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Electric cyclist could spark green revolution

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A creative actuary is doing his bit for the environment while saving money and turning his daily commute to work into a most pleasurable experience.

Joseph Gabriel, a Fellow of the CIA who works for the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, rides an electric bike that he converted himself. And, since completing it in April, he has already covered 4,000km.

Keen cyclist Joseph, 39, decided to create his own bike after being disappointed with the electric cycles available in stores. He explained: "Mine is a regular BMX bike but I've made it much more powerful than store bikes. In addition electrical BMXs just don’t exist on the market. Quality factory e-bikes can cost $2,500 to $3,000 but converting mine has only cost $1,200. I added a battery, controller, throttle and a device that shows me the amps, volts and all relevant road data. It's front-wheel-drive by virtue of its front motor wheel and energy efficient, but I had to make sure that the rear custom-made mount was strong enough for the battery, which weig
hs 15 to 20 pounds. I also had to pay attention to the wiring."

Converting the bike, pictured right, last winter took 30 hours and Joseph, who lives in Gatineau, said the project has proved much more successful than he expected. "I complete a 26km round-trip to work every day and I've never been stuck in traffic. I don't need insurance or parking, just a bike lock, and there are zero emissions. I don't have to dress up for the bike, or shower or change when I get to work. It takes me 20 minutes from home and when I arrive I am fully functional."

The bike, which is limited by legislation to a speed of 32km per hour, can cover 50km on a full six to seven-hour charge, although Joseph has the option of pedaling whenever he wants. The father of two, who wears a full-face helmet when he rides, added: "I do get quite a stare from drivers and bystanders, but I think of this as a revolution in commuting. Going to work is a pleasure; I'm out in the air, riding by the river. Getting fewer cars on the road is a good objective, and I recommend that everybody gets an electric bike. They're great for commuting - but not as good for exercise! I do have to take the bus from December to March, though. There are studded tires available for use in winter but my wife wouldn't allow it."

Joseph has advice for anybody considering developing their own electric cycle. Practically any regular bike is suitable - he chose a 20in-wheel model as a reduced diameter results in more torque and he enjoys the low-riding feeling - but a basic knowledge of electricity is important when it comes to choosing the right battery, motor and controller. Such bikes can also require slightly more maintenance than regular cycles, given the presence of electrical components. In addition one must be somewhat of a mechanic in order to build and maintain a reliable and quality finished product.

There are numerous websites for potential electric cyclists: visit or for more details.

360 Albert Street, Suite 1740, Ottawa, ON K1R 7X7
Tel.: 613.236.8196 Fax: 613.233.4552