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Second Electric Bike Expo draws crowds

Published March 1, 2016

SAN DIEGO (BRAIN) — With sunny blue skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s over the weekend, organizers of the Electric Bike Expo couldn’t have asked for better weather. Or better consumer turnout.

The second outside e-bike consumer demo, held a parking lot at San Diego’s Liberty Station — a former Naval training center turned mixed-used development center with shopping, housing, parks and offices  — attracted large crowds, particularly on Saturday.

“It was crazy yesterday [Saturday],” said Michael Kimmitt, owner of North County Family Bicycles in nearby Carlsbad. Kimmitt came down to work at Xtracycle’s booth, and to direct consumers interested in buying an electric-assist Xtracycle to his shop. “I’m the only Xtracycle dealer in the county. There was a lot of ‘I’ll see you tomorrow or next week,’” Kimmitt said about consumers stopping by at the booth.

“There was a queue to demo bikes until after lunch,” said Van Nguyen, president of Tempo Bicycles, another e-bike exhibitor, about Saturday’s attendance. “People here in San Diego are active and health conscious so they’re interested. Having an e-bike expo here brings awareness for the whole community.”

The turnout was such that some exhibitors noted that the demo track was intimidating because it was so crowded with e-bike testers — especially with riders of various riding abilities and experience levels. Some haven’t ridden a bike in a long time while others had a deep knowledge of e-bikes and came out to compare models.

“I had a guy come down from Santa Barbara and he knew everything about Bosch, Yamaha and other systems,” said Jonathan Weinert of Bosch. “He said, ‘I am down here to make my final selection.’ People are here to buy.”

Exhibiting companies included A2B, BESV, Bosch, Bulls, Easy Motion, Felt, Focus, Haibike, Gazelle, Izip, Kalkhoff, Polaris, Raleigh, Stromer, Tempo, Trek, Xtracycle and Yuba. The variety of brands available gave consumers the unique opportunity to compare them side-by-side, said Pete Prebus, chief marketing officer for ExtraEnergy Services North America, the group behind the event.

Prebus said 18 e-bike brands exhibited, bringing 125 different models for consumers to test, from mountain to cargo to hybrid to road. Five dealers also exhibited with their own booths — El Camino Bike Shop, Bicycle Warehouse, Moment Bicycles, San Diego Fly Rides and Pedego Temecula Valley — bringing the brand count up to 20.

Trek’s David Studner, assistant product manager for pavement bikes, said the San Diego market has a strong network of both e-bike specific and traditional bike shops that carry e-bikes that can support the event, which helps.

“Two big questions we heard in Tempe (where the first consumer e-bike expo was held in January) were, ‘Where do I buy them?’ and ‘How do I carry them?’ So that’s why we have dealers here working the booth. Many of the consumers in this market are already familiar with e-bikes, own bikes and are thinking of a second e-bike,” he said.

It’s also a strong bike tourism and vacation area, and local dealers and bike touring companies, like San Diego Fly Rides, have fleets of bikes they use for guided city tours.

San Diego Fly Rides, a five-year-old shop, had a small presence to promote its e-bike tours and also to show some models that it sells. “We’re here to sell bikes. We’re making room for 2016 models,” said Chad, a mechanic and tour guide. The store was offering a free BodyFloat suspension seatpost, valued at $249, to consumers who purchased a new e-bike by March 31. 

And a number of e-bike brands offered incentives such as $100- or $200-off coupons for in-store purchases. 

Prebus said similar to the first e-bike expo in Tempe, Arizona, about 1,200 consumers pre-registered to attend. “But I think the final attendance number will be much higher,” Prebus said on Sunday. Final numbers were not available Sunday afternoon. “We talked to local media ahead of the event, so I think a lot of people found out and decided to come out last minute.”

Organizers publicized the event through ads on local TV stations, newspapers and websites as well as through social media. And local TV affiliates for ABC and Fox came out to film segments while the event was going on, Prebus said.

“We’re trying to reach mainstream media to come here and ride. It’s so critical to understand how the electric assist works,” he added. “And working with local dealers is really important. Dealers have a lower rate to exhibit. They get a preferred rate and we ask them to help with local marketing. I’ll send them pictures and video to use on their websites and provide releases they can distribute to local media beforehand.”

While most of the attendance was local, there were a few people who flew out from as far as New Hampshire and Ohio, an attendee who drove out from Missouri, and a woman who came from Albany, New York. San Diego is a popular vacation destination so the demo was able to draw in out-of-towners on holiday, Prebus said.

The next e-bike expo takes place March 11-13 at the Rice University Stadium in Houston.

“We’re excited to see what Houston brings,” said Trek’s Studner. “It’s a less entrenched e-bike market but a very affluent market with lots of neighborhoods with connected trail systems.”

Prebus said organizers are hoping to incorporate more parts and accessories companies into future e-bike expos including car racks, bags, panniers, helmets, lights, saddles and tires. “P&A exhibitors may not have to commit to all six events,” like e-bike brands do, he added.

 

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