Remi Gagnon is betting electric bikes, known more commonly as ebikes, will be as good for business as it will be for the environment.
Gagnon and his Geo Explorer partners sell ebikes at Pedego Electric Bikes, the impressive bike shop in the Byward Market.
It's like the Apple store of ebikes. Located on Dalhousie street, Pedego is a premium brand of ebike designed in California and manufactured in China. With global sales nearly doubling annually, electric bicycles are the fastest-growing segment in the electric vehicle market in North America.
“I chose this line of business because I believe that this is positive for society. We have big changes coming up because of global warming and pollution. Ebikes will be the wave of the future.”
Ebikes look like regular geared bikes – hybrid, mountain, commuter, etc – with a lithium battery and small electric motor driving the back wheel when engaged. What began as a regular bicycle with a light two-stroke motor in the 1960s has evolved into a whole new category of two-wheel mopeds priced between $2,000 and $6,000.
“I think the electric bike will become the most affordable second car you can own,” Gagnon says confidently. “Given the cost and environmental impact of a care, people are looking for alternatives, realize they don't need another car to commute to stores, their bank close to home. They're turning to ebikes.”
Gagnon and company first got into the ebike business a dozen years ago when he was managing an ice cream shop next door to an electrically-powered recreational vehicle shop in Montebello, Québec. He realized that there was huge demand to rent the electric quads, but also concluded that his business model was flawed, as the quads were fragile, especially when ridden hard, necessitating expensive repairs.
Switching from rough and tumble quads to road and trail ebikes with fat tires and softer ride, he saw his opportunity to create a sustainable, environmentally sensitive business.
So in 2013, Gagnon quit the ice cream shop and partnered with the quad rental business to open their first Pedego ebike store in Montebello.
Initially, most of his customers were cottagers and adventurers looking for recreational toys, but they were equally popular with farmers, mail, hydro and municipal services. More recently, they've become even more popular with next-gen commuters and couriers.
Naturally, Gagnon was nervous about going into business in the beginning.
“It's really scary,” he admits. “Every new business is risky. We took our time before opening in Ottawa because the ebike industry is an evolving business. There were a few other challenges too. We started opening the Market store in the middle of the pandemic. But in the end, it's not such a big risk. It's a good product.
At the end of the day, we want our bike store to be fun and help change lives a little for the better.”
The popularity of ebikes is changing the bicycle business. Once considered little more than a toy for kids, electrification is opening the market for two-wheel transportation to people not traditionally interested or able to ride a bicycle. Especially older riders and those adult who may be physically compromised.
“It's a game-changer,” Gagnon says. “It's fun to ride and very cheap to run, so it's becoming the primary means of transportation for people who live in the city.”
“All my customers are people who want something comfortable and reliable and useful,” he adds. “That's why we chose Pedego bikes. They're made for real life.”
Pedego's seen sustained growth since opening last May. It's enough to encourage Gagnon, who recalls a client from the Gaspe region who purchased 20 ebikes for her resort. Gagnon claims that the industry is currently doubling annually.
Gagnon's happy to have gotten into the industry early. There's a ton of potential. That being said, he's cautious about opening a third location, in the Montreal greater area, before 2025.
“We have so many big changes, the future is hard to predict.”