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Touring the world on a bike is, in my humble opinion, one of the best ways to travel. Take the car and the scenery is just a blur as you whizz past at 70mph on the way to your destination. Touring on a bicycle is different though, because the journey IS the destination. Travel by bike and you’ll be cruising along at slower speeds where you can easily see the sights along the way.
Being a cycle tourist like this is fantastic but cycling long distances day after day on a long bike trip can be intimidating. You might not be as fit as you once were. You might be carrying an injury that affects your stamina. Maybe you’re carrying a few extra pounds. You might even just feel a little out of practice. Whatever the reason, these little niggles and worries can build up in our minds and we end up taking the car instead. Or not going at all.
That’s the beauty of electric bike touring. That combination of bike, electric motor and battery makes them one of the best options for long distance travel by bike. I’ve gathered together my recommendations for some of the best electric touring bikes for the money right now – below is an at-a-glance summary of my favorite e-bikes for camping trips, cross country adventures and long-distance touring. Scroll further down and you’ll see more detail on each of these plus some other great electric bikes for long distance travel.
I’ve also got a bike touring 101 guide with tips on bike tours for beginners. We’ll look at the factors you need to consider when you’re choosing a good electric bike for trekking. We’ll also run through the list of gear you need for bike touring (apart from the bike!) Then we’ll dig into planning a bike tour – whether self-guided or supported, where to go on a bike tour. Finally, we’ll look at training for long distance cycling when you’re planning a bike tour.
Best e bike for cycle touring
What is bike touring?
It’s fair to say that there are as many opposing views as to what cycletouring is, as there are… cycle tourists. For me, touring on a bicycle is about cycling from point A to point B over a number of days, weeks or months. The actual number of miles per day on a bike tour doesn’t matter. Neither does the odd rest day here and there. The real essence of bike touring though is going on a cross country adventure. Seeing new places and people. Pushing ourselves physically (and, sometimes, mentally too). Having some tough days in the saddle, sure, but overall having an absolute blast. Bringing back the kind of memories that we can bore the kids/grandkids/anyone who’ll listen with until the next big bicycle tour.
There are a number of different flavors of bike touring. For starters, you have the classic bike tour which involves a sturdy touring bike with a variety of pannier racks and bags attached at various points. This type of bike touring might involve hotel stays or camping but, either way, will involve a fairly large amount of kit. At the other end of the spectrum, you have what’s known as “credit card bicycle touring”. The idea being that you have a minimal packing list that includes the cyclist, their bike and their credit card, and typically features good hotels, fine dining experiences and fully supported bike tours with support vehicles, supportive guides and baggage transfer. Classic bike tourers sneer at credit card tourers. Who, in fairness, sneer right back.
All happy families, eh?
In the middle, we have a fairly new breed of cycle tourist who combine the bike with backpacking to form an entirely new category: bikepacking.
Bikepacking takes the best aspect of credit card touring (packing light) with the best aspect of classic cycle travel (being self-supported). Here you have the bike, the bikepacker, and their minimalist kit which is secured to the bike frame itself (often with bungy cords or webbing straps) rather than in pannier bags on racks. It began with mountain bikes for long distance riding adventures and has since expanded to tours on road bikes, but still with the emphasis on packing light with gear attached to the bike itself.
Whether you choose bikepacking vs bike touring vs credit card touring the fundamentals are much the same – plan your touring route, choose the right bicycle for your trip, gather the touring gear you need, train and physically prepare for your bike trip.
How to choose the best electric bike for touring
There are a number of factors that you need to consider when you’re choosing the right bicycle for your long-distance traveling adventures. We’ll go through each of these now and then follow up with a rundown of my favorite electric touring bikes in a number of different categories.
What kind of terrain will you be cycling on?
One of the most important questions to ask yourself is what will be under your wheels when you’re cycling along on your bike tour. If you’re looking for an electric bike for a road trip then you’re likely to need a totally different ebike to one where you’re venturing deep into the backcountry on rough trails.
On roads and paved surfaces you have the widest range of options to choose from, the main ones being the classic touring bike, speedy road bikes, and hybrid bikes. Road bikes are the type that you see spandex-clad speedsters on, hunched-over, legs spinning. They can be great bikes for long distance touring as you can get to your destination quickly. That being said, if you’re not used to the cycling position of a road bike then you may find them uncomfortable after a number of hours in the saddle. Touring bikes look similar, however there are a number of important differences between touring vs road bikes. Overall, they’ll tend to be built in a more sturdy fashion than road bikes as they’re designed to carry heavy and bulky gear. In order to carry all that gear, they’ll generally have multiple anchor points around the bike, especially ones for rear and front pannier racks, and additional water bottle cage fixings.
