If you have trade-only access to the BikeBiz forum and want to know why some UK bike shops love e-bikes and others won’t touch them with a bargepole you might want to check out the many and varied postings to ‘Electric bikes- what’s the IBD view?’
This topic was started – light touch-paper, stand well back – by Mark Loveridge of e-bike supplier Ultramotor:
"I was wondering what the IBD’s latest opinion of electric bikes? Our European companions are seeing record sales, with Germany expecting a third of all bikes sold to be electric next year. There are opinions floating that the UK represents the same potential. What are your opinions for this season on selling e-bikes?"
The debate is currently the highest viewed on the forum, with 500 reads. The debate has to’ed and fro’ed, with the latest points of view being from two bike shop owners, a relatively new supplier of very high-end e-bikes and a well-known industry executive. You decide which is which. [Members of the trade wishing to register for access to the forum can do so here].
"Personally I think there are two main reasons why the majority of IBDs won’t touch e-bikes. One, they regard them with disdain and don’t fit it in with the IBD’s image i.e. not sporty or trendy enough. Many seem to think that stocking electric bikes will somehow deter all the big spending off-roaders and roadies from coming. Worse, it could actually attract Average Joe, and even worse that electric bikes will attract oldies, and it would never do to have that sort of customer frequenting their shop.
"Two, the very design of the electrics puts off many dealers and mechanics. All the long wiring looms, running through frames and can make it a pain if you need to isolate a fault or replace a part such as a throttle. Why do e-bike makers not fit connectors to short cables close to each part so that individual parts can be replaced without stripping the entire wiring?"
"[Electric bikes aren’t just big in the] Netherlands, but Germany, too (a big market and still growing) and other European countries as well.
"Wind back to the start of the mountain bike in the 1980s. [Many bike shops said:] "£300 for a mountain bike? We cannot sell anything like that."
"But then Muddy Fox, Marin, Saracen and others helped raise the bar to new industry heights for SRP. The rest is history. I see similarities with the e-bike market.
"Don’t just think e-bikes are for older folk (however, the grey market is worth a few bob), open your mind as to who the potential customers are. People who want to ride to work and not get sweaty. People who have not cycled for years, and now suffering from injury or operation. Couples who want to ride together and maybe one is not as fit or strong as the other. ‘Real’ cyclists who commute 40-60 minutes to work (or less). When they take an e-bike and the journey time is halved without getting sweated up, this means more time in bed or with the family. Plus there’s a new generation of younger customers who want to interact with smartphone apps on their e-bikes.
"There are so many new customers who could be visiting your business for this type of product."
"I simply haven’t experienced an increase in the number of customers looking for an electric bike. The majority who ask, want to use it as a cheaper alternative to a moped i.e. no insurance or tax or fuel and no need for a license. They are disappointed by the speed and price of e-bikes, they expect them to be cheaper than motor scooters."
UK IS NOT NL
"Just because e-bikes might be big across the channel, doesn’t mean that demand is of any significance here.
"Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a very significant business opportunity in the electric bike market, but we have been drowning with so many suppliers saying ‘I have product, why aren’t you selling it?’ rather than them investing in consumer education and generating a market…as is normal with consumer goods.
"Or, we have been made to tremble by [BikeBike.com news story] threats that the big corporates will take the opportunity away from us…errr, what actually did happen to Best Buy, and just how well are Halfords trading?
"If you want to sincerely build a retail market and want speciality retailers to invest in stock, repairs and servicing, sales staff and education, e-bike suppliers will have to invest, something that has been materially missing from all of those seeking a short term return from this sector to date."