E-Bike Sales in US - Majors missing the bulk of the market ?

Mike's E-Bikes

Well-Known Member
This is an interesting article. If you read between the lines, it appears the major names in the industry that all go through traditional IBD's (i.e. Trek, Giant, Accell (Raleigh), Specialized, etc.) are missing the bulk of the sales in the US.

https://www.bicycleretailer.com/opi...ibd-e-bike-market-share-part-one#.XI-_0CJKg-1

BPSA estimated about $134,000,000 in sales for 2018 which is essentially data from established traditional bicycle channels, who are now carrying ebikes. Since there are many alternate channels for ebikes, including new ebike only stores (that aren't part of BPSA data), on-line retailers galore, and many direct shipments from China, other data suggests sales could have been between $250,000,000 and $300,000,000 in 2018.

With between 125 and 150 different brands of ebikes available in the US, per the consultants info mentioned in the article, and a LOT of those brands not selling through traditional bike shops, not only are the bike shops themselves missing the opportunity but the big guys aren't capturing it either as they typically insist on fairly tight requirements to allow a non-traditional outlet to sell their ebikes, which basically means only regular bike carrying shops can qualify.

Given that the ebikes from those players like Giant, Trek, Raleigh, Specialized, and others from Europe that are more premium brands like Stromer, Haibike, Tern, Reise&Mueller, A2B, BESV, Bulls, Cube, BH, Fantic, Gazelle, KahlKoff, Piaggio, Van Moof, Felt, Scott, and others, offer ebikes that are mostly priced in the $3000 to $6000 price range, it provokes the question of are their ebikes simply too high priced for the majority of would be ebike riders ?

There are a handful of non-traditional firms who never before offered regular bikes, like Pedego, Evelo, and GoCycle, who also have their ebike models priced fairly high (i.e. usually $3000 to $5000) that are doing ok to pretty darn good.

However, I suspect (based on the ESE data in the article) that the firms that have most of their ebikes priced between $800 and $2500, such as Rad Power, Magnum, Surface 604, Blix, Biktrix, Juiced, Sondors, E-Lux, M2S, e-Joe, Prodecotech, Amego, IGO, Aventon, Mate, etc. have carved out and will continue to carve out some rather significant unit sales numbers, and perhaps even revenue numbers that would make the "Biggies" blush with shame.

I would even go so far as to suggest that these Ebike only OEM's (who have models priced mostly between $800 and $2500) make up 75% of the difference between BPSA unit numbers, and the ESE numbers. With the other also rans (not listed here) making up the remaining 25%.

The 2019 projections are fairly aggressive, looking at 300,000 in unit sales to the USA. If it turns out that way, that would probably mean the market share growth of the non-traditional names that haven't been building regular bikes, are truly sticking it to the Big guys.

JUST A HUNCH: Big guys probably need to offer many more models priced below $2500, and to ditch trying to sell so many mid drives. (which add close to $1000 per copy versus hub drive). The typical ebike buyer, as Rad, Magnum, and many others have proven, could care less about the 'benefits' of a mid drive.

Can't wait to see Part 2 come out from this same source. ;)
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
In the article, IBD means independent bike distributor, and EBD means established bike distributor?

Yes, I think most ebike buyers just want an easier ride, they care about the cost, and aren't riding out in the woods where the benefits of a mid drive are apparent.

At the same time, can the business model of the majors really support entry level ebikes? Boy, better to be a consumer than a supplier, Mike.
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Just a couple of thoughts.

Where you say that some e-bikes might be "too expensive". From my standpoint you can make a very reasonable pitch for a $5000+ e-bike as a car replacement, and if you live in a fairly densely populated city and are thinking of using that e-bike for errands and commutes of 30 kilometers (round trip) or less you could reasonably expect to recoup your investment in two years just on what you'd likely save from parking costs. That doesn't include insurance or fuel. When I briefly lived in the Bay Area it was costing me $3000 per year for parking, even though I reworked things to cut that in half later on.

For the most part, the big players in the bicycle industry have basically forgotten who their customers are. Most of their marketing story focuses on their super-fancy bikes used for competition, and not what a regular normal person wants in a bike -- either as practical transportation or as an adult toy. This isn't always the case and every now and then the majors manage to produce a great bike for normal people. Honestly one of the reasons I got turned off by cycling was that racing emphasis that produced awful ergonomics and very flawed stock bikes. The irony is that, in my opinion, the minor players often produce better and more universally useful bikes than the majors do. The Surly Long-Haul Trucker is a fantastic and well-loved all-around bike either for touring/adventure or a commute (it comes in a disc brake version too). Similarly, the Salsa Vaya is a great all-around bike you've probably never heard of.
 
