Pedal Easy on your Commute to work
– With a little help from an E-bike (Ottawa Citizen May 2017)
Cycle commuting has never been more popular, and with good reason – the benefits are many. Cycle commuters can save money on fuel, parking, vehicle maintenance and even insurance rates. A commute by bike can feel less stressful than commuting by car, and, on days of heavy traffic, smug cyclists can ride past long lines of vehicles stuck in gridlock. The City of Ottawa is working hard to improve cycling infrastructure, making it easier and safer for commuters to get to work on two wheels. Finally, there are the fitness and environmental benefits; simply put, bicycle riding is good for your health and good for the environment.
But there are a few downsides to commuting to work by bike. The idea of getting to work under one’s own power can be intimidating for those new to cycle commuting, particularly for people who may lack fitness. And many workplaces don’t offer a place to shower and change clothes, leaving cycle commuters hot and sweaty when they arrive.
Fortunately, an Ottawa company has the perfect solution for those who may need a bit of assistance on their cycle commute.
Pedal Easy has developed a line of electric bikes – or e-bikes – that are sleek, stylish, lightweight, and easy to use. Established by Claudio Wensel and his father Ron, Pedal Easy’s e-bikes look, feel and ride exactly like regular bikes, but with the press of a switch and a flick of the wrist riders can engage the bike’s motor for a little mechanical assistance.
“A lot of riders use the mechanical advantage of Pedal Easy bikes to help them get to work, so they don’t arrive at the office feeling sweaty and tired,” said Claudio Wensel, the company’s affable co- owner. “Then, on the commute home, they will ride their Pedal Easy bike like a normal bike in order to get a good workout.”
Pedal Easy offers three models of e-bikes: the CanCycle the Easy Rider, which has a lower frame height for easy access; and the Responder, which has the look, feel and gearing of a regular mountain bike. All models are virtually indistinguishable from non-electronic bikes. The lightweight battery that powers the motor is discretely tucked under the bike’s seat in a small saddlebag.
“My favourite model for commuting is the Responder,” said Wensel. “It’s the most rugged bike in our lineup and suitable for battling Ottawa’s many potholes, but any of our models will work well for commuting.”
The range of the bikes is about 30 kilometres without pedaling at all, but when battery power is used only to supplement pedaling and to help on steep hills, the range is typically more than 80 kilometres of cycling over varied terrain. A computer display on the bike gives an accurate indication of how much battery power remains, as well as a wide range of metrics from speed to power output.
Engaging the bike’s motor couldn’t be easier, and it gently pulls the rider along without any sudden tugs or jerks. “If you can ride a bike, you can ride an e- bike,” said Wensel. After a ride, it takes about four hours to completely recharge the battery.
Wensel says that while Pedal Easy’s bikes were originally developed with older cyclists in mind, he’s seeing more and more purchases by younger riders.
“We have plenty of 30- to 40-year-olds who come to test ride a bike and who say they’re thinking about cycle commuting to work and are looking for a little assistance. Quite often, they’re concerned about the environment and want to reduce their carbon footprint by getting out of their vehicles.”
E-bikes that physically resemble conventional bikes – like Pedal Easy’s – do not require licenses to operate and are permitted throughout the NCC’s Capital Pathway network.
While the company was originally based out of Wensel’s west end house and garage, Pedal Easy will soon be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the opening of their store, located at 20 Bexley Place, Unit 112 in Bells Comers, just off Robertson Road. “There are parking lots and quiet roads nearby, making it ideal for customers to take an e-bike out for a test ride,” says Wensel.