Riding a bike is fun. No matter the rider’s age, the place where they live, or the time of year, there is something about mounting a bike and pedaling down the street with the wind on your back that makes you feel alive. Call it social media burnout or semi-post-pandemic transformation, now more than ever, people are tuning in to the outdoors looking to reach out and try new things. And in this recognition that something new isn’t as terrible as feared, they’re rediscovering the joy of riding a bike. But, not just any bike. An E-bike.
It happened to Jen Cohen Bogan, a San Francisco fashion and beauty marketer. She, like most Americans in 2020, had to adjust her work, home, and social life in response to Coronavirus spread. It was then that she tried riding an E-bike for the first time. “I saw myself riding a bike up a hill like it was nothing,” says Bogan, who remembers that “Aha!” moment as she passed other E-bike riders on the road with the same smile on their faces.
As a woman who likes pretty things, she was not initially drawn to E-bikes because they were very industrial or manly looking. But then, she started thinking about all the incredible uses for this E-bike and began looking around for one that she would want to ride. She couldn’t find one!
Suddenly, a light bulb clicked off in her head. She began to think about how she could create a very classic look, without trying to create a motorcycle or something that is not. She couldn’t believe that no one was doing that. And she thought, “Maybe I’m the person to do it.” She felt really strongly that this new E-bike creation needed to be a product that was brought to a wider audience, like women and younger families—not anticipating that teenagers would be a major demographic to adapt to this new social movement.
That’s the wit of a true marketer—not just creating something new—but looking at what’s missing in the market and creating it. This E-bike, Bogan continued her plan, had to be something that would break through the clutter—something she was compelled to do. “For me, it’s not exciting to bring into the market another version of an existing product and try to explain why this is better. This is about bringing something entirely new to new people. Finding something like an E-bike, which is something that’s a bit untapped in this country, was exciting to me and it inspired me to keep going.”
Like most bike riders, Bogan doesn’t consider herself an athlete. She exercises to try to stay active and healthy, so bike riding was never a driving force or a passion in her life. “Funny thing is, some of my friends recently invited me to try mountain biking with them. And I told them, ‘I invented the Bluejay E-bikes to go riding on the road, people!’”
The beauty of E-bikes, she explains, is that they get you from point A to point B in half the time as a regular bike. For people who don’t like looking for parking spaces, getting stuck in the endless traffic racing game, or are looking for a memorable activity to do with their family and friends, E-bikes are a great match.
The mechanics of an E-bike
Essentially, an E-bike takes a bike and adds a motor, battery pack, and controls to it. You still have all the benefits of a regular bike, only better. It’s like a peloton in a sense since you choose the resistance. If you want a more intense workout, turn it down to a lower setting. And if you prefer less, turn it up. Or, if you just want a regular bike experience, just set the speed to zero, that’s all.
While E-bikes are a fairly novel concept to a lot of people, it’s gaining a lot of interest in the Palm Beaches, and bike shops are in tune with that. Bikes Palm Beach, a local bike shop in Juno Beach, about half an hour from West Palm Beach, carries a vast collection of different types of bikes—from mountain bikes, road bikes, E-bikes, hybrid bikes, cruiser bikes, and comfort bikes. They offer bike brands including Trek, Scott, Electra, Yeti, Pinarello, Cervelo, Nier, Felt, and Eagle. “There are people who come looking for a specific E-bike, and we are starting to see that more and more,” says Charles Netzler, a salesperson for Bikes Palm Beach.
A bona fide cyclist, Netzler has avoided discussing the pros and cons of an E-bike versus the conventional bike counterpart. Essentially, he breaks it down to the basics. “An E-bike is a traditional bicycle with an added electrical component to it—an electrical motor, battery pack, and controller unit, and designed with a more robust frame,” he says. “The system can be very simple, even on the more complex bikes. But an E-bike has similar components to a regular bicycle. For that reason, most E-bikes can be serviced at a regular bike shop, like ours.”
From the assembly process, Netzler found the Bluejay Bike to be a well-made E-bike—a suitable option for someone who’s looking for a bike that provides an easy and comfortable ride. As of right now, there are road E-bikes with a lighter frame, but of course, that increases the cost of the product significantly. Most electric bikes cost $1500 and up. Essentially, most E-bikes are heavier than a traditional bike. Its weight and cumbersomeness are offset, however, by the fact that the electric motor gives it additional power and assistance.
From Trend to Social Movement
In Europe, E-bikes are a normal thing. Men, women, and children use it as a common form of transit to commute to work, school, and other activities. There are forty to fifty percent E-bikes on the market over there. Not so much in the US, where it is only five percent.
E-bikes aren’t a brand-new technology. So, why have E-bikes, basically a motorized version of its popular counterpart, taken off in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world and not in North America? Bogan explains that those countries’ infrastructures have always been different—designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind. Fewer cars, more walkability, more cycling. As opposed to the other side of the pond, where the North American market for E-bikes is perceived to be several years behind Europe.
