Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

The silver lining (of sorts) that we got from the past two years from the pandemic was that now many people can work from home or at least do so part-time (hybrid), and it’s made the case for many jobs that great talent can be hired from around the world. The other things it brought us were better online shopping experiences and more people than ever buying food and products via online portals and apps.

It also ushered in a massive bike-buying boom that doesn’t seem to be waning. It’s an exciting time for the bike world, as most every brand is electrifying, and that has increased the number of people getting outside and riding, and as far as dealing with greenhouse gases in pursuit of greener vehicles, e-bikes are the most perfect solution. 

It’s also been tumultuous for bike shops in that not only have there been shortages of product due to supply-chain issues, but also because that same infrastructure that makes it so easy to order through DoorDash also makes it easier than ever to order a bike online. 

While non-enthusiast cyclists balk at the higher-priced bikes from major manufacturers, they can’t appreciate the better components and often better geometry, and ergonomics from a brand who has spent decades perfecting the ride quality for demanding riders. It’s a difficult line to walk, certainly, as buying an e-bike from a dealer usually starts over $2500, but direct-to-consumer bikes can often sell for $1500 or less. 

WHY BIKE SHOPS COUNT

There’s always a possibility that someone who falls in love with riding will eventually spend more on their next bike, but the people I know who bought cheap ones rarely do. When someone asks me about which e-bike to buy, I send them to the local bike shop. It’s a place where they can be properly fitted to a bike, where they will have it maintained and repaired, etc. But, I know there are some who won’t see the value in that.

Bike shops used to refuse to service bikes that they didn’t sell, but they’re starting to come around. There’s a big opportunity for bicycle mechanics, especially those who kow how to work on e-bikes specifically. 

LEVA, the Light Electric Vehicle Association, of which Ed Benjamin is founder and chairman, has had 1600 people come through its e-bike repair program in the last few years, “and probably a thousand of them are bicycle mechanics,” he said before adding, “I think we need about 8000 to establish a critical mass of available service people, and not just in bike shops but mobile mechanics and one-person repair services.”

Considering how many e-bikes are being sold in the U.S., and we’re closing in on 900,000 per year, there’s a tremendous opportunity for people with good mechanical skills.

A LOOSE NUT BEHIND THE BARS

This all comes around thanks to the story I recently heard about a woman in Utah who is suing Rad Power Bikes because she claims her bike arrived with a loose stem that caused a crash that injured her wrist and hands. She’s not a bicycle mechanic and claims the instructions didn’t tell her to check the tightness of the stem. So, the first time she tried to make a turn on her first ride, she crashed. 

That’s hard for any of us who grew up wrenching on our own bikes to understand. It seems like something we’d certainly check, but for someone who has no idea how to assemble a bike, it is certainly possible to overlook a detail like that. Often, the bikes are delivered to consumers with the handlebar/stem either off or turned 90 degrees from normal to fit into the box. Sometimes the wheels, pedals, etc. are off, too. 

Rad responded that she should take it to her local bike shop and have it tightened, at Rad Power’s expense. She claimed the crash cost her $30,000 in medical expenses, $100,000 in lost wages, and future medical expenses expected to be nearly $40,000. I don’t know what she does for a living to not make $100,000 while she heals, but it sounds like a pretty solid wage.

The company’s attorneys denied the claim and asked the court to dismiss the case. They may be covered by insurance, but this speaks to the possibilities of many similar lawsuits. I think the smarter companies are partnering with bike shops and companies like Velofix to ensure proper assembly and maintenance of the e-bikes. 

Something that may also help is that if your non-cyclist friend buys an e-bike, especially if they’re too, er, frugal to take it to a bike shop, offer to help them assemble it when it comes in. It’s good all the way around. You can start teaching them about bike maintenance, and you’ll have another friend to ride with!

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