Seven years ago Abbotsford's Michael DeVisser had a really cool idea to help people - and the planet. He invented a high-end pedal assisted electric bicycle, called an e-bike, and he'll be pitching his product to Canada's famous monsters of business on CBC's Dragons' Den Jan. 20.
"It was definitely worth it," said DeViss-er from his Abbotsford shop on Tuesday.
"The whole process of going in front of a group of investors was a good experience. I was prepared for the worst and they were pretty nice to me."
DeVisser started his company, OHM Cycles, with his dad, Case, in Abbotsford in 2005.
The idea came from his childhood when he tried to cycle up the steep hills to his home in North Vancouver after school.
DeVisser thought there had to be a better way - and there was.
As an adult teaching in Beijing, he tried a pedal assisted electric bike and seven years ago started OHM Cycles to bring a higher quality of electric bike to the North American market.
"Our bikes are designed to help riders commute long distances without breaking a sweat," he said.
And they're great for seniors who can continue to enjoy cycling well into their 80s and 90s.
"We've had customers tell us they literally felt like a superhero the first time they rode one of our bikes," says DeVisser.
"An 81-year-old Vancouver man uses his OHM to ride six to eight hours a day, while a Washington woman planning a group cycling trip across B.C. was able to take a friend along by lending her friend her OHM."
OHM Cycles was awarded the British Columbia Creative Achievement Award in 2009 for its custom battery enclosure. Since then, with many environmentally conscious folks wanting to get out of their cars, the market for electric bikes has exploded worldwide.
"Right now is the right time to expand and we were looking for extra funding to speed up our expansion," said DeVisser, who sold about 200 bikes in 2012 in North America, and wants to grow that to 2,000 bikes here and in Europe in five years.
So it was decided to pitch OHM Cycles to Dragons' Den last May in Toronto, and the Dragons quickly saw the benefits after taking one for a test ride.
First to try was Bruce Croxon, an avid cyclist whose pre-ride reaction was typical: "I'm a real cyclist - that's an electric bike, so I can't get any exercise on that."
DeVisser responded by explaining how OHM bikes are pedal assisted rather than completely motorized, so that riders always get exercise from pedaling, but can use the bike's four levels of assistance to choose how easy or strenuous they want to make each ride.
The Dragons liked the look of the bike and OHM's idea for expansion, commenting they were not very familiar with this type of bike but liked how it reduced commuting time and helped weaker riders keep pace with stronger ones.
Although DeVisser was mum on the outcome of the show, he did say, "It was one of the best experiences of my life. I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to present on Dragons' Den."
A lot of people go there as a last resort he said.
"We are already established and have steady sales. We wanted the exposure, to be broadcast nationwide."
Dragons' Den has approximately 1.5 million viewers and is the top rated non-scripted reality TV show in Canada. You can catch DeVisser and his e-bike on Dragons' Den on CBC, Sunday, Jan. 20 at 8 p.m.
? OHM Cycles was named after a German physicist. DeVisser said they wanted a name that was both catchy and related to electricity. The company makes two models of e-bikes: a commuter bike for city roads (retail $3,299) and an all-terrain bike for rugged terrain and trail riding (retail $4,299). The bike and battery together weigh about 50 lbs and the 12 lb battery takes four hours to charge. OHM e-bikes are sold locally at Cranky's Bike Shop in Aldergrove.
For more, visit the website at www. ohmcycles.com.