It's just common sense. Consumers are obviously going to prefer lower cost product. Hence, the popularity of walmart, costco, amazon, ebay, I don't believe the model is sustainable for most of these brands however. Most are duplicates of one another, with a couple of feature perks or differences to try to set themselves apart. Unfortunately customer service is usually not one of them!

I tend to believe there will be a significant shake out amongst the direct to consumer brands, but I could be wrong: maybe they takeover and the "big three" tumble since they can't or refuse to keep up on price!

Just a couple of thoughts.

Where you say that some e-bikes might be "too expensive". From my standpoint you can make a very reasonable pitch for a $5000+ e-bike as a car replacement, and if you live in a fairly densely populated city and are thinking of using that e-bike for errands and commutes of 30 kilometers (round trip) or less you could reasonably expect to recoup your investment in two years just on what you'd likely save from parking costs. That doesn't include insurance or fuel. When I briefly lived in the Bay Area it was costing me $3000 per year for parking, even though I reworked things to cut that in half later on.

For the most part, the big players in the bicycle industry have basically forgotten who their customers are. Most of their marketing story focuses on their super-fancy bikes used for competition, and not what a regular normal person wants in a bike -- either as practical transportation or as an adult toy. This isn't always the case and every now and then the majors manage to produce a great bike for normal people. Honestly one of the reasons I got turned off by cycling was that racing emphasis that produced awful ergonomics and very flawed stock bikes. The irony is that, in my opinion, the minor players often produce better and more universally useful bikes than the majors do. The Surly Long-Haul Trucker is a fantastic and well-loved all-around bike either for touring/adventure or a commute (it comes in a disc brake version too). Similarly, the Salsa Vaya is a great all-around bike you've probably never heard of.

The big players know who their customers are, but they have small armies of employees, investment in R&D, and distribute and committed to backing their products through a network of actual, physical brick and mortar retail locations.

The majority of direct to consumer e-bikes are ugly, come stock with low end components and shocks, and importantly in my book, usually only one option in frame sizes. Trek for example has 5 frame sizes. The frame designs the direct to consumer brands do choose are often 5, 10, or 15 years behind current design. Usually they don't have much of a choice anyway they just order the same stock frame every other dtc brand does. Typically, these frames lack a water bottle cage mount or standard rack bosses.

As far as mid drives I believe the big companies want to work with established european and japanese brands for the highest quality motors and battery cells such as bosch, panasonic, yamaha and samsung. Direct to consumer typically opt for chinese or second tier korean product like bafang, LG or other brands which most consumers have never heard of.

All of this is to say it adds to cost, but should ensure reliability long term. It's not a recipe for success short term however, as US customers in particular have reduced spending power, less earning power and an uncertain economic future.

I'm curious how this will all shake out. The bicycling industry is in a state of flux and I don't think anyone can accurately predict what will happen in the future.
 

mako

Member
As far as mid drives I believe the big companies want to work with established european and japanese brands for the highest quality motors and battery cells such as bosch, panasonic, yamaha and samsung. Direct to consumer typically opt for chinese or second tier korean product like bafang, LG or other brands which most consumers have never heard of.

Be careful. Most, if not all, manufacturers utilize the Chinese industrial might to get their products to market. Labor costs and all ya know. Its pretty hard to be competitive in any space anymore without outsourced labor and manufacturing. Not to mention Bafang makes a kick butt mid mount motor aka the bbs02.
For the most part, the big players in the bicycle industry have basically forgotten who their customers are. Most of their marketing story focuses on their super-fancy bikes used for competition, and not what a regular normal person wants in a bike -- either as practical transportation or as an adult toy.

EXACTLY!!

When I was searching for my first e-bike I found that most of the EBD shops could give 2 chits about customer service for a non traditional bicyclist looking at an e-bike. IBD shops were just the opposite. All about the customer and the experience. In the long run they will thrive with that model while the others flounder and drain free cash flow.

"Price is what you pay; value is what you get." - Wise consumer sage!
 

Timpo

Well-Known Member
So you're suggesting big companies like Trek, Giant and Specialized to enter cheaper ebike market?

I don't know if that's going to happen. Those companies are known for higher quality, not for cheap price. Sure they do have cheaper models, but generally they don't produce CHEAP bikes like Walmart bikes.

Giant for example, is I believe something like $3 billion corporation. I'm sure they know their customers and spend a lot of effort on market reaserch and whatnot.

Also, while $5000 ebikes aren't exactly cheap, considering the US / Canada market of ebikes are toys/sports/recreation, some people have no problem spending that much on ebikes since it's a weekend hobby.

If prices are that big of a concern to the customers, companies like Pinarello, Cervelo, Bianchi and all the other $10,000+ bicycle manufactures will go under bankruptcy in 3 days. But they won't because people have no problem spending lots of $ on hobby.

Yes, there are price conscious customers like myself, that's why I own Juiced and looked around for Amego, Surface 604, Volt and other cheap brands.

