Conference Panel: Perspectives on the Electric Bicycle and Micro-Mobility Sector
E-bikes and micro-mobility were top-of-mind themes at Baird’s recent 2022 Vehicle Technology Mobility Conference. The firm hosted a group of industry leaders for a panel discussion on the state of the e-bike market, including demand drivers and potential challenges, and shared their outlook for the coming years.
The panel featured Taco Carlier of VanMoof; Nick Hage of Dorel Sports; Bob Margevicius of Specialized Bicycle Components; and Mike Radenbaugh of Rad Power Bikes. John Bastian, Director in Baird’s Global Investment Banking group, moderated the discussion.
A Confluence of Demand Drivers
Hage highlighted four macro trends that are influencing consumers to turn to e-bikes. “People are focused on health and wellness. They’re looking for outdoor experiences. There’s a desire for green living in a cleaner environment… and there’s a need for more mobility options as well as a willingness to invest in infrastructure.”
The e-bike market is growing in markets across the globe. Specialized is seeing growth in the U.S. and Europe “pacing around 10-15%,” said Margevicius.
A Very Green Footprint
“E-bikes get 1,600 miles per gallon, energy equivalent. A traditional car, maybe 25-30 miles per gallon… an electric car about the same size, about 100 miles per gallon. Equivalent electric bikes are 16 times more energy efficient than an electric car,” said Radenbaugh, highlighting e-bikes’ potential in a world of increasing calls for decarbonization.
Carlier observed, “I believe e-bikes is the first trend ever that started with older people and then slowly converted to younger people.” Hage agreed and highlighted new findings from a recent National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) report: “We are absolutely trending much younger than what we saw maybe 3-5 years ago. Sixty-three percent of e-bike riders are now between the ages of 25-44. It used to be 60 more.”
Protecting the Investments
Industry leaders are mindful of the cost of an e-bike. “We have to work together to try and keep the within a reasonable price range so that people can afford [an e-bike] and they understand and appreciate the value of it,” said Margevicius. “The fastest-growing segment is the mobility segment with between [about] 450,500 to 3,000,” said Hage, highlighting the demand at more modest price points.
Carlier called out a corollary to this growing demand: “If the [e-bikes] sector is becoming more popular, we’ll also become more popular with bike thieves. In order to keep on growing, we have to solve bike theft… I think that’s the future because people won’t buy a 450,500-5,000 e-bike and just park it on the street.”
John BastianDirectorGlobal Investment BankingBaird
rules for buying an ebike, and the 11 ebikes to buy now
Ebikes are about to change the world, and they are already the best selling electric vehicles in the US. They will be a big driver of shifting more car trips to other modes. And shifting more families to owning fewer, or even no cars. When we need fewer cars, that means we can build less parking, which lowers at grocery stores, restaurants, and other places. It lets us build things closer together, allowing us to build what consumers want — walkable neighborhoods like Culdesac Tempe. I own over 70 ebikes, so some have called me the Jay Leno of ebikes. I’m still working on the jokes.
Ebikes are a big reason I’ve been able to go 13 years car-free. Owning so many bikes has also allowed me to understand the differences between them, and I’ve advised hundreds on their own ebike purchase. My fleet has also allowed me to go on many group rides and lend them to many people. If you want to try some, just dm me and we’ll set you up to come to the Culdesac office in downtown Tempe. Note: I’ve been keeping this guide updated since 2021. Between this and my work with Culdesac, I’ve met many leaders in the ebike space. In 2023, Culdesac announced a partnership with Lectric where the first 200 residents receive a free ebike and we name one of our streets Lectric Avenue.
Here are 11 rules for buying an ebike
- Just buy one. You will be happy with what you bought. Ebikes are a gateway drug to…more ebikes. Most people will spend 450-3k on their first ebike. Just get started and you’ll learn more in time for buying your second. It’s a lot of money for a bike, but you should be comparing it to a car instead.
- Gone are the days when the bicycle world was dominated by road and mountainbikers that looked down on ebikes as cheating. a) nobody cares. b) you don’t get as much exercise per mile, but you travel farther and c) this is about commuting and cargo. Even if you want to full throttle your trips like I often do, great. We’re here to shift trips from cars to bikes, not fight about one type of bike versus another.
- Don’t buy one on Amazon. They don’t have the best bikes. And many of the bikes on there I wouldn’t recommend. See below for my lowest priced recommendation.
- There are two good ways to buy an ebike. Online or from your local bike shop. The local bike store, if it’s a good one, offers a range of options and does repairs on site. They don’t offer many (any) of the direct to consumer brands, but again, see rule 1. Online, which usually means a direct to consumer brand, gives you the most options across companies. Servicing can be more painful, but the gap is smaller than you might think. The direct to consumer companies have even been developing servicing networks for a van to come to you. Some companies will even bring a test vehicle to you before you buy.
