The bike shops are missing a good bet..

Discussion in 'Spare Parts, Tools & Product Developement' started by bluegoatwoods, Jul 31, 2008.

  1. bluegoatwoods

    bluegoatwoods Well-Known Member

    Why not sell these motors and accessories?

    They have their clientelle, it's true. The Lance Armstrong wannabees, the mudbiking crowd and the skateboarders.

    But they could also bring in the mixed bag that you find in any neighborhood. And keep them coming back for upgrades, new motors/bikes, etc. And sell them some accessories along the way.

    I'd thought of motorizing a bicycle perhaps twenty years ago. Even tried it with a lawn mower engine about fifteen years ago. (didn't work very well.)
    And I would've bought one of these motors if I'd known where to find them. Even when I realized that I could find one online, I hesitated. I wanted to see one, to touch it and see what it was made of. No opportunity. So I finally decided to take the plunge. (No regrets)

    If there was one of these in the local bike shop, then I'll bet all sorts of people would have a look, think about it and some of them would come back and buy. It would seem like a great opportunity to expand their business.

    Why don't they do it? The only answer that I can come up with is elitism. The feeling that those of us who put a motor on a bike have "adulterated" the bike experience and are deserters.

    Could this be the whole story? That would be sad.

  2. pedalpower

    pedalpower Member

    a bike shop owner has enough headaches without adding the complications of adding motors (internal combustion or electric) to the mix. ****, bike owner barely know how to take care of their own rides-can you imagine customers coming in to ask to change the sprocket to a larger or smaller one? No way they would do HT engines.

    I also think they have enough going on and don't NEED to think about motorized bicycles to be successful. Now, a Harley dealer would be better suited to add a MB line to their inventory-more than a bike shop.

    but seriously, if you don't regularly ride a bike without an engine you are missing out.
  3. bluegoatwoods

    bluegoatwoods Well-Known Member

    You're right. One must do a lot of pedaling. I have two bikes at the moment, one motorized one not. Though I'll admit that I cut down my pedaling during July and August.

    But I have a hard time seeing bike shops shy away from MBs for fear of the mechanical work involved. They're already doing it.

    And perhaps motorcycle shops could make use of MBs as well. I wonder if the H-D crowd woud want to mix with the MB crowd. They have an elite self-image, too.

    Perhaps my question could spread a wider net. Couldn't someone make a killing if they offered these in shops, off the shelf. I'm puzzled about why it's not happening.
  4. seabillco

    seabillco Member

    Hi, BGW
    Great post. I'll chime in...
    I've had the EXACT SAME thoughts as you. Why don't bike shops offer MB? They don't around here in So. Oregon and I've looked in Portland, Oregon and other places in Oregon and found nothing!
    The only reason I could think of besides what you already said is that they may fear the liability. Since MB is unknown to them, they, like most people, will automatically fear it under the common belief that: unknown = dangerous.
    My guess is that most bike shops are making good money now because of gas prices and the Tour de France, etc. The recent demise of the housing ATM phenomenon may slow down some of the Lance Armstrong wannabees who will buy everything in the store regardless of price.
    But, the gas prices probably have brought in a new batch of buyers to the local bike shops. When I go in to a bike shop, it is always busy.
    I'm not saying the liability issue is a killer, just that it's scary to a shop owner who is making good money to take on a new product like MB.
    My guess is that there's money to be made with MB and, thus, entrepreneurs will eventually step in. It may just be that you and I are WAY AHEAD of most people at this point.
    As you say, until you ride a MB, it's hard to believe how cool it is. It will take a while for the masses to catch on. Once that happens, it's almost scary to think of the consequences. For now, people will first think of a motorcycle or a scooter since they are more familiar with them as ways to save gas money. Once they realize they don't have to insure, license, register, etc. a MB, they will get interested. At that point, THE MAN will step in and screw it up by regulating the heck out of it and killing it.
    I read yesterday that an Oregon legislator has just proposed a new bill to require ALL bikers to wear helmets instead of the current rule that only those under 17 years of age must wear them. When asked why he proposed this change, he replied that high gas prices have caused so many Oregonians to take to bicycles that he feared head injuries from biking accidents would skyrocket. I have no doubt that, once someone like this legislator hears about MB, he'll be only too eager to save us from ourselves and regulate them to death.
    Regardless of the wisdom of the Nanny State mindset displayed, it shows that gas prices are starting to have an effect and MB interest is sure to go way up. At that point, MB shops will appear.

