There’s a revolution in recreational bicycles that you may not have noticed. It’s a growing trend turbo-charging what was until recently a stagnant, declining industry. But, of course, we’re talking about electric bikes – pedal bicycles and tricycles with electric motor assist. And although RV dealers have traditionally shied away from selling bicycles, perhaps it’s time to reconsider this new form of transportation since the RV consumer is embracing e-bikes with a passion.
What is an E-Bike?
Electric bikes look and feel like regular bicycles. However, they have a battery-powered motor to assist with propulsion as you crank the pedals. Some also have a throttle, making it unnecessary to pedal at all. Because of the electric motor, riders can go further, ride longer, and conquer more hills, making the e-bike especially appealing to older riders or those with physical limitations like bad knees. In addition, e-bikes are quiet, range about 40 miles on a single charge, and are legal almost anywhere you are permitted to take a bicycle, including municipal bikeways and off-road trails. In other words, they are perfect for the RVer.
If you’d like to learn more about e-bikes, here’s a comprehensive guide to e-bikes for RVers from RV Life.
Bikes Sales Flat but E-Bike Sales Booming.
According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, except for a brief COVID-19 bounce, bicycle sales in North America have declined steadily over the past decade.
But while pedal bike sales are falling, E-bikes are off the charts. Electrek, the popular news and community site dedicated to electric vehicles and transportation, notes that electric bikes outsold electric cars and hybrids combined in the United States last year. One trade group, the Light Electric Vehicle Association, projects sales in the U.S. will soon surpass 1 million annually. Electric bicycles are putting newer and returning riders on two wheels than ever before.
Ubiquitous at RV rallies.
Visit an RV rally like FMCA, Escapees, or one of the manufacturer events at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds, and you’ll see e-bikes have become incredibly popular. In addition, we’ve met motorhome owners who have foregone pulling the traditional dingy behind their coach in favor of well-equipped e-bikes.
As a sign of growing popularity, well-known RV personalities and authors Marc and Julie Bennett of RV Love recently documented their 8,500-mile Class C RV road trip highlighted by reliance on e-bikes for their local transportation.
What’s more, many e-bike industry insiders predict that record gasoline prices will only increase the demand for electric bicycles.
An opportunity for RV dealers?
Although RV dealers have shown little interest in selling traditional bicycles, e-bikes may be another story.
Mega-distributor NTP Stag began offering a line of Canadian-built e-bikes in 2021 and quickly burned through available inventory. The brand is Elby, created by Canadian business icon Frank Stronach, founder of Magna International. Elby models range in price from about $3,000 to $5,000 and offer top-end features like a more powerful motor and battery, puncture-resistant tires, and hydraulic disc brakes.
“As we looked at our business in the RV, overlanding, truck and off-road segments, bikes – particularly e-bikes – make a lot of sense,” says Andy Morgan, automotive aftermarket segment manager for Keystone Automotive, parent of NTP Stag.
While inventory for the Elby bikes is still tight, Morgan said he expects supplies to loosen up this summer. “When that happens, we will continue expanding our offerings and range of products. We’ll listen to what dealers tell us, learn more about consumer preferences, and go from there.”
BUZZ is the Brand.
One e-bike heavyweight with eyes on the RV market is BUZZ Bicycles. BUZZ is a brand of United Wheels, a global holding company of outdoor brands including Huffy, Niner Bikes, Batch Bicycles and more. According to the company website, United Wheels ships over five million bicycles annually to thousands of retail locations throughout the U.S. and more than 30 other countries.
BUZZ Marketing Director Kris Parlett believes marketing through RV dealerships for his e-bikes, e-trikes, and e-scooters offers tremendous opportunities.
Parlett, based in Ohio, spoke with RVBusiness, the sister publication to WOODALLSCM.com, about the fit between e-bikes and RVers and how RV dealers can capitalize.
“When we look at our analytics, RVers make up almost 10% of our website traffic, depending on the time of year. So clearly, there is lots of interest. We are working through the various programs that might best fit RV dealers. Perhaps it is co-marketing. Maybe BUZZ has partnerships with different RV brands. We are still exploring the possibilities.”
According to Parlett, campgrounds and RV resorts are other RV-related industries that could cash in on the e-bike craze. He added that many of these businesses rent-out golf carts or bicycles. Adding e-bikes and scooters would significantly increase rental revenue. BUZZ Bike’s parent, United Wheels, already has programs to serve similar markets.
Among BUZZ Bikes’ offerings are step-through, cruising, folding bikes, trikes and e-scooters. Prices range from $499 for the scooter, with bicycles starting at around $950 and topping out at about $1,700.
This is at the lower end of the price spectrum for e-bikes, making them especially attractive to campgrounds and resorts looking to incorporate them into their rental fleet.
Will RV dealers find a way to tap into the e-bike phenomenon? Honestly, who knows. But what is certain is that the RV consumer is clamoring for e-bikes, and RV dealerships may be a way to fulfill those needs.