I was surprised by a lot of things cycling EuroVelo 6 this summer: the number of middle aged men cycling alone, the number of young women cycling alone, the beauty of sections of France I’d never heard of before and the number of families with small children cycling long distances. But the one thing that amazed me more than anything was the new cycling equipment that had more families, seniors and millennials out on the bike trails than I’d ever seen before!
E-bike use is exploding, particularly by commuters and tourists of all ages across France. Numerous bike shop owners we met said that as much as 20-30% of new bike sales are electric. The combination of sleeker designs, longer battery life and quality components from companies like Bosch are helping to fuel the rapid growth of pedelecs. Electric tandems are the rage at many bicycle shops in bigger cities along the route. Esprit Cycles in Strasbourg is one of the biggest e-bike retailers in the Alsace Region. Their shop at 27-29 Rue du Faubourg-de-Pierre has state of the art e-bikes, including an electric tandem! If you’re thinking about buying or renting an e-bike while visiting Alsace, I would definitely make a point of visiting Esprit Cycles.
E-bikes make cycling easier and fun, and enable recreational cyclists to tackle more challenging itineraries. I discovered this several summers ago when I toured the hill towns of Provence by e-bike, and I have been an e-bike fan ever since! More and more rental agencies are adding e-bikes as rental options, particularly those in areas with more challenging terrain. So if you’ve always wanted to tackle the hilly areas of Provence or the Pyrenees but were deterred by the terrain, you may want to consider renting an e-bike for your next vacation!
New tandems with the second seat in front of, rather than behind the main driver are a favorite of millennials and families with kids and was by far one of the most popular bikes we saw during our three weeks along EV6. This ingenious design where the second passenger sits in front of and a bit lower than (think incumbent bike) the main cyclist allows both passengers to have a complete view of the countryside.
We spoke with many young couples who said that this new tandem made cycling as a couple more fun and relaxing. Parents traveling with kids commented that the new tandem design made cycling as a family easier and more fun. Based on the number of these tandems we saw on the trails, we knew these comments had to be true!
We discovered that families with kids always seemed to have the most ingenious gear. A favorite is this tandem driven by a dad with one child on the seat in front and another child on a trailer bike in the rear! Mom wasn’t far behind carrying all the family gear and a baby to boot!
Cargo bikes were everywhere in larger cities along EV6. We saw families using simple cargo bikes for grocery shopping, and more elaborate ones used for food trucks, coffee and pastry carts, and to deliver take-out food. We even saw a local moving company using a cargo bike to haul boxes and small furniture! Cargo bikes have become so popular that Esprit Cycles has a shop in Strasbourg that carries literally every type of cargo bike!
Practically every young person we met on the route had some kind of portable solar battery charger on their bike, attached either to a backpack or bike rack. Some rigged their battery charger to their bike, others had chargers that came equipped with an easy attachment system for connecting to their bike.
We saw innovative gear carriers that attach/detatch easily, thus facilitating travel on trains or buses and unpack easy at the end of the day. This particular carrier by Geko turns into a pull-along similar to a shopping cart and is a great alternative to traditional panniers. We saw a number of families and young people using this cart.
I was constantly amazed at the creativity of cyclists we met on the road, especially families traveling with kids, often several under the age of 4. How incredible it was to meet these families and hear them talk about their cycling adventures. I was inspired by their desire to share the adventure of experiencing France by bike with their kids. Most indicated that were it not for the new cycling equipment and gear they would not consider taking such long distance adventures.
New cycling equipment and gear are helping to fuel the growth of recreational cycling in Europe. I’m so thankful to have had a chance this summer to see how some of these new options and improvements are empowering more people to experience the magic of touring by bike.