    Just my 2 cents today...
    Have a great day!
    Steve G.
    Grants Pass, Oregon
  5. SimpleSimon

    SimpleSimon Active Member

    Well, I talked with the owner/operator of the biggest/best/oldest (46 yrs in biz) bike shop in this area Tuesday this week. We discussed what I'm looking to do, and while he is perfectly willing to give advice, order parts for me, etc, he isn't interested in getting into motored bikes again. Said he has a man he refers that work out to. I asked why, and he told me that there were several reasons, but mostly it is economics.

    He told me that the margin on the small engine work is so small that it just isn't worth what it costs to equip a shop, get the required permits, and mostly. buy the required insurance. Seems he got into aftermarket friction drive kits in the 70's, was selling them, installing them, etc. He's a pretty sharp guy, and told me he checked carefully what his potential liability to a customer who bought such from him was, and his attorney told him to get a waiver signed by the buyer each time. So he did just that.

    Sold an engine equipped bike to a customer, who let his 14 yr old son take it out, and promptly get run over on it. Despite his insurance, his attorney, the waiver and all, the guy sued him and won. Told me he spent almost $60.000 over three years in the appeals process before the appeals court threw the verdict out. Meanwhile, on his attorneys advice, he quit having anything to do with motorizing bicycles.

    He's happy dealing with pedal powered machines, does pretty good business, has two knowledgeable techs/mechanics (one is paraplegic, with the most RAD motorized wheelchair I've ever seen) who have been with him for many years, and while he'll order bike parts, install bike parts, service the bike itself all day long he won't touch the engine or anything to do with the engine on a bike.

    Can't blame him, really.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  6. seabillco

    seabillco Member

    Hi, SS
    Thanks for the info.
    Yep, that's about what I figured. The liability is scary with MB.
    I see the day when MBs are very common (imagine a typical Chinese city image you've seen where all the people are riding bicycles in crowds) in America because of the price of gas and other issues.
    Once there are THAT many bicycles, then the odds of getting hit by a 2 ton car go way down and the liability becomes more manageable.
    In the past, there was no need for people to ride MB - it was just for fun. It was a novelty and a bike shop owner didn't lose any business if he didn't offer MB.
    Once the masses see MB as a form of commuter transport, then the bike shops will see more and more people going elsewhere to find a MB after being told "No, we don't deal with MBs." At that point, they'll deal with the liability issues just as they do now with bicycles.
    Sadly, as I said earlier, that is also the point at which government will step in to regulate it so as to make money from it. This is especially true since gas tax revenues will continue to go down as the number of gallons of gas sold goes down.
    As an example of this last concept, in Oregon, there have been several proposals and even a pilot program to put a GPS in your car to measure the number of miles you drive and send you a tax bill for 'road repair' taxes. This was prompted by fears of hybrid and other alternate fuel cars NOT paying gas taxes.
    And, people have been fined for making and using their own biodiesel because they are NOT paying the gas taxes because they don't go to the pump. In most states, it's illegal to use a fuel that hasn't been approved by THE MAN.
    Watch out! It's coming. The MB craze is fun right now but, if it ever catches on widely, it will be regulated to death.

    Steve G.
    Grants Pass, Oregon
  7. crazeehorse

    crazeehorse Member

    as a bussiness owner/oper. i think it is several reasons, most of which have been mentioned allready. first i would be concerned with being sued. i would'nt want to sell something that has to be tinkered with so much, as it would overwhelm most people. as someone said before thats just a big headache. plus to be able to make any money, you would have to jack the kit price up, or else you would lose money on "backcalls". unless you charged 200.00 or more on installs, & made at least 50.00 kit markup. when i had my sheet metal & HVAC bussiness i had a cnc plasma burner. i had all these customers wanting parts fabricated. no one could understand why i had no interest in doing this.well i allready had more than i could do in heating & ac service, my machine cost 50,000.00 , so i would not even turn it on for less than 50.00, that was enough to turn most people away. my bussiness consumed my whole life, i guess my point is, sometimes it looks a lot different from the bussiness owners view, than the customers view.
  8. SimpleSimon

