Fun, fast, cheap
solution to auto addiction
Mike Tribes flies along Jarvis Street at top speeds on his bicycle.
He is not on a downhill, he’s not pedalling, there’s no sweat on his brow and his heart rate is steady.
People laugh and point as he goes by, his business suit flapping in the wind.
They laugh because he’s riding an electric bike, or e-bike.
“Some people think I’m lazy,” says Tribes, a Whitehorse computer consultant who recently converted his old mountain bike with an electric motor kit.
“But I feel lazier when I drive my car.”
Generally, lazy is not a word you would attribute to Tribes.
He teaches martial arts and loves sports like cycling and hiking.
He chooses to ride his e-bike primarily because it’s a fun, environmentally-friendly alternative to the car, but also so he can save up his energy for his post-work activities.
“You often see people driving around with bikes strapped to their car” he says. “No matter how fit people are, we all still have the inclination to be lazy. Especially when it comes to commuting, we’d just simply rather drive.”
But with the e-bike, you can indulge in motor-assisted commuting, knowing that you aren’t polluting the environment or spending money on gas.
A simple battery pack, carried on the back rack of the bike, takes about 20 minutes to recharge, depending on the type of batteries you are using.
The batteries also help determine how long and how strong you can run your bike before losing juice.
Tribes’ bike allows him to travel from home to work and back, a nine-kilometre commute each way.
He just hops on and whizzes away, plugging the bike in when he gets to each destination.
To travel from his home in Porter creek to downtown, it takes 10 minutes by car, 15 minutes by electric bike and 18 minutes on his pedal bike.
And he’s going to keep riding his e-bike as late into the winter season as possible.
“It’s fine in the rain, in the snow, you just have to dress for the weather,” he says. “And if it’s cold you can pedal to warm yourself up. Of course, I can still get a workout if I want to, and often I do.”
Although he’s only the third person in Whitehorse to convert to the e-bike, it’s a trend that’s sweeping other cities across North America and the world.
And for obvious reasons.
E-biking is fun, fast, cheap, allows you free parking, no pollution, fresh air, as much exercise as you want and the superpower feeling of biking up hills as easily as you can ride down them. Why doesn’t everyone have an e-bike?
Road legal too, the Motor Vehicle Act was recently modified to include a class of power-assisted bicycles.
This states that with continuous motor power under 500 watts, and at speeds less than 32 km/hr, there is no need for either a licence or insurance to use an electric bike on public roads.
That means that as long as you keep your eye on your speed, you don’t have any additional costs or paperwork. It’s relatively cheap and simple.
An average e-bike retrofit kit, which comes with all the parts and pieces to convert your conventional bicycle into an e-bike, costs on average $600.
Parts include motor and wheel (rear or front), hand-controlled throttle (thumb or grip), controller, battery, and charger.
Pre-built e-bikes are becoming available on the market, but they are expensive and have limitations.
Pat Plemel, owner of Icycle Sport, looked into carrying a line of electric bikes in his shop.
While attending a trade show in Las Vegas this fall, he tested out a line made by Giant Bicycles. He did not think they would suit Whitehorse as much as they would a California suburb.
The bikes are expensive, heavy, and not comfortable to pedal or ride.
“The market segment they are going after are people that aren’t already comfortable on a bicycle,” says Plemel. “They are not designed for cyclists, and certainly not for people that want to also peddle.”
The bikes he was looking at in Las Vegas start at $1500 US.
He agrees that the best bet is the retrofit kit, as you can choose a bike you are already comfortable with, and you can select batteries and power load depending on your specific needs and enabling you to have custom pick-up.
Retrofit kits can be ordered over the phone or internet from a variety of businesses and individuals.
A little research on the internet goes a long way. E-bay might also be a good place to find them.
Tribes ordered his Chrystalyte conversion kit from a home-based Edmonton business called Ebike Conversions (www.ebikeconversions.com) and found the prices lower and the support and advice unbeatable.
And since receiving his product from them a few months ago, his life has changed.
“Now I almost always bike,” he says. “I hardly ever drive my car to work anymore.”