Do Fast E-Bikes Work For Bikepacking?

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My favorite e-bike right now is my Snapcycle Stinger. But, I’ve had my eye on faster bikes like the Sur Ron or Talaria. Around town, they ‘d actually keep up with traffic, which would make them a lot safer to ride in a place with basically zero bike infrastructure. But, I’d obviously want to do what I do with my 500-watt e-bike and go visit the backroads.

I’ve also been interested in seeing first-hand how good they’d be for more “tacticool” use. Militaries around the world are adopting them, so they’d obviously work out well for my nerdy adventures carrying radio gear up to mountaintops to see what kind of contacts I can make. Since I’m not trying to carry anti-tank rockets or anything crazy like that along, I’ve been checking into how well they work for civilian outdoor fun.

Fortunately, I found a couple of cool videos showing how versatile fast e-bikes (or electric dirtbikes, depending on how you look at them) do. (article continues after video)

In this first video, SESSIONS73 on YouTube goes out with some friends. He’s on a Talaria e-bike, and his friends have a Sur Ron and a Talaria. These are similar bikes capable of much greater than Class 3 in terms of speed, putting them right in that grey area between bikes and motorcycles.

They started out going slower than usual, because their bikes are loaded down. But, they seemed to be able to get decent acceleration, even on uphill segments. Other than the possibility of bottoming out the suspensions, the bikes seemed to do reasonably well. He also pointed out that he wishes he had a full-face helmet (something I can attest to, even from riding bikes with no motors).

Instead of tents, they brought along hammocks. So, they needed to find some trees and enough open area to string them up. This obviously saves some weight, which seems to be critical given that they’re challenging the suspensions.

So, one big important takeaway is that bikes probably need some kind of a suspension upgrade or adjustable suspension to handle bikepacking duty. This is something that I’ll definitely have to look into more! A quick Google search shows that heavier springs and even air shocks are all possible for these bikes, so anyone regularly using that kind of capability might want to consider those.

Another thing that became apparent is that even these faster e-bikes can’t keep up with gas-powered dirtbikes (duh). It didn’t take guys on faster bikes a lot of time to close a mile gap and make it necessary to stop and let them pass. But, they were discourteous about it (something you can sometimes encounter outdoors). But, these e-bikes are a lot smaller and lighter than a dirtbike, so they can be pushed over or lifted over obstacles that you can’t ride past, making them more of a go-anywhere vehicle.

After sunset, they had gone 6 miles uphill and he still had 65% battery. But, this was the high point of the trip, allowing for them to very easily get home. They still had to take another side trail to get back down into the treeline so they’d have a place to hang up hammocks. This proved to be a lot more challenging than they planned and they didn’t have much natural light left. But, because they were able to move the bikes without power, they made it through a trail that dirt bikers wouldn’t have wanted to bother with.

After sleeping in a stand of aspens, they took off and headed down the other side of the mountain. Then, they had enough range to go back to where their truck was. Sadly, they got coal rolled, so even cooler fast e-bikes still attract morons. Sadly, most places only consider it assault and not aggravated assault. They managed to make it back to their place with over 10% battery.

Basically, what I learned is that if the goal is to adventure and not go fast like a dirt bike, then these fast e-bikes are the superior choice. If you’ve got a need for serious speed, they’re not the ticket.

But, what if you don’t have friends along? Another video gives us an idea of how that works out.

In this case, he had a 40 pound pack, and needed to stiffen the bike’s shock up to get a more comfortable ride. He also needed to put some padding above his battery to keep it from rattling.

What he found was similar to what the other guys did. Narrow washout sections (due to record snows last winter) and other obstacles didn’t really challenge the bike. The limiting factor was mainly the endurance of the biker and not the battery or the bike itself. He actually knew the place (Mineral Basin, Utah) pretty well from other trips he had taken up in UTVs.

He set himself up right on the side of a river, and put up a nice ground tent (which was probably heavier than the hammocks the last guys had). Unlike a group ride, he was a little concerned about animals, such as cougars (a reasonable fear where he’s riding). But, for his own personal safety, he did bring along a satellite communicator.

Another thing he noticed was that the deer were acting a little weird. He pointed out that the road was closed up there, so he was the only person up there. His bike was basically the only thing that could make it up there. As a lone person, the deer were willing to walk almost right up to him.

Once again: go-anywhere capability.

Bottom Line

It seems pretty obvious that e-bikes are opening up new capabilities that the outdoor world never had before. They’re not as fast as a motorcycle, but they’re a lot more of a mountain goat. Trees? Pull the bike over. Narrow washouts? Go around it. Dense foliage growing onto the trail? Slow down a bit as needed. These higher end bikes also have regenerative braking, allowing for better downhill performance in some ways.

So, one of these days I need to get a company to send a couple out!

Featured image: a screenshot from the VOLTA YouTube Channel (second video above).


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