Meet our friends at The New Wheel
The eBike revolution is gathering momentum around the world. Meet our friends at The New Wheel in California, and hear how we’re both part of a global movement for change.
At GreenAer, we’re passionate about bringing a better way of living to the world through eBikes. But we can’t do it alone. Luckily, there are a few electric bike companies like ours around the world, driven by the same excitement and concerns. One of these is The New Wheel — a business we’ve known since the beginning and deeply admire.
We recently caught up face-to-face with Karen Weiner, who co-founded The New Wheel with her partner Brett Thurber in 2010. Now with 3 busy shops in the San Francisco Bay Area, they’re growing fast and on a parallel track to GreenAer. We wanted to know how our experiences are different, and how they’re the same…
“We’re not just selling eBikes, we’re selling against cars. We’re growing a whole culture.”
We were members of the ‘uncool club’ before eBikes were understood.
Karen first met Olivier eight years ago at Eurobike. Back then, we were part of the ‘uncool club’. eBikes had not been widely adopted; people thought we were a little nuts. We’ve been on parallel paths ever since. “It’s exciting to know things are really happening globally and that we’re part of this bigger movement!”
Different spokes for different folks
Each of their 3 locations caters to a different audience. Their iconic Bernal Heights shop in San Francisco (established in 2012) serves avid bike enthusiasts and urban commuters, living and working with less space. Their Larkspur Landing shop in Marin (opened in 2016) is a hotspot for boomers seeking recreation with less pain, and young e-cargo families. Its strategic location draws ferry commuters, too. Their Oakland location (est. 2022) feels like an Apple store. It attracts a hip young professional crowd, especially keen on eMTB.
Our shops take the same approach
At GreenAer, we take a similar approach. We don’t believe in “one-size-fits-all”. Every market and region has its unique customer base. For this reason, Magennis Street is primarily targeted towards commuters. Sandyford is ideal for cargo families and e-MTB, thanks to its suburban nature and proximity to nature trails. Our Mullingar shop is mainly geared for comfort and leisure exercise over longer distances, making use of the Greenways. Our Cork shop addresses the commuter and leisure crowds especially.
When it comes to choosing the best eBike brands, European technology wins.
The New Wheel works with just eight brands, many overlapping with ours — Riese & Müller, Stromer, Orbea, Tern. They seek quality, vision, stability, sustainability, and a strong personal identity. Brands should be able to build and support a movement, and respect the role of the retailer.
Why so many EU brands? “They’re way ahead of the curve,” says Karen, whose family is from Copenhagen. It was European technology that first inspired them to open The New Wheel, to improve lives in San Francisco.
“We’re like a family. You’re not walking into an e-bike shop — you’re walking into a way of life.”
Meet Paul, who works in sales at The New Wheel in Marin
“I had already retired, but when I read about what The New Wheel were doing here, I was blown away. I was writing a book about heart rate training, helping kids get healthy and on their bikes. eBikes increase heart health more than non-electric, because you can change systems as you climb. People are getting out of their cars and on their bikes more. They feel encouraged at any age or fitness level. This is especially important in America’s car culture. Even the cycling purists are being converted. One came back the other day just to hang out and chat. More than selling bikes, what we’re here to do is make connections.”
When it comes to selling eBikes, we both agree that service comes first.
“In America a bike shop is a community service. We’re here to educate and support our customers first. Often, there’s a lack of confidence or knowledge about how eBikes work. We serve almost anybody who walks in. We’ll repair other eBikes, and offer an online platform to help people sell their used bikes. If a customer can’t afford our bikes, we offer interest-free financing. We’re also involved in community organisations such as the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.”
The challenges of selling electric bikes in the Bay Area
The Bay Area is a tough market to grow a business in, due to the extremely high cost of living and real estate. The US is also culturally behind the EU, when it comes to cycling. People often worry about the weight of the eBike, and lose sight of the freedom it provides. Working with EU brands means there are stock, shipping and other cost-related issues, too, not to mention insurance. “It’s like whack-a-mole”, says Karen, “as soon as one problem is solved, another one pops up!”
“For an eBike market, this is still the Wild West.”
Electric bike adoption in the US vs. Europe
According to Karen, the US is about 5-10 years behind the EU. It wasn’t until the pandemic that eBikes moved into a zone of understandability. That said, today’s younger generation is more environmentally conscious than ever before.
There aren’t any government incentives in the US that compare to what’s available to us in Ireland, even — it’s still primarily self-motivated. Credit for lower income households to trade their car in for an eBike hasn’t been that effective yet, but it’s a toe in the water.
What about cargo bikes for businesses? Likewise, still at an infantile stage. “The US is a land of opportunity in many ways, but there’s still so much educating to do. In the EU, there’s more understanding, more volume, more innovation. Cycling is already an ingrained part of life.”
Ireland’s Cycle to Work Scheme, explained.
One reason why GreenAer has been so focused on the commuter is because of Ireland’s Cycle to Work Scheme. While many have heard of it, few understand how it works.
This is a tax incentive to get more employees biking to work. Last year, it was increased from €1,000 to €1,500 towards the purchase of an electric bike, or related accessories. As of January 2023, the incentive will be €3,000 towards the purchase of a cargo bike.
It can be used every 4 years. Your employer must pay for your new e-bike, and you pay it back in instalments from your gross salary. If you’re in the 40% tax bracket, you’ll get 765€ (51%) back on a regular eBike. If you’re in the 20% tax bracket, your savings could be 465€ (31%). On our website, you can generate a quote to know what you’ll save.
Come by and say hi!
If you’re in San Francisco, swing by The New Wheel and say hello to our friends! If you have questions about e-bikes or e-cargo, our knowledgeable team is here to help. Book a free, no-strings-attached test ride at any of our locations, and get all your queries answered on the spot.
GreenAer have been Ireland’s leading electric bike specialists since 2008, with stores in Dublin, Sandyford, Mullingar and Munster. We are curators and distributors of the best e-bike brands on the planet, including Haibike, Stromer, Riese and Müller, Orbea and Urban Arrow. Our full-service electric bike workshop is staffed with Yamaha and Bosch accredited mechanics/technicians. We’re driven by our mission to clean up personal transport and urban logistics through premium eBikes and eCargo, and great service.