More people than ever in Whitehorse are using e-bikes, according to retailers.
Icycle Sports is selling these devices — electrically powered bicycles which still have pedals but also contain a rechargeable battery — three times as much this year compared to last year, said sales manager Malcolm Mills.
The increase in interest this year has been "huge," Mills wrote in an email.
Mills said the bikes aren't only selling to avid cyclists. He said they are proving popular with people who have injuries or chronic health conditions who can use help getting up hills.
"We are seeing people that have not been involved in cycling for 10 or more years returning due to e-bikes," he said.
The trend isn't only in Yukon.
Record sales of e-bikes have been recorded in Canada this year. One factor retailers mention is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has people avoiding carpooling and public transit.
Dean Eyre of Cadence Cycle in Whitehorse said there has been more interest in child-carrying bikes and cargo bikes especially. "I feel like we're just on the edge of the bubble. We've seen a significant uptick, but I think we haven't [begun] to scratch the potential," he said, referring to e-bikes.
Eyre said it's hard to guess how many e-bikes are in Yukon as many people are buying by mail instead of local shops.
This includes conversion kits which add an engine to conventional bicycles.
Listers Motor Sports in Whitehorse began carrying e-bikes a year and a half ago in addition to its usual product range of snowmobiles, dirt bikes, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and other recreational vehicles.
The store said it's sold more than 50 e-bikes so far.
"This is our fourth truckload, so we've done fairly well with them," said sales manager Spencer Edelman.
Edelman said electric bikes aren't only popular with commuters. He said Yukon hunters are showing interest because the bikes are far more quiet than ATVs, and this is useful for approaching wild game.
Bagel delivery on two wheels
One Whitehorse business that uses an e-bike is Bullet Hole Bagels.
Co-owner Adrian Burrill has been making daily deliveries from Horwoods Mall to the Wykes' Your Independent Grocer
These days he uses an electric cargo bike and sometimes carries two large crates on racks as well as a trailer full of baked goods.
"We can fit a whole lot of bagels on here. It's fantastic for getting around town," he said.
Displacing the use of cars
Advocates for e-bikes say they help reduce emissions and gridlock.
Richard Legner has been using a cargo e-bike and said it's displaced the use of his car, at least while the weather is warm.
"I picked it up this spring in early May and I have not used the car at all in town since I bought the bike," he said.
Legner said using a cargo bike has changed his shopping habits as well, as he tends to go more often to different stores rather than stock up for one-and-done shopping at big stores.
The geography of Whitehorse is perhaps one reason e-bikes are proving popular.
Sarah McPhee-Knowles has been using an electrically-powered, fat-tire bike to carry her daughter home from daycare going up a lengthy incline called Two Mile Hill.
"For taking her to daycare it's worked really well. My husband drops her off on his conventional bike, and I pick her up at the end of the day. She weighs about 28 pounds so being able to have the e-bike and a little bit of assist makes it a lot easier," she said.