As Columbus continues to become a more bike-friendly city, travelers might see a new kind of bike on the road. Orbit City Bikes is the first electric bike dealer in Columbus. The Clintonville shop launched in October with plans to ramp up product offerings for a spring grand opening.
An electric bike looks a lot like a regular bicycle. Two qualifications keep an electric bike a bike by standards of law. These peddlers are limited to 750 watt motors and 20 mph. Why does a bike need a motor? In general, the feature makes them easier to ride, providing peddling assistance and throttle. Riders can use as much or as little assistance as they need.
“You can also pedal them without electric power and get your exercise,” says store owner Tom Bennett of the versatile bikes.
Also, “As long as it’s not part of the electrical panel, they can get it adjusted at a regular bike shop,” he says.
Bennett says there is an an interest and a small community for electric bikes, but is excited to build awareness and educate riders. Come spring, Orbit City Bikes will set up at farmers markets and festivals to introduce Columbus residents to the bikes. People are normally a bit confused by the concept until they see or ride one themselves.
Bennett saw his first electric bike over 10 years ago.
“At the time, there was some ambiguity about what an electric bike was,” he says. Continuing his research into the concept, Bennett built his first electric bike about eight yeas ago. When the idea for a store came to mind, he found the biggest electric bike shop in the U.S. is in Madison, WI. And, he thought, if they can do it there, I can do it here. Bennett is from Columbus and sees the store as way to contribute to the community.
For Bennett and many others, electric bikes allow a way to enjoy a sport they otherwise couldn’t. Bad knees made it difficult for him to ride a traditional bike. Electric bikes provide peddling assistance and thereby a lower-impact activity.
Because of this, about half of the market for electric bikes is traditionally baby boomers.
As for another large part of the market, “Young professional who want to ride a bike to work but not show up all sweaty,” Bennett says. Electric bikes are a good option for commuters, with a speed of about 20mph, riders can move faster and stay out of the way of traffic.
Bikers can ride on the street, on a bike path or on the trails – anywhere one would traditionally ride a normal bicycle.
“No matter where you ride it, people always come back with a smile,” Bennett says.
For more information, visit orbitcitybikes.com.