Electric bike (aka e-bike) sales have soared over the last few years due to their rise in popularity. Undoubtedly you have seen RVers cruising around the campground this past summer. As the survey below shows, some RVtravel.com readers already own one, some are thinking about it and some have no interest.
Why owning an electric bike is so popular
- They are for everyone: Electric bikes allow people of all abilities (including aging RVers) to explore their surroundings without being hampered by hills or headwinds. You ride it much like you ride a normal bicycle, but with less effort, pedaling as much or as little as you want. With an electric bike, you can fully enjoy and appreciate where you’re riding without becoming fatigued.
- Great for rebuilding muscles: Pedal assist electric bikes allow you to choose the amount of exercise you put into it. Start easy and slowly turn down the power assist as you build muscle.
- Convenient: No need to unhook the tow vehicle or dinghy: State and National Parks often have much to see and do away from the campground, but limited parking. With an electric bike you can leave the tow vehicle or dinghy at the campsite and park “up front” at popular viewpoints, trailheads and attractions.
- Skip the tram or shuttle bus: As noted above, due to limited parking, many National Parks require visitors to leave their motor vehicles in distant parking lots and tour the park via shuttles. With an electric bike, you can skip crowded shuttles and tour the park on your schedule. Added bonus: You won’t be exposed to germs and viruses found in the shuttles.
- Enjoy bike riding with the family: Take the grandkids camping and enjoy a bike ride around the campground or points of interest with them. An e-bike assures you can keep up with the energetic young ones.
- Go farther: Electric bikes allow you to travel farther than you would on a conventional bike.
- RV rallies and conventions: An e-bike is a great option for getting around at large rallies or RV conventions.
- No endorsement is required like with a motorcycle.
- They are not complicated: Electric bikes are easy to operate and understand. Many offer an LED read out showing the battery state of charge, remaining range, recharging status and more.
- Senior health benefits: Studies show that riding an electric bike can help seniors with balance, cognitive skills, preventing disease and more.
- Provide access to areas where other conventional motor vehicles aren’t allowed: Many land agencies permit electric bikes to travel the same places regular bicycles are allowed. In most cases this means you can pedal right past the “No Motorized Vehicles” sign. This is huge for seniors that like to explore distant points of interest down trails open to conventional bikes where steep hills, sand or other impediments might otherwise deter them. Note: Classifications of electric bikes vary. Some might be allowed on select trails while others aren’t. (See below.)
Classifications of E-Bikes
Classifications of electric bikes vary by state and land agency. Know the rules where you plan to use one. Following is an example from the author’s home state of Washington.
How does Washington state define what an e-bike is?
“The state of Washington (WA) defines electric bicycles as ‘electric-assisted bicycles.’ The electric bike must have two or three fully operational pedals for human propulsion and the electric motor must be no more than 750 W. Electric bicycles are classified as Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3 as defined below:
- Class 1 electric-assisted bicycle means an electric-assisted bicycle in which the motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.
- Class 2 electric-assisted bicycle means an electric-assisted bicycle in which the motor may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle and is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.
- Finally, Class 3 electric-assisted bicycle means an electric-assisted bicycle in which the motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 mph and is equipped with a speedometer.”
Where to ride an electric bike
As mentioned above, where you can legally ride an e-bike on non-motorized vehicle trails varies among states, land agencies and classifications.
Luckily, for RVers that enjoy biking trails in our National Parks, laws regulating electric bikes were adopted in 2019 by the Department of the Interior. The 2019 ruling reclassified electric bikes from gas-powered motorized vehicles to non-motorized bikes. All three classes of electric bikes are currently allowed. Prior to the adoption of the 2019 rules, electric bikes were not permitted to ride on bike trails in any National Park. Fortunately, the Department of the Interior decided that electric bikes are a great choice of travel based on the following points:
- E-bikes make bicycle travel more accessible and efficient because they allow bicyclists to travel farther with less effort.
- E-bikes provide expanded options for visitors who wish to ride a bicycle but may be limited because of physical fitness, age, disability, or convenience.
- When used as an alternative to gasoline- or diesel-powered modes of transportation, e-bikes can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption, improve air quality, and support active modes of transportation for park staff and visitors.
- Like traditional bicycles, e-bikes can decrease traffic congestion, reduce demand for vehicle parking spaces, and increase the number and visibility of cyclists on the road.
Rules vary among State Parks, but they typically favor e-bikes over alternatives like gas-powered scooters. An example of Washington State Park’s electric bike regulations is shown below.
For more information on electric bikes check out these RVtravel.com resources:
- The best eBike for RVers: Electric Bikes 101 (includes video from RV Tips & Travels)
- Electric Bikes for RVing Facebook group
- Updated gadget review: 100 miles with my Lectric eBike. Do I still love it?
Special thanks to Gregg’s Cycle for supplying the Trek electric bike for supporting photos. Founded in 1932, Gregg’s Cycle is the premier bike shop in the Pacific Northwest. Gregg’s believes bicycles make the world a better place and bring families together, and they strive to get more people on bikes daily. They work with the best manufacturers in the industry to bring you products that fit your cycling needs at an affordable price. They offer free shipping on orders of $75 to shipping addresses in the 48 continental United States. Satisfaction guaranteed. Tell them Dave from RVtravel.com sent you!
We ride RAD Power Bikes
We’ve had e-bikes for our entire full timing adventure. Unfortunately, our butts wear out waaaay before the battery.
Actually, The NPS has left it up to individual parks to determine whether they will allow electric bikes on trails.
I had two knee replacements and my doc told me no more strenuous bike riding. The Lectric XP Step-through ebikes we bought have been a godsend for both me and my wife. She hadn’t been on a bike in decades and I quit after my surgeries. Now we can ride again.
A word of caution though: ebikes are not like regular bikes. There is a learning curve. They are very heavy (ours are 64lbs each), and it’s best to practice somewhere safe before actually going out and riding. Handling at low speed can be challenging.
I will add that we need more bike shops that will work on ebikes they don’t sell. With so many being bought online including the lower cost more affordable that ebike shops do not want to sell, we need bike shops that will work on them. My local will work on the brakes and gears but not anything to do with the motor.
I love articles like this telling me “I NEED an electric bike”. No I don’t. I have a perfect bike that I actually pedal to make the wheels turn. And I get exercise. I also can guarantee that I can pedal my bike and stay on it longer than 80% of the electric bike riders. I never have given in to peer pressure or buy something because everyone else has one. You do you. If you NEED an electric bike, open your wallet and dish out the money. Me, I’ll save thousands and pedal around the campground.
I am glad you are in good physical condition so do not want or need motor assist.
Many of us have not ridden bikes in years. There are many of us for various reasons do want or need it. I have a bad knee. My ebike allows me to pedal to strengthen to delay knee replacement. I pedal when I want and use the motor when I want. Ebikes allow many of us to get back out there to enjoy life. Yes, distance is limited on them but 20-30+ miles a charge is plenty for many of us. We are not out to do marathons but enjoy the outdoors and fresh air. So please stop looking down on us.
Not looking down on anyone. I actually said in my comment, you do you. What I don’t like is being told why I need an ebike. I don’t need one and I especially don’t like being told I need anything. It’s like the TicToc videos saying I’ve been doing everything wrong for 64 years!
Most of the parks we use require ALL motorized vehicles be registered and tagged. No exceptions for electric vehicles. Simple reasoning. If it is tagged, it is insured, and requires a licensed operator. E-bike sounds good but opens another door for a small percentage of people to abuse something.