Las Vegas shop that’s much more
Nine years ago LeGrand Crews was commuting 17 miles to work every day. It was a 45-minute drive, and he hated every second. He tried to make the best of it. He tried to learn languages and listened to audio books, and though that helped, he hated spending an hour and a half in the car every day on a commute.
In his teens, LeGrand raced mountain bikes. He thought that maybe cycling to work might be the answer. But there was a problem. He lived in Phoenix, and the ride was brutal because of the heat, and he could at best manage two days a week to commute by bike. The commute also took longer, at about an hour and 20 minutes each way. His next step to cut that down was to buy his first road bike. He invested in a nice, light carbon bike. That cut about 15 minutes off of his commute.
In the morning the ride in was fine, but Phoenix is famous for its notoriously hot days, which can actually be dangerous to a cyclist going any distance.
In researching how to cut this time down, he came across electric bikes. “I’d never heard of such a thing, but every single one of them was garbage!” He found a company selling a 350-watt hub motor, bought it and added it to an old Titus full-suspension mountain bike. He built his own 700-watt-hour battery, had his mom sew up a case for it to go in the front triangle of the frame, and it all worked. He could go 22 mph, and the bike had enough charge to get him to work on full power, then he’d charge it at work and have enough juice to make it back home.
“It was a revelation! As soon as I did that commute, it was like, ‘Holy cow, this is incredible!’ People at work were asking, ‘What is that crazy contraption?’ and I thought it was the best thing ever!
“Next thing I knew, I went from a 22-mph version to 30 mph and 40-mph version to more powerful batteries. Of course, all it took was for someone to ask me to build one for them. I said yes, then I ended up building one for this guy, and for a friend, and over the course of a few years, I acquired the knowledge about batteries, motors and manufacturing.”
“Next thing you know, somebody says,
Wow, that’s super cool!
Can you build one for me?’”
LeGrand went back to school and earned his MBA, then went to China for a few weeks to meet with potential partners and gather information on all available e-bike technology. When he returned, he had a vision. He had no idea how he would make it happen or make money, but he took a leap of faith and started Lectric Cycles. The first customer he had was Fat Sam Bikes out of Florida (now defunct) who was collaborating with Pedego to bring the first electric fat bike to market. That company had a big dispute with Pedego, and they asked Crews to fly to Florida to help. He made the trip and built them a rough prototype in a day, and they next asked if he could make a polished prototype in 60 days for the annual Interbike trade show. He did, which launched his company, and they took about $100,000 worth of orders at the show.
THE CHINA CONNECTION
He did that for a year, and during that time he saw the first prototypes of the Bafang mid-drive, which was being developed for the European market. Crews acquired three of the early motors and consulted with them to build a more powerful version for the American market. He simply mentioned this on some of the burgeoning electric bike forums and the orders started pouring in. He was selling direct to consumers, but that wasn’t the core business he wanted.
Over the next year, Lectric Cycles refined those motors to include shift-sensing and implemented better controllers to make it robust enough to start selling them wholesale to dealers. They partnered with eRad and others, and people started asking for whole bikes. They started down that path, then met New Zealanders SmartMotion. They had plenty in common, and SmartMotion had no distributor in the U.S.
As a distributor, Lectric Cycles is very hands-on and had SmartMotion tweak their existing models to make them appeal to the American consumer. They added bigger batteries and more powerful motors. A year into this relationship, they’re now designing American-specific models. We’ve heard what’s coming, but we can’t print it yet!
Lectric Cycles still does a lot of custom work. Customers from all over bring them bikes to electrify, restore or improve. There’s a master fabricator on staff (along with an industrial lathe, MIG and TIG welders) and all the tools to build what they need to create a variety of one-off bikes.
They have a huge array of bins full of parts—from wires to bearings to controllers—to repair almost any brand of bike that comes through the doors. Case in point, while we were there, a guy came in and asked if they could set him up with wider tires for his wife’s trike for Burning Man. Of course they could, they did and they turned it around quickly.
As a distributor for Haibike, SmartMotion, KHS, Yuba, eRad and others that serves about 120 bike shops, they know that quality control at the various factories don’t always translate to a perfect bike at the end. Every bike that comes in is assembled and tested. If something was damaged or bent in shipping, they fix it and repackage it into a new box with an innovative expanding foam that they spray into the box. It protects so well that it eliminates 80 percent of the damage that happens during shipping. It’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than paying for the returns and consoling disappointed customers.
The culture at Lectric Cycles is casual yet driven, and the guys really work well together and have fun.
If you’re ever in Las Vegas, you can visit them at 3525 West Cheyenne Avenue, North Las Vegas, Nevada 89032. www.lectriccycles.com