KITCHENER -- E-bikes are gaining popularity as commuters shift gears to the two-wheeled alternative for cyclists.

Karen Hartwick switched to an e-bike five years ago, after 30 years using a traditional bike.

"It gave me lots of confidence," she said.

Hartwick made the shift after she was diagnosed with a thyroid condition that left her feeling tired. Instead of leaving bicycling behind, she decided to buy an e-bike.

"If I were getting really exhausted and tired and fatigued because of the thyroid, I could just power up and the bike would do the work up the hardcore hills and stuff," she said.

E-bikes have a battery-powered assist that's activated through pedalling. The motion engages a small motor, giving cyclists a boost.

Ryan McDonough, manger of McPhail's Cycle and Sport, said he's seen e-bikes gain popularity over the years.

"This summer, we'll sell twice as many as last year," he said.

McDonough said there are plenty of options for e-bikes, from high-end racing models to mountain bikes and comfort bikes.

"The ability to go further, faster and sometimes explore different regions that you mainly wouldn't be able to do in the past on the traditional bike," he said. "Commuters too, the ability to get to work without breaking a sweat in a lot of cases."


McDonough said the e-bikes can get up to 32 kilometres an hour with only light pedalling.

The Ministry of Transportation's website said e-bikes are allowed to weigh up to 120 kilograms. Bicyclists and passengers need to be over the age of 16 and wearing an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet.

Wheels must have a minimum width of 35 millimetres and a minimum diameter of 350 millimetres.

They can't be modified to go any faster than 32 kilometres per hour.

Riders can't remove the pedals from their bikes. Passengers are allowed on e-bikes, as long as the bike is designed to carry more than one person.

Anyone who has lost their driver's licence due to criminal code violation isn't allowed to operate an e-bike. Anyone riding an e-bike while impaired could face criminal code charges, but not under the highway safety act because it's not considered a vehicle.

Municipalities are allowed to prohibit e-bikes from certain roads, paths, trails and other property.