Reviewing the Success of Electric Bikes in the Bicycle Industry
By Edward Benjamin, LEVA Founder & Chairman
Life and work in the bicycle business have become increasingly challenging.
As I pen down these thoughts, trade publications are highlighting significant declines in revenues for bike shops. (And it is evident that there are far fewer bike shops today compared to a few years ago…)
Remuneration for those employed in bike shops is not very lucrative… (and the bikes themselves have become so reliable that there is far less need for bike servicing per bicycle than there used to be…)
Moreover, the most lucrative customers for high-end bikes, and therefore for high-end repairs and maintenance, are getting older. They are reducing their riding activities and spending less.
Ironically, some highly skilled bike mechanics are earning no more than a fast-food grill cook. The future does not appear particularly bright.
However, all is not lost! There is hope and prosperity on the horizon!
Interestingly enough, the demographic characteristics and markets that are adversely affecting the traditional bicycle business are favorable for the electric bicycle industry.
Older cyclists are discovering that electric bikes and electric mountain bikes are exceptional tools for extending the riding season. These bikes are highly valued. Additionally, a significant proportion of Americans who are deterred by the idea of perspiring and exerting themselves are finding that electric bikes enable them to enjoy cycling without the unpleasant side effects.
And let us put an end to the criticism of “cheating” from naysayers. The opinions of bike shop professionals regarding whether or not others should use electric bikes hold no weight in the real world. Let’s set aside our biases and focus on making profits.
Electric bicycles are currently the cash cow for most bicycle industries worldwide. This trend may not be as apparent to bike shop owners in the United States, as the country is slightly behind in catching on. However, the shift is happening here as well.
At the renowned Eurobike trade show, often referred to as “electrobike,” one can witness why. Equally, in Asia, events like Taipei Cycle and Shanghai Cycle are dominated by electric bikes. They have become the main attraction.
Let me present you with a list of reasons why electric bikes have become the driving force behind the global bicycle industry:
1. Electric bikes appeal to many individuals who may not identify as avid cyclists but require reliable transportation, especially within the rapidly growing urban areas.
2. Electric mountain bikes entice older men who still cherish riding in the mountains, as well as others who simply find them enjoyable.
3. Electric bikes currently constitute a substantial portion of the entire global bicycle industry. While exact figures may be debatable, it seems that out of the approximately 150 million bicycles produced last year, around 34 million were electric bikes. Most of these sales occurred in Asia, although Europe purchased a couple of million. Here’s a crucial fact: the revenue generated from these 34 million electric bikes surpasses that of all other bicycle types combined.
4. The Profit Potential of Ebikes in the Bike Industry
Ebikes have proven to be more financially lucrative at every level in the bike business. They offer higher priced products with larger profit margins, as they consist of specialized components that are not easily accessible as commodities. These components are sourced from factories that require greater skill levels, allowing them to command better margins for their products.
5. The Growing Popularity of Ebike Sales
In contrast to the declining sales of normal bikes in Europe, Ebikes are experiencing a remarkable surge in popularity. Countries such as Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and many others have witnessed record-breaking sales of ebikes. This positive trend can also be observed in the United States, as every major brand and numerous smaller companies are now offering ebikes. In fact, LEVA has reported a total of 134 USA-based “brands,” with more than 50 having recently imported ebike products.
Why Becoming an Ebike Mechanic Can Be Beneficial
If you are a bike mechanic, there are several reasons why venturing into the world of ebike repair could be advantageous for you.
- Limited Competition: Unlike traditional bike repair, there are very few individuals in your town who possess the knowledge and skills necessary to fix ebikes. This creates a significant demand for your expertise, setting you apart from the competition.
- Increased Revenue Potential: Since ebikes are generally expensive, consumers are willing to invest more in maintenance and repairs. This translates to higher earnings for you as an ebike mechanic.
- Increased Usage of Ebikes: Ebikes are ridden far more often than regular bicycles, creating a greater demand for service work and parts sales. This growing trend should serve as a wakeup call to bike mechanics.
