REI Co-op announced plans to more than double its e-bike offerings in 2019 and a $110,000 grant to PeopleForBikes to support cycling advocacy and infrastructure programs.
The moves are part of a series of cycling investments the co-op announced earlier this year, that includes investing in premium cycle brands like Bontrager, growing its bicycle rental program in 115 stores nationwide, piloting a bike trade-in program, adding full-suspension bikes to its Co-op Cycles line, new cycling trips around the world and offering e-bike options on some adventure trips. The expanded e-bike offerings include pedal-assist electric bicycles (e-bikes) including electric mountain bikes (eMTBs).
“Pedal-assist e-bikes are tremendous fun and create greater access to more people who want to ride but experience physical barriers,” says Ben Johns, REI general merchandising manager. “Whether it be distance, topography, physical limitation, or time, or stronger riding partners, these innovations are helping people overcome challenges and ride their bike more frequently.”
As it adds a wider variety of e-bikes for customers to choose from, the co-op will continue to focus on class-1 (up to 20 MPH pedal assist) and class-3 (up to 28 MPH pedal assist) pavement e-bikes from brands including Electra, GHOST, Stromer, Tern and Yuba; and class-1 pedal assist eMTBs from GHOST. All brands are currently available on REI.com, and more styles will continue to be unveiled throughout 2019.
Supporting unified rules and access for e-bikes
REI acknowledges there is still work that needs to be done in this space to address misconceptions and to close open questions in the cycling community. The co-op plans to publish content on the Co-op Journal to educate cyclists while it works with partners to refine regulation.
Currently, e-bike laws differ from trail-to-trail and from state-to-state. It can be confusing to cyclists who don’t understand where they can legally ride. By way of a grant, the co-op supports PeopleForBikes, which has partnered to clear up e-bike laws and regulations around the country, making it easier for people to find a great ride. PeopleForBikes has developed uniform policies for e-bike access, which they are working to get adopted across the country.
REI encourages the expansion of eMTB access
“We believe class-1 electric mountain bikes can help get more people outside and be integrated into the riding experience,” says Marc Berejka, REI’s director of government affairs. “We urge advocates to help educate local leaders to recognize these bikes can be managed in a sustainable way for both the environment and other trail users.”
When it comes to access to mountain biking trails, eMTBs present even more varied opinions and rules across the country. For additional support and background, REI recommends the following resources:
- For more information on e-bike regulations, visit org/ebikes.
- The eMTB handbookand eMTB playbookoutline best practices for understanding and helping to change local, state, and federal rules that apply to eMTBs across the country.
- PeopleForBikes’ online map catalogues approved eMTB rides throughout the U.S.
Expanding trail access
Each year, REI supports national and local bike nonprofits helping to create access to trails and get people out riding. Through continued partnerships with national nonprofit partners, like PeopleForBikes, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), and International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), REI has invested close to $1.5 million over the last 10 years to build awareness of bicycle safety, help develop safer bike infrastructure in cities, and increase miles of trails around the nation.
In 2019, the co-op will give more than $250,000 in bike-specific grants to national partnerships including the PeopleForBikes, RTC, IMBA, East Coast Green Way Alliance, and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). At the local level, at least $1 million of the co-op’s grants will support bicycling mixed-use trails. The co-op will continue to focus on supporting nonprofit partners who are helping to connect people to the outdoors including projects like the Great American Rail Trail, led by RTC, that will connect 3,700 miles of trail from Washington D.C., to Washington State and will enable various forms of outdoor recreation across the country, including e-biking.