A Fort Smith mechanic has begun selling e-bikes at what he hopes is an “affordable” price to get more people moving outside this summer.
Steve Charron received the first e-bikes four weeks ago and has since opened a shop, RPM Motors, where he caters to dirt bikes, motorcycles, quads, side-by-sides, bicycle repairs and bike sales.
An avid cyclist, Charron says there’s a desire for e-bikes in the North.
“The thing is, there are no e-bike sales north of Grande Prairie right now except for Whitehorse, so this is sort of the first of the North,” said Charron, acknowledging Yellowknife’s Overlander Sports bring in e-bikes on request. (Others, like Yellowknife’s Erasmus Apparel, are beginning to rent e-bikes.)
At the moment, no rebates are available for e-bikes in the NWT. The territorial government says it is examining the prospect of introducing a rebate, which is already offered in the Yukon.
Charron said Fort Smith’s paved trail system is ideal for bikes, but some seniors may have trouble pedalling the trails’ hills. He added fuel prices are giving many people a reason to be interested in e-bikes.
“On a charge, they’ll go approximately 40-60 km depending on if you pedal or not, and they’ll do between 40 and 50 km/h without pedalling, so they’re quite fast,” he said.
On an e-bike, pedalling is up to the rider. That can make them more accessible and enjoyable for people with knee injuries, elderly people, or people who don’t ordinarily enjoy cycling.
“When I first started looking at them, I thought you had to pedal to get them going, but that’s not the case,” said Charron.
This also makes them a great commuter bike, he said.
“When you pedal to work and you’re wearing work clothes, you generally work up a sweat, so this is a great way to commute, especially in smaller communities.
“People all around the country are using them as daily commuters, especially with the price of fuel.”
Charron noted the environmental benefits of e-bikes, compared to vehicles, and their versatility, especially on rocky terrain.
“We have a ton of sand here, and I’ve tried one and I can’t believe that we got enough torque in the sand,” he said.
Acknowledging the high price tags on many e-bikes, Charron said he selected a Canadian brand he considered affordable “but still really nice.” The bikes fold in half, have 20-inch wheels, and some have hydraulic brakes. They are priced at $2,500 to $4,000.
Charron is also considering bringing in a rental fleet for tourists and riders who aren’t looking to purchase. The shop expects to offer accessories by the end of the summer.