Senior Bike Lovers Switch to E-Biking for Active Travel
Nine Holidays Worldwide to Put You Back in the Saddle!
With tour operator recommendations
courtesy of Justin Griggs and Dave Wiggins.
In an April 10, 2019 issue of the New York Times, the headline blares: “Cycling Tours, Once for the Hard-Core, Now Offer E-bikes!” With hundreds of millions of e-bikes already on the road in China, e-bike sales are now surging in Europe and North America, especially in countries with long cycling traditions.
When it comes to travel holidays, these machines are re-awakening opportunities for older cyclists who thought they were beyond cycling any distances. The introduction of e-bike availability by many tour operators is enticing those with a desire to stay active on holiday to get back in the saddle and have some fun. Summing up the advantages of an e-bike is the oft-quoted declaration that they offer the speed of running with the effort of walking. They also cover more distance in a set time frame, and they get riders to their destination with more energy for other holiday activities.
Best of all, e-bikes are of great assistance climbing hills, though you will most likely still have to help out your new two-wheel friend by pedaling there. For people who stopped riding because of such afflictions as knee or back pain or asthma, e-biking is often the answer to being able to continue this healthy activity longer.
We have assembled nine tours in ten countries to invite readers of Travel with a Challenge to consider e-biking on a future vacation. In most cases, you will pay a surcharge if you are renting an electric bicycle from the tour operator. Occasionally, the surcharge is waived as an incentive to book by a specific date. Ask about that!
This totally unique mountain bike safari through Namibia gives participants the opportunity to really connect with the diverse wildlife, landscapes and local communities in Namibia, an ecologically-diverse country in southwestern Africa. Offered by H+I Adventures, this all e-mountain bike itinerary of 11 nights/12 days will see riders pedaling across the vast plains and majestic dunes of Namibia, spotting zebra, kudu and oryx along the way, and perhaps the famous African bush elephants who have made their home in the harsh Namib desert. It is an experience like no other. Skill level is Novice+ and fitness level is 4 out of 7.
Biking the Natchez Trace Path is a senior cyclist’s dream come true. That is why Cycle of Life Adventures offers it four times a year. The ancient path through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi began as a wildlife and Native American trail, and has a rich history of use by explorers, trappers and traders, post men and Civil War soldiers. The Trace is rural in nature and carries no commercial traffic: that means no bus fumes, no tractor trailers, no billboards or shopping centers. Picnic lunches are almost daily, so that bikers can stay on the beautiful road and take advantage of great picnic and restroom facilities. In the evening, guests overnight in small towns just off the Trace. Distances are modest and although there are a few days where the mileage may seem challenging, the support van is always there to provide a lift. This route is 482 miles, and can be tailored to all riding levels.
On Tourissimo’s 6-night-7-day cycling tour of Tuscany, Italy, participants visit some of the region’s most iconic destinations from Cortona, the delightful hill town made famous by Frances Mayes in her bestselling novel Under the Tuscan Sun to the abbeys, thermal springs and wineries in the countryside outside Pienza. An e-bike is perfect for this terrain of rolling hills. This is an immersion in local culture and cuisine with a backdrop of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the quintessential medieval city of Sienna. Luxury historic accommodations await to close off each day of activity.
This 7-night/8-day e-mountain bike tour of Switzerland’s Alps is arguably the most challenging option in our collection of recommendations. While it comes with an “Intermediate+” skill level and a 6 out of 7 fitness rating, it definitely attracts riders between 45 and 60 years who have kept up their mountain biking skills on a regular basis. Offered by H+I Adventures, the route climbs mountain passes and descends to lush valleys as riders put the country’s seamless transport system to use accessing backcountry single track, perfectly-built flow trails to challenge themselves by e-mountain bike. Interestingly, e-bike sales set a new record in Switzerland in 2018 with 111,000 bikes sold, representing one-third of all bicycle sales that year. Fifty percent of those sales were off-road bikes.
