E-bikes sparking a new wave of cycling in Interior cities | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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E-bikes sparking a new wave of cycling in Interior cities

An e-bike power indicator shows the bike is turned on.

Does anyone pedal their own bike anymore?

If you haven’t already noticed, a cyclist who is far too old or out of shape to be blowing by you on your own bike, you soon will.

And you can soon expect dozens of e-bikes on the new Okanagan Rail Trail, set to open later this month, the existing KVR trails and the Trail of the Okanagan, once it comes together.

E-bikes, as they are collectively known, have quietly caught on all over the world — you can barely hear them — but their hill-flattening electric motors and pedal-assist features seem especially popular in mountainous cities like those of the Interior.

If you need further proof of their mainstream market penetration, the City of Vernon is buying a pair of e-bikes for staff members to use on short-haul trips.

And earlier this summer, Central Okanagan Search and Rescue announced the purchase of seven e-mountain bikes for use in back country rescues.

The team has already used them during several extractions.

It’s all part of a revolution in cycling, according to one bike shop. Electric bikes are not new although sales manager Martin Tymm at Fresh Air Concept in Kelowna says they’ve only really been worth selling in the last few years.

“They’ve gone from nothing basically to about 10 per cent of our sales,” Tymm says. “They’ve been big in Europe for awhile now but are finally catching on here."

He describes the new generatiion of e-bikes as “revolutionary" for the industry, opening up cycling and all its attendant benefits to thousands of people who would otherwise not get on a bike or gave it up years ago.

“They are finally taking hold,” Tymm adds. “They are changing the bike business in a big way."

E-bikes can be roughly grouped into two types; hub motor where the electric motor replaces the rear wheel hub and mid-drive where the motor is located on the frame and is connected to the crankset.

One note: The bikes don’t do all the work for you. Pedal assist means you have to pedal to get the motor to kick in. If you stop pedaling, you will eventually slow down.

Beyond that are variations of each but as a rule, mid-drive e-bikes are more expensive and feel more like riding a “normal” bike.

Another note: In Canada, electric bikes are governed so the pedal assist feature drops off at the 32 km/h mark. If you want to go faster than that, it’s up to you and your leg strength but bear in mind, most e-bikes are considerably heavier than their un-powered counterparts, weighing in well over 40 lbs. in some cases. The majority of e-bikes do not charge up the battery as they are being ridden and need to be plugged in.

A visit to most Interior bike stores will likely turn up at least a few models of e-bike, with some stores stocking dozens of models.

Prices can range from a few hundred dollars for conversion kits for existing bikes to well over $6,000 for top-model cruisers and mountain bikes.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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