Viva La E-Bike Revolution: Sales in US Are Up 240%

And how Rad Power Bikes keeps delivering during the shipping crisis.

Rad Rover 6 Plus

Rad Power Bikes

E-bikes are not just toys: Treehugger has called them a transportation revolution and serious climate action. We have predicted that e-bikes will eat cars.

This apparently is happening right now. Dirk Sorenson of NPD, a data-munching consultancy, writes that while the cycling industry as a whole has seen a dramatic increase in sales over the last year, "e-bikes grew by a whopping 240%, which made it the third largest cycling category in terms of sales revenue. This number is remarkable because it makes e-bikes a larger category than road bikes, which has traditionally been one of the biggest categories across all of cycling."

Where there has long been a stereotype of cyclists as being obnoxious road bike types, the market has changed. People want durable "non-threatening" bikes that can handle busy streets, and are leaning toward mountain and gravel bikes. And of course, e-bikes.

"The new and returning rider may be concerned with a range of objections to ride again – the big hill, the long ride, and keeping pace with faster riders are all relieved by pedal assist. And, once riders try an e-bike, most seem compelled by the fun of it."

We would also note they are looking for basic transportation that can get them to the store or to work, which is why for the revolution to really take hold, we need safe places to ride and secure places to park. As the recent 1.5 degree lifestyle report noted, many people have to deal with "lock-in" effects where they have no choice but to drive because there is no infrastructure to make it safe to bike. The e-bike revolution might change all that, as the numbers become so significant that the authorities have to take notice.

How Rad Power Bikes is dealing with the shipping crisis

winter e-bike ride
Through rain and snow and dark of night, Katherine's Rad Power Bike gets there.

K Martinko

Sorenson notes that there are still significant problems with inventory with all the shipping industry problems and container shortages. We noted earlier that the bike boom was being crushed by lack of supply and "the whole system is so interconnected – it's not just that you can't buy a bike right now, but even simple parts like bike chains are out of stock because of lengthy shipping delays."

Rad Power Bikes, which has been innovative in its design and marketing of e-bikes, has an interesting story about how it is being innovative in getting its bikes into North America in the midst of the worldwide shipping crisis.

It used to bring in their bikes and bike parts from Taiwan, Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia in shipping containers to Seattle and Vancouver. But in this crisis, it was finding them sitting on ships outside the port for weeks.

Mike McBreen, the chief operating officer of Rad Power bikes, tells Bob Bowman of SupplyChainBrain how they are dealing with the crisis. He lives north of Seattle and noticed that the port of Everett, Washington wasn't very busy. Before the container era, everything was shipped "breakbulk" where longshoremen would unload goods that were just stuck in the hold of ships. Bulk goods and big items that won't fit into containers are still shipped that way and handled in ports like Everett.

McBreen made deals to transport his containers full of bikes on the decks of these breakbulk ships, which could be unloaded in Everett. Because they were doing this outside of the usual shipping giants, they had to buy the containers in Asia, but the prices of the boxes keep rising so they have been able to sell them at a profit on this side. They needed to get boxes to Savanah, Georgia, and drove them cross-country because it was more dependable than the trains. Bowman notes this is going to cost more, but "we made the strategic decision with the support of the board and founder Mike Radenbaugh to bear that cost and go to market at the same prices we always have."

Back at NPD, Sorenson notes: "In my experience speaking with retailers, many cite hiring mechanics and floor staff to be as much of a challenge as obtaining product for sale in 2021. How the industry addresses staff shortages may in fact be the bigger influence on long-term growth." After complaining earlier that ordering e-bikes online was problematic, a lot of readers described their positive experiences shopping online, I am beginning to realize that the Rad Power Bike model is pretty rad.