Bernie M. knows a lot about machinery. In fact, he spent decades as a helicopter mechanic before retiring and then becoming a part-time electric bike mechanic with Pedego Victoria. He’s a delight to speak to and so we caught up with him to ask him some questions about helicopters, electric bikes and the future of the industry. He was happy to chat with us but didn’t want a photo of him used so to see what he looks like, you’ll have to drop in at the Pedego Victoria store at 2039 Oak Bay Ave.
Hi Bernie, thanks so much for speaking with us. How did you get into aircraft mechanics?
I grew up in Victoria and went to the University of Victoria but by second year I was bored. One day I watched an airplane going by and thought, “I wonder if there’s anything for me in that direction.” So I looked into Aviation school and enrolled. That was 1975. We were a bunch of hippies back then (laughs). It was a year-long course and it was jammed packed: we covered everything from hydraulics, engines, welding, electronics. Basically every system on an airplane we covered in a year. I think that same course is spread over three years now with an apprenticeship.
How long were you involved in that industry?
Until about 2012. I was in helicopters for 99 percent of the time. I went to the East Coast for awhile and mucked around in the arctic. Since 1986 I was with Alpine Helicopters out of Kelowna, which does the CMH heli contracts and then in the summer it was firefighting stuff.
When did you make the jump to the electric bike industry?
I’m on the email list for Pedego Victoria and saw their notice looking for a part-time mechanic. I’m retired but thought that would be a fun thing to do to keep me busy.
“I was looking for an electric bike with everything on it and when I walked into the Pedego Victoria shop and met Charles I thought “Bingo! These are exactly the type of bikes I’ve been looking for.”
Did you ride an ebike before you started at Pedego Victoria?
My wife and I bought Pedego electric bikes about two and a half years ago. I’d been on the search for a long time and nothing really impressed me. I was looking for an electric bike with everything on it and when I walked into the Pedego Victoria shop and met Charles I thought “Bingo! These are exactly the type of electric bikes I’ve been looking for.”
What are the similarities between helicopter and ebike maintenance?
(Laughs.) Nothing! If your electric bike breaks, you can walk it home. But you don’t have to worry about that with Pedego bikes because they have top-end components. You have to be nuts about the hardware, like me, to fully appreciate how great they are.
What’s your favourite part about working at Pedego Victoria?
When a potential customer comes back from a test ride, they are grinning ear-to-ear. There are very few jobs that allow you to see that regularly. You can sell someone a new car but they’ll never have that big of a grin on their face. It’s so great to watch them take part in something that really excites them. Many can see themselves doing things with a bike that they never thought they’d be able to do again. ‘Cause, you know, some of us aren’t 20 anymore.
How do you think electric bikes are going to change?
Anything that can happen to make the overall weight of a bike go down will be great. And extend its range. Battery technology is improving so fast! As for the local electric bike scene, many of the roads here in Victoria are getting bikes lanes, which makes the experience riding an electric bike that much more enjoyable.