I’ve spoken to two of my roving reporters from the floor of the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas this morning. One of them is Joel Grover, the head buyer for Bike Gallery and a 20-year veteran of the bike industry.
Grover says in all the years he’s attended Interbike, he’s never seen so much excitement for the commuter market. “Just a few years ago,” he said, “this whole show was about high-end race bikes…there’s still plenty of those, but what everyone’s talking about is bikes as transportation, commuter bikes, utility bikes… it’s going off!”
Grover’s not alone in his assessment. Headlines and reports all over the web are making it clear that Interbike 2008 is the official dawn of the Commuter Age.
I asked Grover if he’s come across anything new that we can expect to see in Bike Gallery’s showrooms this fall. He told me about two very interesting bikes that will significantly change Portland’s bike lane landscape.
Bike Gallery is now an official dealer of Madsen Cycles. Grover seemed very high on the design and said the bike (which is manufactured in Asia) can carry up to four small children (the bucket comes with a removable bench seat and two seatbelts) or six-eight bags of groceries with a load capacity of 600 pounds.
It comes in two versions, with a polyethylene bucket straddling the 20″ rear wheel or with a long rear rack. Grover says the bikes will be in stores by November.
The similarities between the Madsen and the traditional dutch bakfiets (popularized in America by Portland-base Clever Cycles) are clear, but the lower price of the Madsen ($1,299 vs $3,500+ for a bakfiets) might make it more appealing to budget-conscious bikers.
Tom Knipe, who’s in Vegas to drum up sponsorship partners for local events as part of his job with Good Sport Promotion, said he spoke with someone at Madsen and asked why they decided to put the load in the rear (instead of the front, like a bakfiets). According to a rep for Madsen, they wanted to make the design “accessible for everyday riders” and they feel that “the bakfiets feels a bit intimidating with the wheel out front.”
For following in the footsteps of such a legendary design like the Dutch bakfiets, Madsen is confident in their bikes, stating on their website that, “We are not the first to place a load on a bicycle but we are the first to do it right.”
Another new development for Bike Gallery will be their first-ever offering of an electric-assist bike. Calling it the best design he’s seen so far, Grover has decided to bring in A2B electric bikes from Ultra Motors. These bikes are getting a lot of hype at Interbike and from their looks, and from the $150 million company backing them, I’m not surprised.
Grover says the bike costs about the same as a 50cc motor scooter but it only costs about 5 cents to recharge the battery and you can go 20 mph for about 20 miles on one charge. He also added that the best part is, unlike a moped, you don’t need a license or insurance and you can ride on the sidewalk (unless you’re downtown, where bikes are not allowed on sidewalks).
And, with Bike Gallery becoming the second shop in town to stock an electric bike (Bike n’ Hike sells the Giant Twist), and with a local entrepreneur looking to set up an e-bike only dealership (more on that soon), it’s safe to say that e-bikes will be much larger part of the mix by next spring.