I’m planning a bicycle trip. It’s an annual ride that I do with my two bicycle-riding brothers. However, planning this year’s ride presented a new challenge. My foot is recovering from an injury and putting it under load is uncomfortable. I’d been worried about being able to ride the distances that we have planned. And had been wondering if I’ll miss out on joining in. At this point I decided to look into hiring an e-bike.
I researched online and realised that using an e-bike is an ideal solution for me right now. With the support of the e-bike giving me a little extra power, I can lessen the load on my foot and still enjoy the ride.
Some of you might be wondering what happened to the Gazelle e-bike that I bought a couple of years ago for my work commute. Well, after a change in work during 2020, I no longer needed an e-bike and sold it. Am I regretting the sale? No, this next trip needs something that will handle rough terrain.
An article that I found very helpful in my decision to use an e-bike for my next trip is one by Australian Cycle Tours. They specialise in small-group cycle tours either supported or self-guided and have given close thought to the e-bike decision. With their permission, I’m reposting the content and hope that you might also find it useful. And perhaps inspiring too. The woman who bought my e-bike said that after doing an e-bike tour in Europe, she just had to buy one!
Should I Hire an Electric Bike for my Trip?
Once a rare alternative, electric bicycles – or e-bikes – are growing in popularity and can be found on most trips with Australian Cycle Tours. They can be a huge benefit, especially for those looking to ride cycle trails with confidence, and often without all the sweat.
The great thing about opting for this style of travel is that you don’t need to be a super fit cyclist to explore destinations on two wheels – thanks to the e-bike’s battery-powered pedalling ‘boost’.
The growing availability of e-bikes on cycling holidays, which kicked off in Europe, has now expanded to destinations in Vietnam, China, New Zealand, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, Japan and Australia, giving less able cyclists the confidence to enjoy backroads and picturesque cycle trails they may otherwise have considered too tough for their capabilities.
E-bikes are perfect for cyclists that may require a little assistance on their adventure travels, so you can enjoy every enchanting side road you pass without physical limitations. But are electric bikes worth it, and how do they work? Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions on e-bikes and the benefits they offer.
What’s the difference between an electric bike and a regular bike?
An electric bike has all the features of a regular bicycle with the addition of an electrical drive system.
They are slightly bigger and heavier than an ordinary bike due to the motor, however, don’t get them confused with a scooter or electric motorcycle; they are quite different. E-bikes still need to be pedalled, shifted, and steered like you would any other bike, only with the added benefit of having a small engine to assist with your pedalling. So having reasonable handling to hold up an e-bike and the ability to balance on a bicycle is a basic requirement.
How does an electric bike work?
Designed to make cycling easier, electric bikes enable people of all different fitness levels to cycle together and tackle routes that previously would have been too difficult.
It consists of a battery, a motor, a way to integrate the motor’s power into the drivetrain, and a way to control that power.
The motor is your friend as it adds a speed boost when pedalling up that steep incline or taking on a more lengthy cycling distance. It won’t leave you exhausted halfway with that extra push.
When riding an e-bike, the display will show you how fast you are going and the distance you’ve ridden. Depending on the model, e-bikes can provide up to 120 kilometres of pedal assistance before requiring recharging. Simply charge the battery, attach it to your e-bike, turn on the power and adjust the pedal assist level to how much or how little ‘boost’ you would like on your journey.
Each e-bike has a range of pedal-assist levels (eco, normal and high) and can be easily charged up at night. Easy!
Who would most benefit from using an electric bike?
Built with comfort and simple operation in mind, and with unisex frames available, an e-bike makes it easy for anyone looking to enjoy the ride without the physical strain. This makes cycling trips around the world a viable option, regardless of one’s fitness level.
Want to tackle tougher climbs? An e-bike allows for that extra boost.
Have joint issues or recovering from an injury and not quite back to full physical capacity? The added support from an e-bike takes it easy on your legs and knees than when riding a traditional bike.
