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His Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps - New York Times

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His Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps
Published: February 21, 2006 E-Mail This Printer-Friendly

SAN FRANCISCO — When Lance Armstrong said in the title of his autobiography, "It's Not About the Bike," he clearly hadn't had coffee with Steve Roseman.

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Mr. Roseman, who dubs himself the "chief power source" for the electric bike industry and radiates the wattage that his title implies, feels it is about the bike. The e-bike, that is. And for close to five years now, Mr. Roseman, 48, has been riding an uphill battle to change how Americans get to the office or the grocery store by promoting and selling e-bikes. "My view is that e-bikes are truly evolutionary vehicles," said Mr. Roseman, founder of the Electric Bike Network (, a Bay Area
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His Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps - New York Times

12/8/09 1:11 PM

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(, a Bay Area business that sells e-bikes through a collaborative agreement with several retail shops.

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Electric bikes are designed to extend human energy, instead of replacing it. Their motors are battery-powered and operated by pedaling or with a throttle, allowing riders to determine how much, or how little, they want to work. And they can thumb their nose at the gas pump. The beauty of the beast is both in its simplicity and complexity. Electric bikes do not require a license or tags from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bikes can reach 20 miles an hour, and faster with extra pedaling. And, according to some estimates, the total cost per mile (including energy cost, purchase price and the cost of running the vehicle) is less than 5 cents for an e-bike versus 71 cents for a car. For e-bike fans, the thrill of the ride and the machine's ecopurity are widely praised, yet no one knows the actual number of riders in the United States. Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports, an industry newsletter, estimates that 100,000 electric bikes were sold nationwide last year. The League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group in Washington, puts that number closer to 25,000, highlighting the lack of precise data. "It is a still a niche market," said Andy Clarke, the league's executive director. "And my suspicion is that e-bikes are still going to have a tough time competing while they are still heavy," he added, referring to weights of up to 80 pounds. "But for people who need extra assist, it is a great tool and resource." Mr. Roseman bought his first electric bike in 2001. After 20 years working in strategic development for HewlettPackard, he had time on his hands and terrain to conquer. "I didn't have time to get into shape or get into the physical discomfort of having aches and pains just to get around the city," he said. "But with an electric bike, suddenly it's like having a fairy godmother tap you on the shoulder."

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His Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps - New York Times

12/8/09 1:11 PM

having a fairy godmother tap you on the shoulder." Mr. Roseman got busy writing a business plan for selling the bikes. The lack of e-bike retailers gave him the opportunity to carve out his own place in the market. "What I'm after is making these bikes available," he said. "But what I do is different. It's part distribution, part sales and part evangelism." To spread the word, Mr. Roseman entered into what he calls a cooperative business model with three independent bike shops around San Francisco. He gets to put a few of his models in the stores' windows. He stocks a total of 11 models from four makers and stores them in warehouses. Mr. Roseman then trains sales clerks, prepares sales materials and handles troubleshooting and replacement parts. The bikes cost $1,000 to $3,000. A 33 percent margin is split. By working with a cooperative, Mr. Roseman avoids the risk of a bricks-and-mortar commitment in the Bay Area's expensive retail market. And the store owners get the latest technology in their windows without committing to the manufacturer. "I've always wanted the shop to carry alternative transportation devices to take the business past what we've been doing," said Justice Baxter, the owner of Wheels of Justice Cyclery in Oakland, Calif. "This way we can try out different vehicles, but the sales risk is on Steve." Mr. Roseman declines to discuss his annual revenue, but described his profit last year as in "the five figures." He said he expected a surge in sales now that his newest import, the eZee bike, had arrived from Shanghai. (Most of the e-bikes are from China and Taiwan.) "An e-bike is the most efficient way on a permanent basis to transport yourself," he said. "It's not just transportation. It's transformation."
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His Passion Gets You Past the Gas Pumps - New York Times

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