But I know I'm not a customer for a $5000+ Trek ebike. If Trek did produce an ebike with Bafang hub drive + Reention battery case and keep the price $1,699 for example, sure it will attract customers like me, but I don't know if that's their goal.
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
The big players know who their customers are, but they have small armies of employees, investment in R&D, and distribute and committed to backing their products through a network of actual, physical brick and mortar retail locations.
...

Respectfully, I see pretty compelling evidence that the big players do not know who buys their bikes.

The most blatant example is that 90+ percent of road bikes, gravel bikes, and touring bikes from the majors are over-geared, and not very fun to ride unless you are a super-athlete with tree-trunk quads. Riding any of them is, for a normal person, an exercise in humiliation, and most people aren't going to pay good money for that.

I can make similar arguments about frame geometry, slammed stems, and saddles. The majors know how to make competition bikes and when they don't know what to do, they end up doing what they know. But a competition bike is a poor choice for getting a bag of groceries from the grocery store or going on a bike tour on the coast of Portugal.

The bicycle industry isn't uniquely broken in this respect (I'll set aside the bizarre contradictions inherent in wheel sizes and tire sizes for the moment), but it isn't surprising to me that people aren't buying bikes from them any more.
 

Timpo

Well-Known Member
Found this article:

https://streets.mn/2015/07/29/why-are-bicycle-sales-declining-for-the-14th-year/

... and I wouldn't be surprised if bicycle sales are still declining.
Japan doesn't seem to have this problem. Same as Netherland and some other Asian/European countries.

American / Canadian infrastructure is based around on cars, not bicycles.

Also the cultural differences plays a big role. We're in the society where everyone is driving.

Mark Cuban from Shark Tank said that once you learn the luxury, it's really hard to go back.
Just like people with private jets can't even bear the first class on normal airlines anymore, once you learn the luxury of going from point A to B without much physical effort (cars) its actually very hard to go back.
 
Respectfully, I see pretty compelling evidence that the big players do not know who buys their bikes.

The most blatant example is that 90+ percent of road bikes, gravel bikes, and touring bikes from the majors are over-geared, and not very fun to ride unless you are a super-athlete with tree-trunk quads. Riding any of them is, for a normal person, an exercise in humiliation, and most people aren't going to pay good money for that.

I can make similar arguments about frame geometry, slammed stems, and saddles. The majors know how to make competition bikes and when they don't know what to do, they end up doing what they know. But a competition bike is a poor choice for getting a bag of groceries from the grocery store or going on a bike tour on the coast of Portugal.

The bicycle industry isn't uniquely broken in this respect (I'll set aside the bizarre contradictions inherent in wheel sizes and tire sizes for the moment), but it isn't surprising to me that people aren't buying bikes from them any more.

I am happy to report that this is definitely not an accurate representation of road bikes, gravel bikes or touring bikes.

I bought my first "nice" road bike back in 1990 as a teenager. The gearing was 53/39 chainrings (down from 53/42 rings just a season or two earlier) and 13-23 cogs. The lowest gear was a 39x23! That's 8 mph at just 60 rpm cadence!

I bought my second road bike just 4 years ago, with standard compact gearing. The rings were 50/34 with 12-30 cassette. What a huge difference! The low gear is now a generously low 34/30 which means 5 mph at 60 rpm cadence. With the rolling hills on my routes, I rarely if ever use the three lowest gears 34/24, 34/27, 34/30. I sometimes use the 34/21, but not too often. I can climb pretty well in 34/17 or 34/19.

The 34 small ring is a godsend for beginners as well as riders like myself returning to the sport after a long layoff. It allows for easy cruising on flat terrain or hilly terrain for anyone. To give some perspective on where I was at fitness wise 4 years ago, I rode back to back 15 minute test rides on my current road bike and one other and was quite winded after such a short period of riding. In my first couple of months, I used the small ring almost exclusively, and averaged around 13 mph on 1 hour rides at moderate to high effort. I was not in great shape at all, but fortunately the generously low compact gearing allowed me to ride in low gears in pretty much every situation. Now I use the 50 ring as my default and average around 16 mph on my rides.

Endurance, gravel and touring bikes have even lower gearing than my road bike. 50/34 and 11-32 gearing is now the norm. Aside from super steep grades of 20% or higher, this gearing is more than generous.

I don't know where you get the impression that road, gravel and touring bike gearing in 2019 are somehow only for elite athletes with tree trunk quads. I am far from an elite athlete and I don't have tree trunk quads. I'm an active rider, relatively athletic for someone 40+ but nowhere near "elite."

If you don't believe me, go ride a road gravel or touring bike yourself. Put the bike in the 34 ring, and in the middle of the cassette. You'll be able to pedal very easily, even for someone sedentary. From 1990 to 2019, the industry has moved from 7 speed cassettes to 11 and now 12 speed cassettes. I use a 10 speed cassette on my road bike and the 12-30 gear range works well for at least 90% of the riding I could conceivably do on road.