The main reason is the “highly decentralized approach to trail access in the US,” as reported in Bicycling, a Hearts Magazine digital publication well-known in the cycling industry. “The issue is that the shift depends on which market you’re in. In the European market, for instance, you’re not considered to be a legitimate mountain bike brand unless you have an E-mountain bike. But in the US, you’re not considered to be a core brand if you do.”
That explains why many North American brands such as Pivot or Rocky Mountain’s Altitude Powerplay, its first E-mountain bike, are Europe-only products. Scott, another top bike brand, debuted its E-mountain bike version of its Spark trail bike but didn’t bring E-mountain bikes to the States until it received sufficient demand.
There is, however, another significant reason for the slow “traditional to E-bike” conversion in the US market. Regulations on E-bikes in the European Union are a bit different than in the US. For instance, the lowest level of a pedal-assist bike in the EU has a motor that cuts out at speeds above 25kph (15.5mph), while in the US an E-bike can provide power up to 32kph or 20mph. Which makes it a bit more dangerous to ride in those heavier traffic cities.
The Perfect E-Bike Rider
Just a couple of years ago, the average age of an E-bike rider in the US was 40 and up. The early companies had focused on Baby Boomers because they, supposedly, were in a place of their lives where they could possibly be retired or looking for a new low-impact activity. The thought behind it was, “If you couldn’t ride a bike for whatever reason, E-bikes presented the obvious choice.”
With her expertise, and because Bluejay is a bit different from other E-bikes that provide a more rugged experience, Bogan wanted to target a younger demographic: millennials. Most of her customers today are young millennial families as well as their parents, Baby Boomers. And surprise, surprise, teenagers.
“Maybe mom and dad do not want them [teens] to have a car, but they don’t mind buying them an E-bike to ride to school,” she says, which also aligns with the fastest-growing demographic of E-bike riders in the Netherlands and Germany.
An E-bike is one of those products that appeal to every member of the family. Bluejay Bikes is very focused on storytelling around young families. That’s the audience that they almost didn’t see, but happened to be an untapped opportunity because everybody is always looking for fun activities to do with their kids.
Bogan says that she spent a career marketing to this audience and felt that what E-bikes needed was something that inspired and created the lifestyle that people wanted to live. Like a woman who always dreamed of having a cruiser bike with a wide, comfortable seat and a flower in her basket where she could place a loaf of bread and a plant from the local farmers’ market. To create that aspirational lifestyle for storytelling and using some of those best practices that she learned from her beauty and fashion career, and trying them on this industry that wasn’t thinking of using them, was “perfection packaged with a bow, or basket,” as it turns out. It was a little bit of soul-searching, asking herself, “What am I good at? Realizing what she could bring to the table and finding an audience that is right for this product no one was talking about, she says, “It was fun making something for them!”
Advantages | Disadvantages of Riding an E-bike
E-bikes are heavier than regular bikes. The battery and motor combined add about 15 pounds to the bike. Of course, you can take off the battery, which is one of the heaviest parts. Bluejay Bikes have been designed with the weight of the battery and motor placed low in the center of the bike, which actually creates a more balanced ride. But if you want to pick up this bike and move it to another place, that’s a disadvantage. The Bluejay Bike weighs about 50 pounds, as it consists of an aluminum frame, which makes it a lot sturdier. There are other E-bikes that weigh a lot more, like around 75 to 100 pounds.
The cost: The Bluejay Bike retails for $3295 & up. A similar traditional bike costs about $200 and up.
Here’s what you get for that weight and price: the Bluejay Bike has a motor whose power is the equivalent of three people pedaling. So, for an extra 50 pounds and a few more zeros added to the price tag, it is as if you were tripling your capacity. What that means is that if there’s a hill, you can ride up it as if the road was flat. If the wind hits you, you’ll keep going forward.
Once you’re on it, you can honestly post on Insta: “‘I really regret that bike ride,’ said no one ever.”
How do you actually capture the experience of riding an E-bike? Bogan confirms that the conversion rate is extremely high once riders experience one.
Where to find E-bikes
Most bike shops like Bike Palm Beach have E-bikes. At the time of this interview with Bogan, she said that Bluejay Bikes was working actively to get a retail location in the South Florida area.
The E-bike trend, which started in Europe, is traveling from West to East in the US., unlike many other trends that have begun in the opposite direction. In this case, E-bike companies like Bluejay Bikes started on the West Coast, where there’s a hotbed of activity happening there.
A trend that started with the narrative, “What’s an E-bike?” It’s now saying, “This friend has one, that friend has one.” It’s just a matter of momentum, like when you took your first Uber ride. At first, there was a hesitation about riding anything but a taxi. But, once you took your first ride . . . your interest increased.
More about Bluejay Bikes, visit bluejaybikes.com.
Rediscovering bike riding with Bluejay Bikes