Half of adult e-bike riders (50.7 percent) started (39 percent) or returned (17.1 percent) to riding a bicycle during the pandemic, from 2020 to 2021. This data is from NBDA consumer research published in late 2021 and available at www.nbda.com.

This is reminiscent of the home-grown beginnings of BMX on the American West Coast in the late 1970’s. BMX emulated motorcycle motocross racing, employing modified 20-inch bicycles.

The research also says that most adult cyclists who plan to buy an e-bike will purchase a BMX bike!

Before you toss this response away, stop and consider that the majority of consumers aren’t really that accurate about bicycle styles and types. When adult cyclists say they plan to buy a BMX type e-bike, we suggest many are thinking of the fat-tire 20-inch or 24-inch e-bike they have seen on the Internet, like this one:

American e-bike brands like Rad Power Bikes (founded in 2015), Juiced (founded in 2010) and Super 73 (founded in 2016) were direct to consumer (DTC), and are now including bike shops in their distribution and marketing.

These brands, and others like them, are based on motorcycle, moped and scooter design. They have in many cases excited consumers who have never ridden a bicycle before about riding an e-bike, or “bicycle” as defined.

Our analysis indicates that the sales surge during the pandemic changed the bicycle market and business. The NBDA consumer research found the traditional mainstream bicycle business views e-bikes as primarily an electric assist feature add-on to regular bicycles, and appeals to older bicycle riders. New e-bike brands that are primarily DTC are designed and marketed to new and younger consumers who are interested in environmentally-friendly recreation and transportation.

The traditional bicycle business and customers are more interested in values like component groups and proper fit. The new brands, and their younger, more female customers, are more interested in eco-friendly outdoor recreation and transportation. They are also interested in what a brand’s values are, as well as what they support and believe in.

Reaching out to and effectively communicating with both the traditional and new customer is the challenge for the future of the American bicycle business in uncertain times for consumer engagement and participation.

Understanding the traditional and new consumer demographics, along with changing buying and use habits, will require a change in thinking, marketing tactics and strategies going forward. It is no longer just about banning “them” from local trails and bike paths, or restricting “out-of-category” products. It is about understanding differences of perception, and finding common ground to actually be inclusive, to grow the American bicycle business and market.

Contact Jay Townley: jay@humanpoweredsolutions.com