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Electric Bike Expo organizers hope to draw 1,500 consumers to inaugural Phoenix event

Published January 8, 2016

TEMPE, Ariz. (BRAIN) — Organizers of the Electric Bike Expo, which debuts Jan. 15-17 in the Phoenix metro area, are betting that offering free test rides on a large scale can entice thousands of Americans to try e-bikes.

It's a bet many in the e-bike industry are eager to take: Most major e-bike brands and system suppliers have signed on as exhibitors for the first six Expos, scheduled for major Western cities over the next six months.

Attendance at all Expos is free. Hours for next week's Phoenix event are 3 to 8 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. It takes place at the Tempe Diablo Stadium, better known as the spring training home of the Los Angeles Angels.

"It's going to be a very interesting year for electric bikes. I think it's going to be a very good one," said Pete Prebus, one of the Expo organizers.

Prebus said this year could be a turning point for the U.S. e-bike market.

"2016 seems to be a year where we're seeing a significant amount of traditional and very well-established companies bringing these products to market," he said, citing new models from such leading brands as Trek, Specialized and Raleigh.

The Expo will feature more than 80 models from 18 e-bike brands, along with drive systems from Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano and others.

Prebus and others joined forces last year to create ExtraEnergy Services North America, an offshoot of the pioneering German organization that has been testing and advocating for e-bikes since 1993.

Prebus, the publisher of Electric Bike Report, an online consumer publication for e-bike news, is chief marketing officer of ExtraEnergy. Other partners in the American venture are Ray Verhelst, CEO; Bill Sell, chief sales officer; ExtraEnergy founder Hannes Neupert, vice president; and Sascha Nachtnebel, chief technology officer.

E-bike brand managers believe that consumer demos are a crucial part of the sales process because e-bikes are still a novelty in the U.S. The Expo is the first attempt to organize large consumer demos featuring multiple brands.

"The best way for people to truly understand what an electric bike is all about is to provide them with the ride experience," Verhelst said.

Prebus said consumers aren't the only ones who can gain from test rides. Bicycle retailers, who are often skeptical of e-bikes, can benefit as well.

One reason the Expo is debuting in Phoenix is so it can dovetail with the IBD Summit, Jan. 12-14. The Expo site is a short walk from the hotel where the IBD Summit is taking place.

E-bikes will be on hand at the final IBD Summit dinner Thursday night so retailers can try them out. Expo organizers are encouraging retailers to stay an extra day or two after the Summit so they can attend the Expo and gauge consumer response.

"We invite as many dealers to come to this and experience e-bikes. It may change some minds," Prebus said.

Prebus said organizers are shooting for attendance of at least 1,500 over the Expo's 2½- day run. Nearly 700 consumers have already pre-registered.

The Expo is airing a 30-second ad (below) on several Phoenix cable television channels including CNN, ESPN, FOX, FX, AMC and the Golf Channel, Prebus said. Many have run in prime time.

The organization has partnered with the Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly newspaper, on a print and online marketing campaign. It's also running an advertising campaign on Facebook that targets cycling enthusiasts and other consumers in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.

Each Expo will serve as a laboratory for consumer research on e-bike attitudes.

Organizers will conduct informal surveys of attendees as they leave the grounds. Meanwhile, an RFID system will track bikes as they taken out for test rides, providing other useful information to exhibitors.

"Each bike will be tagged, so every time they go around the track, there will be specific spots that register what (consumers) are riding. We should have it in detail down to how many laps specific bikes are being ridden," Prebus said. "We'll start to see some trends as far as what people are gravitating towards as far as types and styles of bikes."

After Phoenix, the Electric Bike Expo heads to San Diego, Feb. 26-28; Houston, March 11-13; Palo Alto, Calif., April 22-24; Portland, Ore., May 20-22; and Denver in June.

Organizers expect to announce East Coast dates soon.

See the upcoming Feb. 1 issue of Bicycle Retailer for a special report on the U.S. e-bike market, including coverage of the Electric Bike Expo.

 

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