You see their customers cruising all around town on sleek electric bikes, beaming big grins as they zip past downtown traffic. Finding a parking space is of no concern to an ebiker. Electric bikes are not only great for the environment; they are also good clean healthy fun. They’re allowing a wider circle of people to leave their cars parked more of the time while they run errands, commute, and recreate to a degree that couldn’t be accomplished on a regular ‘acoustic’ bicycle. Besides that, who wouldn’t want to get some help up Morton Street?
Beginning their eleventh year this spring, Ashland Electric Bikes has seeded our community with hundreds of beautiful and durable ebikes that keep folks feeling young and smiling wide. The shop is prominently located at the front corner of the Ashland Shopping Center on Ashland St..
In today’s interview I catch up with local owner Jerry Solomon.
Thanks, Shields. Yes, I am extremely grateful for all the loyal customers that have made Ashland Electric Bikes what it is today. I started the business with a heartfelt passion to provide something of value to my community and I’m proud of that. It’s been a measured, steady process and the resulting base feels very stable. I am committed to providing quality products, thorough education, and stellar service and its proven to be a winning formula.
10+ years in the industry speaks volumes. Please talk more about this.
Yes, it’s been quite the journey of discovery. I’ve seen and learned so much in that time. Companies have come and gone and the equipment itself has evolved considerably. Virtually every day we find something new about the products and their maintenance that makes us better equipped moving forward. Also, we have all the bikes that have been out there in service for up to a decade and the real world lessons they’ve taught us has been priceless. No amount of capital can buy the gifts of experience.
I know what distinguishes solid and durable from trendy and short-lived. My job is to vet the companies and their products to make sure that what I offer my customers is the best equipment available at any given price point. We look for brands that are responsive to our feedback and are committed to the constant evolution of their products. Some companies give us excuses, others give us upgrades. By this we know which ones are truly dedicated to building the best bikes possible and that’s whom we want to represent. Truly, after all this time, its still exciting to open every new box to see what small or large improvement has been made to that bike.
When I built my first electric bike back in 2007 it was a real eye opener for me. Long standing health issues had caused me to stop bicycling – something that has always been central to my lifestyle. That was a huge loss and I was determined to find a solution. My electric bike got me back in the saddle and riding like I was in my healthy 20’s again. It was a genuine epiphany and I knew I wanted to explore this new realm more. I also wanted to share my discoveries and help others reclaim their riding ability. That motivational piece, combined with the ecological/societal values inherent in greater bicycle usage was, and continues to be, at the heart of the matter for me. I like closing my eyes at night knowing that I spent the day making somebody’s life and our shared world just a little bit better, healthier, and perhaps more in alignment with a Higher Order.
What were you thinking when you started this 10 years ago?
In my hopeful idealism, I thought that electric bikes were about to explode in popularity the next day(!) and I wanted to be a part of that. Here we are over ten years later and its really just now getting greater attention on a national level here in the U.S. As I said earlier, I knew firsthand what a game changer electric bikes could be for individuals, and for communities as a whole, and I really wanted to help propel that movement forward.
That’s absolutely true. Battery technology improvements are certainly foremost in that regard. Motors, electronics, and diagnostic capabilities are also more refined. As the numbers grow, bigger companies are getting involved and bringing their more sophisticated design and manufacturing expertise to bear. Alas, there’s also a proliferation of poor-to-mediocre offerings out there as well. Let the buyer beware; if the price is low and it seems almost too-good-to-be true, it probably is. Our region’s topography and climate require more from an electric bike than a flat beach boardwalk, so its advisable to look beyond simply the lowest price tag you can find. Sadly, there still exists a throwaway mentality around many consumer items, so yes, you can buy an ebike for far less than the bikes we offer and yes, you will be scrapping it in far less time than you would if you start with a quality item.
Forget getting a first car. Get an electric bike!
That’s just what I like to say! It thrills me to see more young folks and their parents choosing this option. What a great graduation gift it can be to send your young adult forward on an ecologically friendly, socially conscious path in life! Globally, more and more young people are forgoing the expense and hassles of car ownership in exchange for alternative solutions such as electric bikes. Ashland is the perfect size community to make this lifestyle possible.
Having access to a car when its necessary while doing the majority of your daily traveling by ebike is the ideal scenario in my opinion. When approached from this perspective, the higher costs of a quality ebike become more reasonable. In fact, one study in the San Francisco area determined that the cost of a $5K electric bike (that’s a VERY nice bike!), when factored against the average expense of owning and operating a car, would be recouped in only nine months time.
We have so many stories of people getting to bicycle again after an injury of some sort. Countless couples have been able to begin riding together as a result of one or the other using an electric bike to balance their capabilities. We see adults who haven’t ridden since childhood regaining that sense of freedom and joy that riding a bike provides. My favorite story is still about a teenage girl with physical and developmental challenges who had never ventured beyond her house other than by car with one of her parents. Dad had a vision that perhaps an electric trike would afford her a degree of autonomy never before experienced. I had my reservations since the girl was very withdrawn and seemed uninterested at first. After about an hour of patient instruction, which included me riding in the rear basket with both our hands on the grips and eventually running alongside her, we had the girl operating the trike on her own. She left the shop like a changed person – more animated and confident than I thought would be possible. Dad checked in a week or so later to report that she was exploring the neighborhood around their house for the first time in her life on her own. That’s a success story to cherish!
Jerry, what are your visions for where Ashland Electric Bikes and where the electric bike movement can go in the future?
Hmm, where do I start? There is so much potential for growth in this arena. First of all, community infrastructures and basic growth design criteria need to keep evolving to encourage more and more bicycling and pedestrian friendly areas. We need only look as far as many European countries that embrace bicycling more than us to see how much that can improve the quality of life for the people at so many levels. Moving forward, electric bike usage and car share programs will dovetail together perfectly. Also, so many businesses can incorporate electric bikes as their short-range delivery solutions and provide incentives for employee travel via bicycle. Government incentives like we see for electric cars will be a big boost to the movement.
There are unlimited recreation-based opportunities for growth in the way of electric bike tours, group rides, community bike maintenance classes, etc. With my new employee on board I expect to see more of these ideas come to fruition. Many are familiar with Bow DeBey via his years running the import auto repair center on Siskiyou Blvd. His mechanical abilities and overall business operational skills are a boon to our shop and I’m so pleased that he’s on the team. Together we are evolving into an even greater force for good in all things ebike related locally and regionally.
Jerry, do you have any last thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
Yes. If you’ve given any thought to the idea of an electric bike I encourage you to come by and take a test ride. Usually that’s all it takes to make a believer out of anyone. Once you’ve had that first ride the possibilities that owning an ebike offer begin flooding through your mind. More bikes and fewer cars on the road benefit us all. We are at a crossroads on our planet and the collective choices we make around healthful living, planet stewardship, and sustainability are essential. The place is Here and the time is Now. Do what you can to make it an even more beautiful world.
Ashland Electric Bikes
1678 Ashland St.