- Bike fit matters but fitting it to your needs matters more. Spend more time matching a functional bike to your lifestyle and follow the manufacture’s suggested size chart to find the proper fit.
- Safety first. I only recommend bikes that come with integrated headlights and disc brakes (mechanical or hydraulic).
- One of the first decisions to make is mid-drive vs. hub-drive (where the motor is located). Mid-drive is more expensive, but feels the most natural. One advertising campaign calls their mid-drive “you, but stronger” and that sums it up. When I want to get more of a workout, I grab one of my mid-drives. But usually I grab one of my hub-drives. Why? A THROTTLE
Note: the below recommendations are for the US market. Check your local laws and regulations.
Lowest price I recommend: Lectric XP Lectric XP Lite
Price matters, a lot. Especially for first time buyers, a low price brings new riders. And that is why most people that try my bikes get either a Lectric XP 3.0 or a Lectric XP Lite.
Lectric has grown rapidly over the past three years by focusing on low price points. Their flagship XP has remained at 1000 even despite inflation. That gives you a class 3 bike (up to 28mph), seven gears, and a front suspension.
Then last year they introduced the Lectric XP Lite, at 800. They removed non-essential features such as gears and a suspension, and a smaller motor means it is only a class 2 bike (20 mph).
The immediate sacrifice of the XP and XP Lite is that the battery range is lower than other bikes. But there’s a reason this bike is selling so well. You can also buy these with extended batteries. And for the XP, you can get a comfortable passenger seat.
This Phoenix-based company also has a great reputation for service.
You can go even lower on price, but again I wouldn’t buy the budget bikes on Amazon. There is also a whole category of mini bikes, including some sold at Costco, that are compelling.
Price: Lectric XP 3.0: 1000 on 4/13/23 on Lectric’s website. Lectric XP Lite: 800 on 4/13/23 on Lectric’s website.
The classic: Rad Power Bikes RadRunner 2
When I think of what an ebike is, I think of the RadRunner. It’s one of the most influential bikes in the history of the space, and is still a stalwart. It looks nothing like a traditional bicycle, and it smashed the notion that an ebike should.
Some call the RadRunner a utility bike, and people use it for a wide variety of uses, aided by Rad’s extensive accessory options.
The RadRunner has a number of features that make it great. The 20 x 3.3 tires are wide enough for a range of scenarios and short enough to make turning easy and fun. It has a step-through design. Thirty years ago, a step-through might have been called a “girls bike” in the US. But now even the tall men that try my bikes usually want a step-through. This bike also has a quite good set of upgrades available, showing its flexibility.
Rad Power Bikes was the early gorilla in the ebikes space. I often tell people to look at their full line and that shows them a range of different bikes and they can choose what they want. Rad’s bikes are basically all good. When I started this guide they also were all affordable and toward the lowest priced in the market. These days, that’s not always the case. For example, they released the RadRunner 3 Plus this year, and it is priced at 2300. That’s 2.3x the Lectric XP 3.0. It wasn’t long ago the most common choice for people testing my bikes was a 1000 Lectric XP vs a 1200 RadRunner. And most people picked the RadRunner. But at 1000 vs. 1450, or 1000 vs 2300, it’s a whole different comparison.
Price: 1450 on 4/13/23 on Rad’s website. 2200 for Plus Version with front suspension, a passenger seat, hydraulic brakes and some other upgrades.
Bakfiets: Urban Arrow Family, Riese Muller Load
Perhaps the most important categories of all, bakfiets and cargo bikes (next category) are car replacement at its finest. People are always surprised how much you can carry #carryshitolympics. There are many options.
Bakfiets, which is Dutch for box bike, are a force of nature in the Netherlands, which is the world’s best example of how bikes can transform a city into something much more pleasant. The box is in front, giving the bike a large carrying capacity, plus a bench for children, or a Belgian Malinois if you’re a certain someone on my team.
Two excellent examples are the Riese Muller Load, and the Urban Arrow Family. Both are easier to drive than they look, and they are frequently the favorites of all bikes anyone tries once they get used to how they drive.
- The government doesn’t subsidize bikes nearly as much as it subsidizes cars, but there are still some subsidies nonetheless. The infrastructure bill had a provision to subsidize ebikes nationwide. The IRA tragically didn’t include any ebike subsidy even though it subsidized electric cars to the tune of 7,500/ea. So I’m monitoring if there is something included in future legislation. Here is a tracker for ebike incentives
- The Loud Bicycle horn gives bikes a horn as loud as a car horn.