    SimpleSimon Active Member

    I agree completely, Steve. I'm a natuve Oregonian, and I love the PNW. I haven't actually lived there since 1981 - came to Texas back then for work (I lived in OC then, and local unemployment was over 30%) and to continue my studies. I was in Texas until 2004 (started or helped start three businesses, sold out of each), then came here to Shreveport for family reasons after my wife's murder in 2001 in Houston. Couldn't stay there anymore, and was so utterly disgusted with the Texas courts that I wanted out of the entire state.

    For me, these motorized bikes are fascinating - so incredibly versatile and such great potential personal expressions of creativity and talent that they are irresistible. Not too mention, the potential savings to the users are mind-boggling. Unfortunately, the nanny-state mentality will end up regulating them to mass conformity.
  9. Alaskavan

    Alaskavan Guest

    There's a new little bike shop that opened here this year. The owner is into electric bikes, recumbents, etc. He's asked me to build some motoredbikes for him to sell, but I would have to take time off from playing with my toys to build some.
  10. seabillco

    seabillco Member

    Hi, again, SS
    Thanks for the support!
    I'm very sorry to hear about your horrible experience in TX. I can't even imagine what you must go through every day. Again, very sorry for you and appreciate and admire your obvious will to continue and contribute.
    Also, FWIW, I ALWAYS read your posts carefully because they are so thoughtful.
    You said it very well and captured my feelings exactly as to my fascination with MB.
    To me, it will be a sad day when MBs are wiped out by THE MAN's regulations, taxes, etc.
    At any rate, it's a blast now and I'm sure glad I found this site!

    Thanks again for ALL your great posts!!!
    Please keep them coming as you're able!
    Steve G
    Grants Pass, Oregon
  11. bluegoatwoods

    bluegoatwoods Well-Known Member

    Yup, the liability issue is obvious now that I think about it.

    In fact, it's occurred to me before. People have said, "You could make a business out of this. Build 'em and sell 'em." And then I'd picture some guy killing himself on a bike I built and his wife suing me for a half million bucks. (And it's hard to blame her, really. She's lost her bread-winner) And while I could never pay it, owing it would be a tragedy.

    And profit margins are another thing that outsiders have trouble perceiving. I remember my machinist's wife once remarking to me, "People are outraged that we charge $35.00 to turn a brake rotor. But they don't know how much these machines cost!"
  12. Rain City

    Rain City Member

    I wouldn't feel right selling a complete MB to someone, knowing how tinker-intensive it is. BUT I feel like after a MB has been worn in, a tank or two, it really shouldn't require much tinkering. From my own experience though, tinkering can be dangerous - aka - my stupid *** not tightening the roller from the tensioner enough and watching the thing literally fall apart - luckily I was watching and was able to stop without wiping out or anything.

    Plus on the other end of it, unless a shop sold MBs that were 100% street legal, I think that once a few of them hit the road - it would eventually come back to you in some way or another.

    I would hate nothing more than building a motor for someone and then having something happen that involved the bike suddenly stopping (at 25 mph) or yeah who knows what. Scary thought...
  13. pedalpower

