It was only a matter of time before somebody said some (mildly, politely) disdainful things. Jim gave me my first link (thanks!), and some comments ensued, and I replied there. I hope I didn’t sound too defensive. I have struggled in the past to avoid getting steamed by what are, after all, innocently common misperceptions about how the product fits (or doesn’t) into a bicycling life. I still get steamed. I have to learn to deal more gracefully and effectively with the elephant in the room: I’m pitching a motor to bicyclists — not like the other motors in their lives that they accept as a matter of course, but a motor for one of their bicycles. The suggestion often goes over like a fart in a crowded elevator. I might as well be hawking machine guns to Zen archers. It’s totally uncool.
There have been many bicycle+motor products, mostly miserable failures, and no conspicuous successes. Failure in most cases was well-deserved by the products themselves, I think, but among the few pretty good designs that have come to market, most seem to have suffered from really bad marketing. That’s easy to say after the fact. I’m a reluctant salesperson with no claim to skill, but I do think it’s basically suicidal to position my product like any of the others, even to the small extent that its design would permit that at all.
Most assisted bikes are marketed to drivers who don’t, can’t, or won’t ride regular bikes. Instead, I see my market largely as bicyclists who don’t, can’t, or won’t drive cars, or at least who’d prefer not to. People whose bicycling youths have foundered on the shoals of “success” — house and kids, maybe dodgy knees, maybe a few more years at a business-attire job too far away; people who have too great a love of bicycling to submit happily to the yoke of a car, and who won’t blink at a bicycle costing more than a car payment or three or five, if it can truly let them ride instead of drive for all but the longest hauls, which in many cases won’t be frequent enough to warrant car ownership.
It’s a niche, to be sure, but sometimes you need a solid toe-hold before you can take a bigger step, such as when oil goes over $100/barrel. I’m looking to build a vanguard of models for the as-yet unwashed masses of drivers: bicyclists who function as well or better than they do at the tasks presumed erroneously to require a multi-ton vehicle, such as hauling spouse, kid, and a week’s groceries over the hills. Bicyclists who do it with 1/30th the energy of a hybrid car at a tenth of the cost, before operating costs.
In this light, marrying the product to Xtracycle is far more than an engineering expedient; it is, after all, possible to run a motor through a bicycle’s transmission, whole or in part, without one (this is the key to good performance, by the way). What Xtracycle brings to the whole is cargo capacity sufficient to justify help among cyclists who might not otherwise be caught dead on a power-assisted bike, as vain or righteous as that may be.
What do you think?