Planes to Pedals

Aircraft mechanic-turned-electric bike salesman

While the electric vehicle industry continues its ascent, one subsection gaining a decent amount of traction in recent years is the electric bike arena. It seems as if every variety of vehicle is being electrified nowadays, generally in the interest of greater efficiency. With electric bikes, there comes an intriguing upside of increased mobility, as well. And while this industry had every appearance of a flash-in-the-pan trend as recently as two or three years ago, evidence of its sustainable growth is mounting.

Observing this growth on a larger scale initially, it was perhaps more resounding for our editors to come across a local story about a former aircraft mechanic who recently entered the industry as an electric bike salesman. Tike Albright, of Mount Joy, Pa., added motorized bicycles to his towing, scrap metal, and recycling business—A&S Carriers—around five years ago, Chad Umble of LancasterOnline reported April 11.

A&S has been around for ten years. Albright began adding the occasional electric bike to the retail side of his depot about halfway between then and now, he told Umble, because he had his own experience with difficulty pedaling on a beach.

Tike Albright.—Dan Marschka, LancasterOnline photo

Inspiration borne from practical experience may be the best kind. Albright recognized if his beach pedaling needed a boost, many other scenarios would likely benefit from ‘pedal-assist’ technology, too. The market seemed ripe for exploration.

Despite certain purists scoffing at the idea as not enough motorcycle nor bicycle—the bikes were originally categorized as ‘mopeds’ in accordance with state laws—Albright’s “sideline business soon began to take off” as electric bikes became more popular, Umble wrote.

Pennsylvania, like other states over the past five years, changed that law in 2014 with new regulations that reduced the barriers to electric bikes, allowing them to operate as regular pedal bikes.With the change in rules, Albright says electric bike sales in Pennsylvania began to pick up slowly. “It’s still picking up. People are just discovering them,” he told Umble. Under current rules in Pennsylvania, an electric bike is classified as a bicycle if it weighs less than 100 pounds, has pedals and can’t go faster than 20 mph with just the motor.

Perhaps most interestingly, Albright began his career as an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force and then worked for small, commercial airlines before taking a job doing maintenance for construction equipment. His career path illustrates the fluidity of electric vehicle maintenance; if one has the experience, it may be applicable to unforeseen sectors down the road.

“I can basically work on anything from a bicycle to an aircraft,” he told Umble. He opened A&S Carriers in 2007, and is now able to bequeath its control to his daughter as his bike shop is lucrative enough that it requires his full attention.

In related news, Uber invested in an e-bike company this week. The ride-sharing company announced a purchase agreement with Jump, an electric bike sharing company based in New York City. The deal is reportedly valued at around $100 million.

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