In the last edition of BikeBiz, we caught up with Paul and Rick Stanforth of the Electric Bike Corporation.
You consider yourselves to be a leading distributor of e-bikes in the UK – what do you believe sets you apart from your competitors?
RS: EBC have been trading since 2009, and we have established ourselves as a leading specialist e-bike distributor. However, we also design and manufacture our own e-bike brands, EBCO and PULSE, which gives us unique access to the market, leading tech brands in the e-bike market, dealers, and ultimately the end consumer.
PS: We often have consumers, dealers, and press contact us for information about what’s new in the market. Our in-house technical support for Shimano Steps, Bosch Global and TranzX, is just one of the reasons that we believe we have become the UK's e-bike experts.
RS: With the huge growth in the e-bike market, massive potential future expansion, and greater variety in products and their pricing, the e-bike market is now developing with conventional stores and brands, and not just specialist stores. As the original creators of Saracen Bikes in the UK, we have been on the scene since 1986. The 30 years that we’ve had in experience have helped hugely in the new e-bike market when it comes to working with factories, sourcing the best components, and working with dealers.
Do you guys have anything exciting in the pipeline for 2017?
PS: We’ve just launched PULSE, our new e-bike brand, with prices starting from just £799. The brand features an excellent Alu frame, TranzX e-bike motor system, quality components, and tech features that we believe will both raise the bar in pricing, and help grow the market further. The price point-sensitive bikes do not compromise, and are intended to bring new customers into the market.
We believe e-bikes are an amazing solution for many contemporary issues, from health matters, to traffic, to pollution problems.
RS: New for 2017, our EBCO range, now in its seventh year, is offering full diagnostic functions on all bikes, including Shimano Steps, Bosch and TranzX. This provides the dealer with more tools and greater options for after sales care and servicing, giving them greater confidence in the product. The newfound confidence is filtering down to the consumer, especially riders who are not necessarily core enthusiasts, and are trying e-biking for the first time.
How do you select the brands that you choose to distribute?
RS: We currently distribute Corratec e-bikes in the UK, which are an established and respected brand in the market. These German-designed and manufactured bikes cover all aspects of riding, from trekking to leisure to MTB, and are hugely respected in the industry. When we work with a brand, it's important for us to believe in the product, and to see the quality of construction and ride experience that the bikes offer. It's also important to work with a brand that compliments our own brands, so we have a balanced range that both the consumer and dealer understand covers every type of riding, and at every price point. Additionally, as service is such an important area of our business, we have to be sure we can back up the products we sell to our retail partners.
Where do you see the e-bike industry heading?
PS: Wow...the potential is huge! Leading cycling brands are investing in technology, and the tech has hugely improved in the last three years. Bikes are lighter, battery life is longer, performance is better, reliability has been proven, aesthetics are vastly improved upon, and value has increased.
This can only continue in our opinion, as consumers wish to make different lifestyle choices and become more aware of green and health issues. The e-bike is a modern solution to contemporary issues. It's true to say that the infrastructure and cycling ethos is probably five years ahead of the UK on the continent, but we are catching up fast with more bike lanes, provision for cyclists in the work space, and a better attitude to non-drivers.
RS: Concealed batteries – not for racing obviously – are going to grow, as they are aesthetically pleasing. To a certain extent cycling is a fashion driven industry, but manufacturers are also improving the weight and size of the battery when concealing it in the frame. This can only ultimately advance both performance and appearance. If it can be done without breaking the bank, we are going to have the perfect environment for increased e-bike use.
How rapidly are you seeing the bikes that you distribute developing?
RS: Bikes are always in development, and our team of ambassadors and testers give us constant feedback on the product. We ride our own bikes, and certainly, with our own brand, have complete control. Factories are not bound to the traditional model year process anymore; they are more flexible, so it's easier to bring a product to the market at any stage in the year. The only question is, can the battery and motor manufacturers keep up with the demand? Their technological advances are happening so quickly, and we attempt to bring those products to the customer as soon as we can.
PS: The time frame in which the original twist-and-go bikes’ evolved into the quality pedal-assist bikes we see today, which look and ride exactly as they should, is really not as long as some might think. The next stage of development will be even quicker! From EBCO’s point of view, in the seven short years we have been producing, we have seen major changes in global players investing heavily in technology to ensure the continued growth of e-bikes. The computer diagnostics across the whole 2017 range – which will be a valuable service tool for our dealers – are light-years ahead of where they were when we started.
We believe that electric bikes will change the bike market in a positive way, just as mountain bikes did in the late 80s, when we first came into the bike industry – remember, they said mountain bikes wouldn’t last!