I know what you’re thinking; “Trans-American Electric Bike Tour” sounds like something Ben & Jerry’s is co-sponsoring with Jerry Garcia from beyond the grave, but the reality of it is a lot less “Burning Man” and a lot more Tesla(the car)-Meets-Quicksilver.

Quicksilver was an 80s movie where Kevin Bacon… Oh never mind. Instead of a euphemistic description of psychotropics, the TAEBT will be using actual electric bikes; bicycles designed to use a lithium-ion battery to take the strain off of the rider on hills and other difficult to pedal terrain, thereby extending their range drastically. And this bike tour has a long range. How long?

About 4,000 miles long.

Alternative transportation and tech entrepreneur Boris Mordkovich will be joined by environmental scientist Anna Mostovetsky on a journey that will take them from New York city across the country to San Francisco on electric bikes, provided by Evelo Electric Bicycles. The trip should take them about two months to complete.

As they get ready for this amazing trip, Boris was kind enough to answer a few questions we had about their impending journey.

What will you do if you encounter any really horrific storms (lightning, tornadoes, etc)?

This question comes up fairly frequently in some shape or form when we discuss the trip with others. This is one of those things that seem worrisome on the surface or when planning out the trip, but is actually much more manageable when you’re actually going through with it.

The reality is that when you’re biking and the weather takes a turn for the worst, you simply make a plan right then and there and adjust accordingly. If it’s a minor rain, you generally keep going. If it’s a storm or hail, you take a break and try to find shelter for a few hours until it calms down. The only thing that we need to do differently is to waterproof the battery, as it is an electrical component and doesn’t like water. But that can be done as simply as putting a small bag over it.

A bigger problem for us is something else – instances when there is ice forming on the roads in the mountains in places like the Rockies. But even if that does happen, it’ll only be for a short distance in a specific region.

We haven’t come up with a plan for a tornado yet, though.

One of the electric bikes that will be used during the tour.

Will we be able to track your progress on Google maps?

To some degree. Our entire route is posted on a Google Map on our website, so anyone can see the planned stops and the dates when we’re planning to be there.

As far as real-time updates, we’ll be blogging regularly and posting photos and Twitter updates on a daily basis to keep folks in the loop of where we are.

What is your plan for finding a place to charge your batteries every night?

We were quite fortunate to receive a sponsorship from a company called Airbnb.com, which allows us to book accommodations with locals in most of the cities that we’re passing through. It’s actually really quite amazing, as you get to meet and spend time with people who live in the communities and cities we’re passing through – something that you generally can’t get from a hotel. We’ll be charging the batteries overnight when we stay in these places.

When we are going through more remote areas, like a 600 mile stretch from Omaha, NE to Denver, CO or 550 miles from Salt Lake City, UT to Carson City, NV, we’ll generally stay in small inns and motels where available.

It’s somewhat impossible to plan out the entire route and accommodations in advance, so we generally try to have a plan for about 7-10 nights ahead of us and trust that everything will work out further on.

Do you have a backup plan if you are unable to recharge some night?

Well, that’s the beauty of electric bikes – even if we are unable to recharge some night, we are still able to simply pedal through on our own power (fueled by power bars and nightly pasta). It’ll make it a bit more difficult, especially if we’re going through a mountainous region, but it’s not anything that would stop us in our track. The only downside is that we’ll probably end up covering a bit less distance than we otherwise would.

Boris Mordkovich and Anna Mostovetsky of the Trans-American Electric Bike Tour.

How was the planning for this trip different because you are doing it on electric bikes?

Good question! There were a few factors to consider.

On one hand, the electric bikes will enable us to cover slightly more distance per day than we would do on a regular one – perhaps by around 30% or so. So, this enabled us to plan to complete the trip with about 50 cycling days (plus rest days and others when we’re doing talks and presentations in different cities)

Carrying cargo is also less of an issue. We’ll have a bike touring trailer and panniers attached to the bikes with a combined total of about 80 to 100 pounds of gear, ranging from bicycle tools, spares and extra batteries to food, water and clothing.

Finally, this makes it easier to do difficult road stretches, such as the Appalachians or the Rockies, where there are elevation gains and drops of several thousand feet that can go on for days.

On the other side, it makes us think more about our accommodations. So, where as with a regular bike, it would be easier to camp out along the way, on this trip, we’re planning to spend virtually all nights with an actual roof over our heads. This also forces us to stay closer to cities and towns, as opposed to being able to spontaneously pitch a tent on a mountaintop.

The purpose of the trip is also a bit different than a regular vacation-style tour. Here, we are focused on creating more awareness about electric bicycles and alternative transportation, as well as gaining a better understanding of urban transportation challenges and issues in different cities. As a result, we also had to figure out how to be able to work and stay connected throughout the trip. This means that our packing list also includes things like laptops, wireless internet device, and other things of that nature.

What distance are you traveling per day and what’s the actual range of the electric bikes?

When we were planning our the tour, we tried to keep the daily distance at no more than 80 miles. However, as we actually began to plan out the routes between cities, it does vary. There are some days when we’re just cycling 40-50 miles and a number when we go over 100 miles. The longest day planned so far is 130 miles – a stretch of road between Cedar Rapids, IA and Des Moines, IA. Not a lot of places to stop there in the middle!

The electric range of the bikes varies, depending on the terrain, headwind, weight of the rider, and other factors. Overall, you can get up to 40 miles on pedal-assist mode or 20 miles on electric-only mode with a single charge. Each of us is carrying a 2nd battery to extend the range, so it should work out just fine. Especially, since we don’t engage the assist all the time.

If somebody wanted to do a trip like this of their own, what advice would you give them?

Set a date and commit to doing it! Everything else will fall into place after that. Don’t think that you have to be an athlete or in perfect physical shape. A lot of it is mental – as much as physical, so being enthusiastic and open to adventure will take you a long way.

Also, think about where you want to do it – USA, Europe or somewhere more exotic; who you want to do it with – you  can do it alone, with a friend or a tour group; and how much time you can allocate to this trip – 2 weeks is much easier to plan out than 2-3 months. Once this framework is in place, it becomes easier to plan out the logistics.

I’ve actually written a more comprehensive article on this topic, if anyone is interested. And, of course, I’m always happy to answer questions and share feedback from our own tour.


We wish Boris and Anna the best of luck, and hopefully the only events on their trip are good ones.