- Helmets, obviously, but put a camera on it such as a GoPro or the Insta360. Drivers will respect you more knowing you’re filming, and it is particularly invaluable if there is a road safety incident. People used to say “were you wearing a helmet?”, but soon they’ll ask “were you wearing a camera?”
- Get a rear view mirror, so you can see behind you with less effort than turning. Also consider a Garmin safety radar such as a Garmin Varia.
- Especially if you live in a state with goathead thorns like Arizona, get tire slime or a similar product/solution.
- Bike theft is a reality, but there are ways to combat it. No lock can defeat an angle grinder. But you can prioritize retailers that have convenient and secure bike parking.
- You can check with your home/renters insurance for if ebikes are covered. Kudos to Lemonade for making strides recently. A tailor made option for cyclists is Velosurance.
- Get an AirTag or Tile and hide it in your bike.
- I hope to find a list of attorneys that specialize in bicycle safety in each state. If you have one, let me know!
- Electric Bike Review has in depth reviews of many bikes.
- Check out Lava’s suggestions for accessories.
- Bike Shop Girl is a longtime mechanic who focuses on cargo bikes.
- Black Friday deals from Micromobility Industries Micromobility Industries.
I’m always looking to learn more, so send me your thoughts. Or if you want more specific thoughts on your purchase, send me a dm/tweet. Ebikes are more than a hobby for me. They are a big reason we’re able to build walkable neighborhoods at Culdesac. Check out Culdesac Tempe ! Our first residents moved in May 2023, and we’re leasing out another 30 buildings now! Even if moving to Culdesac Tempe isn’t in the cards for you, come do a tour and grab dinner at Cocina Chiwas ! Or check out our weekly market, Little Cholla.
And if our mission calls to you, check out our jobs page or send me a dm. If you’re a bike mechanic, I especially want to hear from you.
While it’s possible to have a mid-drive with a throttle, it is rare. I bought my Ariel Rider M-Class to have one such bike, and then they discontinued it later. recently, the Lectric XPremium has a mid-drive with a throttle and is doing well in my fleet.
What’s driven the massive uptick in ebike investment?
Both Pointillart and Morrow attribute the mammoth increase in ebike investments to several factors:
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COVID-19 got people back on their bikes to reduce their time spent on public transport. Cities made cycling safer: London introduced temporary cycling lanes. and New York limited seven miles of streets to pedestrians and cyclists.
From an investment standpoint, you just need to go back to the penetration numbers — where are ebikes selling? What’s the level of penetration today? Look at the Netherlands, penetration is at 42%. If you look at Belgium and Germany, it’s 32%. If you turn your eyes to the US it’s 2%.
Either you believe that fundamentally, Americans will never hop on an ebike for whatever reason or you need to believe in a catch up that will that will happen. And COVID has been to me the perfect catalyst to stimulate that adoption curve.
COVID-19 has been a tremendous accelerator, the trend that was latent, but that was about to explode. Now, you’re seeing, especially in the US, infrastructure deals in road bike infrastructure, allowing more and more people to take their bikes to work.
Government and employer efforts
Legislative and infrastructural changes in the US mean that ebikes are no longer classified as motor vehicles, and can therefore be ridden on the road. In February, an E-BIKE act introduced a 30% US federal tax credit for electric bicycle purchases.
Pointillart also sees a trend of ebike purchases or subsidized by employers to aid employee retention.
Both agree that battery innovation has also driven the acceleration of interest in ebikes, with batteries faster to charge, stronger, lighter, and longer-lasting than ever before.
— Companies like Cowboy are leading the charge for fast long-life batteries.
A new kind of consumers
Changes in consumer behavior are also responsible for ebike investments. According to Morrow, there’s a significant millennial trend where “the next generation of consumers are buying fewer cars and have less desire to own big purchases like houses. They prioritize sustainability as a lifestyle choice.”
What’s the reason for all the investment in direct-to-consumer ebikes over micromobility?
While micromobility continues to attract funding, the direct-to-consumer market has several upsides.
With micromobility, you’re not tied to a brand. It’s about whatever is closest to you and convenient. There’s no brand loyalty. With a VanMoof or a Cowboy, you are building brand loyalty.
Further, there is a much higher margin from a standalone purchase of ebikes. Micromobility ebikes also have problems with a decrease in lifetime value and low resale value.
Morrow also notes that investing in consumer bikes takes out the political challenge of working with local governments that that can take away your city operating permit for various reasons, like bikes incorrectly parked and bike rider behavior.
What kinds of factors make investors put their money towards one ebike company over another?
