Michael Dills started off life riding bikes. He graduated to motocross bikes in his teens, turning professional at age 17. At 22 he started using motocross to train for mountain biking at a time when the sport was just starting to take off. He grew up in the shadow of Mount Wilson in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles. Mount Wilson is home to the Mount Wilson Observatory and many transmission towers for telecommunications due to its 5,710-foot peak. There are a lot of difficult mountain biking and hiking trails found in the San Gabriel Mountains (e-bikes are still not allowed on many).
Dill became interested in electric mountain bikes in his late 50s, and after just a few rides, he was so impressed that he decided to open a shop. Two years ago he opened his first one in Altadena, right down the street from where he grew up.
“Every time we put a kid on an e-bike, they go nuts because they realize just how fun they are!”
When he first opened two years ago, Dills recounts how some customers came in looking at bikes and asking where the throttle was located. Owing to his own background twisting throttles, he would be able to set them straight: “A Class 1 e-bike makes 250 watts, whereas a 250cc motorcycle makes 33,000 watts! So many people thought they were just like a motorcycle, but they’re not. It has very little in common with a motorcycle; it has much more in common with a bicycle.”
Over time Dills was happy to report that the majority of customers visiting the stores are much more educated.
TIME TO EXPAND
Around that time Michael bought some acreage in the Santa Clarita Valley, which is located in the northern part of Los Angeles County. When he saw how Santa Clarita embraced bikes, with 80 miles of trails and 20 miles of paved bike paths for commuting and recreational use, he realized he had to open a second shop.
“I really think Santa Clarita is the best biking city in this whole area!” he says. After scouting the area for a while, he eventually found a place for his shop right in the center of Santa Clarita. It’s a bustling area, and the shop is right on the bike path, so customers can buy or even rent a bike and never have to ride in traffic. Both stores are close enough to trails that customers can hit the dirt straight from the shop.
“Santa Clarita is the best biking city in this whole area!”
Another option he offers is the 24-hour rental, where a person comes in and rents the bike the night before a day of riding, allowing for morning rides, a pause for lunch and to recharge the battery, then a long afternoon ride before returning the bike, all for just $75.
Both shops sell mainly electric mountain bikes, including Bulls, Haibike and Easy Motion, but also other choices from Benno, American Flyer and GoCycle. In just two years of being open, Open Trails has become one of the top 10 Haibike dealers in the country. That seems to come from a great philosophy and choosing great locations.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
For the Santa Clarita shop there are some amazing trails at nearby Tapia Canyon and Haskell Canyon Open Space available for riding. Many of the trails in Haskell Canyon used to be motorcycle trails, and they’re fast and fun on an e-bike.
Dills says that a key selling point in the new shop is that he has younger “kids” running the show. Whereas most e-bike dealers are managed by people his own age, he wanted a younger staff in Santa Clarita to help swell the youth contingent. Although he still sells the majority of his bikes to a demographic that ranges from 45–70 years old, he thinks that e-bikes will expand to the younger group. “Every time we put a kid on an e-bike, they go nuts because they realize just how fun they are!” He expects a lot of growth in the younger age groups.
The shops have seen greater than 15-percent growth year over year. They keep the inventory fresh by offering some closeout sales of previous-year inventory and demo bikes. Sales are so good that Michael is now working on opening a third store, this time in a more eastern part of Los Angeles in San Dimas.
Altadena: 2605 Lake Ave. Suite #2, Altadena, CA 91001
Santa Clarita: 22935 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91350
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET ELECTRIC BIKE ACTION
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