Nick Bailey, founder of e-bike conversion company Boost, tells Alex Ballinger about his ambition to help get more people on bikes and support retailers at the same time.
This piece first appeared in the March edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
With the continued rise of the e-bike has come the search for low-cost, flexible alternatives to entice new riders.
Aftermarket e-bike conversion kits are an increasingly hot topic, both as positive and negative headlines have emerged alongside the new products.
While many point to illegal aftermarket e-bike kits (those capable of speeds greater than 15.5 mph or with non-pedal assisted motor systems), others have highlighted the potential of cheaper e-bike options for converting non-cyclists to regular riders.
Boost is a UK based aftermarket e-bike brand, founded by Nick Bailey, that aims to offer a lower-cost alternative to traditional e-bikes, while supporting retailers through its business model.
A new alternative
Bailey, an engineer who turned his focus to sustainable transport, told BikeBiz: “My aim with it is to support bike shops, because I believe that this sort of system is best installed by bike shops.
“I came to this as an engineer and I started playing with batteries and motors. So whereas a lot of amateur DIY e-bike delivery riders plugged together bits of Lego essentially that made up the system with lots of gaffer tape, my background enabled me to get more low level in what the system actually was.
“I was interested in how to create a system that would be sympathetic to the bikes that I actually like to ride – I’m probably three quarters road bike, a bit of casual commuting on top of that – so I come at cycling wanting to be able to cover distance and have a lightweight experience of it.”
Bailey’s aim with the Boost kit is to work with retailer partners to offer a reliable and affordable e-bike alternative, available through shops with an after-sale support system.
But the design of the Boost is also inherently different from many of the alternative e-bike conversion kits on the market.
The first key difference is that Bailey has opted for a rear-wheel motor system, which Bailey says offers a better riding experience than the alternative front-wheel-driven options. Boost also features a bottle-mount-fitted battery.
Bailey said: “I think it took me about a year to get to that point, then last year it was pretty much picked up by people on eBay who liked the look of it.
“I’ve run businesses before but this was one where I’ve really felt the pull from customers.
“It feels like there’s a grassroots community of bike enthusiasts sitting behind it, and I think all of our investors that I’ve picked up over the last year are also cycling enthusiasts of one form or another – so people who think that cycling is good for the planet, or people who want to go out with their friends.
“This kit enables quite a lot of improvements to cycling.”
Bailey said the core market for this e-bike conversion kit is likely to emerge in the coming months, but early adopters have been amongst the traditional middle-aged male cycling audience, but by reducing the entry cost to e-bike riding, the kit could reach entirely new audiences in future.
The perception question
E-bike conversion kits can prove a controversial topic both in the cycling industry and in the wider world, owing to the proliferation of illegal e-bike kits on the roads (often used by takeaway delivery riders).
But has Bailey experienced any perception issues with Boost?
“We have been surveying shops about whether they like the system,” he said, “and generally 75% or so of shops are enthusiastic about the kit.
“By sticking rigidly to being legal, we can say ‘yes of course there are other systems that are unsafe’, but this is genuinely the alternative.
“I’ve actually had much less resistance than I was anticipating.”
Boost is currently available through around 50 retailers so far, with locations listed on the website, which Bailey said puts the company ahead of initial projections.
The aim is to now increase the number of partner stores to 100 in the coming months.
International expansion is also on the cards, as Boost has signed a deal with its first partner in Copenhagen and has sold its first kit in Sydney, Australia.
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For 2023, the aim is to increase business by 10-times by the end of the year.
Bailey and the team will also be attending a number of events this year to help spread the word, including The Cycle Show in London in April and the National Cycling Show at the NEC in Birmingham in June.
Boost is keen to hear from potential partners and Bailey said retailers can get in contact via the website: boostbike.uk