Riding e-Fatbikes on the Beach to go Surfing in France

No, this isn’t a troll and yes, I’m aware of the polarizing nature of this particular topic of discussion but I can’t help but say I had a lot of fun making this short gallery.

As the editor, or owner, or whatever you want to call me, I tend to hold a certain sensitivity to topics here on the site. Or at least I am mindful of the Radavist’s impact on riding, even in the smallest of ways. E-bikes, for whatever reason, tend to generate a lot of flack and rightfully so. There’s the issue of trail stewardship, of accessibility, or perhaps it just looks wrong on paper. Or in this case, on screen. There have been tons of op-ed pieces circulated over the internet over the years, of all I have not read. Personally, I’m more of an experiential learner. I like to actually try something before putting my opinion down. Just a few weeks ago, I was finally able to truly use an e-bike. Not just in a cruise around a bike shop’s parking lot kinda way, but actually use one.

After Ranger Camp in Madrid, Blackburn Brand manager, Robin Sansom and I took off to the coast of France. Our destination was our friend Greg’s beach house in Capbreton, Aquitaine, France. Robin really wanted to surf at the local beach there and I just wanted a few days off work before heading to Scotland. Having grown up surfing in North Carolina (yes, we had really great surfing there!), It’d been a while since paddling out. Around 10 years if I recall correctly, so the idea of surfing intrigued me and also slightly terrified me. It’s hard to spend so much of your life dedicated to something, only to find yourself putting it on hold due to contextual obligations, and then be placed right back in the ideal setting once again. Would I suck? Possibly. Would it be fun? For sure. Paddling around in Coastal France seemed like a good way to spend a few days.

Greg set us up with boards and with me a 4/5 suit, since the water was still chilly. Aquitaine is a beach break, so there are no rocks or reefs to worry about and the only fish of substantial size is harmless, regardless of its name “Seawolf.” Don’t Google that, it’s kind of terrifying. All this sounds pretty straight forward until Greg said: “so it’s a 20-minute walk to the beach and another 30-minute walk to the break, or we can ride the fatbikes.”

Sick! I exclaimed. Then Greg showed us the bikes. A local board shaper began importing e-bike kits from Taiwan a few years back. He retrofits these kits to the bikes and suddenly, with the help of a Moved by Bikes rack, you’ve got a very capable rig to ride not only to the beach, but on the beach. Robin was stoked. He and his wife had taken fatbikes to Baja, Mexico to do the same, but found the dry, deep, sand beaches rather arduous to navigate, especially with a 9’0″ long board hanging off the side, acting like a kite in the wind.

We loaded up the bikes and took off. Literally, like a rocket. These bikes were an electric assist, so depending on the number you selected, the motor aided in propulsion. When you quit pedaling, so did the motor, etc. Easy enough, until you hit the deep sand. Then it became a game of keeping the bike upright. Good luck with that, especially with a bracket and surfboard blocking your foot-down ability on the drive-side of the bike. Greg had a laugh at Robin’s and my efforts.

Once hitting the beach, we just let it rip up the coast to a local’s break. We had the water all to ourselves and surfed until the tide came in. Turns out, surfing is like riding a bike. It only took a wave or two for me to find my sea legs and all the years of surfing closeout shorebreak on a thruster meant popping up on a 9’0″ longboard was easy cheesy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of us riding the waves, but that’s mostly because this was a holiday and I didn’t want to leave the fun, even for a few minutes.

All in all, we had plenty of tales to tell over dinner and the next day Greg and I returned for more. I walked away from the situation with a true e-bike experience and while it shifted my opinion a bit, I can’t say I’m going to rush out and buy one. Using an e-bike to access the beach and find solitude might ruffle the feathers of some purests, but in this context and in that moment, it worked.

Now, I’m promptly going to leave this topic alone until the opportunity arises to again throw a leg over one of these devil machines.

Enjoy your weekend!

  • Beau Street

    Eff that noise…Sure, maybe riding an E-bike stripped down and by itself is cheating, but if your throwing a surfboard on it, dealing with either an on or off shore wind catching the board, plus the sand, plus all the other gear, its not cheating, its more like you brought a little mini donkey to help you carry a proportionally adequate load . My inner Jeff Spicoli totally endorses you in this matter.

    • sturtlovinggood

      e-Fatbikes: Vegan Donkeys

  • Ray Penrod

    That’s the thing with e-bikes, they do have usage scenarios that make sense. I work in a shop with a large e-bike emphasis and we respond to a lot of concerns with the typical 30-50 year old fit (mostly male) trail riders saying “That’s a goddamn motorcycle! Keep it off my trails!” then think about how cool it might be to go on a ride with their dad or less-fit S.O.

  • Jason Marshall

    it’s like Di2 for your legs :)

    • Ray Penrod

      #mechanicaldoping

  • Would rather call them by a different name. It’s a bicycle with a motor… how about… motor-cycle?

