Fort Smith Mechanic Opens Electric Bike Shop

A Fort Smith mechanic has started selling e-bikes at what he hopes will be an “affordable” price to get more people going this summer.

Steve Charron received the first electric bikes four weeks ago and has since opened a store, RPM Motors, where he caters to dirt bikes, motorcycles, quads, side-by-sides, bike repairs and bike sales.

An avid cyclist, Charron says there’s a desire for e-bikes in the North.

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“The thing is, there are no e-bike sales north of Grande Prairie right now except in Whitehorse, so this is sort of the first in the North,” Charron said, acknowledging that Overlander Yellowknife Sports provides e-bikes upon request. (Others, like Erasmus Apparel in Yellowknife, are starting to rent e-bikes.)

At this time, no discounts are available for e-bikes in the NWT. The territorial government indicates that it is studying the possibility of introducing a refund, which is already offered in the Yukon.

Charron said Fort Smith’s paved trail system is great for bikes, but some seniors may have trouble pedaling the trail hills. He added that fuel prices gave many people a reason to be interested in e-bikes.

“On a charge, they go about 40-60km depending on whether you’re pedaling or not, and they do 40-50km/h without pedalling, so they’re pretty quick,” he said.

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On an electric bike, the pedaling depends on the cyclist. This can make them more accessible and enjoyable for people with knee injuries, the elderly, or people who don’t like to ride bikes.

“When I first started watching them, I thought you had to pedal to get them going, but you don’t,” Charron said.

It also makes it a great commuter bike, he said.

“When you cycle to work and wear work clothes, you usually sweat, so it’s a great way to get around, especially in smaller communities.

“People all over the country use them as daily commuters, especially with the price of fuel.”

Charron noted the environmental benefits of e-bikes, over vehicles, and their versatility, especially in rocky terrain.

“We have a ton of sand here, and I tried one and I can’t believe we got enough torque in the sand,” he said.

Acknowledging the high prices of many e-bikes, Charron said he chose a Canadian brand that he considered affordable “but still very nice”. The bikes fold in half, have 20-inch wheels, and some have hydraulic brakes. They are priced from $2,500 to $4,000.

Charron also plans to set up a rental fleet for tourists and riders not looking to buy. The store plans to offer accessories by the end of the summer.

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