Electric bikes were last month taken one step closer to becoming mainstream in the UK with the creation of the British Electric Bicycle Association.

RETAIL COMMENT: The future’s electric?

Founded with the intention to drive up the standards of electric bikes to a level on par with those sold on the continent, the association believes that the market has only scratched the surface of its potential in the UK.

The majority of this country’s cycle retailers have yet to embrace the sector, no doubt having been put off by the low build standards seen in the technology’s early years. With the introduction of the BEBA, now is surely the time to look into investing in what is still an emerging market.

Another reason why this country has been slow in the uptake of bikes with electric components is the fear of returns and repairs. Coincidentally, training courses in the mechanics of an e-bike are steadily appearing and will no doubt soon be booked up.

As with all things electric, the technology will, without doubt, change rapidly. Although not an electric bike, the Dahon IOS is already touting its ability to charge phones and all sorts of electrical gizmos. How long until electric bike batteries power in-built computers, giving the everyday cyclist everything from distance readings to the current track playing on the rider’s MP3 player? It could happen and, sadly, probably will if the industry is to bring cycling to the masses who are used to in-car luxuries and comforts. Can you foresee ever having to explain whether or not a bike is Bluetooth compatible, or capable of ‘tweeting on the move’? Lance Armstrong, for one, would surely buy a bike with a keypad at the stem.

With the swathes of inventors jumping at the chance to make a buck from cycling’s popularity, it’s no wonder that designs like the YikeBike are taking the web by storm. This model integrates indicators and lights. These are particularly interesting additions that lead me to wonder, as two-wheel popularity escalates, along with the hostility between some motorists and cyclists, how long can it be before manufacturers are including these features as standard? With a battery already on board, it makes sense.

So what other obstacles need tackling from a retailer’s perspective? You guessed it, price –but not just the price of the bikes, the cost of replacement batteries can also be a major turn-off for the consumer asking all the right questions. As with all things electric, the cost is bound to gradually decline as designs and technology mature. This in turn is bound to trigger the inevitable price wars. When the market takes off, competition could be fierce.

The BEBA has plenty to be keeping an eye on, it seems.

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