Like bikes but not pedaling? Take a trip to Main Street.
There are now four shops specializing specifically in electric bikes within a few blocks of one another in the Ocean Park neighborhood.
Bike Attack, which has had a bike store further north on Main Street since 1999, opened an e-bike specific store down by the other three e-bike shops this month.
Izip and Pedego, which are international e-bike brands, have shops on the Santa Monica side of the border. Half a block down, in Venice, is Curbside Commuters, which sells ElectroBike brand e-bikes.
Electric bikes function like a traditional bicycle but are equipped with an electric motor, which can assist when a rider gets tired. E-bikes can legally go up to 20 miles per hour in California.
Andrew Smith, who owns Bike Attack, theorizes that Izip moved to Main Street because he’d been selling e-bikes in 2006 and that Pedego moved to Main Street to be near Izip. Smith is trying to get City Hall to recognize the area as an official e-bike district, to raise awareness about the plethora of options.
“It’s just one of those things, like you go to Hollywood to get a guitar and you got six guitar places on one block,” Smith said. “You’ve got these auto center drives here and it’s just kind of turning out that way.”
Steve Ryu, general manager at the Izip store between Ashland Avenue and Hill Street, said their move had nothing to do with Bike Attack. They relocated to Main Street from Lincoln Boulevard in Venice two and half years ago because the visibility is better and they now have a larger showroom.
“The original intent was that this is a customer experience center so this is really the face of Currie Technologies,” Ryu said. “A place where we get to showcase our bikes and our different line of bikes, but most importantly, because Currie Technologies has been doing e-bikes for about 16 or 17 years, we wanted to really use the space to educate people to what e-bikes are really about and how they work.”
Both Ryu and Smith said they get a lot of Baby Boomers coming in. Boomers tend to have the income to afford the bikes, which range from about $1,700 to $6,000 with $3,000 being the most common price tag, according to Smith. They’re interested in staying fit but want to be able to rest and enjoy the ride.
“The funny thing is, we sell them in pairs: his and hers,” Smith said. “Not all the time but it’s prevalent.”
Steve Wittels, a general manager at Pedego, which also hosts popular e-bike tours of the city, agreed that Baby Boomers are the most common buyers but said he’s seeing a younger demographic in recent years.
“A third of my buyers are people who commute from two to 15 miles in a suit and tie and don’t want mess up the suit and tie but want to get the cardio in on their way home,” Wittels said.
Pedego moved to Main Street just after Izip.
Wittels sighed before weighing in on the pros and cons of being surrounded by other e-bike retailers.
“Sometimes I feel like Izip and I will take sales from each other,” he said, “but one way to look at it is that if people do recognize that there are quite a few places to go with different kinds of brands, it will get more people down to Main Street, kind of like how car dealerships congregate next to each other. Let the consumer do their shopping and I’m confident in the brand that we sell that we will get more sales out of it that way.”
Smith, who is aiming for the city designation, also claims to favor the set up.
“We just want it to be known countywide that we’ve got people driving in from all over Southern California to try e-bikes around here,” he said. “I had people come in last week from Santa Barbara and they tried the Pedego, they tried the Izip, and then they came and bought the Stromer from us.”
Ryu said there has been some tension between Izip and Bike Attack.
“As the face of a company, personally speaking, it’s unfortunate how the relationship with Bike Attack, even with us, has played out,” he said. “A lot of bike companies are really open and we love communicating with each other. I think everyone’s experience with Bike Attack so far is he sees everyone else as competition and is very short with us, and doesn’t even want to say ‘hi’.”
Smith said he’s got no beef with any of the other e-bike companies and that he’s supportive of all the e-bike companies in the city.
The rift may be leftover from the days when Izip was on Lincoln Boulevard.
“They’d come over and they’d park bikes at Urth Caffe for the day with big flags and banners and I said to their manager, you know that’s not cool,” Smith said. “We pay money to be on this street. We pay Santa Monica sales tax and Santa Monica licensing. We pay money to operate in Santa Monica and you’re on Lincoln in L.A. I said I’m going to bring some bikes on Lincoln in front of your store.”
Smith was adamant that he has no hard feelings for Izip or any of the other e-bike stores.
Ryu sees the buffet of e-bike options as a positive but he isn’t sure about making it an official e-bike district. He sees e-bikes as an augmentation of, not an affront to, the traditional bike industry.
“With e-bikes, we’ve provided a way where people can legitimately cycle into work without being sweaty,” Ryu said. “It’s not about us trying to take over regular cycling or competition. It’s about getting more people on bikes.”