One local entrepreneur is banking that the hills of San Antonio are steep enough to send bicyclists seeking for a speedier option while staying in the saddle.
Former motorcyclist turned bicycle enthusiast Bryan Martin is the founder of Bronko Bikes, a start-up targeting the hybrid bike market.
“I kind of think of e-bikes and electric vehicles today where cell phones were in the late 1990s, they were becoming more ubiquitous, useful and affordable,” said Martin, adding that he missed the wind in his hair on the way to work and started crafting an electronic bicycle in 2012.
Martin moved to San Antonio from Austin about a year ago and is working on another prototype of an electric bicycle that combines a mountain bike-like frame and dirt bike throttle on the handlebars. Over the next few months he plans to finish a second prototype, launch a crowd funding campaign to test the market and search for a business savvy co-founder.
“I do see it as an emerging market and this business doesn’t have to hinge on local sales,” Martin said.
It costs about $2,000 to build an electronic bicycle from scratch that can run up to 30 miles per hour. The selling price point is $3,000. Martin said he plans to also offer electric bicycle conversions for $700 a pop.
“There are plenty of kits out there but there aren’t a lot of people willing to put it together for you,” he said.
A lithium battery pack attached to the frame of the bicycle provides the power to spin the back wheel, much like a motorcycle, but it can also pedal using human power. The 48-volt battery is charged through a typical wall outlet and lasts about a year of heavy use.
One niche market he’s aiming for is the bamboo electric bicycles, which are lightweight but also sturdy.
“In some cases it can be half the weight of steel and twice as strong, but also very good at absorbing road vibrations and bumps,” he said. There’s also opportunity to source bamboo grown in central Texas to trim shipping costs.
In general, laws in Texas allow electric bicycles to share the road so long as they don’t go faster than about 20 miles per hour. One thing that’s been missing from the electric bicycle market is affordability and sleek design, he argued.
“It needs to have sex appeal and spark the imagination,” he said.
Source: San Antonio Business Journal, Kristen Mosbrucker
Photo: Founder of Bronko Bikes, Bryan Marin shown with his electric bicycle in San Antonio. Courtesy photo
Kristen Mosbrucker covers technology, finance and the military.