Test-ride And Buy Electric Bikes At The E-bike Challenge

Second-year Minneapolis event to include more bicycle tourism information.

E-bike Challenge demo event
Last year’s inaugural E-bike Challenge demo event attracted more than 3,000 attendees.Hicle Inc.

The E-bike Challenge, a consumer demo event that made its US debut in Minneapolis last year, returns for its second edition this March with an expanded focus on cycling tourism and plans to include more retailers for attendees to purchase ebikes.

The event’s inaugural edition in 2019 drew 3,000 attendees to test-ride ebikes from more than 20 brands on an indoor track at the Minneapolis Convention Center. An E-bike Theater hosted presentations on adaptive cycling for the blind, bicycle design and fabrication, and cycling into old age. With its debut in the Upper Midwest, the program included a session on ice adventure riding to go ice fishing as well as screenings of the film Big Water Bike, a documentary about riding around the Great Lakes area.

A lot of people were really interested not only in test-riding ebikes, but ‘Where can I go with them? What can I do with them?’ That’s our objective: We want to get more people outdoors and get them on bikes. That’s been our focus for over 20 years. But we also want to front-load them with information so they’re ready to buy a bike.

- Hike & Bike Xperience

Last year’s exhibitors also included USA Bike Tours, Dutch Bike Tours, and other cycling tourism groups. Event presenter Hicle Inc., which has produced bicycle expos in Europe for more than two decades, plans to bolster the number of cycling tourism groups at the US gathering this year.

Cargo bikes were part of the mix at last year’s event.
Cargo bikes were part of the mix at last year’s event.Hicle Inc.

“A lot of people were really interested not only in test-riding ebikes, but ‘Where can I go with them? What can I do with them?’ That’s our objective: We want to get more people outdoors and get them on bikes. That’s been our focus for over 20 years. But we also want to front-load them with information so they’re ready to buy a bike,” Hicle’s Constance Hughes said.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, Hicle presents the E-bike Challenge in conjunction with its Hike & Bike Xperience tourism show, and the US event will follow suit this year with an expanded slate of exhibitors and new programming.

“We want to challenge people to get out of the car and commute on an ebike—to start exercising on an ebike and get healthier and fit again. For people who have given up cycling, we want to get them on an ebike and ride those hills and bridges and face the headwinds. And make their dreams come true and travel on a bike,” Hicle CEO Theo Jorna said.

The first US event drew many attendees who hadn’t ridden a bike in 20 or 30 years, as well as people concerned that they might be too heavy to get on an ebike, Hughes noted. “These were people that hadn’t previously been into cycling or hadn’t done it in a long time. We reached avid cyclists looking to upgrade to an ebike, but we also reached people who hadn’t ridden in years and years. And that’s exciting,” she said.

Last year’s US expo featured a few bicycle retailers, including the 30-plus-store Midwest chain Erik’s Bike Shop, and the show’s organizers plan to include more shops this year to increase attendees’ opportunities to buy ebikes on-site.

35 exhibitors provided demo ebikes and cycling travel and other information at the first E-bike Challenge.
About 35 exhibitors provided demo ebikes and cycling travel and other information at the first E-bike Challenge.Hicle Inc.

“This year we’ll have more retailers and organize them in one area. People didn’t want to just come test-ride; they wanted to buy,” Hughes said.

Hicle is also looking to expand the E-bike Challenge to other cities in the Eastern and Western US and the Rocky Mountains region—particularly cites with a wealth of bicycle lanes and paths like Minneapolis has.

‘The thing that’s most important to us is bike infrastructure. It doesn’t do them any good to sell them a bike if there’s no place to ride it. The city has to come on board,” Hughes said.

“Ebikes are now becoming a thing in America, but it’s slow. So we started in a cycling-rich city like Minneapolis with good cycling infrastructure,” she added.

The E-bike Challenge is set for March 28 and 29 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. For more information, visit ebikechallenge.com.