E-biking in California: Lessons from a Ride with my Daughter

Here’s a riddle: three people go out on a bike ride. One of them is me, a lifelong runner and fairly avid cyclist. The other two are my daughter Avery and her boyfriend Matt, both casual bike-riders. Avery and I ride side-by-side, chatting for most of the climb, while Matt zips ahead. Somehow we’re all able to have a great ride despite our different backgrounds in biking, and no one thinks the ride is too challenging or too easy. How is this possible?

Preview Tom Hale biking with his kids - Backroads


It might be a stretch to call that a riddle, but it gets at a question that’s at the heart of Backroads: how do you make sure that different people, each with their own ideal pace, fitness level and motivation, enjoy traveling actively together?

For us on that bike ride, the answer was simple: e-bikes. On that afternoon in May, we took off to ride one of my favorite local loops here in Marin County. This route checks all the boxes for an amazing bike ride: it’s a good workout, the scenery is beautiful and it’s a great way to experience stunning northern California. Avery and Matt rode a couple of our brand-new custom titanium Backroads e-bikes, while I pulled out my trusty road bike.

Out on the road, Avery wanted to get a workout, so she was riding at the lowest level of pedal-assist. With just that little boost, she easily stayed by my side for most of the ride. Matt was having fun and zipped off ahead at times to enjoy the views, using the full power of his e-bike's tiny motor. When we finished the 32-mile loop, they both had energy to spare, both in their batteries and in their legs—and no one felt like they’d been cheated out of a workout.

I already knew that e-bikes are great for the buddy system, like I experienced with Avery and Matt: each of us going at our own pace, but still enjoying each other’s company. There’s a reason we call it “the Equalizer”: e-bikes are an incredible tool for families, couples or groups of mixed abilities. They eliminate the challenging dynamics that arise when fitness levels are mismatched—and allow avid cyclists to have fun with more sensible people!

But there’s more than just the equalizing factor. Sometimes the joy of discovering a new place can be lost as you struggle up a long climb or along a challenging route. With an e-bike, casual riders (or anyone!) have more flexibility to focus on the beauty all around you. Take Matt, who was enjoying a brand-new ride in a fresh landscape. On the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais, there’s always another viewpoint around the corner, and with an e-bike he could see more of them without pushing himself further than he wanted to. With a boost from the battery, you never have to choose between reaching the next vista and having happy legs the next morning.

Preview Backroads e-bike new in 2020

E-bikes are also a great way for riders to do it all: enjoy the hotel pool, go shopping or wander the town, and also get in a beautiful ride. Families who want to ride together without worrying about timing or fitness. Private groups who want a more leisurely experience. Or anyone who wants to see more and spend more time with their traveling companions without compromising the magic of discovering the world actively. That’s the idea behind our new easygoing Dolce Tempo trips: that active travel can mean different things to different people, and that everyone should be able to discover the world at their own pace.

I believe that travel is better when it’s shared with people, whether that means your family, your friends or the entire Backroads community. Whether you’re a passionate cyclist enjoying time with your family or just trying to keep up with your grandkids, you deserve to enjoy your ride. We’re excited to introduce the joys of active travel to more people—battery-powered or not.


Preview Tom & Liz Hale - Biking with Backroads




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