Electric Bikes in Northern California—What I Found.
I have been trying to plan this exploratory trip for a while, and this month it all came together. I had been seeing online and hearing about some of these cool E-bikes shops for some time. I even visited a couple that I found out about while we were on the road. My wife showed a desire to compete in a Dragon Boat race in Oakland, and the excitement started from there. We packed a pair of folding bikes (one E-assist) in our econo car and we were off for a 9 day whirlwind trip that took us almost to the Oregon border.
One thing we both noticed everyday was just how many people we saw riding bikes. California is a bike mecca, with E-bikes figuring in bigger all the time. I posted a bunch of videos on my You-Tube from the trip, yet not all were about the bikes. We visited family and friends, rode the Skunk Train and generally did all the fun vacation stuff we could. This post is about the E-bike shops (folding too) and I will add a couple paragraphs on each one (in the order of our stops). Make sure to watch the videos linked below—and maybe some of the other ones from our trip.
This well stocked Pedego shop just opened 3 weeks ago. They are already showing the passion and style you will find at Pedego shops across the country (the whole world actually). We stopped in for a quick visit on our second day after spending the night in Santa Cruz, on the way to Fortuna. We wanted to get north before too late, so no riding happened then, yet we stopped in again on our way home to ride a couple of their bikes.
Like many Pedego shops they are in a great area. The Iron Horse Regional Trail is just across the street from them. It goes for 25 miles on a wide paved path that used to be a railway throughway. With safe crossings at each street you come to, we ran across many riders and walkers during our ride. The team treated us well and many rental E-bikes are waiting for you there. Like most good E-bike shops, they excel at sales, service and accessory selections.
This busy San Francisco shop has a lot going on. The do bus tours, yet with the bikes they do rentals. They have a large fleet of all types of bikes, including a stout one of Pedego E-bikes. They are near Fisherman’s Wharf, yet we ended up riding our own bikes around town and the Wharf instead. During our stay in San Francisco we saw a lot of people riding bikes they rented from Dylan’s Tours.
Electric Bike Super Store
The name of this store is telling it like it is. Len has E-bikes even I didn’t recognize. He has most of the big hitters too. His shop is a bit deeper in the heart of San Francisco then I expected, yet I was happy to finally get a look for myself. I kept thinking the whole time I was there that I wanted to get on many of the bikes and ride. It would have taken a couple days to try them all so I just concentrated on my camera and let Len give me the details.
I had met Len before so it was fun to see all his hard work and spent some time talking E-bikes. In the back he had an ELF, something I often consider getting myself since I first rode (drove?) a couple last year. If you are in his part of town, you owe it to yourself to stop in and soak up the E-bike vibes they offer.
The New Wheel
Another big E-bike shop in San Francisco is The New Wheel. They concentrate on the hill-eating E-bikes the locals need, yet service all makes (regular bikes too). Like every shop I visited, the time went too quickly to see and experience all they have going on. Each member of the crew I spoke with (and there are many of them) knew their stuff and reeked of E-bike passion. I had heard this was a great shop and I wasn’t disappointed.
Make sure to watch the video below to see all the bikes and the shop (in fact watching all the videos will let you know about each shop and the bike brands they carry). This shop has a great and long history of E-bikes in town, something you can feel and see as you check out both floors of inventory. Plus they are opening a sister shop in Marin County very soon. Bigger is better.
Bay Area Bikes
The Bay Area Bikes shop I visited is just one of their 3 shops (the most northward one), all on the same street. I guess each one has a different theme (?) and this one is E-bikes, folding bikes and cargo bikes. Once again I was thrilled to feel just how committed the crew is to their bikes and customers. I think I spent close to the most time at this shop in Oakland, more than most of the others I stopped at. I suspect they were jazzed I rode in on a E-Brompton, because they are the only Brompton shop in town (I could be wrong here).
They have an ok selection of E-bikes, but if you add the folders and cargo bikes it makes for a full house. We talked many things while I was there and I never lost interest in the topics. I came in while my wife was at the lake doing the Dragon Boat Races, so eventually I had to drag myself out the front door and get going back. It wasn’t easy to leave the shop behind. I hope I can visit there again soon.
Nearby in Berkeley we found Pacific E-bike. They are housed in a big shop that also does custom cars, vintage cars, and motorcycles (repairs and the such). This stop was a major hit and run so I may not have gotten all the info in the video correct. They are a Motiv Electric Bike dealer among others (BESV). They also have the eMazing E-bike, a bike I need to find out more about (we saw them at a couple of the shops). Pacific has been doing E=bikes for many years.
Hank & Frank Bicycles
I found this Berkeley bike shop online and decide to stop in before lunch. They really are more of a regular bike shop that carries a few E-bikes. As far as bike shops go they have it covered very well, yet E-bikes are something they have to stay well-rounded for their customer base. Still it was nice to say hi and check out the local bike shop flavor.
Honor Roll Scooters
Here is a machine I should have ridden, but at the time I was glad to get a video of Erik at the bars of his creation. Not really an E-bike, he claims it might as well be, as it fits into the category fine. His Meerkat is now in its 3rd version as he makes it better and stronger. The locals seem to be embracing it and it’s available online as well.
I ran into Erik by coincidence as he works sometimes with Tyson of Vessel Custom E-bike. I had contacted Tyson that morning about checking out his shop, and he made sure that Erik came by to get in on the action. And it seems there is lots of E-bike action in this part of the state. This was a fun afternoon.
