Vancouver is Bike City, and there is a bike for every type of cyclist. From dirt-cheap to insanely expensive, here's a guide to bike shopping on the Wet Coast
Bike to Work Week is here. What better time to treat yourself to a shiny new bicycle?
Here are some ideas for enjoying a slice of the pedal-powered pie on the way to the office, whether you’re looking for basic transportation or planning to break the bank on a dream machine.
Urban commuter bikes for year-round riding
Way back in the late-20th century, local off-road pioneers made the North Shore synonymous with mountain biking, and BC’s bike manufacturers found fertile ground building bomb-proof machines to tackle the trails they blazed. The heritage remains, but eco-chic means urban commuter bikes are now a mandatory item in every company’s product line-up too.
While manufacturing is no longer a 100 percent home-grown process for companies such as Kona, Rocky Mountain, Norco, and Brodie, there’s little doubt locals still hold a special place in their collective heart.
Brodie’s Section 8 is just one example of an affordable bike with the Wet Coast cyclist in mind. Fenders, rack, internally geared drivetrain (no fussy derailleurs), and disc brakes make year-round riding dryer, safer and certainly more comfortable than playing "What’s That Smell?" on public transit.
Brodie's Section 8
Budget bikes and maintenance workshops at Our Community Bikes
Cycling equals recycling at Our Community Bikes. A refurbished, used bike from OCB is probably the best deal you’ll get on basic bike transportation in Vancouver. Average price for a ready-to-ride bike for basic transportation: about $250.
And when you’re ready for do-it-yourself maintenance chores, you can come back to rent a work stand and tools, ask for some almost-free advice, or participate in their monthly Introduction to Bike Repair Workshops (first Thursday of the month). Women even get their own testosterone-free sessions (first and third Wednesdays of the month).
Electric bikes for cycling comfort
Looking for a little help getting up hills, pulling the kids’ trailer or arriving at your destination sweat-free? Electric-assist bikes (e-bikes) are shaking off their unwarranted reputation as solely for seniors and home-electronics hobbyists as more and more people discover how much easier it is to cycle with a few hundred watts of extra energy at your fingertips.
They’re the fastest growing segment of the bike market in the Netherlands, and a couple of Metro Vancouver businesses are also a big part of the trend. Ohm Cycles, based in Abbotsford, produces two models (urban and sport) available at four local bike shops. Don’t be put off by the price tag. If it means one less car in your driveway, you’ll be ahead of the game in less than a year.
Want to retrofit an existing bike? Grin Technologies (formerly Renaissance Bicycle Company) has all the parts you need, and plenty of great advice on choosing the right components to electrify your cycling experience.
Abbotsford's Ohm Cycles produces urban and sport e-bikes.
Join the commuter community at Bikes on the Drive
Bicycles have replaced babies as the de rigeur thing to embrace for anyone contemplating a political career in Vancouver, aka Bike City. You can pick up all the gear you’ll need to establish your cyclo-socialist bona fides in the Republic of East Vancouver’s Bikes on the Drive. Just one of several commuter-centric bike stores in the city, they talk the talk… and ride the ride, as a perennial supporter of advocacy efforts, events such as Bike to Work Week and various other environmentally friendly causes.
(Check out the Resources page on the store website for all the campaign speech buzzwords and catchphrases you’ll need to capture the votes of politically minded pedallers.)
Custom-made bikes at Naked
It’s not your fault you were born with the unusual combination of freakishly bizarre body geometry and a taste for the finer things. God simply has a sense of humour. But you can satisfy both your quest for comfort and your love of quality products by getting Naked. The Quadra Island bike shop of world-record-holding Sam Whittingham (fastest self-propelled man) specializes in creating made-to-measure custom bikes.
You’ll also be in illustrious company if you decide to buy one of Sam's awardwinning works of rolling art. Notable Naked customers include Lance Armstrong, Barney Bentall and Robin Williams.
There you go. From dirt-cheap to insanely expensive, a bike for every cyclist, no matter what their reason for riding. Keep the rubber side down. Wear a helmet. Stay off the sidewalk. Be nice to your mom and Mother Earth. Ride on.
Chris Keam has worked as a writer and editor in Vancouver since 1989. In addition to cycling, he has a keen interest in sustainable living trends, parenting, media issues, current affairs and local history. You can visit his blog at www.chriskeam.com.