Differences aside, these both make great bike types for paved roads (along with hybrid touring bicycles, which I’ll discuss more below). Why? Well, they all tend to have slick tires, rather than knobble mountain bike tires, and so can cycle long distances quickly and smoothly.
If, on the other hand, your cycle tour route is cross country and on rough tracks or trails, then you will need a different type of bike. Take one with slick tires and you’ll not have the necessary grip or cornering ability that you’ll need to keep safe. For those times, you need an e mountain bike designed for long distance riding, a gravel bike, or a rugged hybrid bike. All of these will have wider tires that have prominent knobbles that grip on to loose surfaces and give you traction.
Whilst it is technically possible to take a mountain bike on roads or a road bike on trails, you’ll find that you have to ‘tread’ more carefully. Mountain bike tires can be juddery and slow on smooth surfaces and road bike slick tires can suffer from more punctures on singletrack. Doable for short sections in a longer journey but not ideal.
What quantity of touring gear will you need to carry on your bike?
There’s a sliding scale of gear requirements that I’ve already alluded to above. At one end, you have credit card tourers who won’t need to carry much more than an extra water bottle, some nutrition, a waterproof jacket, and a small bike repair kit. For these cyclists, all that’s needed in terms of storage is an extra bottle cage, feed bag, small saddle bag, and a jersey with rear pockets.
For bikepackers, who are carrying tents, sleep systems, cooking gear, and even a clean pair of underwear or two, it’s important to both pack as light as possible (for example choosing the lightest tent they can afford) and also opting for a bike with sufficient gear storage capability. In that regard, it’s worth noting that full-suspension eMTBs can be troublesome as they have limited space within the central frame ‘triangle’. That space being useful for storage with one of the bikepacking frame packs, which can hold significant amounts of gear in a well-balanced position on the bike that doesn’t upset the center of gravity.
For classic bike tourers, who might be carrying similar amounts of gear to bikepackers, but in different ways i.e. bike panniers, it’s important to look for ebikes that have braze-ons for fitting pannier racks at the front and rear of the bike. Some ebikes come with racks pre-fitted, which can be very useful indeed.
What distance will you be cycling each day?
There are two aspects to this which are important when you’re considering your choice of ebike. Firstly, for long distance touring, you’ll need the bike that you find most comfortable to ride on. I’ll talk more about bike style in a moment.
Secondly, for ebikes, you’ll need to pair up electric bikes with the longest battery life for long-distance travel. Whilst most ebikes can be ridden when the battery has run dry, you’ll find that this is harder work than cycling normally as ebikes are generally heavier than non-electric bikes and you’ll also be hauling all of your touring gear.
Will you have opportunities to charge the bike battery?
The charging time for an electric bike battery, from fully depleted, is around 4-6 hours. When you’re considering how far you can go on an electric bike, you need to look at the (assisted) distance you’ll be riding each day and the opportunities for charging the battery overnight.
With the typical electric bike distance range of 40-70 miles on one charge, that’s no problem for many cycle tourers. With hotels, you’ll either be able to ask the concierge if they can charge your bike battery overnight, or take the battery to your room and plug it in. Note that this is more challenging on bikes where the battery is non-removable and, for that reason, I’d normally suggest ebikes with removable batteries for touring.
When you’re either camping, or don’t have access to power, then battery charging can be more of a challenge. There are two main options to consider in this situation. First is to choose an electric bike with the longest battery life – one that has sufficient capacity to cover your entire trip. Whilst you’d think that might be difficult, improvements in lithium-ion battery tech mean that there are plenty of ebikes available that can hit ranges of 100miles or more. With one bike, the Delfast Top 3.0, capable of 200 miles on a single charge.
The second alternative is to get an ebike solar charger in the form of a solar panel for your electric bike. Not only can these help top up your bike battery, but they can also help power other devices such as cell phones and laptops.
What style of bike are you used to riding?
Trying to decide between hybrid vs road bike for long distance touring? Pondering over whether to take a mountain bike for long distance riding? What about a long-distance cruiser bicycle?
Choosing the best bike for a cross country trip is never going to be easy. A good starting point though is to look at the style of bike you’re used to riding (or that you’ve ridden in the past). Why? Well, different bikes have different geometries, meaning that the frame shapes are different. Different tube lengths and angles of the joints will all make a bike that is totally different to sit on and ride than another. If you’re used to riding a road bike – great! – they can be fast, they’re light, and you can tour with minimal kit on them or stash gear on the frame bikepacker-style. However, if you’re not used to a road bike then you can find them incredibly uncomfortable, particularly over longer distances, as they bike geometry means that you ride in a forward-facing hunched-over position.