Choosing an electric bike is a great solution for those who are concerned about their fitness or physical capabilities, allowing people with varying levels of fitness the opportunity to cycle together. It’s not necessarily for beginners or nervous cyclists.
What are the advantages of riding an e-bike?
Apart from the above-mentioned points, there are many additional benefits of using an electric bike.
• They are eco-friendly and efficient.
• Easy to use. E-bikes are quick to master and make active holidays physically easier without taking away from the adventurous spirit of the trip.
• Make a great equaliser when different members of the family or friends have different strength and stamina levels. No longer will you have to worry about keeping up, but simply focus on spending quality time together. With a little extra power, rough terrain is no longer an issue, and daunting headwinds won’t slow you down.
• Can mean a more fun ride. For many, choosing an e-bike can mean a more relaxed journey where you can spend more time enjoying your surroundings than huffing and puffing. You can better enjoy your surrounds with electric assistance to minimise the physical challenges, so you focus more on taking in new places and welcoming new experiences. It just adds that extra comfort and ease on the trail.
• Are an added safety net. With less impact on your joints and reducing much of the cycling strain on your legs than a regular bike, if you have injuries or physical conditions, an electric bike allows you to still have a fun and active time. It also won’t make you feel like the odd one out.
• Get you achieving bigger goals! Tougher cycling routes seem more achievable and if you’re a newcomer to cycling trips, you can enjoy the benefits of an e-bike at handlebar level.
Why are e-bikes more expensive than a regular bike?
The added motor and the fact that an e-bike will require more maintenance means hiring an electric bike will cost more than an ordinary bike. So if the support and added ease of an electric pedal assist on your travels appeals to you, it may well be worth the investment.
Should I still train for my cycling trip even though I will have an e-bike?
Yes. If you’re looking to complete a multi-day e-bike ride, we still recommend riding practice on a variety of terrains and cycling regularly to make your trip more enjoyable.
So perhaps you can do that Australian cycling trip your friends want to do?
About Australian Cycle Tours…
Australian Cycle Tours specialise in high quality self-guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
If you’re curious about being able to ride through stunning landscapes that you might usually avoid, Australian Cycle Tours have a number of cycle tours with e-bike options available.
Learn more: https://www.australiancycletours.com.au/
Like most things, the absence of something makes its presence more apparent. Before the pandemic brought us border closures and travel permits, I travelled over the Queensland border into NSW often. Mostly by bicycle, and most weeks. The Tweed River with its flood plains and coastal creeks and green hills are part of my extended neighbourhood. They take me to quieter places and dilute the residual busyness of life on the Gold Coast. When the border closure happened on March 26th and the weeks and months passed by, I realised how much I missed my green caldera.
Crossing the border was permitted for essential activities such as work trips, medical appointments, or family responsibilities. None of my usual excursions over the border could be considered ‘essential’. They were all simply for enjoyment. So north of the border I stayed.
But then the border bubble began. From 1am on August 8th, the Queensland/NSW border opened to residents of a strict list of postcodes – from Beenleigh in the north to Ocean Shores in NSW – for travel within that border zone. The proviso is that we apply for a permit as border bubble residents. And that’s been easy enough to do. The permit only lasts a week but the application processes in minutes.
With this change, those of us living in this bubble can cross the border for any reason. Simply for enjoyment is reason enough.
I haven’t ventured far though. Not like I normally would. No trips yet to Kingscliff or Tumbulgum or Pottsville. I think I’ve been waiting to feel comfortable that things are settling. And perhaps they are now.
Next week from 1am on October 1st, the border bubble will burst. What will remain is a border zone in NSW that extends further south to Byron Bay. This change means any Queensland resident can travel over the border into the NSW border zone for any reason. And residents in the NSW border zone can travel anywhere in Queensland for any purpose.
Simply for enjoyment is reason enough. So that means I’ll be on my bike. Somewhere in my green caldera.
