– Electric Bikes for the Ageless (Ottawa Citizen 2018)
Electric bike sales are booming, especially among Boomers. They’re the No. 1 selling electric vehicle on the planet and gaining in popularity in Canada, particularly for the 50-plus crowd, as well as urban commuters. The challenge for cyclists wanting to transition to E-bikes is finding a lightweight E-bike that looks, rides, and feels like a decent high-end bike.
Ron Wensel, a mechanical engineer, and lifelong avid cyclist, was inspired to address this challenge when he retired and had four heart attacks. He was determined to continue cycling with his wife and knew that an E-bike was what he would need to ensure that he didn’t overexert himself. Every option he looked at was too heavy and not at all what he wanted in a true bike. So, he designed his own, and now he and his son Claudio have started a business right here in Ottawa manufacturing the lightest, most bike-like E-bike on the market. As people transition from regular bikes to E-bikes, they particularly like the lightweight feature, making them easy to transport, as many Pedal Easy customers take their bikes with them on long trips.
He started with a design for a good quality bike and then went about adding the components required to make it electric. At 36 pounds, and with all of the features any avid cyclist would expect, Pedal Easy electric bikes have been selling like crazy for four years now. They’ve sold bikes across the country, including two to David Suzuki, and are now in the process of setting up select distributorships.
Joining the father/son team is veteran businessman and entrepreneur Frank Wilson. He describes his role as Chief Pedal Pusher and is responsible for growth strategies and transitioning the business from retail to wholesale manufacturer.
“Ron and Claudio have done an amazing job designing and setting up the manufacturing of this unique entry in the E-bike field,” Wilson said. “Ron continues in an advisory capacity and is understandably focused on retirement and cycling the world with his wife. Claudio is truly our Chief Gear Head, handling all aspects of product development, refinement, ordering and overseeing production.”
Customers LOVE Pedal Easy E-bikes and are quick to share their joy and experience on the Pedal Easy Facebook page and website. For some of them, their E-bike has been a life changing experience, allowing them to recover from surgeries or health challenges, to get fit, stay fit and continue to be active for longer than expected.
“I’ve cycled all my life, but I have back trouble,” said Carol McMurdo-Paton, 52. “I want to cycle with my friends, but I can’t stress my back while going up hills. With my Pedal Easy bike, I can ride along with everybody and get a bit of help going up hills.” She made her purchase about two years ago. “This type of bike has given me the freedom to continue to cycle. My back is just fine when I’m biking. I know when to get a little assistance; it’s the perfect solution. There are many electric bikes out there, but this is the best.”
Another growing segment is the urban commuter. “Two things motivate them: saving money and staying fit,” said Wilson. “Using the motor, commuters can arrive at work without needing a shower. At the end of the day, they can have a good workout under their own steam on the way home.” E-bikes are popular with commuters because they are very low in cost relative to cars, do not require licensing and can take advantage of existing bicycle infrastructure.
Cyclist Mike Armitage knows exactly how much his Pedal Easy E-bike, which he purchased three years ago, means to him. “In three seasons, I’ve logged over 10,000 kilometres,” said Armitage, who is in his early 60s. “That’s a lot of riding days. It also represents a lot of battery charging, but I’ve used the same battery all that time.” Armitage lives in Gatineau and was working at the St. Laurent Centre when he considered switching to an E-bike. “I was commuting using a regular bike, and one hill on the way home took everything out of me,” he said. “That got me looking for alternatives. I studied E-bikes online for over a year. I was attracted to Pedal Easy because their bikes were lighter than any others.”
All Pedal Easy bikes are the Wensels’ own designs; hand built and assembled in their workshop. “Keeping the cost down has been a consideration, but only when it can be achieved with minimal impact on performance,” said Claudio. They ensure every customer is satisfied with their E-bike. “We like to follow up with clients a month after they purchase their E-bike,” said Claudio. “Some have even sold their second car because they are able to do errands on their E-bike so easily.
February 2016 Review
Pedal Easy Electric Bikes are Versatile, Lightweight Commuter Bikes
Ron Wensel is a Canadian engineer who has spent years testing and developing bike frames, batteries and motors, and has successfully developed a range of hand-assembled, lightweight, strong, easy-to-ride commuter electric bikes at an affordable price (around $1,500). I have been test riding one of his Pedal Easy bikes for a few months now, and believe that he has done an excellent job.
Ron has always been a cyclist, but a series of heart attacks almost ended his cycling days. He was warned by his doctor that he had to keep his heart rate low. Instead of giving up cycling, Ron used his decades of engineering experience to develop a range of lightweight, long-range electric bikes. He pairs these lightweight bikes with small, high-efficiency batteries and discreet but powerful motors. These are not just any old batteries and motors. Ron described to me how he put all the components through their paces, testing and dissecting them (literally) until he was sure he had top-rate components.
