The Riide is a Kickstarter darling and could even make electric bikes a thing

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on January 9, 2014

From The News Desk

In New York, there are generally three types of work commuters: people who cab it, people who use public transport, and people who ride a bike. True, many change it up frequently (myself included), but those are the top three, and there's a certain type of personality correlated with each commuter archetype. There's the well-to-do upper Manhattan business person who takes a taxi, the normal person public transit commuter, and, of course, the Brooklyn Millennial Biker. The three are obviously not mutually exclusive, though a fun stereotypical way to look at New Yorkers.

But a form of transport that has not yet taken off in the city is electric bikes. Food delivery is practically the only time I ever see e-bikes in use.

A young man named Jeff Stefanis first noticed this a few years back on a business trip to China, where e-bikes are practically everywhere. He thought to himself, "this is a perfect product for the American market." So he and his friend Amber Wason co-founded Riide, a startup claiming to make a cheaper, better electric bicycle. Their first product is now on Kickstarter.

According to Stefanis, Riide is different than other e-bikes out there because young urban commuters are its target audience. "I didn't see something at an affordable price that people would be proud to ride," he said. "A lot of what we're seeing is that electric bikes are targeted toward baby boomers."

So, unhappy with the heavy and not so aerodynamic bikes currently out there, Stefanis and Wason spent about seven months, and their own funds, developing their own prototype. What they created is about 35 pounds (40 percent lighter than other e-bikes on the market), and retails for $1,799 (the average electric bike costs between $2,500 and $3,500). Additionally, the battery Riide recharges in about two hours, can ride for up to 25 miles, and also charges while you brake.

The two co-founders now believe they have a product that is actually marketable to young people.

According to Stefanis, millennials are Riide's "true potential." He may be right too. The young people increasingly moving to cities are likely find public transit easy and affordable, but not quite so affordable as an e-bike. Stefanis estimates that the average commuter using public transit in Boston or DC spends around $1,500 a year on the two tickets for five days a week. Or if they spend $75 a month on unlimited, that comes in around $900. If we translate this into New York currency (where an 8 ounce coffee can sometimes exceed $3), a monthly unlimited metro card is $130, which becomes $1,560 each year.

Thus, in Stefanis's estimation, about a year's budget for public transportation would pay for the Riide. Then again, we're not really taking into account things like, say, a Polar Vortex.

The Riide co-founders may be on the pulse here. A while back I covered MIT's Copenhagen Wheel, another electric bike alternative that has been gaining more and more momentum. (See what I did there?) And the popularity of the Riide Kickstarter speaks to its potential; it went live three days ago and raised its $50,000 goal in 24 hours.

And while interested investors do not equal apathetic millennials, not in the slightest, Riide's co-founders have a plan. Before beginning this bike outfit, Wason worked at the car-sharing company FlexCar before it merged with Zipcar. There, the company did loads of outreach trying to get the word out, which included setting up booths in city centers and even going onto college campuses. I remember seeing a Zipcar booth in my cafeteria at Reed College quite frequently, and I know that it turned a lot of my friends on to the car renting service. Stefanis sees Riide eventually doing a similar outreach operation. He told me that the startup is in the process of getting a van and will begin doing outreach and education.

Perhaps if Riide is successful, e-bikes won't be synonymous with late-night Chinese food delivery for much longer.