Whatever the reasons for the industry's challenges, "over-gearing" is certainly not one of them.
 
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ebikemom

Well-Known Member
once you learn the luxury of going from point A to B without much physical effort (cars) its actually very hard to go back.

I'm finding it hard to go back to my car after ebiking!!! ;)
Of course, if the weather is horrible, my car does beckon, for sure!
 

mako

Member
I'm finding it hard to go back to my car after ebiking!!! ;)
Of course, if the weather is horrible, my car does beckon, for sure!

I find myself having to make a point of going out and starting my truck every now and again. Hardly use it anymore. Its amazing what you can find within range of your home on an ebike.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Strongly agree with OP, great insights. The majors have gotten stuck on ebikes that are overengineered and underpowered, leading to weak, exorbitant bikes. No wonder people are ditching them! Their margins are too high and the wattage too low. And it's concerning because they're sabotaging an adoption that could be happening much quicker. It doesn't matter that a $5k ebike is cheaper than owning a car, because it's hard to convince people they won't need a car when they've gone all their adult life with one. Plus there's the theft risk.

I went to a bike convention recently, for customers. I ran into a friend and advocate for bikes as a form of urban transportation. He said the event was a waste of time for his purpose of getting more people biking. Mass utility is simply not a priority for the industry, selling $5k weekend warrior road or MTB bikes is, electric or not.

The industry incumbents can keep praying Americans start acting like Europeans and buy $5k ebikes. Not gonna happen. With American know how and Chinese execution, we get $2k ebike and even $1k ebikes, and those ebikes are good enough. Sure, if you were the type to insist on carbon or custom steel road bikes, you probably won't like moderately priced ebikes either. But those people are a small minority of the potential market. Yet that's who the incumbents are trying to target. They're not conscious of how they're making themselves a niche vendor when they don't need to be for this new product segment.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
I think there may be a place for the more expensive bikes, possibly with people that are looking for an e-bike after owning an e-bike for a while - or maybe several.

Meanwhile, I think all of us are willing to admit that our first e-bike was a huge jump, realizing full well we aren't sure we going to like it, won't be able to afford the maintenance, and I'm sure quite a few other factors.

What this means to me is, people making this first "jump" may be more likely to make it with an inexpensive "starter" bike. Then, if they like the e-bike experience, it's MUCH easier to spend whatever is necessary on the second bike.

Point being, I've been saying that snooty bike shops not recognizing this potential have been missing the boat right from the get go. As this market matures, the expensive bike manf's will soon figure something is amiss when they see successfull shops carrying at least one line of inexpensive/starter e-bikes. At that point they will have no choice but to bring them out themselves to maintain or advance market share.
 

Asher

Well-Known Member
Meanwhile, I think all of us are willing to admit that our first e-bike was a huge jump, realizing full well we aren't sure we going to like it, won't be able to afford the maintenance, and I'm sure quite a few other factors.

What this means to me is, people making this first "jump" may be more likely to make it with an inexpensive "starter" bike. Then, if they like the e-bike experience, it's MUCH easier to spend whatever is necessary on the second bike.

Agreed, and not only that, I think the vast majority of people will be *satisfied* with those starter bikes, depending on what they are. I've spoken to a number of Juiced CCS owners, and aside from maybe a bigger battery in the future and a few minor part swaps, there is no bigger better ebike they want to switch to.

As long as the 'starter' ebike works as promised, plenty are content with just that, and will spend their money elsewhere (eg travel, restaurants, education, etc).
 

Tim859

Member
Respectfully, I see pretty compelling evidence that the big players do not know who buys their bikes.

The most blatant example is that 90+ percent of road bikes, gravel bikes, and touring bikes from the majors are over-geared, and not very fun to ride unless you are a super-athlete with tree-trunk quads. Riding any of them is, for a normal person, an exercise in humiliation, and most people aren't going to pay good money for that.

I can make similar arguments about frame geometry, slammed stems, and saddles. The majors know how to make competition bikes and when they don't know what to do, they end up doing what they know. But a competition bike is a poor choice for getting a bag of groceries from the grocery store or going on a bike tour on the coast of Portugal.

The bicycle industry isn't uniquely broken in this respect (I'll set aside the bizarre contradictions inherent in wheel sizes and tire sizes for the moment), but it isn't surprising to me that people aren't buying bikes from them any more.
That's something that's drove me crazy for years. I've never understood why most bikes are geared so high. I'll take climbing gears over top end every time. We have rolling hills and I rarely even pedal downhill as I'm usually going 20+ mph anyway. My touring bike is now running a mountain bike double crankset thanks to the local bike shop.
 
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