Vessel Custom Electric Bike
Out of all the E-bikers I met on this trip, Tyson was my favorite. In fact I would love to have him as a neighbor. He works his magic out of his home shop. His yard and shop speak the languages that my wife and I like. He is big into sustainability along with E-bikes. Like me he spent most of his youth with petrol powered machines (motorcycles for Tyson) but one day found that electric-powered transportation and fun is much better. Three cheers for that.
Vessel offers a custom framed E-bike of Tyson’s own making. It has plenty of excess power and range, looks and rides cool, and gets lots of attention wherever he rides it. He is doing well with it locally, yet I envision his E-bike as an online sensation. I know of a few other people making custom E-bikes that are vaguely like Tyson’s and they seem to sell briskly world-wide. I think he has a great thing going.
When we stopped into Davis (the bike capital of the state?—-the country?), I found Ken’s online as a BionX shop. It is a long time regular bike shop and even though they have their own crew doing the BionX stuff now, it was John Swann that helped them get it started. Right as we walked in they gave John a call for me, so I could meet him and see what he’s up to. I liked the shop and posted a video of it, yet it was Swann Electric Bicycles that was the gem of this stop.
Swann Electric Bicycles
With over 100 BionX E-conversions under his belt, John Swann keeps Davis on E-bikes. He and his wife do the long rides and seemed to be tuned into the Davis bike culture well. When I first contacted him he had just minutes before returned from a bike tour, yet a quick shower later and he was riding up on his personal BionX-equipped bike for the meet. The three of us rode to a nice lunch spot and we sat, ate, and talked E-bikes. During the lunch his wife arrived to say hi on her BionX road bike.
As a long time BionX dealer, John informed me into much of this high-end E-bike conversion kit. A lot of it I was familiar with and I think I added some insight that was new to him. It was an well conversed lunch and I was glad to meet him. Afterwards we found a place where I could film their bikes, and then it was time for all of us to keep moving—busy times.
B & L Bike Shop
John suggested we stop by this Davis bike shop as he thought they did mid-drive conversions. Turns out they don’t, yet they did have E-bikes and Tern folding bikes. Davis is bike shop heavy for a small town, and that is what you get when so many there ride bikes. Part of that is the fact it is a college town, yet much is just the way the people there live. B & L is an ok bike shop with lots of cool bike stuff.
As we hit Sacramento, Practical Cycle was first on my list. I have met Tim before and his son (still a partner in the shop) now works at Pedego corporate in Orange County. This E-bike shop is one of Pedego’s most active, and they also have Brompton folding bikes and cargo bikes. The shop is right in Old Town where the State train museum is located (another important stop for my trip). When I use the word also for this shop, that is a big also. They really have it together there.
Part of the lure of Pedego Electric Bike shops is the rental option. Most are in wonderfully scenic and fun areas, so a E-bike rental from them can be the best part of a vacation. And to set it solidly for us, that is just what my wife and I did. Tim set us up on a pair of his Pedego E-bikes and we toured the town and some beautiful bike trails for over 5 hours. When we got back we talked for better than an hour. Tim made sure to rub it in that my battery was lower than my wife’s, as she is much more of a pedaller than I.
My wife and I are on a slow speed search for a new area to retire to. She worked up a deal with Tim that if we did move there, Tim would hire me on at the shop. I do know a thing or two about E-bikes to be sure. Who knows, maybe someday I will be the newest staff member there. In the meantime, if you come by Practical Cycle, Tim and his crew will treat you right.
City Bicycle Works
I’m not sure that Tim knew part of the things we were going to do on his bikes was to check out a couple more shops, yet that was on my agenda. This shop had one E-bike (the new Bosch-powered Electra Townie GO) and one folding bike, yet the personnel were friendly and they had a well stocked bike shop. Nothing too special in my eyes, yet I included a video for good measure.
The Electric Bike Shop
Our final shop to check out was in Sacramento too. Mike had just moved into a new location and was apologetic about the shop’s appearance. I could see just how nice it will be once he finishes the renovations and gets things organized, so I told him not to worry. He is an E-bike repair specialist (all kinds of electric powered vehicles too). His new place is right at the entrance of the trail system and on one of the biggest bike traveled intersections.
Like all the stops it all went too quickly, yet we did talk about the bikes and the town quite a bit. Mike knows his stuff and has a great following, so I see many more years of success in the future for The Electric Bike Shop. I hope I get to see it all once he is back up and running at full speed like before the move.
The overall findings
We went to every E-bike shop I could find online that was in the towns we had planned to visit. Each one seems to be doing well and getting enough locals at the doors to keep moving smoothly. I am sure there were shops we missed, yet as you can see we found plenty. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we saw so many riding bikes during our entire trip. Most weren’t on E-bikes, but we did see our share of those too. Northern California proved to be beautiful and bike active at every turn.
I have visited well over 70 E-bike shops. That doesn’t count the regular bike shops that have an E-bike or two. Most all of them can be seen on my video site, yet many more were before I started doing the videos. It is always great fun to meet the people and see the selection of bikes they offer. Many set us up for a ride in their town and that always makes for a more exciting visit. I guess there are dozens (hundreds?) more to visit, so I will my best to make it all happen.
Below I will link all the shop videos, yet if you look at my video site closer you can see some of the rides we did, some of the train museums and depots we visited, and my wife racing the Dragon Boats in Oakland. I have done this type of investigative trip in other areas, and I hope to do many more. People have told me I should get a grant so I can do this full time and in every corner of the country (globe?). Wouldn’t that be fun?
Thanks for following along, Turbo Bob.
“My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.”—Peter Golkin.
You can find all these shop’s websites and FB pages with a simple Google search.
Here are videos of all the shops we visited. There are more of the other fun we had on this trip if you search my video site for a bit.