– (Ottawa Citizen ad May 2014)
At first glance, Claudio Wensel’s speed bike looks like any other. But tucked inside a small bag behind the seat is a battery pack that fires up an electric motor attached to the front tire when you need a little boost to get up a hill.
“It’s easy to pedal without the battery, but it’s there for assistance if you need it,” says Wensel, 29, the co-owner of Pedal Easy, an Ottawa-based start-up that designs and assembles lightweight electric bikes.
Four years ago, Wensel’s dad, Ron, started tinkering in his garage in Deep River to come up with an e-bike that would encourage users “to cycle more and to ride further” despite health issues, physical limitations, or age.
Plagued with heart problems, Wensel senior had started using electric bikes to stay active, but felt that with his mechanical engineering background, he could design a much lighter, sportier set of wheels that would make it easy and fun to exercise.
“We didn’t want it to be a free ride. It’s meant to promote fitness,” says his son, who recently converted his garage off Greenbank Road into a bike shop.
With no pedalling, a fully charged battery will last for about 30 kilometres; if used only on steep hills or to supplement pedalling, you can ride up to 100 km, he says.
The company’s first bike, which debuted two years ago, featured 21 speeds, but they decided to simplify their designs. The “second generation” bikes, available in two adult sizes, now have only three or eight speeds with maintenance-free internal gears.
The ultra-light frames and quality Shimano components are imported from China, Japan, and Taiwan and then the bikes are hand built by the father-son team.
Claudio Wensel describes the battery as the brains of the bike and the motor as the heart.
“When you’re riding, it’s like you have the help of an Olympic cyclist. It gives you that super-human feeling.”