Pedego Electric Bicycles owner Charles Turner in front of his new Oak Bay Avenue location.

Conquering hills on two wheels

Electric bikes bring ease to commute

Steep hills and long distances no longer have to be an issue for cyclists, now that Pedego Electric Bicycles has ridden into town.

After partnering with West 49 founder Sam Baio, Charles Turner opened Pedego Bikes on Oak Bay Avenue just over six weeks ago.

“The community’s been awesome so far,” said Turner, owner of the shop. “It’s hard when you’re coming in halfway through the season, but we’re happy to be here.”

Prior to opening the store in Oak Bay, Turner owned an electric bike shop in Courtenay. He closed it down after five years to move back to Victoria, where he spent most of his life.

Turner first started riding an electric bike eight years ago after suffering a knee injury. His physiotherapy was riding a bike, but he found hills to be too much of a struggle.

“Riding a bike on the flat was okay, but as soon as I hit any kind of incline, it was just incredible pain and I stopped doing it,” he said.

That’s when he tried the electric bike.

“It’s incredible because you can do it with absolutely no stress,” he said.

Although his knee has since healed, Turner still uses an electric bike to commute to his Oak Bay shop from the Gordon Head area every day.

“Commuting is a breeze,” said Turner. “In the morning (I have) a cup of coffee in one hand, full throttle in the other, and I just zip to work.”

Although he does not like getting sweaty before work, Turner said, after work he pedals and gets a workout on the way home.

“It’s up to you and how you feel. And I think that’s the magic behind it.”

Bobb Hamilton can attest to this feeling.

Hamilton, director of the Red Art Gallery in Oak Bay, and his wife Marion Evamy wandered into Pedego Bikes in July, with no intention of making a purchase. They ended up buying two.

Turner taught Hamilton and Evamy about the electric bikes and took them out for a test ride in the parking lot. That’s something Turner said he tries to get everyone to do because he loves to see the smiles on their faces when they discover the power of the bikes.

Hamilton said they had so much fun, they took the bikes out for a longer test ride up hills they never would have cycled up before and all along Beach Drive.

A day or two later, they went back into the shop and got bikes of their own. Previously only casual bike riders, Hamilton said he and his wife will now ride their electric bikes from Oak Bay to Sidney and Central Saanich via the Galloping Goose or Lochside Trail.

“It’s something we would normally not do,” he said.

***

Depending on the size of the lithium battery, electric bikes have a range of 30 to 90 kilometres.

However, a larger battery comes with a larger price tag. Pedego electric bikes range from $2,395 to $3,295.

There are three possible modes on an electric bike, said Turner. Riding it like a normal bike with seven gears, throttle on demand, and pedal assist. When riding the bike normally, the throttle on the right handlebar can be turned toward the cyclist to give a boost of speed on a hill, for example. Keeping the throttle in that position gives consistent power, making pedalling unnecessary. If more power is needed, cyclists simply turn the throttle further towards themselves.

“The really fun mode is the pedal assist mode,” said Turner.

The bikes have five levels of pedal assist, which only provides power when your legs are pumping.

“The motor follows you exactly. You pedal slowly, it goes slow; you speed up, it speeds up; you stop, it stops,” said Turner. “It makes you feel like you’re bionic.

The higher the level of pedal assist, the more power and assistance it provides.

“You can go over any terrain and it feels like you’re pedalling on the flats,” said Turner.

Some may call this cheating, not exercise, but Turner disagrees. He said it gives people who may not exercise at all the ability and desire to get outside and start pedalling.

“You make it whatever workout you want,” agreed Hamilton. “When you’re going up hills, yes you’re getting an assist, but you’re still having to pedal for that assist to kick in.”

Hamilton and Evamy cycled up Mount Tolmie the other day, and Hamilton said they could see the stares of amazed onlookers.

“We’ll always remember the summer of 2014 as the summer that we got those bikes,” said Hamilton.

Visit Pedego Electric Bicycles at 2039 Oak Bay Ave.

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