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'The pleasure factor has gone up': Newmarket seniors embracing electric bike trend

'I see excitement, I see happiness, I see fitness, and I see a total change in lifestyle,' says BikeSports owner Tom Zielinski

A new trend is spinning through Newmarket that makes exercise safer and more accessible than ever.

For seniors and those looking to enhance their cycling abilities, it may even be a game-changer. 

Electric bikes are the latest craze to hit Newmarket’s exercise scene, with sales reporting a sharp increase over the past several years. Built with an integrated electric motor, the bikes provide battery-powered propulsion where needed, increasing the distance, difficulty of terrain, and steepness of slopes that the average biker is able to traverse. 

With different levels of assists and the ability to disable the motor, electric bikes run the gamut of intensity.

BikeSports owner Tom Zielinski has witnessed the electric bike craze firsthand. With sales spiking in the recent months, he’s had difficulty keeping inventory in stock at his Newmarket Main Street store.

The largest demographic purchasing electric bikes, he said, are retired seniors and professionals aged 30 to 50 seeking an easier way around town and to and from work.

Zielinksi has a hunch he’ll only see the age range and amount of electric bike users grow.

“Yesterday, a lady walked in the store and said, ‘I have (cycled) 2,100 kilometers this summer.’ Wow. She’s around 70,” said Zielinski. “I see excitement, I see happiness, I see fitness, and I see a total change in lifestyle.”

Newmarket’s Peter Rowlands is one of BikeSports’ pleased customers. Though he wouldn’t call himself a serious cyclist, he has been biking his whole life. Purchasing an electric bike wasn’t something the senior initially had in mind, but encouragement from Zielinksi and great testimonials from friends prompted him to give it a try.

“I was a bit of a purist,” said Rowlands. “However, once I tried one out, I soon realized that they’re the next best thing to sliced bread — just as Tom told me.”

Rowlands’ partner, Susan, unable to manually cycle due to sore legs, soon purchased an electric bike of her own. It was her first time cycling in decades. Together, the two of them enjoy biking along local rail trails and scenic paths. This year, Rowlands has logged an impressive 4,000 kilometers.

“Every day it’s sunny, I’m on it,” said Rowlands. “I wouldn’t say I’m cycling more than I used to, but the pleasure factor has gone up. To do an 80-kilometer cycle isn’t outside the envelope for me, but to cycle the first half manually, and the way home electric, is exceedingly pleasurable.” 

Zielinski is well aware of the benefits electric bikes can bring to seniors. Yet despite their current popularity, he admitted they can often still be a hard sell. There’s a stigma that electric bikes are “lazy”, he said — but it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“Believe it or not, some people don’t like when I suggest electric bikes. They walk away from the store, get mad. But I say to them: now that you’re here, you have nothing to lose, take the bike out, and if you don’t like it, I’ll prepare a regular bike for you. They take it out, and they come back panting,” said Zielinski.

BikeSports has sold 12 electric bicycles to seniors alone in September. Business, Zielinski said, is good.

The cost of electric bikes range from $2,499 to $9,199.

“With an electric bike, you can ride anytime, anywhere. Hills disappear completely. You can have exercise, fresh air, all the benefits of biking — with a little bit of help.”