Electric Bike Company directs customers to go to its website–electricbikecompany.com–and pick out the model and colors and add-on items for their desired bicycle and then wait until it can be built from scratch at the Newport Beach HQ off Superior Avenue.
It is then delivered fully assembled to whatever address the purchaser desires (home, office, vacation resort, side squeeze’s pad, etc.).
Knowing this while riding the black beauty that owner Sean Lupton-Smith loaned me for a couple weeks so I could write this review, I still could not fathom ordering anything other than the loaner. I came this close (picture my thumb and forefinger pressed together) to changing my name and switching addresses. That’s how difficult it was to return the thing.
Perhaps it had something to do with that first 3-mile commute from my home to my office. Months earlier, I’d make the trek on my traditional, non-electric, one-speed Nirve black beach cruiser. But part of my ride involves climbing hills, so I quickly switched to my Schwinn 10-speed.
One day, while still pedaling my ass off up a Santa Ana River Trail incline, I got passed by an older dude on an electric bike. Not just passed passed, but passed so closely I could determine the brand of his cheap aftershave. Most definitely an aggressive riderly move from Rip Van Lithium.
My Electric Bike Company loaner makes such encounters a thing of the past. Thanks to a throttle switch that gets the two-wheeler up to the state-approved 20 or 28 mph (depending on which state you are in), and in pedal-assist mode while throttling you can ride even faster.
The bike is plenty sturdy. You can test that easy enough: Just pedal it with full human power and feel the increased weight compared to a traditional bike. Better yet, stand while stopped on one and bend sideways to feel the weight of the bike leaning on you. Now push it up and down as you would a dumbbell, and you’ll be huffing and puffing way more than you would with a Huffy.
Talking with Electric Bike Company owner Sean Lupton-Smith for my cover story that came out this week, he mentioned how he purposely makes his electric bicycles sturdier because–at $2,000 to $2,500 per unit depending on chosen options–buyers are going to expect it to last for several seasons and perform as new even after it sits unused due to winter weather.
I’d say that sturdiness also gives more confidence while handling various road conditions. That sounds counter-intuitive because, with bikes powered by our legs, the lighter the better, because we are more mobile and can push ourselves farther before our thighs become inflamed.
But on the electric, the added weight was never an issue unless, as indicated above, I was purposely pedaling sans juice. Riding it with the throttle engaged, it was more akin to being on a moped or my old oil/gas-powered Tank scooter (R.I.P.). On the electric, I always felt in total control and never as if I was in any danger while climbing hills, gliding down them or beating cars to cross streets.
Lupton-Smith had actually told me in his shop that most purchasers do not envision electric bikes like they do pedal-powered traditional two-wheelers, that they are really interested in something akin to a moped, which is why he believes they will predominantly be using his throttles.
There’s actually an added benefit to this when it comes to commuting back and forth to work. Remember those trips I mentioned on my beach cruiser and 10-speed? One drawback, especially under the unrelenting sun over Southern California, is you arrive at your cubicle totally drenched in sweat.
Perhaps your office has shower facilities or a garden hose. My does not, although it does thankfully have men’s rooms with extra large toilet stalls to accommodate the disabled. The good news: I could comfortably change out of wet riding clothes to dry office duds. The bad news: Have you ever dealt with remnants stuck to your nether regions after toweling off with thin paper toilet ring protectors?
Fortunately, the loaner had a big enough basket on the front that I did not even have to wear the backpack holding my dry clothes, I could just throw it in there and still have room for my canvas lunch sack, bicycle lock and the small tool kit that comes with Electric Bike Company bicycles.
You can also have a cup/bottle holder and cellphone grabber attached. Lupton-Smith says the basket can be replaced with a kid carrier. A bunch of options are on the website.
The battery on my loaner always had enough range that I never really needed to plug it in during my testing period, but I did so anyway so I could see how it went.
Lupton-Smith had told me that the Electric Bike Company had patented its battery pack that includes a standard plug that you can pull out of its housing to plug into a household 120v outlet. Once the bike is charged, the plug wire easily re-coils back into the housing. I did this no sweat in my garage one day and in the Weekly warehouse days later.
The biggest compliment the Weekly received with our first issue in 1995 came from readers who said it seemed as if we’d already been around for years and years. I felt the same way about my loaner bike, even though the Electric Bike Company has only been around since 2014. Everywhere you turn (literally), it’s as if someone was really thinking about making the best available experience for the rider, and everything seems so familiar.
Not that there were not hiccups in the early going (as there had been, alas, with the Weekly). Lutpon-Smith recalled for me the battery fire with one bike. Back then, a foreign third party had control over the battery cells and management system. The Electric Bike Company responded by investing in a North American battery manufacturing plant, and now battery cells are individually fused.
Having copied the Tesla model for safety, the bikes rely on two temperature sensors in internal battery packs that send relays to automatically shut off the battery if inconsistencies are detected, according to Lupton-Smith. So, in addition to having confidence in what you can see and feel on his bikes, riders can know that extends to the internal guts.
Now that the bike is gone, I look longingly at the empty space in my garage that had been occupied by the Electric Bike Company loaner. It was a nice addition to my beach-cruiser-and-10-speed fleet. If I do ever order one, I’d have to decide whether to go with the Model C (for classic), like my loaner, or the Model S (for step-through), which is designed for older riders or those with leg issues so they do not have to raise a limb very high to mount the bike. (The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Electric Bike Review named the Model S one of the two Best Cruisers for 2018-19.)
Whichever I get, I will have to sharpen my elbows for the next river trail-riding older dude who tries to pass too closely.
Click here for my cover story this week: “Fountain Valley’s Pedego and Newport Beach’s Electric Bike Company Struggle to Roll with Trump’s Trade War Against China”
Click here for my 2015 review of a Pedego electric bike: “Pedego Trips the Electric Bike Fantastic”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.