Innovator of the Week: TuffHill eBikes Created a Made-For-Calgary E-Bike

Co-founder Sean Tuff created pedal-assist e-bikes built for Calgary’s weather, and advocates for better bike infrastructure in the city.

Sean Tuff (left) working with a customer. Photo by Adam + Alexandra Photography, courtesy of TuffHill eBikes.

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Ever thought you’d like to bike around Calgary, but the long distances, unpredictable weather or other factors held you back? You’re not alone, and that’s exactly why Sean Tuff co-founded TuffHill eBikes with his wife Steph Tuff, Brian Hill and Alexandra Contreras.

TuffHill eBikes started as a way to make cycling more accessible for Sean’s family. “Me and my wife started by riding bikes with our kids. We would tow them behind us, but whenever we would hit a hill, it was brutal. My kids would be chirping me about not going fast enough,” says Sean.

So, they got e-bikes. “We started riding bikes all the time, and it opened the city up to us in a way that we never had with a car,” says Sean. “We kept thinking there’s some things we don’t love — most bikes are not designed for the kind of winters we have here in Calgary.”

This led Sean to create made-for-Calgary e-bikes, which are designed, assembled and finished in the city. TuffHill bikes have thousands of hours of engineering behind them to make them right for the city’s climate, and include features like slip- and rust-proof carbon fibre belts instead of chains, fully-enclosed gear systems, pedal-assist motors and batteries that can last more than 150 kilometres on a single charge. The bikes are modeled after higher sitting Dutch-style bicycles, relieving pressure on the back compared to North American bikes built for performance.

(L to R) Sean Tuff, Steph Tuff, Alexandra Contreras and Brian Hill. Photo by Adam + Alexandra Photography, courtesy of TuffHill eBikes.

Ultimately, TuffHill bikes are about reducing some of the barriers that may be holding people back from cycling. Sean feels strongly about the physical and societal benefits that come with more people riding bikes. He teaches a University of Calgary class on physical literacy — why someone may be more or less inclined to participate in physical activity — and that mindset is a big piece of TuffHill’s philosophy. Sean also advocates for better bike infrastructure in Calgary, taking city councilors and decision makers on test rides to show them how easy it can be and why better infrastructure is needed.

Ultimately, Sean’s goal is to get more people enjoying bikes. “People that are more active and more connected to their community are more happy — and when people take their time and bike more, they feel more connected to the community. So if we build a bike that is comfortable, enjoyable to ride and practical, then people will ride.”

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