Posted on 19 April 2011.
Riding a bike across Europe isn’t a new concept, but doing so on an electric bicycle is, and now an option with Austin-Lehman Adventures.
Based in Billings, Mont., Austin-Lehman has been offering bike tours all over the world for over 35 years. This year, the company has begun offering e-bike tours for their European trips, with plans to expand the option to all 59 of their trips.
“An e-bike adds five more years of biking, “ said Ron van Dijk, Director of European Operations for Austin-Lehman. “It’s a breeze. A couple that cycles together can always ride together.”
Van Dijk did extensive research on choosing a specific e-bike model for the company. He eventually went with the Trek Electric Bike, as Van Dijk said it’s one of the best in the United States.
“It’s similar to the Diamant in Europe,” he said. “The technology is the same, but the components and frames are different.”
A tour from Austin-Lehman typically includes multi-lingual guides to take the group from location to location. A group consists anywhere from 12 to 18 people. Each participant is given a map of the day’s itinerary, so participants are allowed to pick and choose which sites to see and to take the trip at his or her own pace. Although not required to stick with the group at all times, there are a few group lunches and dinners scheduled.
“It’s life as it’s meant to be seen in the country,” said Chuck and Judy Silberstein, from Westchester County, New York. The couple has done 50 of Austin-Lehman’s trips over the past 23 years. “[The guides] make a trip come to life for you.”
Austin-Lehman just completed their first e-bike tour, which took place from April 9 to April 15 in the Tuscan region of Italy.
Patti Hohner of Chugiak, Alaska, who has done many biking trips through Austin-Lehman, said that the e-bike made it so much easier to take on the hills. Hohner was one of four to try the e-bike option for the Tuscany trip.
“This trip would have been long and hard without the e-bike,” she said. “These bikes take most of the effort out of climbing hills that have 10 to 14 percent grades.”
Because of the hills, Austin-Lehman ranks the Tuscany trip a “4”, which labels the trip as moderate to challenging. Van Dijk said that e-bikes open this trip to up to more people.
“On an e-bike, the hills just melt away,” he said.
The Silbertsteins agreed and will be trying an e-bike tour this September. The couple said that an e-bike is perfect for senior citizens.
“We could use help now and then,” said the Silbersteins. “The bikes don’t take all the work out of it.”
The Silbersteins agreed that the e-bike option is a great addition for Austin-Lehman, as the option gets more people to try the hilly trips.
“The hillier, the prettier,” they said.
As for the hills of Tuscany, Patti Hohner recommended the trip, and the e-bike option.
“I would recommend an e-bike to someone who might need or want a little extra help. Not just for hilly terrain, but also for less active people that are not hardcore bikers,” Hohner said. “These e-bikes assist the rider in enjoying the view while not being out of breath or struggling to move up hill, and Tuscany has a lot of viewing to be done.”