RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA (BRAIN) — They came, they rode, they smiled.
“This is sooooo much fun,” enthused a writer for O, the Oprah magazine, as she returned from a spin on a new Electra electric bike.
A handful of mainstream media representatives, from publications including Men’s Journal and Us Weekly, joined online journalists to experience firsthand America’s emerging e-bike market at yesterday’s Electric Bike Media Event, sponsored by Interbike.
The event was a departure for Interbike because it was not a traditional trade show. Instead, organizers focused on attracting media from outside of the industry to ride e-bikes and spread the word to people who aren’t typical cycling enthusiasts.
“The true definition of success will be in the months following the event, when we will be able to see some coverage,” said Justin Gottlieb, Interbike’s communications and PR manager, noting the long lead times that many print publications work under.
Interbike chose for its location the swank Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes, which sits on a peninsula south of Los Angeles that overlooks the Pacific. Show officials said they wanted to give e-bikes a boost, as the category looks to break out in the United States as it has in Europe.
“It’s an emerging category. We would like to be in the front end of the curve of the wave rather than on the end of the wave,” said Pat Hus, managing director of Interbike. “I would say there’s a 90 to 95 percent chance that we would do this again,” Hus added.
Retailers were also invited for an afternoon. Gottlieb said about 80 retailers — a surprisingly high number — had preregistered to attend the afternoon session, although the number who actually came appeared to be somewhat less. Media and exhibitors accounted for another 60 participants.
Sponsors hosted what was essentially a small-scale Demo Day for e-bikes. On one end of the spectrum was a modified Santa Cruz V10 carbon downhill bike, fitted with a punchy Austrian electric motor. Bjorn Enga, the CEO of Kranked Kustoms, which marries the motor to the bike, says the custom job retails for as much as $14,400.
On the other end was Electra’s first e-bike, which tries as hard as possible to pretend it isn’t an e-bike. It has no flashy display and no gears to shift. Instead of a nest of cables is a single cord from the rear hub motor, designed by SRAM.
“You walk up, you press a button, it goes, ‘beep, I’m on,’ and that’s it,” said Skip Hess, Electra’s CEO.
Other sponsors included Currie, Easy Motion, Pedego, Pete’s Electric Bikes, Prodeco, Serfas, SRAM and Solex.
Attendees also got a history lesson from Bill Moore, publisher of EVWorld.com, who has been following the evolution of electric vehicles for more than 15 years.
Moore said the first automobiles in the late 1800s were essentially electric bicycles. Even Henry Ford’s original “quadricycle” was made from repurposed bicycle parts.
Bruno Maier, senior vice president of Bikes Belong, said e-bikes could be an essential ingredient in helping the advocacy organization achieve its goal of putting more people on bikes more often.
E-bikes make it easy for potential cyclists who are leery of getting on a bike because they are overweight, or live in a place with hills, or don’t want to arrive sweaty at the office.
“With the e-bike, you’ve removed basically any other obstacle,” he said. “The e-bike can help us grow.”