“How fast can this thing go?” Yelling gleefully like a kid riding a go-kart for the first time, I’m pedalling an electric bike deep in Vancouver’s West End with Josh Bloomfield of Cycle City Tours. “Up to 30 kilometres,” he replies, trailing off in the distance as I jolt forward to the next block. We finally meet up near a canopy of trees on the corner of Comox and Nicola and wait for the rest of the pack to catch up. With no sweat on my brow or strain in my legs, I’m sold: electric bikes are the best way to get around on a nice day.
“An e-bike lets you ride farther with less effort,” Bloomfield explained earlier that day, as we prepared for our tour departing from the Cycle City headquarters on Hornby Street. Launched in 2010, the company takes participants on themed tours that range from the historic streets of Chinatown to the craft breweries of East Vancouver. Today it’s the Epic Electric Tour, a four-hour journey traversing through Stanley Park, English Bay, Granville Island, Olympic Village, and Chinatown with an emphasis on history and the environmental initiatives around the city.
We glide through downtown along Hornby until spilling out into Coal Harbour, stopping at the Vancouver Convention Centre to learn about its rooftop’s ability to retain rainwater and re-distribute it throughout the building. Then we weave along the Seawall before tucking into Beaver Trail and dismounting, walking our bikes along the lush path and listening as Bloomfield’s voice fills the temperate rainforest. He is both a storyteller and seasoned peddler (he has led cycling groups in Cambodia and Japan), with a keen interest in First Nations history and ecology.
As we get back on our bikes and test our treads on the gravel trail along Beaver Lake, I take the opportunity to go full throttle under the old-growth trees. Getting up to 30 kilometres per hour is exhilarating, with wind in my hair and the sun flickering through the natural canopy. E-bikes are so loved because they let people go on more intense rides without feeling wiped, and I find this to be true as we curl up a winding path that takes us over the Stanley Park Causeway; it is steep, yet there’s no need to lift at the waist or strain the legs. We arrive at Prospect Point, learning about the Guinness family’s influence on urban development in the city, and then return back to company headquarters via English Bay at an easy, enjoyable pace. “We get a lot of locals or even somebody from the Valley or Metro Vancouver coming in,” Bloomfield says. As we bump the kickstands and unstrap our helmets, and I recall his words prior to our journey: “You end up being a tourist in your own town.” And that’s exactly what it’s all about.