May 16 is Bike to Work Day. You are about to meet some people who have found a new way to bike to work and it will get your revved up -- literally.
It's an electric bike created right here in Washington by some young entrepreneurs.
Maybe in your world, electricity helps you power your vacuum, blender or refrigerator.
But to Jeff Stefanis and Amber Wason, it helps power their bike. Yes, they have created an electric bike.
Stefanis was working for a solar company. He took a trip to China and saw lots of electric bikes. Even though those bikes looked more like mopeds, it made him wonder.
“Why haven't I heard of these? Why aren’t they popular in the U.S.?” he asked himself. “So I came back and started talking to people who are way smarter than me -- one of them being Amber.”
Wason had worked in transportation on projects like Flexcar and Circulator.
It turns out the electric bikes marketed in the United States in the past were heavy because of the weight of the battery.
“They were big, they were clunky, they were hard to ride, hard to maneuver,” said Stefanis.
He and Wason sure didn't know how to design a bike.
“I think the only people who actually thought we could do this were Amber's husband and my parents,” Stefanis said.
They learned and set out to do something different.
The battery is in the frame. The motor is in the rear wheel. It's called Riide bike. They say it's 40 percent lighter than previous electric bikes.
“You can twist the throttle and it will spin the back wheel and bring you at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour,” said Wason.
In January, they had a Kickstarter campaign.
“Our campaign was 40 days long,” said Wason. “We had a goal of raising $50,000. We were really, really lucky and hit that goal in the first day.”
They didn't just hit the goal. They sold $100,000 worth of bikes they hadn't even manufactured yet.
“It was great market validation for us and really let us know that we were onto something,” said Stefanis.
“We just felt really grateful and lucky that all of our hard work was paying off,” said Wason.
As you can imagine, they get a lot of questions. The most obvious one: “How fast does it go?”
Wason said, “There is a governor that controls the speed that tops it at 20 miles per hour. But if you pedal, you can go as fast as your legs will carry you.”
Another question: “How do you charge it?”
“It charges in a standard wall outlet,” said Wason. “It plugs in just like your laptop would plug into a wall and it charges in two to three hours.”
Where can you ride it?
“It's treated as a traditional bike under federal law, so you can ride in bike lanes, anywhere you can park a regular bike,” said Stefanis.
But to be clear, they said this is not a regular bike. You can ride to work on a hot day and not break a sweat.
“I wear heels on it every day,” said Wason.
It turns heels and heads.
Stefanis recalled one time: “I'll just be eating lunch outside and I'll have the bike and people will be like, “That’s cool! How did you get one of those? I saw that online.”
Pepper Hines noticed it while we were out doing our interview.
“I would have expected something like this to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area or something like that, so it's cool to see that around here,” he said.
Cool and refreshing are things they’re trying to project.
“Seeing your city and hearing your city and smelling your city in a different way, it kind of brings you back to childhood when you were riding a bike for the first time,” said Stefanis.
It's pretty fun zooming by people in stuck in their cars.
“Oh, absolutely, absolutely,” Stefanis said. “It's hard not to grin when you pass a guy in an expensive car sitting in traffic.”
The Riide bike will sell for $1,799.
“My dream is to see Riide bikes everywhere and people with smiles on their face,” said Wason.
Riide bikes are available for preordering right now. The bike you see in this story is the latest prototype.
The first bikes are expected to ship to customers this summer.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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