I asked Pointillart what makes an investor choose a brand. He explained:
First of all, the question is, how big is that population? And how price sensitive is that population? And then, if you want to expand to establish proper differentiation and a long-lasting presence, you’re betting on the creation of a brand. To me, the community will be the ultimate win.
He gave the example of companies offering group bike tours every weekend to build a community around their brands. “Creating community creates a feeling of belonging, that will create stickiness, and will create positive word of mouth.”
Rad Power Bikes raises €125.21M as it plans European expansion; here’s why it chose Utrecht as European HQ
Ever since the pandemic, the travel sector, especially last mile mobility, has gone through a metamorphosis. It is no surprise that people now prefer to travel alone and in a safer manner, at more than an arms-length from strangers. This shift in attitude to highly prefer last mile connectivity helped bolster the current position for many mobility startups, which witnessed increased funding interests.
One such startup is Rad Power Bikes. The US-based based ebike company has bagged a whopping €125.21M investment from some notable investors. The list of investors in the company now includes Counterpoint Global (Morgan Stanley), Fidelity Management Research Company, The Rise Fund (global impact investing platform managed by TPG), and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc.
Funds to fuel expansion and innovation
The latest investment will help Rad Power Bikes to further scale its retail reach and service offerings. The company also aims to double its current team of 325 members by the end of 2021 by hiring throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
“Europe is currently our fastest-growing market and we’ve witnessed exponential growth year over year. To ensure that we’re meeting this increased interest and demand for our products, we plan to significantly expand our retail and service offerings in Utrecht, including doubling the size of our European team in 2021. We’re also currently exploring opportunities to move into a new, larger location to support our growing retail and service footprint,” a Rad Power Bikes spokesperson tells Silicon Canals.
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Utrecht: Rad Power Bikes’ European base
Founded by Mike Radenbaugh in 2007, Rad Power Bikes offer a variety of ebikes to select from. The company chose Utrecht as its European headquarters, and the reason behind it is because, according to the company’s spokesperson, “ We believe it is one of the best biking cities in the world. We are not alone in this perspective – Utrecht ranked #1 in the world on the 2019 Coya Global Bicycle Cities Index – which ranks the best cities for cycling based on factors such as infrastructure, safety, bicycle usage, and more.”
The centralised European location of Utrecht is also said to be quite important to Rad. “The city attracts diverse, multilingual people from around the world who have a strong appreciation for ebikes and biking culture, which are exactly the type of people we look to hire. The location is also beneficial logistically, as Utrecht is the railway hub of the Netherlands and is close to both Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam, which is Europe’s largest seaport,” the spokesperson notes.
The company says that it has learned a lot from the Utrecht community. It apparently learned Dutch ideas and advancements for applying them back in North America for future products and services. The Rad spokesperson says, “Many see Utrecht as the birthplace of the mobility movement, and we’ve embraced the challenge of operating in a fiercely competitive European market with some of the world’s most demanding consumers.”
Are Rad Power Bikes Reliable
Rad Power electric bikes are constructed with high-quality components from well-known brands like Tektro, Shimano, Bafang, Velo, etc. Their e-bikes are said to last for years and have thousands of miles on them.
However, the brand’s 2.9-star rating on Trustpilot tells that all isn’t perfect with the e-bike company. Reviewers repeatedly complain about Rad Power Bikes’s poor customer service and how they received orders with faulty or broken components.
There were also issues of late shipping. In mid 2021, Rad Power Bikes struggled with logistics and it was getting even worse if you’re making an order from outside the U.S.
Now, this doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Rad Power Bikes manufactures quality affordable e-bikes. Just don’t get your hopes too high when purchasing a bike from them.
Are Rad Power Bikes Any Good
As mentioned earlier, Rad Power electric bikes have been featured multiple times in online publications. If their bikes aren’t good, they wouldn’t be generating this amount of publicity.
Rad Power e-bikes aren’t perfect but they’ll give you a good bang for your buck. With about 450,200-5000,000 you can get yourself a high-powered Rad Power e-bike that can meet up to almost all of your riding needs.
For instance, the Radrunner1 is a great electric bike for commuting, off-road riding, beach cruising, and cargo transporting. They don’t however manufacture electric bikes optimized for speed racing as all their bikes weigh above 45 pounds (20 kg)
Are rad power bikes waterproof?
Rad Power Bikes are water resistance, but if you do get any moisture on the bike, wipe it clean immediately. Do not spray anything onto the bike because this could cause damage to the electronics.
Rad Power Bikes are made of steel and aluminum, which makes them highly durable. Rad Power Bikes are also coated with a special type of paint that protects the frame from rusting.
Ebikes made by Rad Power Bikes are made to withstand the elements, but we recommend keeping them stored indoors if you live in an area where snowfall or rain is common.