Lined with more than 450 kilometres of bike lanes, Vancouver is one of the more cycling-friendly cities in North America. Upwards of 131,000 trips are taken by bike every day, and stats from the City of Vancouver show that when the area’s low-hanging clouds are banished by long sunny days, more people bike to work in the region than in any other urban hub on the continent.
Despite the location’s infrastructure and enthusiasm, however, there’s one major factor that keeps residents off their bikes. With its mountainous terrain, Vancouver might be a scenic place to live, but it’s hard to contend with the hills.
For those who need a bit more spring in their pedal, it’s possible to get some extra help.
Electric bikes—also known as e-bikes—assist cyclists who are struggling against headwinds or climbing hills. Drawing power from a built-in battery, a motor attached to either the front or rear wheel lets riders build up to a substantial speed—typically about 25 kilometres per hour. When that top speed is reached, the motor cuts out and bikers rely solely on their pedals.
Despite requiring a small battery, this mode of transport is significantly greener than a car trip. It uses 18 times less energy than an SUV, and six times less energy than a journey on the SkyTrain. Taking into account the life of the battery, an e-bike has a similar environmental impact to a conventional bicycle and can be of great assistance to the elderly or to those who want to build up their fitness level or commute to the office without needing a shower.
As the technology becomes more advanced, many Vancouverites are choosing to trade their 10-speeds or fixies for a modern alternative. Fuelling that demand, there are a number of local stores equipped to help cyclists upgrade. Here are six.
Motorino Electric Cycles, 336 West 2nd Ave
A home-grown company that carries a range of nine pedal-assisted e-bikes, Motorino creates cycles that are known for their high-quality engineering. Now operating for 15 years, the local business boasts a customized technology lab that tests components to make its bikes as light and durable as possible. As well as showcasing its selection at home in Vancouver, the company exports its designs across the country, offering everything from fat-tire bikes that travel 85 kilometers without a charge, to commuter cycles with five levels of pedal-assist.
Cit-E-Cycles Electric Bikes, 3466 West Broadway
With locations dotted around the Lower Mainland—Vancouver, Surrey, and Langley all host Cit-E-Cycles stores—this specialty shop boasts one of the bigger selections of bikes in the region. Its best-selling brands including commuter-friendly Pedego, electric-mountain-bike manufacturer Cube, and the foldable Tern. Ideal for customers unsure of what type of e-bike will suit them best, Cit-E-Cycles has the stock to direct newcomers to the right model and offers price options ranging from about $2,000 to $12,000.
Reckless Electric, 1357 Hornby Street
Reckless owns three bike shops around downtown Vancouver and has dedicated one solely to electric bikes. The company specializes in the eProdigy, BionX, Bosch, Yamaha, and Shimano STEPS electric systems—each of which operates in a slightly different way. Unlike other e-bike stores, Reckless offers cyclists the option to rent a ride by the hour, day, or week and helps customers offset the cost of the bike with a rent-to-own scheme.
JV Bike, 929 Expo Boulevard
Located at the intersection of two major bike routes, JV Bike is a familiar stop for keen cyclists. Showcasing models from eight e-bike brands, the store is famed for its sales. Customers are offered savings of up to 35 percent from typical sticker prices, sometimes cutting the cost by thousands of dollars. Catering to individuals who already own an electric bike, the shop also offers service and tune-ups, and features a separate showroom for those looking to expand their collection.
EBikeBC, 128–2323 Boundary Road
Rather than specialize in selling electric bikes off the shelf, EBikeBC transforms an individual’s existing ride. Commuter bikes, mountain bikes, and folding bikes are all supported, with the team connecting all the necessary parts for pedal-assist power or an on-demand throttle to provide an extra boost. Each fitting comes with an extensive warranty.
Cambie Cycles, 3317 Cambie Street
As well as offering a limited selection of e-bikes, Cambie Cycles provides customers another way to motorize their ride. Like EBikeBC, the store is able to install rear-rack mounted kits onto a traditional bike for $1,899, but it also offers the chance for individuals to do it themselves. Cambie Cycles sells eZee motor kits for $1,400—a significant reduction on the price of an e-bike—with the promise that any individual can convert their ride with two hours of free time, some basic DIY skills, and a set of bike tools.
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays