• Robyn

Electric Toys For Big Girls and Boys


June 05, 2017

There are many ways to get from Point A to Point B, and, with the recent resurgence of interest in electric motors and batteries, local vendors have a couple of new options for people who want to add some zip to their locomotion.

Electric battery and motor technology as been around since the late 19th century, and by the end of that century there were already two patents for combining electric motors and batteries with bicycles.

Marty Parichand, owner of Outdoor New England, rides a Onewheel electric board on the sidewalk in front of his shop in Franklin. He said the unusual devices have been a hit with the outdoor sports crowd. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Those concepts were well ahead of their time, as it took many decades of development for electric bicycles to become useful to consumers. But, that time has arrived, and Pat Bolduc, co-owner of Piche's Ski and Sports Shop in Gilford, said that just this year he has started stocking and selling a range of electric assist bicycles, made by Giant, one of the better-known bicycle manufacturing brands.

Giant uses a lithium-ion battery and motor, which are snugly fixed to the bike's aluminum frame, to supplement the pedaling power of the rider – the bike must be pedaled, the motor won't propel the bicycle on its own. Giant has applied its electric assist devices to an urban commuting bicycle, a road bike and a full-suspension mountain bike. Depending on terrain and operation mode, the battery can help power the bicycle for 100 to 120 miles. Operation modes include "eco," which conserves range, "normal" and "power," which is "like a rocket ship," said Pat Bolduc, co-owner of Piche's.

The battery and motor add a bit of weight, so the bikes weigh 40 to 50 pounds, more than other aluminum-framed bicycles. But they more than make up for that weight when going up a steep hill, or those last few miles of a long ride. Knowing that there's help available encourages riders to be more ambitious when setting out for a training run, said Bolduc.

Dana Farley, one of the bicycle technicians at Piche's, admitted that he was leery of the electric bicycles, until he took one out for a test ride.

"Believe it or not, you do get a workout with these things. I'm pretty impressed by them," he said.

Giant's electric-assist bicycles have a battery pack and motor integrated into the frame. Employees at Piche's Ski and Sports, in Gilford, have found that the bikes are appealing to cyclists who are recovering from an injury or who want to get back into cycling shape. From left, bike technician Mark Johnson, employee Denis Zecevic, soft goods buyer Annlouise Vento Porter, bike technicians Dana Farley and Brian Stokes, and co-owner Pat Bolduc. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Priced between $3,000 and $7,700, depending on the model and options, the electric-assist bikes are somewhere in the middle of the price range at Piche's. They've sold competitive road bikes  up to $13,000. The electric assist bikes have already found a few customers, too. Bolduc said they appeal to people who are recovering from an injury, or who are getting back into shape after taking the winter off from cycling.

While the electric assist bicycles would be easy to confuse with a conventional bike, there's no confusing a Onewheel with anything. The Onewheel electric board is about the size of a skateboard, but has just a single broad wheel in the center of the board. An electric motor and battery is intergrated into the hub of the wheel, and the rider places his or her feet in front of and behind the wheel. The device moves forward and back based on how the rider, who stands sideways as if on a skateboard, shifts his or her weight between front and back. Marty Parichand started carrying the Onewheel as soon as he opened Outdoor New England, his store in downtown Franklin, on Jan. 1 of this year.

Parichand had tried the Onewheel before, so he knew it was an innovative, fun and high-quality product. Still, he was "a little bit" surprised at how well it has done for him.

Outdoor New England, a specialty whitewater sports store, had eight of Onewheel's first model. Six of them sold, one of the remaining serves as the store's demo model and the final one is rented out to someone who uses it to commute in Boston. Just last week, the next model, Onewheel Plus, was released, and Parichand had ten pre-orders for that model.

The Onewheel Plus, which retails for $1,499, has a range of 5 to 7 miles between charges, recharges in 20 minutes, and can travel up to 19 miles per hour. The experience of riding one is similar to other board-based pursuits, which is why Parichand thought it would appeal to his customers.

"The people who come to the shop are outdoor enthusiasts, people who take a lot of pride in having fun and getting the most out of their life, and so this really appeals to them. It's so close to surfing and snowboarding, which most of these people do, there's a lot of carryover in the customer base." Having such a novel product in stock has been a boon to his fledgling business, he said.

"To get this kind of surge of orders this spring has been extremely helpful for us, as we're just starting out and developing a customer base. The product is phenomenal, so it's understanding that it's been a draw for people," Parichand said. 


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