Industry Execs Roundtable

eBike executives from around the globe discuss amongst other things why the time is now for eBikes in the United States.

Why do you think the time is now for eBikes in the United States?

EL: We see that there is more and more interest in electric bikes across all price points and value propositions. People are traveling more and may have visited Europe and seen and experienced electric bikes and the advantages that they offer. It is an easy, fun and healthy alternative to other modes of transport. It’s even more than that! We see sales are taking off in certain pockets in North America where there is good bicycling infrastructure and the culture to support it.

KC:I think we’re finally past the early adopter phase and quickly moving into the early majority. More people are coming around to the idea of eBikes...they’re hearing more about them, reading more about them, talking more about them, and finally, they are test riding them. And once someone test rides an eBike...well, they’re hooked.

LP: Today’s pedal-assist drive systems by Bosch turn the current generation of eBikes into a real game-changing experience. Bicycling can be a life changing activity for so many people and what I love most about today’s eBikes is the simple fact that they make bicycling more accessible for those that are not already riding. They can level the playing field to bring family and friends together so that everyone, regardless of ability or fitness level, can experience the joy of bicycling.

SW: Sustainability, environmental protection and a responsible lifestyle are becoming more and more important to people in the United States. Mobility and bicycle mobility are changing – especially in urban areas.

Some bicycle dealers are still reluctant or apprehensive to carry eBikes. Why do you think that is? And do you think these dealers will eventually come around?

EL: Retailers and people on the shop floor need to embrace the electric bike segment as a transportation alternative to the car instead of a threat to the bicycle. The latter part is super important in order to become successful. Will you jump on your electric bike to bike to work as a mechanic? Do you believe in the product? Only then will the shop do well in selling the product. Electric bikes are a great way of getting around in the city. I use one for my trips to get coffee, get small groceries and bike to work. I still use my MTB for recreational rides. I use my electric bike because it's a better and more fun alternative over my car. Long answer short: I think electric bikes will take off once retailers and their personnel embrace them as a viable transportation alternative and start bringing that message across to their customers.

KC: Many years ago when eBikes first started to surface in the U.S., the systems weren’t great and the tech support was minimal. Dealers got burned in the process. Today, that is no longer the case and many retailers have already started coming around to eBikes again. Those who decide to embrace eBikes will stick around in years to come. Those who refuse may miss out on an opportunity to do more business with more customers.

LP: I think many North American bicycle dealers still see eBikes as counter intuitive to bicycling. In the U.S. and Canada, throttle actuated bikes are legal and they have a difficult time with the idea of a bicycle that you don’t pedal. Also, the legal and legislative climate around eBikes is challenging in some states. As they experience the latest pedal-assist bikes and the BPSA / People For Bikes, three-class legislation gets further adopted (now law in seven US States) clarifying where an eBike rider can legally ride, I believe they will begin to further embrace the category, experience success and become the most successful channel for sales and service of eBikes.

Our projections are that the U.S. eBike market is roughly a decade behind Europe in terms of sales and overall size of the market. Would you say that’s a fairly accurate assessment?

KC: Yes, and that’s good news for the U.S.! Although the European bicycle culture is different from that of the U.S., the eBike provides us a great platform to help more people get back on two wheels. From Baby-Boomers to Gen X to Millennials, eBikes offer a fun, unique and elevated riding experience.

LP: That is probably right. eBikes went mainstream first in The Netherlands in 2004, on the back of our Sparta brand, and is still growing today. Germany is now the largest market and it grew very quickly as our Haibike brand innovated into ePerformance. I expect that in the U.S. and Canada, once we get to 15% of market, we will begin to see exponential growth.

How will your company/brand play an integral role in getting us to where Europe is currently?

EL: Gazelle's marketing efforts are centered around getting people on electric bikes and experience them, either through demo events or favorable demo terms towards our retailers. Additionally, most of our marketing resources go into driving more people into our retailers through digital marketing and we support advocacy groups to lobby for improved infrastructure. Next to that, we have a program called "Gazelle Stories" where people can sign up in the major North America cities to try out one of our bikes for a month. All we ask in return is a story... how they liked it and share their experience with us and all the potential other new Gazelle users. In the end, we want all people to enjoy the ride and start Gazelling!

KC: Electra will keep doing what we’ve always done, create awesome, beautiful, easy-to-ride bikes that customers love. Our patented Flat Foot Technology creates a comfortable, ergonomic riding position. When you combine that with the Bosch systems, you give customers a truly awesome ride that inspires confidence and delivers record-breaking smiles per miles.

LP: We will continue in our leadership role to advance State vehicle code regulations while working with land management agencies to accommodate appropriate places to ride Class-1, pedal assist eBikes on State and Federal lands. Most importantly, we will continue to deliver great value from our brands (Raleigh, Haibike and IZIP) while providing the highest quality, innovative products to meet the needs and wants of consumer entering the market today.

SW: Together with our dealers, we will increase people’s awareness of eBikes. Communication wise we strongly work on generally improve the image of eBikes and to convince people. In terms of visibility, the Riese & Müller design makes a difference on the streets and thus the brand helps to create impact. Riese & Müller will continue with its premium strategy in order to offer the best quality bikes to American customers with a focus on commuter and cargo bikes.