    pedalpower Member

    unless major brands like Trek, Lemond, Gary Fischer, Specialzed etc. start coming out with at least electric assist (out of the box) models I don't see LBSs selling anything but pedalpower. One of my favorite movies is Seabiscuit when the bicycle store owner has a new "horseless carriage" all spread out on the shop floor and then moves into the car business. Who knows what our economy has in store-perhaps bike stores will move into the small engine market-it all depends on what people want and what is legal.
  14. MB's will never become that popular. Okay. Vendors can't hold on to their engine kits. Supply is exceeding demand more than ever these days.
    Let me say this differently.
    I HOPE the MB's will not get that popular.
    Because this is our little secret.
    The rest can get scooters and motorcycles.
    Motorcycle shops have been selling these MB's for decades.
    You can order a Whizzer at your local Harley Davidson dealer.
    Chances are good they won't stock them for they don't sell as well as their motorcycles.
    But they're out there.
    We ride MB's in every configuration.
    Neighbors see us everyday.
    They SAY they want one.
    No insurance.
    No Registration.
    No taxes.
    And yet they continue with their cars.
    Because to them it's just a little DREAM.
    To some of us this is a WAY OF LIFE.
    To others it's strictly for recreation,nothing more.
    And most of us wonder why motorize a bicycle when you can get a motorcycle.
    Most of us think that motorizing a bicycle is something a kid would do.
    It's good that they don't know.
    It's good that they don't know that,
    We are the kids doing it.
  15. GTscoob

    GTscoob New Member

    I think if somebody can come up with a solid kit that does not require too much tinkering it should sell like hotcakes. Make the MB like a utility, when you buy a lawnmower you dont expect to have to tighten bolts and work on the motor every other time you take it out; at most you expect that some days it wont start and you just have to set the choke to crank it up. When motorized bikes reach that level of reliability then average joes will buy them.

    Most people will not spend money on something that requires constant tinkering, but if you're into modifying you can personalize your bike's appearance and performance to your heart's content on an MB and much easier and cheaper than on a motorcycle or car.

    Another option would be to sell the motor packages with an additional labor/warranty package where you pay another $100 or so but that covers all adjustments needed. Exactly like car companies paying for routine maintenance like fluid and belt swaps at predetermined intervals. I'd think if you could attach a timer to the crank of the motor and just set up maintenance intervals with hours ridden that would help make them more accessible.

    Maybe its an age thing like you say but most of my friends have cars and bicycles but they're all extremely interested in the gas savings from riding an MB. Some worry about the environmental impact of a 2stroke motor but that can be remedied with cats. I guess like Large Fillipino said, for some people its a lifestyle, but for us its just fun fairweather transportation. I cant wait to build mine as I'm sure I'll make several converts out of the neighborhood college kids as well as my friends older and younger.
  16. Bigwheel

    Bigwheel Member

    There is one big name manufacturer, Schwinn ( that is active in the motor assist market although only electric. I know of at least one other namebrand manufacturer that is looking in to motor assist and they are interested in electric only also.

    As far as the average bike shop getting involved with motorized bikes I believe that there are more than we know about but still not that many. I have seen a few waves form in the bike industry and I feel that the MB one is just getting underway. As usual the garage mechanics will lead the way and get the ball (wheels?) rolling and when it looks like there will be a decent ROI the larger companies will come along for the ride. Of course the laws of the land will interfere also which may not be as bad as we think? One can always hope.

    But the biggest issue is the reliability one. The HT motors are great and many are happy with them but because they are labor intensive not that many folks will be able to work with them. Also the 2 stroke engine in this country is dying a slow death due to the EPA and CARB requirements. Luckily the 4 stroke technology is coming along nicely and is ready to fill in the gap with a clean running and arguably more reliable engine. The fact that it is not as slim as the HT is a real problem however in retrofitting it into stock framesets. But the future of gas MB lies in the 4 stroke if I see it right. You can't tell me that if a company like Honda set their mind to it they couldn't make a narrower engine.

    Electric is really the way to go for most peoples needs though. For commuting up to 20 miles to work or running errands for people in populated areas they can do the job well enough. Battery technology that is kicking back from the high tech industry will hopefully bring the cost of the best ones down here in the near future and hub motors are plentiful. Hopefully the AC one that Birkestrand sold to Sanyo will get out of Japan someday also. Or perhaps someone will develop an engine like recumpences that is powerful, compact and lightweight?

    I have run both systems and they each have merits over the other. I do feel that the holy grail for myself is a hybrid system that several on here have come close to. Have a bike setup with an electric motor and enough battery to have at least a 40 mile range and have a trailer setup with a 4 cycle generator that you can hook up for longer distance and carry the necessary gear to boot.

