Lightweight Pedal Easy Electric Bikes –
Putting the Fun back into Cycling (Ottawa Citizen 2018)
At first glance, the two-wheeler sitting in the Pedal Easy shop in Bells Corners doesn’t look like an e-bike at all. With its slim design and classic frame, it could be a regular road bike, that is until you notice the throttle control on the handle grip and the sealed motor hub on the front axle. What surprises many people is how sleek and lightweight the Pedal Easy e-bike is. According to Frank Wilson, partner in charge of sales and distribution, the weight of the bike – just under 17 kg (37 lbs.) with the battery attached – is the lightest on the market, and clearly one of its best-selling features.
“We wanted to produce a quality, lightweight electric bike that pedals and changes gears like a normal road bike, but that has a power-assist feature for when you need it,” Wilson said. “The lighter it is, the easier it is to pedal as a bike, so making it as light as possible was the primary factor in the design.” They seem to have scored a winner with their decision to go with a 1.5-kg, state-of-the-art Panasonic NCR lithium-ion battery. It may be physically smaller than what most other companies use, but it has power enough to handle the demands of cross-town commuting or country road touring.
Bells Corners resident Oona Woods bought her Pedal Easy bike in mid-June and is already appreciating the improvements it has made to her 25-km commute to work. Before, she would drive the first part of the trip by car, then transfer to her bicycle for the final 15 km. These days she happily e-bikes the entire commute without feeling completely done in by the end of it, and with plenty of juice left in the battery. Since her car doesn’t leave the driveway, she saves money on gas and parking fees. “I love my new bike so much,” she said. “I only use the power assist when I need a bit of a boost, or to manoeuvre through traffic, so it’s still a really good workout, but it means I can show up to work without looking like a swamp monster. It doesn’t matter if there’s a headwind on the way home because I can use the power to make it back.”
Pedal Easy company founder Claudio Wensel says most people simply do not need the output of a larger battery. “More power just adds weight and makes the bike harder to pedal,” he said. Unlike electric scooters and heavier e-bike designs, Pedal Easy bikes can be easily walked or pedalled should the battery run out of charge. Not that that’s too likely to happen. Pedal Easy e-bikes can travel up to 30 km on full power assist, and anywhere from 50 to 100 km when a typical pedal-assist combination is used. In fact, Pedal Easy markets their products as “fitness e-bikes” for people who enjoy the experience of an open-air ride but want the occasional assist of a motor. Wensel’s father Ron designed the e-bike as a way to continue enjoying the health benefits of cycling without overexerting himself as he recuperated from a series of heart attacks. His ergonomic design allows people with physical limitations to avoid dangerous demands on their body while they maintain a near-constant cardio output.
It was exactly what Carleton Place retiree Hugh Draper, 65, was looking for to exercise both his body and his mind. Draper had been doing serious road biking for 20 years but quit riding altogether in 2017 when it stopped being enjoyable. “I needed to put some fun back into riding, and the e-bike rejuvenated me,” he said. “Since picking up my Pedal Easy in May, I am riding 30 to 40 km every other day and getting just as good a workout as on a road bike. The power assist takes the stress off my knees when I’m on a hill or starting from a stop, and when I come back from a ride I recover quickly and am pumped mentally. It is the best thing ever for my mental health.”
Frank Wilson and Claudio Wensel are passionate about the work they do for people like Draper and Woods, and for the environment. Wensel said it feels great to be able to help other people the way the e-bike has improved his father’s life. “We wish people many years of unassisted cycling,” Wilson added, “but for those who can’t enjoy cycling the way they used to, this is an option for them.”