Submitted by Rod Layman
I have been riding bikes for decades, including 25 years of bike commuting in Toronto, and in 2008 I bought my first e-bike. The daily commutes in the city were getting long and traffic was getting worse. When we completed our move to Lion’s Head in 2012 I brought the bike north. While no longer commuting, the bike became an essential piece of daily life doing errands around Lion’s Head and on the occasional foray into the hilly countrysides on highway 9 or Forty Hills road. While Highway 6 isn’t a good place for any bike, the back roads are no problem for an e-bike, even with the winds off the Ferndale flats.
Last year I bought a new machine and the old e-bike found a new home as someone’s basic mountain bike, minus the motor, battery and electrical parts. The new bike is a pleasant upgrade with a better motor, battery and electrical system. The disk brakes and shock absorbing frame make for a comfortable and safe ride. The bike also came with mud guards and a very usable headlight and taillight for those rare rides after dark.
If you’re curious about e-bikes, you need to know they’re not meant to be a free ride, but definitely an easier one. The controller lets you choose how much help you get. With just a little help from the motor you can still get a very good cardio workout, and go a long way for your effort. A manual throttle also lets you start from a standstill without pedalling, very useful with heavy cargo on the back or on a trailer. With the 48 volt lithium battery and the pedal assist at 2 out of 5, I can easily get to Hope Bay and back from Lion’s Head, a round trip of close to 40 km.
Most e-bikes look like regular bicycles with the only obvious difference the battery. My e-bike, on a mountain bike frame, is heavy at 30 kilos, but there are e-bikes built on lighter hybrid frames and even folding bikes. Hardware for all e-bikes, such as brakes, derailleur and gear shifters are all off-the-shelf components and can be repaired or replaced by anyone who works on bikes. The electrical system and motor are unique to the bike manufacturers who can point to authorized repair shops. There are several bike shops in Owen Sound selling and repairing e-bikes.
Is an e-bike worth the expense?
That depends partly on how much you’ll use it. At a cost of close to $2,000 for a good one, this isn’t a casual purchase. But its ease of use and its versatility in doing both short errands with heavy loads or long road rides make it unique. And it’s a very low carbon emissions vehicle at about 6 grams of CO2 per kilometre, compared to 150 to 250 grams per kilometre for a gas vehicle. A full charge of the battery costs about 10 cents, or about 1/4 cent per kilometre. The low emissions fit in with what we need to focus on to keep our air and our environment healthy.
While I still use a regular bike for some country riding, I use the e-bike almost daily, weather permitting, around Lion’s Head. I especially value the carrier I’ve added on the back for errands, and the trailer that I have used for years to bring musical gear to the Lion’s Head Farmers Market. And of course there’s no parking problems, even in the peak of summer. I’m looking forward to many more years on the back roads and around our village. I especially appreciate the easy ride up the Moore Street hill or heading south out of Barrow Bay to visit friends along highway 9.
Rod Layman is a member of the North Bruce Climate Action Committee.