    So don't worry about the bikeshops or the bike industry too much. They are notoriously slow to change and so be it. They already supply much of what is needed to make a decent MB without even knowing about it and that is a good thing. In the meantime enjoy the ride!
  17. Skyliner70cc

    Skyliner70cc Active Member

    From my perspective, it comes down to liability and profit margin.

    In order to make the HT engine somewhat reliable, it takes me a total of 10-12 hours to do an install on a bike. This includes pulling the engine apart to JB weld the studs, checking out other things, and replacing all hardware with US stuff.

    Another issue is that things change with usage and a newly bike should be driven 50 miles before being sold to address clutch adjustments, chain stretch, and a host of other stuff that often creeps up on a new ride. Most buyers don't want a "used" ride but want a new one with 0 miles on it.

    Let's not forget the way the sprocket is mounted to the rear tire. Not an ideal setup and should be regularly checked for loose bolts, bent/broken sprockets etc..

    Just adding one of those clamshell adaptors from lifefast motors adds signifcant cost to a bike which most buyers don't want to pay.

    I'm pretty much done selling MB's on craigslist. I was selling new (older style) skyliners and searchers with HT engines (with all of the mods I mentioned in a newbie build post) for $600.00 I have about 450 dollars in parts for each build and a 150 dollar profit isn't worth it anymore. I don't mind putting the miles on each ride to work the bugs out either but like I said, customers want a brand new MB and don't understand that a new and unridden bike is asking for trouble and a lawsuit.

    In order to make it worth it to sell these, I'd need 900-1000 per complete bike. Even though gas is 4 bucks/gallon, the economy is in the tanks and people nowadays don't even have the 600 bucks anymore to buy my cheaper priced builds.

    I won't even go into liability and warranty of product. Folks think they can drop their bikes, shear engine mounts, and destroy an engine case and expect it to be covered under a warranty that I never provided.
  18. strainjpnt

    strainjpnt Member

    it seems weird but i see people selling 75 dollar cruisers with HT motors on them for around 800 dollars and there actually selling the guy has sold 4 in the last month i also saw a guy selling his occ stingray with a motor for 900
  19. Eco Speeder

    Eco Speeder Member

    Power assisted bikes

    Tis true. That is an untapped gold mine market that few have the cojunes to jump on so far. Alot it Pedalheads see the motorized bike as an obnoxious piece of devil craft. Except when we are going up a steep hill at the same time, pedaling equally as hard. As I blaze past.

    Pedalpower brought up some goods points though. But given that, why does our respective cities not have like 10 electric bicycle shops? Plus I'm sure electric bike motors would be easier accepted by the pedalheads. My take on their disdain is that that they see the motor as taking over the bike and turning it into a scooter. Once they start realizing that you still get your same biking experience but at turbo speeds they'll come around.

    As far as motorized bicycle technology, gas or electric, we have not even scratched the surface yet. For instance; 3 and 4 wheeled motorized bikes that lean with independent suspension and disk brakes.

    26cc - 49cc water cooled gas motors that have EFI (electronic fuel injection) and and a wee tiny CVT(constant velocity transmission) drive.

    Right now new Electric bike technology is far out pacing the gas motors. Some of the electric kits like Bionix have some really smart and high tech features in the motor control computer firmware. But they also have unrealized advancements staring at them. Like a two wheel drive electric bike motor system for instance. Or a two or four wheel drive electric quadracycle / autocycle.

    If the Govt. was not so in bed with the oil industry, we would be moving forward with hydrogen power. We could be making hydrogen from growing weed like plants that require little farming effort. Unlike putting a cost intensive food plant like corn in our gas tanks. One could make a bicycle-like hydrogen vehicle as big or fast as you want because hydrogen weighs much less than batteries. And hydrogen vehicles have wicked torque and weight savings as they are electric drive. And the emissions are purified water.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008
  20. loquin

    loquin Active Member

    While hydrogen is light, the storage tanks for it are very heavy.

    hydrogen vehicles are electric drive??? Unless they're based on fuel cells, the ones I've seen are internal combustion engines.

    The reliability issue could go away if reliable engines and kits are used. Honda or R/S engines are VERY reliable, as are Staton & GEBE kits.