Vail Valley entrepreneur launches bikes into a new niche in the e-bike world
Where can you ride?
Electric-assist bicycles are allowed on most of the paved recreation paths in Vail and downvalley — if you have a Category 2 bike. That includes Wildsyde cruiser bikes.
In Vail, there are a few no-ride zones: The lower bench of Ford Park and all soft-surface — unpaved — trails.
But the e-bike fun stops at the base of Vail Pass. Town of Vail Landscape Architect Gregg Barrie said the Vail Pass path runs through a U.S. Forest Service easement, and e-bikes still aren’t allowed on federal trails. Barrie said the Forest Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation are working on an agreement to allow the bikes.
Source: Gregg Barrie, town of Vail
EAGLE-VAIL — Paul Hields is back in the startup world.
Hields is the founder of SportTube, a firm that specializes in hard luggage for snowsport and fishing gear. That company launched in 1995 and continues to do well.
But there’s more than luggage to Hields’ business interests.
Hields and his wife, Margot, are avid bicyclists but don’t ride at the same pace.
She bought an e-bike last year so she could keep up.
When a ride to a local restaurant last year left Hields hot and sweaty, he started looking into an e-bike for himself.
“I spent a week looking for cruisers, but couldn’t find one,” he said
More searching turned up some designs that recall Schwinn cruiser bikes of old. That’s when inspiration hit, and Wildsyde Vintage e-Cruisers was born.
“I got a sample, and by the end of the week, I decided to build a brand,” he said.
Now with a four-model lineup — the Beast, the Hunni Bunni, the Shadow and the Son of the Beast — Hields is looking for dealers to carry the bikes.
A trip to the Interbike trade show in Reno, Nevada is on tap for later this month. Hields’ goal is to have 50 dealers signed up for the 2019 riding season.
Working with independents
The idea, Hields said, is to work with independent dealers. That way, people can lay their hands on the merchandise and work with people they know and trust.
Hields is working with a couple of local shops now, Pedal Power in Eagle-Vail and Mountain Pedaler in Minturn.
Mountain Pedaler owner Jim Popec said he’s just set up his sample, so it’s too soon to have an impression of the machines.
But Mountain Pedaler has had a demonstrator unit for a while. Once a for-sale model was available, it sold in three days.
The bikes — all made in China — feature hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano derailleur gears and robust batteries and motors.
In the various classes of e-bikes, these are on the simple side. You have to pedal to get going, and none of the bikes have a throttle. The cycles are also speed-limited to 20 mph.
Still, the electric assist is good for cresting hills and generally making cycle commuting easier.
“You don’t need to put on Lycra and shoes for these,” Hields said.
Good range — depending
The bikes can have a range of more than 30 miles on a charge, but Hields acknowledged that a trip from Eagle-Vail to Vail and back will sap much of the battery’s power. It takes about eight hours to go from empty to fully charged.
Since the bikes are made in China, Hields acknowledged there’s a possibility that tariffs on bikes and components from that country will affect prices.
The top-of-the-line Beast now retails for $2,995. If the tariffs stick, that price will go up to about $3,700.
While most of the Wildsyde bikes are fat-tired, they aren’t mountain bikes. They’re suitable for pavement and gravel roads, but they’re too bulky for single-track work.
At Pedal Power, sales representative Megan Beran said the bikes have been a fun addition to the store’s inventory.
“They’re a great option to have in our shop,” Beran said. “It’s a really cool, interesting design.”
And, she added, the fat tires make it easier to ride a Wildsyde in snow or sand.
Pedal Power has for some time sold e-bikes by Trek. No matter what brand a new rider tries, Beran said, “nobody ever test-rides (an e-bike) without smiling.”
That’s the point, Hields said. And, he added, it’s fun to once again be a part of a start-up venture.
“It’s been a lot of time, effort and money,” he said. “But it’s exciting.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.