Electric bike business sees explosion in sales
At a local bike shop on State Street, phones are ringing off the hook, days are booked solid with appointments, and employees are struggling to keep up with business.
However, this isn’t just any bike shop.
Electric Bikes of Santa Barbara has seen a massive boom in sales since the coronavirus pandemic.
The owner of the shop, Scott LaMoine, said he’s been waiting for this explosion to happen, and attributes it to a new demand for exercise while maintaining social distancing. He said his customers come from near (Los Angeles) and far (San Francisco) because of the shop’s product line and expertise.
“We are slammed,” Mr. LaMoine said. “People are at home, and they want to get out and get exercise and cycling boosts your immune system.”
The seven-year-old store is different from other bike shops in that its products are exclusively new electric bikes and they only service the bikes they sell. In addition, the bikes are all European, pedal-assist, and none of them have “twist and go” functionality or a throttle.
While most suppliers are running out amid the high demand, the owner said they took a risk in buying three times what they usually would, and it’s paying off.
Since COVID-19, Electric Bikes of SB closed its doors and switched to appointment-only via text. Customers schedule 45-minute appointments where employees educate them and allow test drives.
Mr. LaMoine said they intend to keep it that way indefinitely, and eventually move to a touchless service with a drop-off and pick-up area.
“With appointment-only, we’ve done incredibly well,” he said. “We give a different experience than your normal bike shop.”
The owner said he sees himself as more of a “matchmaker,” pairing customers with the bike that works best for them and eliminating the stress of ordering a bike on the Internet.
The shop has even had to put repairs on hold in order to keep up with sales.
“Electric bikes are kind of at the tipping point right now,” Mr. Lamoine said. “They’ve always been kind of pivoting on an explosion in the U.S.”
He added that Santa Barbara is a great place for them, with the weather, the healthy lifestyle and the increasing number of bike lanes.
In fact, East Sola Street, the store’s side street, has been approved to become a dedicated bike lane within the next couple years, and it’ll be referred to as “Bike Boulevard.”
“The biggest misconception with electric bikes is that you don’t get any exercise,” the owner said. “But my customers have proven to me that they get more exercise. You ride your bike farther and more often.”
When a customer comes in for an appointment, Mr. LaMoine says his first question is what they intend to use the product for. The shop sells mountain, speed, commuter, cargo, road, fat tire, leisure and step thru bikes.
From there, it’s just a matter of preference and cost. They don’t sell any bikes under $2,000, and the average price point is between $3-$4,000. When the price goes up, customers will see a better motor system, more power, faster charging and better bike components.
Each bike in the shop can travel 30 to 60 miles on one charge, and if it dies, it’s still easy to pedal without power with little resistance.
Mr. LaMoine said his customers refer to electric bikes as “the great equalizer” between cyclists and people who just like riding bikes.
He believes they appeal to all demographics, and the special features such as folding them to fit in an office, attaching a child’s car seat, parking and more are reasons Santa Barbara residents are selling their cars and buying electric bikes.
“We’re selling art,” Mr. LaMoine said. “The bikes are special and we showcase them in that way.”
Electric Bikes now has four locations in California: Santa Barbara, Corona Del Mar, Santa Monica and Malibu.