Turkey hunters mostly belong to two tribes: The minimalist, run and gun commandos who travel light, chasing gobbles with little more than a gun or bow, a seat pad, a few calls, and maybe a decoy or two, or the take-everything, gear intensive hunters who haul blinds, a flock of decoys, calls, chairs, extra clothes, food and drink, along with a bow or gun and the kitchen sink. No matter what your style, ebikes can change the game. They allow you to ride silently through the woods or along field edges, listening for gobbles without alerting wary old toms, while hauling whatever gear you choose.
I’m a gear junkie. I am the guy with the blinds, flock of decoys, and all the trimmings for a comfortable long sit in the turkey woods. This season I incorporated a two-wheeled pull-behind cart, and boy what a huge difference it made. Not only could I haul all my gear silently for the mile or more to my starting spot, but if that didn’t pan out I could quickly repack and move on to different spots without making multiple trips or riding a noisy UTV or pickup. My bike pulled the loaded cart effortlessly, and I truly couldn’t tell it was back there even when riding cross-country. I’m really looking forward to this fall when I can use the cart to haul in my spike camps for elk hunting, and later to carry a deer decoy, treestands, and other late-season deer hunting gear that previously required something motorized to trek across the prairie where I hunt. I’m not a big trail-camera guy, but friends who use their ebike to quickly and silently check cameras across a broad area with minimal disruption.
I’m often asked about the differences between riding an ebike and a conventional bike by new or prospective ebike hunters. There is definitely a learning curve, so let’s talk about some differences between the two, and how to avoid a few mistakes I made when I was first learning.
Ebike hunters travel off the beaten path. Whether on a rugged two-track or on a single-track trail (where permitted, such as on Department of the Interior lands, some state lands, or private land), there are ways to maneuver an ebike that conventional bikes can’t match. For starters, pedals can hit rocks and logs if you aren’t careful and keep them parallel. When I began, I sort of forgot about the throttle since I’ve spent a lifetime pedaling to wherever I needed to go. But after banging my lower pedal a number of times – I’m a slow learner sometimes… - I came to realize that the pedals can be kept parallel while goosing the throttle over a log or through a rocky patch, and the problem was solved. Now I look ahead and plan where to pedal and where to throttle, and my mishaps have decreased significantly.
Another trick I was slow to learn was how to deploy the “walk-assist”. Although I knew it was available, force of habit after riding conventional bikes for more than 55 years led me to push my 60 pound ebike through rough spots, sometimes uphill. Duh. Once I learned where and when to use the walk assist, it became a no-brainer to hop off and let the bike pull me up through the treacherous patches on the trail rather than me muscling it.
Learning the balance between gearing and assist is another process. For riders in the Midwest and other areas where the terrain is relatively flat, you’ll soon settle on a couple gears and assist levels for about 90% of riding. In my case in that country, I’m mostly in second gear with assist level one or two. But things change in the mountains where I live. There are times when I need first gear for a climb, but because of rough uneven terrain I keep my assist in mid-range to control speed and torque and use my own glutes and quads to provide the extra “assist” while controlling speed. Other times when it’s very steep and relatively smooth, I may use first gear with max assist to power up a grade. But no matter what terrain elements you’re negotiating, it’s better to ride slower and under control than to get carried away with the assist and let the bike get away from you. That’s a recipe for a wreck.
For first-timers on a fat bike with 4”+ tires and low pressure, you’ll be amazed at the increased stability and control. Where I used to pucker and sometimes stress-out when navigating rocky trails on my conventional mountain bike with thinner, high-pressure tires, with the fat tires the ride is smooth and I simply plan where to place the tires without worrying about a dreaded “kick-out” if I suddenly encounter a loose rock.
I once had a bad crash on my conventional MTB when riding out of an elk hunting spot. It was nearly dark, I was alone, and nobody knew where I was because I’d ridden into a new area on a whim. I know, dumb idea and I broke the rules, but I’m a solo hunter and expect to be self-reliant no matter what. I’ve been a little reckless all my life. Before I took off I nearly left my helmet behind because the old logging road seemed pretty safe. At the last instant the little voice convinced me to helmet-up, which likely saved my life. On the way out a loose rock kicked the front of the bike sideways, I panicked and grabbed the brakes, and the momentum threw me over head-first. The impact knocked me out briefly and when I came-to the right side of my head was buzzing like a swarm of bees. I gingerly checked for other injuries, and besides a couple of cracked ribs and a bruised shoulder, I was ok. I walked the bike back to the truck and vowed to never again ride without a helmet unless for a short distance over forgiving terrain. It got below freezing that night, and if the impact on my stupid unhelmeted head hadn’t killed me, hypothermia likely would have. That was also when I decided to buy a fat tire bike, which quickly morphed into the decision to go with a fat ebike.
One of my first adventures on my new Rambo was to try that old rocky road again. This time as I rode through that rocky patch, the ebike was so stable that I barely noticed the loose rocks. Instead of fighting the handlebars to control my conventional MTB, I was able to keep a loose grip, concentrate on proper braking, and let the Rambo find its own path. Another game-changer.
No matter what you plan to do with your ebike, each outing will teach you different ways to expand your horizons. You’ll ride further, safer, and quieter than you ever imagined, and mastering the learning curve is a satisfying and fulfilling part of the fun.
Comments will be approved before showing up.