If you’re completely new to bike riding and this is your first long-distance road trip, then bikes that have a more upright seating position, such as hybrid bikes with slimmer tires can be a fantastic option. Light and responsive, with plenty of frame space for gear, these bikes are comfortable to ride for long trips. Not only that, but with a relaxed riding style, you’ll have your head up and be able to see more of the scenery as you pass by.
What budget do you have for your ebike?
How much does an electric bike cost? Well, there’s a wide range of pricing, although a good rule of thumb is that $1000-$4000 will get you a good entry-level ebike for touring. There are plenty of electric bikes that are cheaper than this, unfortunately these may not be suitable for touring as the batteries may only have sufficient output for a few miles. Components will often be a lower standard and therefore more prone to failure and potentially heavier – never good when you’re already hauling touring gear.
If you have a higher budget available then there are some excellent long-distance touring ebikes in the $5000-$10000 price range. Electric road bikes in this category are virtually indistinguishable from non-electric road bikes – until you ride them and feel the extra pedal assist powering you along. High-end electric bikes will have top-specification components all around and particularly with the batteries and motors.
Don’t skimp on the cost and your legs and lungs will thank you on the tour.
11 of the best electric bikes for touring
Let’s dive in and take a look at my recommended electric bikes for all the main types of long-distance touring. This list covers ebikes for a variety of different terrains – some are perfect for smooth pavement and some for rough trails (and some can even do both). It also covers a range of different price points, so you can find the best bike for your tour at the right price for your pocket.
I’ve been riding around on the RadMission 1 for some time now and it’s an incredible machine. You can read my full review of the RadMission here. What makes it my Smart Choice for long-distance bike touring? Well, there are a few reasons: it’s got a great upright and very comfortable riding position, which means that you can happily pedal along for mile after mile without getting a stiff back from hunching over the handlebars. There’s a powerful motor and battery that do most of the heavy lifting for you as well and that means that you have more time to watch the sights go by as you travel along. Add in the vast number of accessories that you can fit to the RadMission frame (think: front and rear panniers for starters) and the jaw-droppingly low price and this ebike is a winner Read more+
One of the challenges with long-distance bike touring is that you tend to have a lot of kit strapped onto your bike. Having an electric battery and motor will take the strain in hauling that extra weight. But there’s something that it won’t be able to do for you and that’s help you to get on and off the bike when it’s a little top heavy from all the weight. That’s where a bike like the CTY e2.1 really comes into its own. This bike gives plenty of opportunity to fix gear on, from the integrated rear rack to the bottle cage bosses. There’s also plenty of room on the handlebars for adding a bag or three. The beauty of this bike though is that sloping downtube. Back in the day, bikes had sloping crossbars like this in order for ladies with long skirts to clamber on and off with their dignity intact. For the bike tourer however it gives the ability to get on and off a heavily laden bike without it (and you) falling in a heap…Read more+
Wow! This is such a versatile ebike. If you’re looking to carry plenty of cargo on your bike tour and you’re a shorter person…or a taller person…or an average height person…then this could be the best electric bike for YOU! Cargo-carrying capacity is massive on the Tern HSD P9 thanks to the giant rear rack and multiple fixing points for other racks and bags. The bike also benefits from a large degree of adjustment so that it can fit riders of between 4’11” and 6’5″. And, whatever height you are or cargo you’re carrying, you’ll whizz along in style and comfort courtesy of the wide 2.2″ tires, front suspension, and 250W Bosch motor. One particularly useful feature is that the handlebar stem unlocks and folds down. Fold down the seatpost as well and you’ll be able to slot this bike into the kind of storage space (or luggage compartment) that other bikes wouldn’t stand a chance of fitting into…Read more+
The Bianchi Aria is my recommendation for the best overall touring bike when you’re looking to travel light and fast. You’d be hard pushed to tell that this is an electric bike at all as the electronics have all been cleverly concealed by Bianchi – the battery is tucked neatly into the frame and the motor is on the rear hub. That gives a bike that is sleek and gorgeous. And it’s fast, too. It performs like a road bike should, but with an extra boost from the Ebikemotion X35 V.2 M1 motor and 250W battery combo. Amazingly, the total bike weight (even with all the electrical wizardry) is a featherweight 26lbs Read more +
Following hot on its heels is the Niner RLT, which gets my vote for the best electric adventure bike. I’m a huge fan of gravel bikes right now and my view is that they’re one of the best choices for long-distance bike travel. They’re fast on road and pavement (powered assistance will take you up to 28mph on this), but they’re also more comfortable to ride than a road bike. That’s thanks to the more relaxed and upright bike geometry, coupled with the extra wide tires – 700x50c wide! Read more +
