‘Part of a worldwide trend’: E-bikes becoming more popular in Winnipeg

A new trend in sustainable, personal transportation is gaining popularity in Winnipeg.

Sales of electric bicycles – e-bikes for short – are growing, according to Bike Winnipeg executive director Mark Cohoe.

“They certainly are becoming more popular, it’s part of a part of a worldwide trend,” said Cohoe. “As we move towards electric vehicles, we’re also moving towards electric bikes. The batteries and the motors and the designs are becoming a lot better.”

E-bikes are similar to regular, foot-powered bicycles, with the addition of a small electric motor near the pedals. The “electric assist” makes pedaling easier while also adding speed. 

“It requires you to be pedaling to give that boost,” said Cohoe. “It gives an added range, or makes it a little easier going for people who might be getting older.”

Jeff Bowes is the manager of E-bike Winnipeg. He’s focused his business on selling e-bike parts and conversion kits because all major retailers are carrying the motorized bicycles now.

“The big corporations like Rad, Costco, all of those guys in the big bike shops have all of the market on the e-bikes,” said Bowes.

He sells parts, accessories, and conversion kits for turning regular bikes into e-bikes. “A lot of Canadians have really good bikes that they can convert,” Bowes said.

Bowes’ customers are mainly looking to save money on transportation costs. “Most of my customers are guys with trucks, and they’re paying a dollar per kilometer to drive in Manitoba,” he said.  “So if you get an e-bike, and you put a couple thousand kilometers a year, the first year you pay for your e-bike.”

He added it costs only about 10-12 cents to charge an e-bike’s battery, with the distance range being 40 – 80 kilometers on a full charge.

Cohoe has seen e-bikes become more popular for daily commuters in Winnipeg. Some models can even help with trips to the grocery store. “If we started thinking cargo bikes, where they can really create almost an SUV in a bike. In the sense that you’re carrying chips, you’re carrying groceries, whatever, when you go,” Cohoe said.

Bowes cautions anyone interested in purchasing an e-bike to research all their options, as the market has quickly become crowded. “Some of them are garbage, some of them are great. Some of them have crappy batteries. Some of them have really good batteries,” he said. “It’s all in the details of what batteries and motors they’re using on their bikes.”

“They’re all the same. There’s just people slapping different names on them,” he added.

Cohoe is excited about the future of e-bikes in Winnipeg, especially with new bike lanes being built in Osborne Village this summer. But he said people should be careful with this new technology.

“They can become a little too powerful … we don’t think about how do we regulate speeds on them, make sure they’re not, you know, overpowering someone,” said Cohoe.  “I think that’s an important thing to make sure we’re being aware of.”

– With files from CTV’s Devon McKendrick

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