‘New Shop’ Wants to Bring the E-Bike Boom to Boston
Boston’s first official electric bike shop, NextGen Bicycles, has opened in South Boston.
The shop is focused on serving commuters who are considering alternative ways of getting to work, they said. “A major goal of ours is to offer commuters equipment that is cost effective by providing ‘multi-modal’ mobility, and especially for those who have to get to work on time in places that do not have public transportation nearby.”
Although e-bike sales have slowly started to creep into Massachusetts, they have yet to take off like they have abroad. But it looks as though a new shop coming to Boston soon is looking to be the one that gets more riders on e-bikes.
According to a recent Craigslist post shared by the Boston Cyclists Union, who said shop owners reached out to them to spread the word, there’s an urgent need for a professional mechanic with a “deep, wide, hands-on personal knowledge of the bicycle industry,” specifically in the e-bike and commuter bike field.
“We need someone who is able to do it all: order a wide variety of merchandise, especially e-bikes and electric conversion kits; install them; fix them; sell them; and get the word out about them to all of Boston including college students,” according to the call for a new employee. “Electric bikes are huge in China and big in Europe. Be part of making that happen right here in Boston!”
E-Bikes, also known as electric or booster bikes, give riders an extra push when they need it most. The bikes comes with rechargable battery-powered motors that kick in and help keep a rider moving even when a person stops pedaling. The bikes have become an ideal form of transportation in other countries because they cut back on the amount of effort people have to exert when riding to work, which, essentially, leads to a more comfortable day in the office.
According to a recent New York Times report, e-bike sales overseas are “surging”:
There are 250,000 on the road in Switzerland, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation. In Germany, bike sales were down 5.5 percent last year, but sales of more expensive e-bikes were up almost 8 percent and now command about 11 percent of the market. In the Netherlands, which has Europe’s highest per capita bicycle usage, the overall bike market fell slightly last year, but e-bike sales rose more than 9 percent.
The Times article said that sales in the U.S., however, have been slow due to their niche market—they’re often used by older people or for certain jobs, such as police patrol—and certain restrictions on the vehicles.
Those restrictions on motorized bicycles, including the electric kind, exist in Massachusetts, according to Josh Zisson, a local bike lawyer. As defined by state law, e-bikes can’t go faster than 25 mph, and they also can’t be used on major highways and on roadways where bikes are prohibited. Riders also have to wear helmets when traveling around.
“I feel like they have been gaining momentum, and everyone thinks they are inevitable,” said Zisson. “But I just don’t think that they are as practical as a regular bicycle is. They weigh a lot more and you have to charge them. I guess it solves a certain problem, and you don’t have to over exert yourself, but that’s what I sort of like about biking.”
Despite his personal preference, Zisson said he welcomes anything that brings more attention to bike culture, including a new shop.
The Boston area is already home to two shops that have a focus on the e-bike trend—one in South Boston, where MyBike delivers custom electric bikes and also repairs them, and another in Cambridge, called Evelo, which opened a few years ago. At Evelo, they sell their own brand-name bikes equipped with SmartAssist Intelligent Pedal Assistance to help riders cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.
An electric bike startup, called Superpedestrian, which was born out of MIT in 2009, also emerged recently. They make the Copenhagen Wheel, which is comprised of a self-contained motor and batteries that snap onto the back of an ordinary bicycle, instantly transforming it into a hybrid electric vehicle.
The Craigslist post that went up at the beginning of August wants to build on what’s out there, and claims that the “brand-new shop in Boston” will be somewhere that’s easily accessible using the MBTA’s Red Line. The position for a skilled mechanic and salesperson is available immediately, they said.
There’s no indication when and where the shop will open—Boston reached out to the owners multiple times without much success—but the store’s intent seems clear: they want to be the force that brings the e-bike phenomenon to the city for the long haul.