Environment

Planning on some fun electric bike riding this summer? Read these tips first!

Summer might not be here yet, but this weekend at least marks the unofficial start of summer in the US – and thus a great time to soak up the good weather outdoors on an electric bicycle.

With global electric bicycle use surging, we caught up with the US’s largest electric bike manufacturer, Rad Power Bikes, to discuss tips for safe, enjoyable e-bike rides this summer.

As the company explained, “after a year of quarantine, people are eager to get outside to hike, camp and travel. More camping sites, hiking trails and National Parks are modifying their paths to accommodate those using an e-bike.”

With more locations accessible by e-bike than ever before, these tips can help you have a great time out there this summer.

Picking the right e-bike

Choosing an appropriate electric bike is a topic we’ve covered in detail before, and is critical to having the safest, most enjoyable experience.

Different styles of e-bike are geared for different types of riders. Metro e-bikes are better for those that do most of their riding in the city, while electric mountain bikes or fat tire e-bikes are likely a better option for those that spend more time on trails or riding in sandy or deep soil conditions.

Bicycle frame geometry is also important. As Rad explained, “if you’re having a hard time swinging your leg over the saddle, even when you’ve adjusted the seat, you may want to look into a Step-Thru model. Alternatively, you may be too short or too tall for the bike you have in mind.”

We wrote an entire guide to choosing among the different styles of e-bikes here.

diamondback electric bike union

Start out slow

If this is your first electric bicycle (or especially if this is your first time back in the saddle in years), spend some time practicing before you hit the crowded bike lanes or trails.

An empty parking lot, open field or even a cul-de-sac is a great place to get your cycling legs back and practice controlling your new e-bike.

Some electric bicycles have hand throttles that allow riders to power them like a moped, while others only have pedal assist that simply provides power when the rider pedals.

Get to know your e-bike and become comfortable with its controls before you start riding in more crowded environments.

zooz ultralight uu 1100
He seems pretty comfortable with his e-bike already

Be prepared by packing the essentials

Studies have shown that riders on electric bikes typically ride farther and stay out longer than riders on pedal-only bicycles.

That you means you’ll want be prepared by packing any necessary items you’ll need for longer rides. That could be water, sunscreen, a first aid kit or anything else that you might need along the way.

As Rad explains, “Make sure to pack the necessities and calculate how long you will be out. Storage is key. Make sure there is enough room to pack your bike and that the bike rack you have bought is up to the task. There are a lot of factors to consider when packing and planning for your adventure – remember that your battery life will be affected by cargo weight.”

Personally I tend to switch off between several e-bikes that I own and not all of them have a rack or pannier bags. That’s why I often bring a backpack on my rides, especially when I’m out for many hours.

For longer trips and bikepacking-style adventures I have a larger Cotopaxi travel bag that fits everything I need (and that also has become my favorite airplane carry-on bag!). But for general day trips I switch back and forth between two different CamelBak bags that have become my favorites for normal daily rides.

In fact, I wrote an entire guide on my favorite e-biking gear that I use on my rides.

Riding safely means riding defensively

Defensive riding is a mindset.

This has proven to be critical to me in my rides. Whenever I go out, I’m always hyperaware of where dangers are lurking, especially since they tend to pop up in places you least expect them.

Whether it’s assuming cars are out to get to me or that any number of dangers could be lurking around blind turns on trails (or from someone else’s perspective, I could be the danger coming around blind turns), I try to keep my wits about me at all times.

And Rad seems to agree, saying riders should “Take control of the situation by riding defensively. Sometimes, the threats aren’t as easy to spot. Puddles can obscure hidden dangers under the water, and you never know what may be covered up by that wet pile of leaves in the road. It’s better to play it safe and avoid them entirely when you can.”

RadMission e-bike Rad Power Bikes

This doesn’t mean that you should spend your rides scared that every path holds a hidden danger. But it means that you should remain aware of the higher risk locations – many of which are areas where you don’t have the full picture or you lack complete visibility – such as those blind turns and puddles of unknown depth.

A cyclist friend of mine in college hammered that one home for me, explaining that a puddle that looks like it’s a half-inch deep might actually be a 6-inch deep pothole with a sharp edge just waiting to give you a flat. That’s something you’d obviously avoid on a dry day but might not think about when it’s obscured by water.

Check your tires early and often

If you asked me what the single most important safety component of an e-bike is (or any bicycle for that matter), I probably wouldn’t say the brakes. I’d say the tires.

They’re the most critical part of the bicycle that affects its stability at every moment you’re on it – both on casual straightaways and in hard, fast turns.

They’re the only thing keeping you up and they’re your only point of contact with the road. Good brakes mean nothing if your tires can’t translate that braking force to the ground.

sondors madmods
No matter where you ride, your tires are critical

Equally important is ensuring your tires haven’t picked up any sharp bits of debris along your rides. Small objects can become embedded in tires, especially in the deep treads, and then work their way deeper over time. Getting a flat doesn’t just ruin your ride, it can be dangerous at the wrong moment.

That’s why Rad also says that checking your tires is critical to ensuring the safety of your ride. “Examine your tires before and after every ride to make sure they’re in good condition. This means inspecting them for any shrapnel you may have picked up while riding. If you notice anything that’s become embedded, pick it out with a sharp blade or needle nose pliers. Leaving it in there gives it the opportunity to slowly work its way in deeper and ultimately puncture your tube. Also keep in mind that maintaining proper tire pressure is important. When your tires are filled correctly, you can enjoy smoother, faster rides. Another big bonus? It helps you avoid flats. To help avoid these, use a bicycle pump and a bike tire gauge to make sure your tire is consistently at the recommended PSI.”

Lastly, just because I think tires are the most important safety component on a bike, that doesn’t mean I neglect my other safety equipment. I give my brakes a quick test each time I hop on my bike before I get rolling, and try to give them a more thorough cleaning and inspection several times a year.

Maintaining lights, reflectors and other safety equipment is also paramount.

Enjoy some fun (and safe) rides this summer!

No matter what type of e-bike you ride or where your favorite stomping grounds are, these tips can help you have more fun and ride safer this summer.

As more people join the growing e-biking community and experience the fun and utility that electric bikes offer, it is more important than ever to do our part in ensuring that we’re all responsible riders.

What tips would you add for enjoying your rides this summer? Let’s hear them in the comment section below!


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