Over a decade or so of recreational E-biking I’ve learned a few tricks I’d like to share for extending the length of your individual rides. Many lessons have come the hard way, through amateur mistakes that often resulted in riding my battery pack to depletion or having to walk that last half-mile home. It may seem obvious, but a little planning and forethought can go a long way towards peace of mind once you’re in the saddle and pedaling towards a favorite destination. And in this age of Google maps, GPS systems, and sophisticated onboard bike computers, there’s really no excuse for stranding yourself if you know your limitations and plan accordingly. Here are some tips I use on a regular basis in planning my rides.
1) In mapping out your route for the day, avoid any major climbs towards the end of the ride, particularly if you are pushing your battery pack’s capacity range-wise. I always try to tackle any serious climbing within the first 50-65% of the ride when both my battery pack and my legs are freshest. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than facing a long steep climb towards the end of a ride when your pack is just about spent, and it can ruin the day if you have to abandon the ride or overheat your battery pack, risking permanent damage.
2) If you’re pushing your normal range envelope, favor mild grades, particularly on the return trip, and try to milk efficiency on the way out–in other words, bank some miles early on to give yourself a buffer for the ride home. I’ve also found that there’s a big psychological boost in e-biking efficiently for the first half of a ride, usually via smart routing and modest e-assist levels, combined with vigorous pedaling. For example, if I can get six miles north on just 3 Ahs of power consumption at the start of a ride, I know my overall range can possibly be extended by up to 50% if I continue at this pace and don’t have any major hills to conquer.
3) Buy a Cycle Analyst or other onboard power meter and learn your efficiency rate. You will find your rate will vary dramatically depending on grades, bike and rider weight, head or tail winds, pedaling effort, road surface, power-assist levels, etc. On my Tidalforce S750X, for example, I’ve personally seen as high a rate as 3 miles per Ah using a 37V lithium polymer (LiPo) pack on flattish grades with vigorous pedaling and minimal e-assist. Compare that to my lowest average efficiency rate of .8 miles/Ah at full power assist (1200-1400W) on long climbs with moderate pedaling and you can see how wide a spread there can be on a single ride–almost 400%! Overall I’ve found I average between 1.2-1.4 miles per Ah on most of my rides. To get an idea of expected overall range, multiply that number by available battery capacity (mine is about 20-Ahs on a pack rated 24-Ahs; anything below that risks drawing the battery cells down too low and compromising the lifespan of the pack), which in my case comes out to 24-28 miles. Some of the better onboard power monitoring devices will keep track of your efficiency as you pedal and project your overall range for that particular ride on the go.
4) Knowing your average range doesn’t mean you can’t go well beyond it at times, and in fact there are several ways to comfortably exceed your median range, sometimes by almost double:
a) map out a flattish route that avoids any major climbs and go easy on the e-assist;
b) carry an auxiliary battery pack; it’s always nice to know there’s extra juice available if you need it;
c) pack a portable battery charger for a lunch-time battery pack boost if you can find an available 110V outlet. I have often been able to add 3-4 Ahs to my overall ride capacity this way while I enjoy a leisurely break. This may not sound like much but in actuality this little boost can be a lifesaver by adding 5 miles or so to your range and letting you ride home knowing you have a little extra gas in the tank.
5) Slow down and sacrifice a little average speed for extra mileage. Sometimes all you have to do is dial down your normal e-assist power usage a notch to boost your efficiency in a big way. Planning a scenic route on good blacktop or packed dirt with minimal traffic also helps you relax into the ride and enjoy your e-bike at lower speeds as you enjoy the scenery or chat with a buddy. Forget about setting any speed records today and focus instead on how many miles you’re eking out of your pack and what your final efficiency rate will be by ride’s end—maybe you’ll even set a personal best mileage record.
Written and submitted by ElectricBike.com story editor Larry Hayes
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