The first thing I noticed about my test bike is that it did not look like an electric bike. The battery is concealed in a saddlebag. The rear hub motor is so small and discreet that most people simply would not realize this is an electric bike.
I saw one of my fellow bike commuters in our bike parking the first time I rode it, and he said, “Oh, you’re not on an electric bike” (because usually I do my long work commute on an electric bike). Now bear in mind that this guy is a serious cyclist, and he knows bikes. I said, “Actually it IS an electric bike,” and he was quite shocked. I pointed out the engine in the almost-normal looking rear wheel hub and the battery hidden in the saddlebag. He said, “Wow, that’s really discreet.” He was even more impressed when I told him the price. And impressed again when I invited him to lift it up and see how light it was. With battery, the bike weighs in at just 28 pounds. I can lift this bike onto my bike rack as easily as any regular bike. The Pedal Easy bike is a cinch to lift onto my bike rack.
The great thing about these bikes is that you can pedal them like regular bikes when you don’t need the electric assist. Ron tells me that some people have bought his bikes to use as regular bikes, because each one is a light, well-specced, extremely strong aluminium bike, well worth it’s $1,500 price sticker, even if you don’t need the engine.
The basic feeling you get on a Pedal Easy bike is SPORTY. You feel like you are on a high-performance bike, cycling along with the strength of an Olympian.
I used the Pedal Easy to bike to work. I have a 22 km commute, with extreme and intermediate hills for the first 4 km. I live by the Fraser River in New Westminster BC, and work in downtown Vancouver. That means that I must cycle uphill for miles just to get out of New West. Coming home again, it is a long uphill slog to Metrotown. Basically, massive hills both ways, and a lot of them.
The bike I tested had only 3 speeds (there are other models with many more gears). Even so, the hills were pretty much a breeze. The bike weighs about 28 pounds, and I weigh about 170 pounds, for a grand total of around 200 pounds. So, it’s no mean feat to get us up the steep hills of New West.
The bike works entirely on a throttle basis. The throttle turns away from you, which took me a while to get used to (I have ridden motorcycles, which have throttles that turn the other way). I have to say that I love the throttle action. It’s just so easy to pull off from a stop sign without putting pressure on my knees. And it’s so much fun to use the throttle to manoeuvre through obstacles. It’s very responsive and well calibrated, so you have a lot of manoeuvring ability. More so than on a regular bike, definitely.
The most fun part is simply zooming along without having to pedal at all. It’s a great alternative for days when my knees are hurting. It even made me think about buying a motorcycle again, but I won’t do that.
A good thing about the Pedal Easy is that you must use the throttle for the engine to work. This is different from a Pedelec-type electric bike, where the engine kicks in as soon as you start pedalling, and is always there, matching your power output. This is good because you have to consciously engage the engine, so I find that very often I simply don’t use the engine. I pretty much use the throttle when I need it, which means that I do a lot of regular cycling on the Pedal Easy. In fact, I substantially increased my fitness level while using it. Without it, I don’t think I would have been fit enough to do the 30-kilometre MS Bike Tour recently.
I never thought I would ever be able to regularly tackle my difficult commute on a regular bike, but thanks to a couple of months of using the Pedal Easy, I have become so fit that I have now started doing this tough commute on a regular bike. I am very proud of this. It’s one heck of a commute, and I could not have done it without months of getting fitter on a Pedal Easy electric bike.
This is what I love about electric bikes. You can use them to get fitter, you can use them on days when you are exhausted, or when your knees are hurting. You can use them to get over impossible hills. They take the angst out of long commutes and flatten out really daunting hills. And of course, you can just plain have a whole lot of fun on them.
Pedal Easy bikes are nicely specced with high-end Shimano components. They also come with good, practical wrap around fenders – essential for any bike commuter. And they look good! The lightweight 320 W.h lithium-ion battery gets me about 35 km when I use it very heavily – basically, all the time. Charging takes a few hours. I recommend carrying a spare battery. That way, you always have a backup.
Bottom Line on the Pedal Easy Electric Bike is they rate a Gold Bike Star! I recommend Pedal Easy electric bikes to anyone who wants a great bike with plenty of electric assist available with just a flip of the wrist. They are excellent for commuting and would also be an excellent choice for long bike tours. Pedal Easy also offers a range of Cycle Analyst power meters for precise display of e-bike parameter. They have some of the most cutting-edge technology available in the world of electric bikes.