Freewheel Holidays’ Bike & Barge holiday along the Rhine River travels south from Mainz, Germany to Strasbourg, France. Days are spent on cycle paths through picturesque towns, villages and wine growing areas in a region that boasts a wealth of popular tourist destinations and cultural sites as well as culinary specialties. Evenings and nights on this eight-day cruise tour are spent aboard the MS Olympia, a comfortable river ship refurbished in 2015/2016 with a relaxed, family environment and plenty of storage space for bicycles and e-bikes. There are 49 outside cabins accommodating a maximum of 96 guests. A great opportunity to take your “hotel” with you, and only unpack once for the entire holiday!
E-bikes are a prudent option on a Ride & Seek Bicycle Adventures epic cycling tour across Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. Split into 3 stages, each a week-long, the tour explores the distinctive history, food, architecture and traditions of these uncommonly-visited, mid-Mediterranean islands each with strikingly rugged interiors, white beaches and emerald waters. The itinerary moves from north to south beginning with Corsica, home of Napoleon. Its mountainous north contrasts with idyllic beaches and fishing villages further south. Then it’s on to Sardinia, an Italian island of towering cliffs, beach coves and unique history. Finally to Sicily where rolling farmland and active volcanoes are fringed by a stunning coastline littered with classical sites in exceptionally-dramatic settings.
Vermont is a tiny eastern U.S. state packed with mountains, history, charm, covered bridges, and trees known for their dazzling Fall colors. The late summers scheduled for two Vermont Covered Bridges departures in August are equally as beautiful as the Fall, only with lush green mountains, crystal clear lakes and rivers, crisp mornings and brilliant sunny days. Guests of these Cycle of Life Adventures pedal through more than a dozen of Vermont’s 114 early-settler covered bridges most of which are well-maintained and still in use. On this six-day tour, all rider levels are welcome, covering about 40 to 60 miles per day. An optional e-bike helps flatten out the roads and cover the distances with ease!
On Grasshopper Adventures’ Bike Taiwan tour, guests cycle the length of the country from the northern capital, Taipei, to the southern tip. Along the way, they take in the beauty of east Taiwan’s rugged Pacific coast, exotic hot springs and valleys like the stunning Taroko Gorge. Average total distance is 400 km over 8 nights/9 days. The terrain varies from gently undulating along parts of the East Coast to steep ascents and descents over the coastal mountain range. Pedal assist E-bikes are an available option for a surcharge on this tour. Grasshopper is the first tour operator to offer e-bikes to cyclists in Southeast Asia.
The Around Flanders 8-day Belgium Beer tour is a supported, self-guided route that takes guests through the lovely central part of Flanders. It is supported with daily transfer of luggage, local transport if required, accommodation in 3 to 4-star hotels, bike hire, breakfast daily, maps and a roadbook. Freewheel Holidays has selected a string of beautiful historical towns to visit with the first part of this route being flat so as to enjoy the predominantly pastoral surroundings in a state of perfect relaxation. On days five and six, however, the route will undulate somewhat, with some short but vigorous climbs. However, you mostly stay well-away from the arduous ascents and uncomfortable cobblestones for which the Flemish Hills are notorious. In short, this is a laidback cycling holiday with many cultural highlights. Cycling is a very common mode of transport in Belgium and locals are indulgent of cyclists.
Profile of Cycle Touring in the United States
The Adventure Cycling Association, a national bike tourism advocacy organization, offers these facts about touring cyclists in the U.S:
• 82% have a college education
• 52 is the average age
• 58% make over $75,000 per year
• 8.1% are visiting international tourists
Bicycle travelers tend to be geotourists, that is, interested in experiencing the distinctive characteristics of a place, including its culture, landscape, history, and the well-being of its residents (as defined by National Geographic). They tend to prefer to spend locally, make meaningful connections with locals, and explore off the beaten path.
More Senior-Friendly Cycling Tales
For additional cycle touring inspiration, we invite readers to visit our Travel Article Library collection of past feature articles to enjoy the adventures of an American woman who chooses a self-guided cycling tour of Umbria, Italy with her ever-attentive virtual “guide” called Giovanni.
And don’t miss the delightful saga of an older Canadian couple who join thousands of cyclists of all ages for nine days on Australia’s annual Great Victoria Bike Ride. An e-bike would come in very handy on this Australian route, described as “a rolling bike festival.” The story reveals full details!