SHOP STOP: SAN DIEGO ELECTRIC BIKE CENTRAL
Back in 2010, famous off-road racer Ivan “Ironman” Stewart decided to slow things down a bit. He’d been racing for three decades, won 84 races and 10 driver’s championships, and he traded the thrill of one motorized vehicle for another and opened the Electric Bike Central bike shop in San Diego’s Little Italy area. It’s not just any bike shop, but an electric bike shop. He was an early adopter and opened San Diego’s first electric bike shop.
He ran it for a couple of years with his son Gary. They stocked Juiced, Easy Motion, e-Joe and a few other brands, some of which are no longer around. They did a lot of bike rentals back then.
Matt James was friends with Gary. He heard they might be looking to sell the shop, and he was interested. His background started with him as a BMX racer, then a mountain biker, then an adult with bad knees. He started renting electric bikes to help with his injuries, and when he learned of the opportunity in 2013, he jumped on it. He took over the lease and invested in new inventory, and the shop took off from there.
“Being the oldest e-bike shop in San Diego, they have the most experience of anyone locally at fitting the right bike to the rider.”
At one time, early on, they did a lot of custom work. They competed against three other local shops to build the best electric trike for the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park, making the best one, and now the park has 19 of their trikes. They’ve stopped doing custom work and now focus on manufactured bikes, as well as offering the best service for those bikes.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
San Diego has the perfect weather; it’s nice year round, the temperature doesn’t go to extremes and it’s almost always sunny, perfect weather for riding bikes. It’s a great city, and the people and infrastructure are good and mostly bicycle-friendly. What isn’t good is the traffic. It’s a densely populated city, and traffic can be nightmarish during rush hour. Matt says bicycling is a no-brainer for getting out of the car and onto two wheels. He’s a huge proponent of that, and electric bikes are the perfect catalyst.
In fact, he and his wife commute to the store daily, riding through Balboa Park and the downtown neighborhood on electric bikes. They think that electric bikes are the perfect alternative transportation. Every person on a bike takes another car off the road, and that leads to less traffic and easier rides.
They’ve been at their current location for eight years now, and though all of their suppliers are nearby and they can get inventory very quickly, they feel like they’ve outgrown their current digs. They’re getting ready to move to a nearby location soon that will allow them to serve their current customers and new ones better by nearly doubling the inventory in a bigger shop. But, they plan on continuing the same philosophy of knowledgeable sales and great service.
They now carry Stromer, Kalkhoff, Easy Motion, Gazelle, Magnum, Motive and e-Joe, and, as we write this, they are signing up with Benno to start carrying their Boost E cargo bikes, which Matt says is a perfect fit for their local bungalow neighborhoods.
Downtown San Diego is certainly a unique and interesting place. The selection of what brands to carry is based on who provides the best products and service for those products, and who is also preferably warehoused close by. This way, they can provide the best possible service. Their customers are commuters and people who are getting back into cycling and want assistance with hills and longer distances.
They do carry mountain bikes and bikes for leisure riders and older riders. Being the oldest e-bike shop in San Diego, they have the most experience of anyone locally at fitting the right bike to the rider. And, since Matt and his wife ride the bikes every day, they know intimately what the bikes they carry can do.
If you’re in San Diego, you can visit Electric Bike Central at 2021 India Street in San Diego, California. Their website is www.electricbikecentralcom.