Long-distance touring with a side helping of backcountry trails? Yep, then you need an eMTB like this work of art from Santa Cruz. Perfect for off-road bikepacking trips, the MX packs a meaty punch thanks to its Shimano EP800 motor which delivers 85Nm max torque. Power like that will take you easily to the top of any hill on your route and the front and rear suspension will guide you smoothly down the other side. On-the-bike storage is somewhat limited (due to the dropper seatpost and small frame triangle) so you’ll need to make use of bikepacking bags rather than racks. But it’s a small price to pay, in my opinion. Read more +
Diamondback have created an excellent product with the Union 2 ebike. It’s great value for money and comes with a whole suite of features that are a massive benefit for long-distance tours. There’s a powerful 500W motor supplied by Bosch that can take you up to 65 miles on a single charge. And it speeds of up to 28mph, you’ll get to your destination quickly. The aluminum frame and forks helps keep the weight down and the tires (at 2.4”) are wide enough to soak up the lumps and bumps in the road surface and make for a comfortable ride. Add in the integrated front and rear fenders, and rear rack, and this is a great package that’s perfect for ebike trekking. Read more +
An honest-to-goodness cross country e bike that loves gravel and has a soft spot for pavement. The Current e-Bike from Diamondback is a great package. Aluminum frame (and wheelset) keeps the weight down low. 350W Bosch motor is powerful, delivering 85Nm of torque and whisking you along at speeds of up to 28mph. The 40mm Maxxis Rambler tires (on 700c rims) are wide and super-forgiving. Oh, and a handy fitted kickstand, relaxed and upright riding position, and plenty of space for touring bags, make the Current an option that’s well worth considering for your next long distance bicycle tour. Read more +
German manufacturer, Haibike, have been producing quality ebikes for over 10 years, so they know a thing or two about designing some of the best ebikes on the market today. Their Trekking range of bikes are a recent addition to their ranges of mountain bikes and I love them. For a (very) affordable price, you get a whole lot of touring electric bike. There’s a light aluminum frame, powerful Bosch motor (with four power modes), integrated front and rear lights, and hydraulic disc brakes (handy when you’ve got a fully-loaded bike that you need to stop quickly). Front/rear fenders, kickstand, and rear rack are touring essentials and great to see here as standard on the Trekking 1. Add in the sloped downtube (for easy boarding) and you’ve got a great package of ebike that is perfect for long tours on a budget. Read more +
The Allant+ is an excellent choice for bike tours where you really have to “go the distance”. Why? Well, the battery that Trek use on the Allant+ is the massively-powerful 625W PowerTube from Bosch with the Bosch Performance Speed hub motor that delivers 85Nm of torque for blasting up hills and maximum speed of 28mph. The really interesting though is that the Allant+ is compatible with Trek’s Range Boost system – what that means is that you can fit an additional 500W battery to the downtube and therefore get nearly double that range that you would otherwise have with a single battery. A deal-clincher for long bike trips. Add in the carbon frame, front/rear fenders, and comfortable upright riding position and this is a package that’s hard to beat. Read more +
QuietKat is a name that’s becoming big in the world of hunting. At first glance, that might seem to be a little strange. What can ebikes bring for hunting? The answer is that, unlike a gas-hungry, fumes-belching, super-noisy pickup truck… ebikes are quiet and pollution-free and can carry a ton of gear over the roughest of terrain. That makes electric bikes the new transport-of-choice for elk hunting and other game. For us, the features that make ebikes like the QuietKat Apex so good for hunting, also make them one of the best bikes for traveling long distances on backcountry trails. The Apex comes with a choice of motors (750/1000W), two batteries (52V/48V), HUGE (like, really, really huge) 4.5” tires, and an integrated rear rack giving a load capacity of a whopping 325 lbs. Add in the optional cargo trailer and you’ll not need to worry about having to leave items of heavy kit at home. Read more +
The RadRunner is a bike that’s packed full of features that make it great for long tours. It’s a fantastic option for a budget touring bike and, in my view, is one of the best electric bikes for the money. The basic model comes with a low price tag and delivers a 750W motor and 48V battery that can provide assistance up to 45 miles on a single charge. There’s an integrated rear rack, fat tires, and an upright riding position that’s comfortable to sit in for hours at a time. It’s also got a 300lbs payload capacity, which makes it a very capable bike for cycle touring. On top of this, there are a whole range of optional extras that take the RadRunner into a different dimension: extra racks and front basket, passenger seat, fenders, and a center console storage bin. Oh, and there’s also two size options of insulated delivery bag for when you absolutely have to take pizza on tour with you. Read more +
Now for something a little different. The Link C8 from respected ebike manufacturer, Tern is a bike that has an unusual feature but one that makes it very useful for certain types of tour. What is it? Well, it’s a fully capable ebike that that is also a folding ebike. Simply pull a lever on the handlebar stem and it can fold down. Then pull a lever midway between the seat and handlebar stem and the bike folds lengthways. And that feature makes the bike a great choice for tours where you’re taking other transport, such as planes, trains, and automobiles either to the start of from the finish. There’s no more worrying about buying expensive car racks, or booking luggage space, just fold and go. Read more +
What else do you need to take on a bike tour?
