I recently rode an e-bike from Meiringen to Interlaken in Switzerland, from Reichenbach Falls, where Sherlock Holmes nearly met his demise, and along the mountain-clad shores of Lake Brienz, with a travel company called to out & ABOUT – Switzerland Trekking. I traveled on twisting two-lane roads and gravel paths with some very steep inclines. The experience was like a return to my ten-year-old self, feeling the freedom and ease of bicycling in a landscape that was the far side of idyllic. This time, it was on a power-assisted bike and a breeze to pedal, especially on those winding uphills.
Whether you call them e-bikes or the more formal electric assist bikes, they can offer a new way to see the world. Simple to use, a bit trickier to master, they provide a welcome boost of power when heading up a hill in Switzerland, the Green Mountains of Vermont, or along the West Coast of Ireland.
If you’re unfamiliar with e-bikes, it’s essential to realize that they still must be pedaled. The electric aspect comes from the attached small motor, which allows you to add a power boost, and the bike has a heavier frame to compensate for the battery and motor. Pedaling, shifting gears, and balance is the same as with any other bike. But on these machines, pedaling cues the e-bike’s engine to start. The best e-bikes measure your exertion level and add power accordingly by driving the rear wheel. You still get a workout, but you elect the level of that workout and change the power boost to suit your energy level —and maybe save some strain in the process.
It also allows you to ride with a companion who might be a stronger or more accomplished rider and has chosen to ride a conventional road or touring bike. They’re ideal for couples of mixed biking ability to ride together. They open hillier destinations to riders who couldn’t handle such inclines without assistance. They allow occasional riders to join multi-day bike trips and help older riders stay in the game. They’re a boon for multi-generational riders, such as a family with abilities all over the place. Here’s what some major travel companies are offering in 2023.
Champagne & Alsace Easygoing E-bike Tour
The Loire Valley Champagne & Alsace Easygoing E-bike Tour is a dedicated e-bike trip from Backroads. The company offers e-bikes for free on most of their Biking and Multi-Adventure Tours and all Dolce Tempo vacations with biking activities. You bike from Reims to Strasbourg on dedicated bike paths, past vineyards, and along the Route des Vins, canals, and the tranquil Vosges forest. Their Dolce Tempo trips are more relaxed, and this six-day trip is priced from $6,099.
Tuscany Bike Tour
On this Trek Travel Tuscany Bike Tour, you ride from Chianti to the Val d’Orcia, past vineyards, and through the rolling countryside. From tasting Chianti Classico in Radda to a pizza-making class and exploring the walled town of Montalcino. Upgrading to an electric bike is available at no additional cost. The six-day trip is priced from $4,199 per person, based on double occupancy, as are all trips mentioned here.
Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia
Edelweiss E-Bike Tours is an Austrian company that only offers e-bike trips, and has a roster of departures to many European destinations. Their Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia trip is a nine-day trip that begins in Granada, exploring the Alhambra in the Sierra Nevada, and then onward to Antequera, Ronda, and the white villages of Andalusia. Priced from $3,630 per person, including an e-bike rental.
Switzerland & France: Lake Geneva, Annecy & Valleys of the Alps
VBT has e-bikes on many of their rides but notes that they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. An e-bike would be delightful on their Switzerland & France: Lake Geneva, Annecy & Valleys of the Alps trip. The keyword for this itinerary is “valleys.” It’s a ride that takes advantage of accessible terrain, biking on well-paved bike paths, and low-traffic country roads. You follow rivers and lakes, with the Alps in the distance, on a trip that’s ideal for the beginning cyclist. The seven-day tour runs from $4,495.
One of the first companies to offer e-bikes on their regular tours, the luxury bike tour company B&R has several e-biking trips. One of them is Alsace E-Biking, which starts in Strasbourg and goes to Dachstein, follows the famous Route des Vins and goes to Colmar, with a final dinner at Frères Haeberlin, a Michelin-starred restaurant. The level is “Recreational,” with 25 to 31 miles of daily riding. The 6-day trip is priced at $6,495 per person.