    • disqus_k7ryfFpSZb

      That already exists, and it’s not even close to equivalent. Power, weight, propulsion, speed, licensing, and other factors, clearly divide them into separate categories. If you take the engine out of a motorcycle, does it become a bicycle? You can call them whatever you want, but don’t expect to find acceptance, when you show up to a Harley rally with your ebike.

      You don’t have to like them, ride them, or look at them as they pass you on local bike paths, but “regular” bikes aren’t going anywhere simply because some have chosen to mount electric motors on them.

      Cool ride report!

      • trololo

        “If you take the engine out of a motorcycle, does it become a bicycle?”

        False equivalence. Trail access is extremely tenuous where I live and in my eyes (and most hikers and equestrians) they are motorcycles. FWIW I’m OK with e-bikes in many contexts, like this article.

        • disqus_k7ryfFpSZb

          Uh, yeah, that was whole point. First line…”…not even close to equivalent”. To imply bicycle+motor=motorcycle, ignores obvious facts, and can easily be seen to incorrectly imply that a motorcycle is simply a bicycle with the addition of a motor. It’s literally what was written.

          You’re welcome to your opinion that “…they are motorcycles,” but that’s a separate category, and with clearly defined parameters, within the law. Your argument amounts to “because reasons”, without any elaboration or reasonable qualification.

          I won’t be riding an ebike any time soon, but I’m welcome to practical and recreational developments that aim to reduce dependence on cars, get more people riding bikes in general, and allow more people to use existing and future infrastructure.

  • Stuart Watson
  • PGH_small_adventures

    It’s just like many other things in life, E-bikes aren’t an issue if used respectfully. The issue, is people aren’t always respectful.

  • Public_Parent

    Forget the E-bike; why are you riding a Taiwan-made LONGboard?!

    Kidding. Looks super fun.

    • Ha! Beggars can’t be choosers. I’d like to get another Stewart. That’s what I used to have…

  • George

    On our honeymoon, my wife and I did an e-bike tour in Nice and it was awesome. She rides a bike around town occasionally, but certainly isn’t a regular, so having an e-bike was a great way to experience Nice since it’s so hilly. Would I have loved to mash the climbs on a proper race machine? Of course! But having the e-bike helped me slow down and enjoy the scenery with the girl I just married, and we weren’t exhausted afterwards so we could continue to enjoy the day together.

    I’d also consider an e-bike for my work commute. It’s 20 miles each direction, and while I ride it occasionally in the summer, it’s too far to do regularly. If an e-bike could help cut the commute time to ~45 minutes, I’d definitely be intrigued.

    TLDR: there’s a time and a place for e-bikes. try one, but probably don’t buy one.

  • Will Ashe

    I’m all for e-bikes on the road if they get people riding that wouldn’t have otherwise. More people on bikes means more awareness and infrastructure. MTB trails are another story all together, I don’t have enough info to comment one way or the other, but I think we can all see the possible negative impact.

    • Ray Penrod

      Bad trail etiquette is bad trail etiquette. They aren’t going to just BRAAP! up the trail. You still have to pedal, just not as hard.
      That being said, I do think that some trails should be off-limits to e-bikes. As someone else has stated here, respectful use in the right scenario is even more important than with regular MTB’s, especially among the early adopters.

  • Justin Scoltock

    I’m just stoked to see more surf related content on this site. Enough with the bikes already! ;)

  • Hernan Ezequiel Montenegro

    I’m only here for the comments.

    • Ham Sandwich

      i am here for your comment specifically.

  • Zian

    Goddamn this looks so fun and relaxing! I miss the ocean

  • Jean Guibolle
    • This looks interesting!

    • auton0my

      Does he ski down with the bike strapped to his back? :D

  • Thomas Wilson

    bro do you even e-fatbike?

  • FireUrEngine

    Why are you vetting comments like Communist China? You are going to lose your audience and go back being an architect.

  • FireUrEngine

    Living la vida loca!

  • A modern ebike is actually extremely close to what the earliest motorcycles were, just electric instead of cumbustion. So despite the mass differences in modern motorcycles to bikes, I think there’s actually a valid point to made in the discussion of blurred lines. Early motorcycles had pedals. There are electric motorcycles with pedals and ebikes with motorcycle tyres and enough power to achieve road speeds. So what the hell is an electric moped now? It’s all blurring man, so no point in arguing over it. Personally it’s all wicked cool. I’m watching eagerly for the moment retrofitting motor kits become affordable, easy to install and good looking to retrofit classic frames. As a commuter, I’m all for electric assist. We’re getting close! Laws will have to start adapting soon. I’m not a fat tyre person myself, but this looks fun, great photo set.

  • dthio

    nice motorcycles. I would take the next step and get propper ones though.

    • You can’t ride a motorcycle on the beach, dummy. ;-)

      • dthio

        oh, now I get it. ebikes are the hack to take motorcycles to the beach ;-)

  • Oscar Ramirez

    Great report :) Seems like you had a nice break.

  • Sly Shouper

    i thought this was a bicycle website. Weak Shit

    • Thanks for reading and the insightful commentary.

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