Bikepacking is a very versatile hobby, it can mean anything from a weekend of gravel cycling followed by a night in a hotel, all the way up to a 6-month trip filled with wild camping on off-road terrain. Given that bikepacking is such a diverse sport, we wondered if you could go bikepacking on an electric bike.
In general, bikepacking on an electric or e-bike is definitely possible. It has some key advantages over cycling on a normal bike, including making bikepacking more accessible to certain groups. However, the average cyclist may find it easier to use a non-electric bike as these bikes require less planning.
While in general, bikepacking on an electric bike is possible, there are some key advantages and disadvantages to using an electric bike for a bikepacking trip, and only by understanding them can you really decide if it is suitable for you.
We asked a bikepacking community if you can go bikepacking on an electric bike, while it is obvious from the results that you can when we actually spoke to them, many noted how they wanted to try it once, but would still use their non-electric bike most often.
What are the advantages of bikepacking on an electric bike?
While bikepacking is a very versatile hobby, many people will still find themselves uncomfortable with the idea of bikepacking or bike touring. This is one of the key areas where bikepacking on an electric bike has its main advantages, it helps to make bikepacking more accessible to certain groups.
Below we will go through some of the advantages for certain groups who will benefit from using an electric bike for their trip.
People who wish they could take more gear bikepacking
Bikepacking on an E-bike allows you to carry more luggage. While an extra 10kg on a normal bike makes it almost unrideable, an electric bike barely notices.
At the extreme end of this spectrum is the possibility of taking a trailer on your bikepacking trip. This helps to merge the boundary between those people who enjoy cycling, but also enjoy car camping!
This allows those bikepackers who always want to pack a year’s worth of gear for their overnight trip, to better enjoy the bikepacking experience.
People who want to travel further on their bikepacking trips
While electric bikes have a limited range, (50 miles is about the average distance for an electric bike), this is a huge increase for some people.
As cyclists who can rack up 100 miles per day, we sometimes forget just how far this is! Those who are just starting out or recovering from an injury just aren’t able to do this.
Being able to travel 50 miles with the addition of a motor may expand the bikepacking possibilities for many people who would otherwise not be able to go.
This can be extended even further if you are able to invest in a second or even third battery to propel you along. While these have an extra weight associated with them, we’ve already established that E-bikes are better able to compensate for this weight.
People who enjoy motorbike touring but want less hassle
People who haven’t yet been persuaded by electric bikes often suggest that they offer the worst elements of both cycling and motorbikes. We however feel that in this case, they offer many of the advantages of a motorbike tour without some of the key disadvantages.
Motorbikes require insurance, fuel, and a driving license. You need to look up import and export restrictions, they can’t be taken on planes or buses, cost extra on trains and ferries, and require much more protective clothing.
While electric bikes have a much more limited range and are considerably slower than motorbikes, some may consider this trade-off worth it.
Groups with multiple different fitness levels
Electric bikes make a great option when a couple or even family wants to go bikepacking together. If there are differing levels of fitness or ability, an electric bike can help to compensate, allowing slower riders to keep up with their more experienced group.
It also allows those with disabilities or injuries who are recovering to join their old groups at an earlier stage than they otherwise would.
While it’s not quite related, it also can be really great for those who plan to go bikepacking with a dog, not only does it mean your dog can run as fast as it likes, but it also means you can attach a trailer to your bike. Carrying any extra supplies or even the dog when it gets tired.
What are the disadvantages of bikepacking on an electric bike?
While we’ve seen the key advantages of bike touring with an electric bike, there are some obvious disadvantages we should go over.
You have to charge an electric bike
First and foremost, electric bikes require frequent charging. When it comes to charging locations, these can be very varied based on the trip you are planning. Some areas to consider are:
- A campsite that has electricity for RV or campervans
- Hotels you might be staying in
- Places you can stay for a long
While many may suggest it, solar panels will not charge your bike fast enough for you to avoid the need for a planned charging pit stop. While solar chargers do have some uses on a bikepacking trip, for example in addition to a portable charger, they are not efficient enough to power an electric bike.
Obviously, some trips won’t be suitable for any of these types of locations, and in this case, you will have to consider re-routing your trip or taking a spare battery pack with you.
Overall, no matter how well you plan around the battery on your electric bike, you are still having to make plan your trip around your limited range, and even then, will have to add in some leeway.
So how far can an electric bike actually go?
|Bike||Estimated Range in Eco Mode|
|Ribble CGR AL e||100 miles|
|Giant Revolt E+ Pro XR||60 miles|
|Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo||80 miles|
|Kona Libre EL Electric Gravel Bike||100 miles|
|BMC Alpenchallenge AMP Sport Three DB||100 miles|
|Specialized Turbo Levo Comp||30 miles|
|Trek Rail 9.7||30 miles|
|Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp||12 miles|
|RadPower 6 Plus Step-Thru||45 miles|
Electric bikes have not been designed for bikepacking
Electric bikes are a lot heavier than non-electric bikes. This means they can be a lot tougher to ride if you don’t have power. They also often lose the low gearing that makes it easy to ride up hills normally found on bikes used for touring.
E-bikes or electric bikes tend to have worse water storage solutions than non-electric bikes.
This means you have to use more allocated bag space carrying water or consider taking a hydration pack. While it is possible to bikepack with a rucksack, they can be uncomfortable and limit any benefit you get from riding on an electric bike.
On top of these, you also have the extra element of having to look after and maintain the motor. This is another area of the bike that can brake and as such needs to be taken into account.
Bikepacking trips on an electric bike require much more planning
Charging stations are not the only other element of a bikepacking trip that will require more planning and thought when taking an electric bike.
Electric bikes, while commonplace, have very different rules and regulations depending on where you are around the world. A key example of this is the different speed limits placed on electric bikes in different countries. You need to ensure the bike you are cycling is appropriately restricted to the area you are bikepacking if you are planning to travel across multiple countries.
|Country or Location||Speed Limit (KPH)|
Not only will you have to review individual countries’ regulations on electric bike speed limits, but you will also need to review whether any route you are planning allows electric bikes. For example, many large American bikepacking routes, such as the PCT will not allow electric bikes of any kind.
Bikepacking with an electric bike is not necessarily any easier
Though E-bikes can make bikepacking more accessible, it does not necessarily make bikepacking easier! You will still need to properly plan any training you might require and pack enough nutrition to cover you for a full day of cycling.
Planning a bikepacking trip on an electric bike and presuming it will be easy going, is a pitfall many will fall into and can lead to a disastrous trip.
Also, there is the risk that you run out of power mid-trip. E-bikes aren’t designed for riding without power unless you have no choice. They can be much more difficult, if not impossible to ride with your bikepacking gear, especially if you are someone who required motor assistance in the first place.
Electric bikes are more expensive
Electric bikes are significantly more expensive than non-electric bikes.
If you are looking for a cheap hobby, planning a trip with an electric bike may be a big barrier to entry.
There are a few cases where having an electric bike is great for bikepacking, such as in people recording injuries for those who want to take more gear with them.
However, for most people, the negatives such as having t spend more time planning your trip and limiting how far you can travel from home will not be worth the advantages an electric bike will give.