“The greatest thing about an electric bike is that it operates just like a regular bike,” said Ike Fazzio, owner of San Diego Fly Rides (619-888-3878; sandiegoflyrides.com), located in the Gaslamp.
“If you’re feeling strong, you can pedal it; if you want help going up hills or you’re hitting a head wind or just wanting to relax, a lot of them are set up where you can pull back the throttle and go up to 20 mph. As long as they don’t go over 20 mph top speed and they’re under 1000 watts, they’re considered a bicycle.”
But a good bike doesn’t come cheap. “You can find cheap electric bikes, but I tell people you get what you pay for. Starting price for a good electric bike is around $900. A high-quality bike like the Stromer bike that we carry, which is a good commuting bike, is around $3000.”
Maintenance? “It’s like a regular bike. You have to replace the brake pads and occasionally the brake cables. Things like that.”
Who is riding electric bikes these days?
“A good portion of our customers are baby boomers who like to ride on the weekend for fun. Some people like to commute on them, because you’re looking at about six to eight cents to charge it up overnight. We also have people who have lost their driver’s license due to eyesight or a DUI, so they want an electric bike.”
How do they operate?
“A lot of the bikes have what’s called the pedal-assist option, which means the motor only kicks in when you are pedaling,” said Fazzio. “They also have a throttle-control option, where you can just throttle without pedaling. The majority of bikes these days have both options, and the more sophisticated bikes have better pedal-assist options.”
San Diego Fly Rides rents electric bikes for $10 an hour. “The day rate is $65, and we rent by the week — $25 or $35 a day, depending on the bike. We offer free test rides. If you rent or take a guided tour and you end up purchasing one of our bikes, we will credit that cost. We do a lot of guided tours. Balboa Park is probably our most popular, then Mt. Soledad.”
I asked Fazzio if he ever runs coupon deals. “No,” he answered. “But how about this: anyone who mentions this Reader article will receive 15 percent off a tour or rental at San Diego Fly Rides.”
“We do sales, rentals, and service,” said Gary Stewart of Ivan Stewart’s Electric Bike Center in Little Italy (619-564-7028; iselectricbikecenter.com).
“We sell a lot of brands, but Hebbe, Pedego, and e-JOE are our three main ones. They range from $800 to $3500. It’s sort of like your Toyota Corolla to your Rolls Royce — a lot of different features, depending on the bike.
“Our latest craze in purchases is young couples that can no longer afford two cars. They’re replacing their second car with an electric bike, because electric bikes cost pennies to charge up and they range 20 to 40 miles without even pedaling.”
Ivan Stewart’s rentals run $20 per hour, $50 for three hours, $75 for six hours.
“The Pedego Cruiser is a nice bike,” offered the salesman at Bicycle Warehouse (858-273-7329; bicyclewarehouse.com) in Pacific Beach. “It’s a beach cruiser; it runs about $1700. It’s designed from the ground up to be an electric bike. It’s not a conversion, so it’s built to handle the extra torque from the 500-watt motor, and it has a longer wheel base so it can go 20 mph and be safe and comfortable.”
Segway of Pacific Beach (858-270-2881, segwaypb.com) sells electric bikes and offers service but no rentals. “Right now, Ultra Motor’s A2B Metro is a big seller,” the saleslady offered. “It looks like a regular mountain bike, and they run $3300.”
Home-based business San Diego Electric Bike offers customized conversions (619-216-8572; sdelectricbike.com). Owners Patrick and Everett Winston work in Bonita by appointment.
“People bring in their bikes to have them electrified, and we have 12 demo bikes with all the motors. Conversion kits go from $350 to $900. Most bikes can be converted to electric. Some kits can take two hours to complete; some take two weeks, depending on the complexity.”