Along with a renovated interior, Calistoga Bikeshop has shifted inventory to ride the wave of new electric assist bikes.
New technology has catapulted the e-bike into unprecedented popularity. For the past 10 years growth has been 10-15 percent per year. Sales for the past year are expected to grow by about 400 percent, said Brad Suhr, owner of the Bikeshop.
“There’s a divide in America of people that are wholly against it because, (they say) if you want to ride a bike, ride the bike, otherwise you’re cheating. And then there is a mentality that you’re on a bike whether it’s electric assist or not. It’s not like you’re not racing each other to the grocery store,” he said. “The people on the e-bikes are having a ball. The bikes are bringing a lot of people to biking that have never even ridden bikes into the cycling community."
These are not the bikes that people previously took and Jerry-rigged motors onto them.
The new battery-powered bikes are sleek, completely silent, and geared by technology. They look like a normal bikes, with the battery, motor and electronics concealed in the frame, and includes wireless shifting. Unless you knew what you were looking at, you might not even know it was an e-bike.
“There are no shifting wires going down to the derailleurs (gears). You have an electric component going exactly where it needs to go every time. It’s nuts,” Suhr said.
Road bikes also have much wider tires nowadays. They’re bigger, softer and smoother. They also come with suspension.
“That’s a game changer. Road bikes have changed dramatically in the last five years. Disc brakes are now normal, but the main thing is, for about 15 years all the bike industry did was try to make the bikes as light as possible,” Suhr said.
The big question is how long the battery will last. It’s variable depending on the size of the rider and the amount of incline ridden. Suhr said he’s taken riders up to Healdsburg and back, but also has a regular customer, an older gentleman, who goes up and down Deer Park Road, to Yountville and back.
The bikes allow people to ride farther than they normally would. For older people it allows them to still remain biking. Middle-aged women take the bikes up to the top of Mount Tam and Mount St. Helena, Suhr said.
“They’re just loving it because their husbands have been trying to get them to ride for years but it’s just not fun for them. It’s hard. If you’re not riding all the time, climbing for five miles on a grade is really not enjoyable,” he said. “There are a lot of people who would never ride from Calistoga to St. Helena on a Saturday morning when the roads are quiet, and now they can get down there in 30 minutes.”
Prices start at about $1,200 and go up to $12,000.
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The new bikes are displayed in the newly remodeled interior of the Bikeshop. Suhr has been in the space for 12 years and this is the first real interior renovation. He owns the building and had it seismically retrofit two years ago.
The renovation began with the floor, which was carpeted and painted concrete that needed to be replaced.
“With all the glue, we either needed to replicate what was there or grind it all up and get rid of it,” Suhr said.
He decided to get rid of it. But once everything got cleared out of the shop, it became evident other renovations were needed as well.
“You think ‘Oh it doesn’t look that bad’ but then when you get everything out…” he said.
Suhr did a lot of the work himself, raising the lights to the ceiling for more focused lighting. The showroom also was painted.
There are two spaces in the back of the building that haven’t been rented yet, so everything in the shop went back there for six weeks while the work was being done.
Without completely shutting down, this allowed the team to move out but still run the business.
“We were just crammed in there. It wasn’t ideal but at least we were still able to cater to locals, as the back was still open for people to come in,” Suhr said.
There are also relatively new renters to either side of the shop, Calistoga Fit and Ira Yeager Gallery.
“They’ve done a great job with the space. With that new gallery next door and across the street (CAMi Gallery) it will be interesting to see what fills in the other vacancies here,” Suhr said. “The goal of our renovation was to have a more modern look, freshen the place up, and hopefully be part of a regeneration of the main street here.”