Industry expert: Cycling influencer Mark Ernsting's five best bike trends in Vancouver

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      Aside from being named one of the 14 most influential people in cycling by Canadian Cycling magazine, ex–pro rider Mark Ernsting has plenty to brag about.

      First getting into the sport after “cycling from North Van to watch the Gastown Grand Prix every year”, as he tells the Straight, Ernsting started racing competitively in his freshman year at UBC. Loving the speed, the technical difficulties, and the mental tactics, he very quickly rose through the ranks and was offered a cycling and academic scholarship in the U.S.

      After one season racing in Belgium, one in France, and another in the States, he became a five-time victor at the Canadian National Track Championships. Somehow finding even more space on his mantelpiece for silverware, Ernsting took home several world cups as well as medals from a number of international competitions, including the Pan Am Games. Not bad for a local boy.

      After a stint in the U.S. as a professor of exercise science and sports management, Ernsting felt compelled to start his own business and moved back to Vancouver in 2007. The founder and co-owner of M1—a company that deals with corporate marketing, event management, and athlete representation—Ernsting is heavily involved in the province’s cycling calendar, including taking on the role of series director for B.C. Superweek, a collection of races such as the Gastown Grand Prix, Tour de Delta, and Giro di Burnaby.

      Now spearheading various initiatives in and around Vancouver, including donating bikes to disadvantaged kids and launching the inaugural Our Cityride, which saw thousands of the city’s families hit the streets last month, Ernsting is on the frontlines of the local cycling scene—and he knows exactly which are the five best trends emerging in Vancouver.

      Best bike for use by people of a certain age

      “Electric bikes are something that’s already a big thing in Europe, and their presence is growing in North America. In Vancouver, the terrain means that it’s in demand. A lot of people choose an electric bike because although they want to commute by cycling, they feel that, psychologically, they’re unable to get up the city’s big hills because they’re not fit enough—even though they probably are. The electric bike does that work for them. The bike also allows older people to stay active and be able to go out on outings with their family without having to work as strenuously.”

      Best prediction for Bike-share programs

      “[Bike-share programs are] going to take off more and more, especially among the younger generation. Nowadays, people are taking much longer to get their driving licences, and few invest in getting a car. Those who do get their licence are using more of the car-share programs. That model extends as well to bike shares, because they’re much cheaper and readily accessible.”

      Best service for owners of high-end bikes

      “These companies [mobile bike services] bring parts and accessories to you and fix your bike on the spot without you having to take it anywhere. It’s an interesting concept, and it’s been working well for the local businesses like VanCycle Mobile Bicycle Shop or Velofix. A lot of people with high-performance bikes use the services because those who can afford really nice bicycles often don’t have too much free time, so for them to have their bike serviced close by is really valuable. It’s also useful for any consumers who don’t want to travel with a broken bicycle, though.”

      Best prophecy for disc brakes

      “These are going to become the norm. Commuter bikes have taken a lot of technology from the mountain-bike industry over the last 10 years—everything from the diameter of our seat posts to bottom brackets. Mountain bikes have been using disc brakes for many years now. They’re very well suited to a West Coast environment because under wet-weather conditions—or in mountainous areas where the brakes are heating up—disc brakes have an advantage over the more common rim brakes. They also don’t have as much wear-and-tear damage. In the long run, I think, it will change technology on how wheel manufacturers build standard bike wheels.”

      Best future adaptation of automotive Smart technology

      “All kinds of smart technology is beginning to be integrated into bikes. Different computers have been designed to show metrics from the ride, including a GPS, your power, your aerodynamics, lights flashing when you want to turn left and right, and brake lights that come on for city riding. There are also tracking systems for bike theft. Automotive companies are starting to put microchips into paint, and they can scan the frame and find out all kinds of information about it. In the future, modifications like these will happen to everything from city bikes to high-performance bikes. Some Vancouver riders are already using them.”

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays