By Ed Benjamin
Do you know that the ‘baby boomers’ of America, now aged between 50 and 70 years old, have bought more bicycles, and more expensive bicycles over their lifetime than any other group of people in history? This seems counter intuitive for the car culture of the USA to be so interested in bicycles.
We can remember that Mountain Bikes, Freestyle Bikes, BMX Bikes, and many, many, many component ideas and innovations came from American companies over the last few decades.
For the USA consumer, bicycles have been sport, fitness and recreation. The USA consumer and dealer have not paid a lot of attention to bicycles as transportation – but this is changing.
The USA market is, quickly, catching on to electric bikes. And many of the assumptions about the USA market need to be changed. The USA buys close to the same number of bicycles every year that the EU does. But mostly sport / recreation / fitness bikes.
Economy, environmentalism, and practicality has many more USA consumers now buying bikes for transportation. You can see this on the roadways and bike paths of the USA, in the models being offered by major USA bike brands, and in the magazines and websites of the industry and consumers.
The electric bike in the USA has followed a pattern similar to what happened in Europe – the first bikes were heavy, poor quality, poor quality, and cheap price. Only recently have the ebike brands noted that their growth in sales is occurring at the high end of the ebike price spectrum. Like Europeans, Americans will pay a high price for a good bike. But that good bike is different from what sells in China, or in Europe.
Activity in the electric bike market is being generated by the entry of new dealers, new brands, new importers, and the attention of major bike brands.
Today, there are more than 40 brands of electric bikes offered in the USA, with the major bicycle brands are all offering something electric. The major jobbers of the USA are offering DIY kits, electric bike parts, and complete bikes. At least one USA brand ‘Prodeco’ is assembling their bikes in the USA, with others planning to emulate them soon. Pedego is setting an example of how to market to the USA consumer.
Innovative ideas like Aerobic Cruiser, Faraday, Conscious Commuter, and many others are capturing attention of the press and consumers.
Accell Group has purchased Currie, the largest seller of electric bikes. Pon Holdings just announced that the Gazelleelectric bikes would be offered soon in the USA. BMC is distributing the famous Stromer electric bikes. Ultra Motor (now of India) has a strong presence in the USA. And even more telling – there are several hundred dealers now who describe themselves as “electric bike dealers.”
The supply chains for EU business are now well established. Not much opportunity left. But in the USA, a handful of aggressive component makers and OEM/ ODMs are calling on the USA brands, understanding of the importance of the budding USA market. Those with expertise in working with Americans are traveling about the USA this summer. Fairly Bike Manufacturing, Yadea Bicycle Company, Flying Pigeon Bicycles, Lishen (China’s largest battery maker and a notable supplier to famous USA electronics brands), 8Fun Motors, Suzhou Phylion Battery, are all on the road in the USA. Marketing activity from Elitop, Ananada, and others is evident.
Those who think about this for a moment will realize that demographic and cultural factors ensure that the USA will be an electric bike market at least as large as Europe. The ‘baby boomers’ are aging, but still like to cycle – electric bikes are perfect for this affluent, older, and frankly – fat – group. When combined with younger commuters, rising price of fuel, and increasing density of USA cities – the market is inevitable. And the time to get established as a supplier to the USA is – now.