Credit card bike tourers can look away now…
But, for everyone else who’s actually going to take more bike touring gear with them than the proverbial credit-card-and-bike combo, it’s important to consider the things that are needed for a bike trip.
As a rough guide, a packing list for bike touring will need to include the following bike must-haves for your camping adventure. If you’re staying in hotels, or other accommodation, with access to hot showers, cooked meals, and a laundry service, then you can pare back this list by omitting the items marked with an asterisk.
Bicycle touring gear:
Saddle bag / Frame bag / Handlebar bag or
Pannier rack(s) / Pannier bags
Front / Rear lights
Front / Rear fenders
Straps / Bungee cords / Reusable zip ties
Spare inner tubes and/or tire patch kit
Pump or CO2 tire inflator
Cooking gear – stove / fuel / pans / utensils*
Jersey (2 of*)
Padded shorts (2 of*)
Socks (2 pairs*)
Packable rain jacket
Thermals (2 of*)
Cycling first aid kit
How to prepare for a bike tour
Whether you’re touring on a mountain bike, a road bike, or a trekking bicycle, the best bike for long rides is only ever going to be as good as your preparation.
So, how to train for a bike tour? Well, no matter if your bike ride is 50 miles long or if you’re planning a cross country multi-day bike trip, you need to start well in advance, build up slowly, and put in a realistic amount of miles in the saddle. Tackling a long-distance bike touring route when you’re not physically prepared is a recipe for disaster.
With that in mind, you should start your conditioning training at least 12 weeks before your tour starts. Also, I can’t stress highly enough that you should get any health issues checked out by your doctor before you start any training or plan your tour.
Once you know your approximate daily mileage for the bike tour you should begin training to this goal. Aim for a ride of at least your planned daily mileage once per week when you’re 12-weeks out. At 9 weeks, you should be doing this distance twice per week minimum. 6 weeks out and you should be riding this distance 3 times per week, with at least 2 of these being on consecutive days. 3 weeks out and you should be aiming for 4 times per week, with ideally 3 of these on consecutive days. IN the final week, ease right back and just go for 2-3 short cycles to keep the legs moving.
For routes that will involve hills, you should build these into your tour where possible. Also bear in mind that you will be carrying extra gear on the bike during your tour. This will inevitably make the cycling tougher and more energy sapping. In the weeks leading up to your tour it’s worth doing a few “dress rehearsals” to get yourself used to this. So, strap everything onto the bike that you’ll need and head out to cycle the daily mileage that you’ll be doing on the real thing.
Where to go on a bike tour
Planning a bike tour is, for me, almost as good as going on the long-distance bicycle tours themselves. Choosing my touring route, picking my bike, digging out all my touring gear. And, maybe even buying one or two new things for myself…shhh…
If you’re a beginner at bike touring then it can be hard to work out where to start on planning a route. A good starting point is to think about what you want to see and do on your tour – other than cycling, obviously(!) there may be national parks that you want to explore, cities to experience, and new foods to try. Think about where you want to spend your nights – sleeping under the stars, staying with local families, or 5-star hotel rooms. Consider whether you prefer to ride by yourself or whether you’d like the camaraderie that comes with riding with others. Do you want to ride everyday? Or do you want time for sightseeing? Do you want to ride away from traffic on bike paths and off-road trails, or are you happy with some quieter roads?
Once you’ve thought about what you want to get out of your bike tour then it’s time to start looking around for some routes. A useful place to get inspired is to look at the REI CO-OP bike touring packages in North America and also the worldwide options put together by Tripaneer at bookcyclingholidays.com.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, have an amazing time and stay safe!