JP LaMere launched his bike business at a time before electric bikes had gained much popularity in the U.S. Now, eight years later, they are his biggest selling point.
His shop, LaMere Cycles, has created an electric bike with some of the widest, or fattest, tires on the market — a move meant to aid bikers in thick snow. LaMere Cycles, now in Uptown, will be moving to a larger location in the next few months as a result of the business’ growth — mirroring an ever-growing demand for e-bikes globally.
“It’s a really cool, unique bike,” he said. “Nobody else in the world has this right now.”
E-bikes, bicycles connected to a motor, are becoming more common. Globally, e-bike sales are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 6% between 2019 and 2024, according to a Mordor Intelligence report.
The Asia-Pacific region specifically is both the fastest-growing and largest market, the report said.
In Minnesota, meanwhile, cyclists want fat tires to help shred through the snow.
The eSummit, LaMere’s fattest e-bike, started with the idea of an e-bike built for tough terrain. He hadn’t seen an e-bike on the market that could fit a rear tire as wide as 5 inches or with a 27.5-inch wheel. Fat-tire bikes like this typically take more energy to pedal, so an electric motor gives the rider a boost, LaMere said.
Using his experience with mountain bikes, fat-tire bikes and e-bikes, LaMere was able to design a bike-frame mold for a snow-ready e-bike. He sent the designs to a manufacturing company he uses overseas, which created the frames in four sizes, costing LaMere about $25,000.
This pedal-assisted e-bike with a rechargeable battery, made with lightweight carbon fiber, will be sold at $8,900 — a price achieved by buying directly from manufacturers to keep costs low, he said.
His business began after he noticed the high prices shops were charging for mountain bikes. LaMere set out to get a lower-priced custom bike, realizing he could buy bike frames directly from manufacturers in Asia, thereby avoiding a distributor’s markup.
From there, it “just kind of turned into a business,” he said. LaMere used funds from a startup he owned in California to help him finance this new venture, he said.
As the business grew, LaMere started buying other bike components, like forks, in bulk, requiring more money up front to purchase the parts but also allowing LaMere to keep prices lower per bike. The bikes are then assembled in the Minnesota shop and sold directly to customers.
“We’re kind of turning into a bigger bike company,” he said. “Business is good; it’s going well.”
LaMere said his focus on custom-made bikes at a lower price makes his business stand out in the industry. Other businesses may not be as willing to piece different parts together.
“We buy the frames and buy all the parts and then people come to us,” he said. “[Customers] get to pick out exactly what they want.”
And he doesn’t just sell bikes to Minnesotans. Among the buyers of the new eSummit on pre-sale are people from Aspen, Colo., Montana and New Mexico — places where wide bike tires come in handy for riding in snow or sand.
LaMere said he’s sure that the demand for e-bikes won’t go away anytime soon. So far, LaMere has relied mostly on word-of-mouth to bring in business, as he’s well-known among bike groups, but he plans to do more marketing in the future. As new e-bike technology develops, LaMere said he will be working on creating new models of bikes, too.
“We all love e-bikes,” LaMere said. “It’s super fun to work in something you love, and we make people happy.”
Caitlin Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.