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Sportline talks Stepping into the e-bike world - BikeBiz

Sportline talks Stepping into the e-bike world

Ridgeback is now offering pedal assist bikes and other brands could follow suit
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Madison has bided its time when it comes to e-bikes. Here, Ridgeback Product Manager Sam Lawson talks to BikeBiz about ensuring the product meets service standards and will satisfy the end-user…

Why didn’t Madison jump into the electric market right away? 

We have been watching the development of this category closely for many years, but knew we needed a reliable system in which our specialist independent cycle retailers would have the confidence to sell and provide the aftersales support. Shimano has the global sales and support infrastructure, the technical knowledge, training programmes and the manufacturing capacity to ensure customer satisfaction. Many early entrants to this category simply didn’t have this in place.

When do the new Shimano Steps clad e-bikes land?

The Electrons arrived with us at the start of May and have been selling very well. There is very little reluctance from the retailer to stock the e-bikes once they know they can trust the product safe in the knowledge that Madison is there with Shimano technical support, stocks of spares and fast and free delivery of any spare parts should they need them.

Why has Madison opted to spec Steps over Bosch, for example?

Whilst Bosch has a great system they have been slow to adapt to the speed at which the category has grown. Their growth has been limited by their production capacity and they have had to restrict the bike brands/bike factories which can access their product. They have focused primarily on German domestic brands and a few selected global brands. We also had concerns over the support that was available in the UK and we prefer to have total control as ultimately we want to provide the best possible support for our customers. 

With Ridgeback using Shimano Steps, the retailer knows they don’t have to deal with any third party company for aftersales support. It makes life a lot easier for them as it’s just like stocking a regular Ridgeback. Madison provides all the training and support for working with Steps. 

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How do these two Ridgeback models stack up against competitor’s products?

It’s a competitive marketplace for everything and e-bikes are no different. With the Ridgeback brand we always pay attention to using the best quality parts and do not cut corners. Even so, we benchmark competitively and we are really pleased with the sell-in and most importantly, the sell-through. 

What feedback did you gather from iceBike*? Feedback from IceBike was very good and the pre-orders reflected that. There we’re some interesting ideas regarding tech for e-bikes and it was great to have dealers sharing their thoughts with us. Integration of componentry and also the style of frame requested were both high up the list. 

What was particularly pleasing to hear was that the specialist retailers were excited about this category and have been waiting for a reliable system. Some retailers who had been early adopters of ebikes had horror stories of poor aftersales support, unreliable product and negative consumer experiences, which they did not want to repeat. A combination of Ridgeback and Steps gives them peace of mind.

There was a glimpse of a Saracen e-bike during iceBike* – what’s the latest on that?

I can tell you that the entire business is taking the e-bike category incredibly seriously and the focus and investment is driven from the highest level of management. It’s very exciting and you will be seeing more e-bikes from the Sportline bike brands.

We’ve already started looking at frame platforms for future models. We’re proud to have been the first UK brand to market using the Steps system, but we won’t stop there. Some exciting developments are already in process.

How easily serviced is the platform?

Ease of service is one of Steps key attributes. It uses the same E-Tube system as Shimano’s awarding winning Di2 groupsets, and therefore uses the same PC-Interface. So this is something that a lot of dealers will already be familiar with. However, we have made sure that sales and service staff are fully up to date with Steps. The Shimano technical team at Madison are busy travelling the country to train retailers and ensure their businesses are ready for e-bikes.

Will you explore other price points with electric bikes going into 2016?

Currently we’re sticking with the two Ridgeback Electron models for this coming model year, but as we work on different designs they will inevitably cover different price points.

What mileage per charge is achievable using Steps?

Steps has three assist settings, with mileage ranging from 37 miles in ‘High’ to a rather frugal 77 miles in ‘Eco’. These figures will depend on terrain, rider weight and general conditions. Another key point is Steps quick charge time; four hours for a full charge and two hours for 80 per cent. 

Can any Ridgeback stockist take on the electric bikes?

The e-bikes are available to all authorised Ridgeback dealers with no special sign ups or MOQs. We are currently stocking three sizes with geometry over two models available on www.SportlineB2B.co.uk.

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