Yarraman to Moore is, to date, my favourite section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. Forests and freewheeling. Birdsong and bakeries. This 49 kilometre trail makes a good day out and is one worth sharing with others.
On the last weekend of winter, we gathered at Moore. Some of us from Bargara in the North. Some from Brisbane. Some from the Gold Coast. All family. But not all bicycle riders. What to do out there if you’re not riding the trail? Think wineries with a splash of fresh air and a sprinkling of art galleries.
Moore is a small town straddling the D’Aguilar Highway, a rural road linking Caboolture in the east and Kingaroy in the west. Blink, and you’ll miss Moore. Stop, and you’ll find welcoming cafes, a 20-hour free camp and the Old Church Gallery. This was my second time riding Yarraman to Moore and both times the Old Church Galley delivered a nourishing end-of-ride meal and wonderful hospitality, all served at a long table on a verandah lined with timber louvres. A place perfect for sharing stories and celebrating the day.
Getting to Yarraman for the start of our ride was made easy by the shuttle bus service run by Out There Cycling. They drove us and our bikes from Moore to Yarraman which takes about 30 minutes. They also provided a suitable hire bike for one our our riders. Mountain bikes or hybrid bikes are best for riding the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BRVT). The trail surface is quite rough in places and needs a sturdy bike for comfort, endurance and safety.
At Yarraman, we had a coffee at the Farmhouse Coffee Lounge and then rode along Browne Street to the old railhead where the BVRT begins. We started riding at 9.40am, a timing that works well in winter. The early morning chill had passed, which meant we didn’t have to carry as many layers of clothing for the day. Most of my excursions on the BVRT have been during June, July and August. During these winter months, Queensland days are wide open for being outdoors without concern for heat and hydration.
So what was the ride like?
Each section of the BVRT has its own highlights. Along the Yarraman to Moore trail, the tall grass trees are a spectacle worth stopping for. Known as Xanthorrhoea Glauca, this variety grows only one to two centimetres each year. We estimated some were close to 3.8 metres high, meaning their age could be somewhere between 190 and 380 years old! Even if conditions saw them growing faster than average, they are still remarkably old native trees. And stunning to view with their blackened trunks and blue-grey spiky foliage.
Twenty kilometres into the ride, we arrived at Blackbutt and here you must stop and feast on goodies from the Blackbutt Bakery. The park nearby was scattered with bicycles and riders doing just that. We had no hesitation in joining in!
Next we rode through the Benarkin State Forest where another slice of nature stopped us in our tracks. The Bellbirds. Their high-pitch chimes rang delicately through the forest, filling the air. Sounds can get lost with the rush of wind past your ears as you ride. I like taking time to pause during my BVRT rides and listen – to the birdsong, to the absence of cars and to the grasses. Acres of grass – brown, yellow, beige – stretch along the trail and across the valley and open paddocks. And as they move, they rustle. A whisper from the land.
Rail trails are mostly flat with only gentle undulations. However, where there were once bridges, there are often now gullies. On this stretch of the BVRT, the gullies are a prominent feature and we had a lot of fun with them. This is made possible by most of them having a concrete path that gives a stable surface for riding. Also, there is excellent signage at the approach of each gully, grading them as easy, moderate or advanced. I took the descents cautiously and relied on my many gears and pedal power to spin my way up the other side. My nephew though, with the verve that 28-year-olds know, rode some gullies three times – just for fun!
If you’re still not sure about riding this section of the BVRT, then maybe this will help. Most of the ride is downhill! There is an uphill section for about eight kilometres on the way to Blackbutt. But after that, the trail’s elevation descends 320 metres. From that point, we were freewheeling down the Blackbutt Range and loving it.
Now for some photos and a short video too with some action on the gully crossings (sound ON for commentary and bellbirds 🙂 )
(For more information about this and other sections of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail click here.)