This article first appeared in the April issue of the Ashland Locals Guide
Shopping For Your Electric Bike
by Jerry Solomon
So, you’ve been seeing more and more people of all ages and sizes riding around town with seemingly superhuman strength and you wonder just what it is that’s going on right before your eyes? You discover that they’re all riding electric bikes (e-bikes) and they have only the highest praise for their new form of transportation. Now that the mystery is solved the decision is made; you’re ready to buy an e-bike of your own. This is a relatively new product (or so you think) and you want to make the right choice. So, where do you go from here? Who is best equipped to help you with this new, fairly pricey purchase?
Your best choice is a dealer that’s been around for a handful of years or more. These folks got in during the infancy of the industry here in the U.S. and for the most part were driven more by a passion for e-bikes than by a desire for profit. We recognized the positive impact e-bikes could have on our world and we wanted to be a part of the evolution. Now that the e-bike movement is gaining momentum more folks are seeing the potential for profit and they’re jumping into the game. Some will learn and survive; many will fall away. The older established shops have endured the test of time and have gained invaluable knowledge along the way. We’ve seen bike companies come and go, we’ve watched the technology evolve, and we see which brands come in for repairs more than others.
For the most part, the successful shops are those that have focused exclusively on electric bikes. They offer on average three to five different brands in order to cover a wider range of choices for the customer. (I have eight different brands represented in my shop.) There are so many different styles of e-bikes with different intended uses that its impossible for any one company to cover them all. Also, e-bike riders have different needs and desires than standard bike riders and its the rare shop that can effectively provide the best of both worlds. A good measure is to see what the shop owner rides to work him-or-herself on a daily basis. If they’re astride an e-bike its a good bet that they have a solid handle on the market.
The polarity of established companies vs. new entries applies to the bike manufacturers themselves as well. Nonetheless, there are older firms that still haven’t settled into a winning formula, and there are new startups offering high value right from the beginning. They’ve been nurturing their products along behind the scenes and, again, its the established shops that have tracked them through that process. As an example, one bike in my shop just hit the market last season. However, I watched as it was developed, fabricated, tested, tweaked, and thoroughly vetted for over three years before it reached my showroom floor. I offer it with full confidence as a result. With so many bikes to choose from its best to align with a knowledgeable advocate, however that works for you.
If you’ve decided that its time to join the ranks of satisfied e-bike riders I applaud you. You’re about to make a choice that benefits yourself, others around you, and the environment as a whole in an ever widening ripple effect. Make your way to the shop and the folks who can best support you in the adventure. Shop smart, have fun, be safe!