Ebikes Gain Traction With Moto Shops And Riders At AIMExpo

Show's first electric pavilion, presented by Cycle Volta, draws strong retail and public interest.

Cycle Volta E-Pavalion Test Track
Dedicated to electric mobility, the new Cycle Volta E-Pavilion at the AIMExpo buzzed with activity during this year's motorcycle and powersports trade show.Toby Hill

Although electric vehicles like Zero's line of visually striking emotos and Harley-Davidson's attention-grabbing LiveWire had a significant presence on the floor of this year's AIMExpo, the Cycle Volta E-Pavilion and electric test track brought together several players in emobility in one concentrated space for the first time at the annual motorcycle and powersports trade show.

Produced by the Motorcycle Industry Council, the AIMExpo presented by Nationwide is North America’s largest motorcycle and powersports trade and lifestyle event.

Exhibitors in the new E-Pavilion said interest in their ebikes and electric motorcycles was high among both the motorsports retailers who attended the show’s trade days, and consumers who visited on the two final public days during the September 26–29 show at Ohio’s Greater Columbus Convention Center. And the test track within the pavilion buzzed with activity over the expo’s four days.

Yamaha Bike Display
Yamaha had its current ebike line on display, and select models available for demo rides on the E-Pavilion test track.Toby Hill

“The biggest surprise I had was how well received we were. Many of them knew our brand and were excited that we were here,” said Earlin Rosa, Eastern US channel developer for the Turbo ebike line at Specialized Bicycle. “They recognize our name, but they didn’t realize we make electric bikes.”

Specialized had its Turbo Levo mountain bike and Turbo Vado and Como urban bikes available for demo on the test track.

Stacy Shredders
The grom-petition was fierce between this pair of young shredders at Stacyc’s electric balance bike demo track.Toby Hill

At the QuietKat booth in the E-Pavilion, sales manager Brian Walton said traffic on both of the show’s trade days was largely “serious buyers, not tire kickers.”

“It’s not this [pavilion] that brought them here,” he said of the powersports dealers he spoke with, “but there was enough of a curiosity factor that they were definitely excited to see what’s going on here, and if there’s any relevance to their world.”

Quiet Kat
Popular among hunters and backcountry explorers, QuietKat’s Apex electric fat bike can be outfitted with the brand’s range of cargo accessories for extended adventures. It’s powered by a 1,000W mid-drive motor and retails for $4,300.Toby Hill

QuietKat also gave out coupon codes on the show’s public days to consumers who said they might want to buy one of the brand’s electric fat bikes popular among hunters and backcountry explorers.

“Ebikes in general require a lot of education because a lot of people don’t really know what’s going on. There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there. Everyone wants to know about speed. So a lot of what we do is educating and informing the public about where these can be ridden,” Walton said.

E Pavillion
Show-goers crowd the aisle between exhibitor booths and the test track at the Cycle Volta E-Pavilion on Saturday, the first of the AIMExpo's two days open to the public. The show's first two days, on Thursday and Friday, were for trade and media only.Toby Hill

Moto enthusiast Chris Brown traveled from Raleigh, North Carolina, to check out the AIMExpo. He was unaware ebikes would be part of the show’s mix, but was curious to sample some electrics once he saw the test track.

"My mom has a more traditional-style ebike, and she loves it because she loves to bike and now she can use the power assist to go up hills and everything. I've tried hers a couple times. But the two-wheel-drive one here is the one I want to try," he said, referring to the Ubco 2X2 pedal-free electric that was available for test rides.

Brown said electric motorcycles like the Cake Kalk OR and Kalk&— which were also available for viewing and demo at the E-Pavilion—interested him more than pedal- or throttle-assist electric bicycles. "I love torque. I love accelerating, and I don't need to go over a hundred. I just want to have fun," he added.

iGo Performance + CGV
Canadian ebike brand iGo brought its new Performance + CGV lightweight electric aero road bike to the E-Pavilion. Tipping the scales at less than 30 pounds, the carbon road rig has a Bafang M800 mid-drive motor providing pedal assist up to 20 mph, a 36-volt 200Wh Bafang battery integrated into the downtube, and a Shimano 105 groupset. It retails for $5,349. It’s also available with Shimano Ultegra Di2 spec for $6,749.Toby Hill

Damon Pfeiffer of retailer Antique Motorcycle & Scooters in Carroll, Ohio, came to the AIMExpo in part to see Super73's line of 1970s-inspired minibike-style ebikes, which were on display and available for demo at the E-Pavilion. He said Super73 would be a natural fit in his vintage-focused shop. "I think electric is the future, I honestly do. Everything is going clean, and it's so much more convenient just plugging it in and going the next day," Pfeiffer said.

Sena MP3 Shot
Bluetooth helmet maker Sena provided head protection for the E-Pavilion test track. The company sent test riders out with an MP3 player loaded with audio descriptions of the individual test bikes to hear on the helmet’s communications system.Toby Hill

Super73 is well known for its collaborations with celebrities in music, film, and professional sports outside of the cycling world, as well as social media influencers like vlogger Casey Niestat, whose YouTube review of the Super73-S1 Class 2 ebike has more than 3 million views. That contemporary profile, combined with the brand’s appeal as a nostalgia-tinged entry-level vehicle to potentially get new riders into motorcycles, is a potent draw for powersports dealers, noted Andrew Palos, sales and marketing manager for Southern California-based Super73.

Super Ride Profile
Outside of the Cycle Volta E-Pavilion, SuperRide displayed a tiny-wheeled sit-down electric scooter that folds down to the size of a small suitcase, and can be wheeled like a roller bag. It weighs 33 pounds, including battery, and retails for $1,399.Toby Hill

“They see the value where the general consumer can come into their shop, see one of these, and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I saw one of my favorite YouTubers or celebrity on this and I want to get one of those things.’ So they’re seeing the value of that. Then I tell them the margins, and that’s where they really want to start talking,” he said.

Ubco FRX1
Ubco exhibited a prototype of its FRX1 off-road freeride electric, with throttle and pedal assistance up to 50 mph. It has 200 millimeters of front and rear travel and range up to 62 miles, weighs 115 pounds, and is expected to be available for purchase in June 2020.Toby Hill

QuietKat currently sells many of its bikes through “hook and bullet” retailers like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, as well as select bike shops. In recent months the brand has attended several niche trade shows in industries including hunting, ski resort management, and adventure attractions like zip lines and rock climbing walls. But QuietKat’s Walton believes motorcycle and powersports dealers are an especially strong prospect for the ebike maker as those shops look for new ways to prop up stagnant sales.

“We’ve done a lot of different categories, but this one seems to represent the greatest opportunity or one of the best opportunities for our brand, both from a consumer level and a retailer level,” he said. “We’re here because these shops are looking for new opportunities. We offer these guys a 30 percent profit margin on our product, and when you’re selling a $6,000 ebike, that number becomes meaningful.”