- Easier Repairs: Repairing electrical problems in ebikes is generally easier than fixing mechanical issues in conventional bicycles.
- Existing Tools and Skills: As a bike mechanic, you likely possess most of the necessary tools and skills to work on ebikes, making it a relatively smooth transition for you.
- Quick Learning Curve: Acquiring the additional knowledge and skills you need to repair ebikes can be done relatively quickly. However, you should expect continuous learning throughout your career, just as you would for “normal” bike maintenance. The difference is that ebike repair pays better.
A Challenge for Bike Mechanics: Many bike mechanics accept whatever wage is offered to them, given that bike shops operate within certain financial limitations. In order to fully benefit from the potential of ebikes, bike shops must be educated about the need to charge more for ebike repairs. This, in turn, would require owners and managers to update their understanding and compensate ebike technicians accordingly. The unique skill set of ebike technicians makes them less replaceable compared to regular bike mechanics.
For most bike mechanics, mechanical systems are easy to comprehend, and they possess a keen eye for the intricacies of machinery that often go unnoticed by the general population. These mechanics understand how to manipulate and adjust mechanical elements proficiently.
Electrical Things: A Journey of Understanding
Electrical things can be quite elusive and complex, often difficult to perceive or comprehend. Many of us have had limited exposure to these intricacies, whether it be from our educational experiences or hobbies. However, embarking on a journey of knowledge in this realm can be incredibly rewarding. There is a saying engraved on a precious stone that sits on my desk, which holds immense significance to me: “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
An Important First Step
To start this voyage, I recommend taking a simple yet essential initial step. Visit the Light Electric Vehicle Association Tech Training and download the PDF for LEVA Technician: Training Level One. Immerse yourself in the wealth of information provided across 120 thought-provoking slides. As you delve into this resource, be sure to acquire the accompanying “Glossary” for comprehensive comprehension. By exploring these materials, you will witness the fascinating world of ebikes losing its enigmatic facade and dispelling any apprehensions. Remarkably, all these resources are available to you completely free of charge.
Should you desire to obtain a certificate to proudly display on your wall, LEVA offers a certification test. Upon completion and submission of a passing test paper, LEVA will reward you with a well-deserved certificate. A nominal fee is applicable for this service.
Further Educational Opportunities
For those yearning for more extensive training, I recommend perusing the monthly schedule of two-day classes specifically addressing ebike intricacies. These classes delve into the depths of this fascinating subject matter. Presently, classes are available in Fort Myers, FL, and Danville, VA, while more locations are anticipated later this year. Participation in these classes necessitates a fee and culminates in a comprehensive test resulting in a well-earned certificate.
Continuing Education and Innovation
To augment your ebike education, it is imperative to attend seminars, training programs, and any other offerings provided by propulsion system manufacturers, ebike brands, or component makers. Embracing these educational opportunities should become an integral part of your ongoing professional development.
Equipping Yourself for Success
As you embark on your journey, it is crucial to gather the necessary tools. A good multimeter, a reliable soldering iron, and appropriate crimping tools are essential minimum requirements. Some of you may choose to invest in sophisticated testing and analysis equipment. The costs associated with properly equipping yourself to work on electric bikes are quite comparable to those associated with traditional bicycle repairs.
Seizing the Opportunity
While electric bikes may still represent a small fraction of many shops’ business, remember that the best time to immerse yourself in a new endeavor is when it is still fresh and burgeoning. Establish yourself as the go-to electric bike repair expert in your community and ride the wave of their increasing popularity.
A Promising Future
The future ahead of us is bright, filled with remarkable possibilities and opportunities. Embrace this exciting journey, and throughout its course, don’t hesitate to share your questions and insights. You are encouraged to reach out to us at [email protected].
LEVA Technician Class Schedule
Levels 1-4, a two-day training session focused on the repair and maintenance of electric bicycles. This course has no prerequisites and requires a fee of $550.00.
Details can be found at the official LEV Association website.