

Weight & Weight Capacity: The RadRunner weighs in at 65lbs and can carry 300lbs.

Propulsion: Select from 4 levels of pedal assistance to aid your effort, or use the half-twist throttle for pure electric motor propulsion.

Other Features We Love: The RadRunner has a dual-leg kickstand for added stability when parked for cargo or passengers. In addition to the Passenger Package for the second seat, the driver’s seat can lower down to be flush or raised for full leg extension.

We also got the RadRunner Center Console for carrying beach supplies and anything else we want to bring with us! Comes with an integrated rear rack for carrying cargo if you don’t opt for the passenger kit.

Click here to learn more about the RadRunner 1 E-bike and read through its specifications.

Tip: They also have a RadRunner Plus that is an upgraded version of the RadRunner 1 and includes the passenger seat.

Other E-Bike Brands

If you’re just starting your research, you’ll find a variety of companies breaking into the e-bike market, including Pedego, Blix Bikes, and Lectric. Other big name bike companies like Giant and Schwinn are also coming out with e-bikes.

One thing we really liked about Rad was their small company feel right in downtown Seattle. We got to visit, test out all the models of bikes we wanted, and chat with the folks there. If you’re going to be in the Seattle area, we recommend dropping by!

Visiting Rad Power Bikes in Seattle

Best Bike Lock For Your E-Bikes

After making an investment like this, you really don’t want to have your awesome new e-bikes stolen. We had our mountain bikes stolen once, and it sucked.

That’s why when we got our Rad Power E-Bikes, we went for a heavy-duty lock that we were confident would deter most opportunistic thieves. It’s the Kryptonite New York Noose Lock.

Is an Electric Bike Worth It? 

An e-bike makes it possible to ride if you’re otherwise physically unable to. If you love feeling the wind in your hair while you exercise or see the sights, but your physical limitations prevent it, you might feel like an e-bike is worth every penny. 

Using an e-bike to replace a car might also be a highly cost-effective way to get around. You don’t have to worry about the extra expenses of a vehicle and towing it along. 

Ultimately, it depends on your priorities. If an e-bike is the kind of “toy” you want to bring along, but you don’t have a toy hauler, it might be ideal. If biking isn’t your thing, it’s probably not worth the money. 

Just know that e-bikes are great for almost any rider. They bring back your ability to ride again, and if that’s something you want, you might love owning one as we do!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Robyn Migliozzi

Saturday 1st of May 2021

After we purchased our RV the next purchase was for our ebikes. We never realized at the time how much we would love them. We purchased the Ancheer ebike with basket and other accessories for things like grocery shopping and essential. We have wide tires but not fat tires because we like to ride on gravel but not mountain biking. They've taken us to the beach and back roads of VT, NH, Maine and most of the Northeast. We really love the assist of electric but still get our excersize from them. Do your research, find what type works for your lifestyle and enjoy..

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 1st of May 2021

Having a basket on your e-bike for grocery shopping is a great idea! Thanks for sharing! :)

Ann

Saturday 1st of May 2021

Thanks for a great article on e-bikes! I would love to get one but as we boondock quite often I am wondering about charging the batteries. We have solar on the truck camper, no generator. What would you recommend?

GK Lott

Saturday 1st of May 2021

You are right - ebikes are great additions when RVing. We really like our electric GoCycle G4i. They easily fold and fit into our tow vehicle. The battery is inside the frame. These are US Type 1, offer the latest technology, and are made with highest quality materials. http://gocycle.com

Kristin

Saturday 1st of May 2021

Couldn’t agree more with you on the reasons to get an ebike. We bought our bikes this year and we rode the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. With out the power assist on the ebike, we never would have even thought to try it. Checked off a bucket list item we didn’t even know we had! Kristin

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