Camping with an e-bike

Pedalling a 90 pound e-bike!

That’s the total weight of a 76 pound e-bike, 1 man tent, tools, and minimal camping gear. The bike felt wobbly shaking it side to side with all the gear on the back rack and a handlebar bag stuffed full. But it rode OK on 26X2.125 beach sized tires.

Photo: Rockyford Municipal Campground. Giant 3 speed bike equipped with a Power In Motion e-bike kit (plugged in and recharging)

Heading east out of Calgary on Stoney Trail onto Hwy 564 took me to Delacour and its quaint little store where I stopped to snack and drink. I had been pedalling the 90 pound bike the entire way there.

Fortunately, drivers on the 564 decided to behave themselves and left room when passing so it was a pleasant ride. Except for the last 10km into Rockyford and the odd steep hill, it was all pedalling. I averaged 22 kph over 84 km.

I had not worked out the most efficient speed for maximum range with the e-bike battery so I relied on the motor very little on the outbound trip since there is a gradual loss of altitude going east and my legs were fresh.

I stopped and bought some food/water at the Rockyford general store. Then off to finish the ride to the campground to set up camp. It took 4 hours of waiting for the sun to go down before I could slide into the small tent which had finally cooled down. Being able to keep the tent fly rolled up helped keep the tent cool until nightfall. Then the fly was staked down again to keep the dew off.

It was a toss and turn night, getting up every few hours to find a more comfortable position to sleep on the hard ground with one plugged sinus (probably from bug spray). I missed my 3 pound air mattress but there was no way I dared carry anymore weight for the return trip the next day. Besides, the air mattress took up almost all the room in the small tent all by itself!

By morning the tent was soaked in dew. I wanted to get going before the air heated up. On bike camping trips I carry a small square of a something called a Sham Wow. Its an artificial chamois that soaks up moisture like nobody’s business. It makes a great towel for a shower instead of hauling a huge heavy bath towel. It also makes a very good towel to dry dew off the tent. Then I shook the tent to empty a snowstorm of down out from the sleeping bag and packed up.

The entire way back I had about a 15 kph headwind plus the gradual climb with longer and steeper hills.

When the Delacour store came into sight I was relieved. Cold drink, water, ice cream, and Twizzlers too! I soaked the Sham (which began to stink from yesterday’s shower while taking a long time to dry on the back of the bike that morning). I used it to cool my burning forehead. A damp cloth under a helmet keeps the head cool. By now the air felt like a blast furnace. Probably too much sun so I put my helmet on with the wet chamois underneath. From that point on I used the motor and tried to keep my speed to around 23 kph to conserve battery power.

About this time, truck drivers and the odd car driver started driving like terrorists. After about the 3rd blast of my horn, two dump trucks passed with the second truck tailgating the first. An oncoming pickup was almost forced into the deep ditch. Seconds away from a lethal collision the truck driver kept speeding like he was in a Ferrari. His mental disconnect with reality was pointless and dangerous. Trucks don’t accelerate worth crap.

The large number of bad drivers in trucks increased as did their numbers. A few considerate truck drivers braked and waited to pass when traffic approached. The dump truck drivers however, were far too impatient to live that long.

Once I reached 36 St, I headed down to the Airport Tunnel. With so many idiots on the road that morning it was safer to illegally bike through the Airport Tunnel than continue on the 564. The $495 million dollar dead end tunnel (closed at 36st for construction), serves no purpose except for cyclists anyway.

Years ago, there was a court case where the City of Calgary had tried to block bicycles from using Deerfoot Trail. The Queen’s Bench ruled that the bicycle prohibition was prejudiced against specific road users and over ruled the city, so I’m wondering why the same issue is being raised with the Airport Tunnel and its wide shoulders to bike on. It is, after all, the only safe route through the area!

By now, the e-bike battery had been powering the motor almost constantly since Delacour and over hills most of the way back while I pedal assisted. The battery indicator showed 50% charge remaining. I ran the bike entirely with the motor and finished the remaining miles in the heat.

For once, I was really glad to have a motor and lots of spare charge left in the battery. The battery is rated for 50km but I typically get about 70-100kms. Reducing the speed to around 23 kph significantly improved the e-bike’s range to an estimated 100kms or more.

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