COSAR volunteers and the new e-bike team. Photo: Contributed

Central Okanagan Search & Rescue form unique e-bike team

COSAR equipped with seven mountain bikes with electric motor assist

The oldest search and rescue group in B.C. is now the first in Canada equipped with an e-bike team.

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue has officially taken possession of seven Giant Full-E+ SX Pro bikes from Cyclepath Kelowna.

The bike riders will be used for urban searches and backcountry initial-response calls.

“COSAR has previously used members’ personal mountain bikes in search operations, primarily for urban searches,” said COSAR e-bike team coordinator Brian Stainsby.

“A year ago, we began exploring equipping our team with e-bikes—mountain bikes with an electric motor assist. We can get to an injured subject faster and render aid quicker.

“For initial search activities, we can search a far larger area with e-bikes than on foot and more effectively than with our ATVs. We have been evaluating e-bikes for over a year now and they have proven to be a huge benefit for search and rescue operations.”

E-bikes owned by COSAR members have already been used in four search and rescue operations.

“We had an injured mountain biker on Smith Creek last fall. The trail was inaccessible to ATVs, but two of our members on e-bikes were able to get to the subject and stabilize her while we waited for the B.C. Air Rescue helicopter,” said Stainsby.

This spring, e-bikes were used in the five-day search for a missing senior in West Kelowna.

“They helped us cover a lot of ground, and because they are quieter than a quad or a motorcycle, they allowed us to use sound search techniques. This is really beneficial at night,” said e-bike team search leader Karen Gretzinger.

The SX Pro e-bikes have a 500-watt pedal-assist motor that aids in climbing, and the full suspension mountain bikes will be able to handle most hiking and biking trails in the Okanagan.

Funding for the bikes, which retail for $5,500, came primarily from a British Columbia Search & Rescue Association grant and from COSAR fundraising events.

“We’d like to thank Cyclepath Kelowna and Giant Bicycles Canada for helping us with the cost,” added Stainsby. “Without their support, we would not have been able to field a full team.”

Cyclepath Kelowna owner Garry Norkum said he was happy to help. “After months of evaluation, Cyclepath is pleased to have been chosen to provide COSAR with their e-bikes. It’s been a great team effort and we look forward to supporting their ‘team.’”

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