A new electric vehicle company in Homer, LoopEride, offers a solution for bicyclists who like pedal power, but need an assist on long trips or going up steep hills.
Last Friday and Saturday, the new company started by Loopy Lupine owner Dale Banks held an open house to show off the line of electric scooters, electric all-terrain vehicles and electric-assist bicycles. With a 7-speed rear gear, the bikes can be pedaled like a regular bicycle, but when a rider hits a steep grade like Baycrest Hill, a motor kicks in to give them that extra boost.
“That was part of the idea,” Banks said last Friday. “People can ride up East Hill or West Hill who like to bike but don’t like the hill. That’s what I saw as the value of these bikes.”
Banks started Loopy Lupine in 1997. The company distributes green cleaning products and recycled products for the food service industry like compostable coffee cups. He expanded in 2010 with LoopyCups, a small factory that makes paper coffee and drink cups that can be printed with a company’s design. In buying and learning to operate the machine to make those cups, Banks traveled to China. That experience helped him develop contacts for importing electric vehicles and electric-assist bikes.
However, Banks started LoopEride just as the pandemic hit, so he couldn’t travel to China. His knowledge of Chinese manufacturers helped him find suppliers.
“It made me feel comfortable looking there for sources,” he said.
LoopEride sells electric-powered ATVs that look like a standard gas engine four-wheeler. At the open house, the e-bikes got the most interest, with a lot of test rides and a few sales. They come in a variety of models, from fat-tire bikes that can go on sand, trails and snow, to retro-looking cruisers.
The Cargo Bike has baskets over the front and back wheels that can make it an in-town delivery bike. The Kachemak Carrier Trike has a similar system, but with three wheels and a frame that folds up.
A bicycle with smaller wheels, the Fox Folder 500 and 750, can be folded to fit in the back of a car trunk. At Friday’s open house, Debbie Tobin showed a folding e-bike in the back of her Honda. Her husband, Josh, rides the e-bike from their Fritz Creek home to his job as manager of Alice’s Champagne Palace.
The LoopEride bikes have a single drive gear and seven rear gears — a 7-speed system. The power-assist level can be set from most assist at level 1 to minimal assist at level 5. How much assist a rider needs will affect the range of the e-bike, generally from about 15 to 20 miles on a charge. It has enough power to get a rider from Diamond Ridge to town and back up. On some models, the battery can be taken off the frame and brought indoors out of the cold.
“I ride it all over — a commuter bike partly, trails, beach, snow,” Banks said. “They’re pretty versatile. They just feel more comfortable.”
At level 1, the e-bike has a lot of pep. Get on the bike, start pedaling and it takes off. At higher assist levels the rider has to work more, but the motor hums along ready to assist for steep hills. For people with bad knees or mobility problems, the e-bikes can be liberating.
“These things give you just that much more mobility,” said Chase Warren, LoopEride’s bike mechanic.
Charging times run from three to six hours. Most e-bikes weigh about 65 pounds. Depending on the model and features, prices range from $1,375 to $2,000 — comparable to the price of just a fat-tire bike alone. Because there are no American manufacturers of e-bikes or components other than frames, currently the e-bikes are exempt from a 25% import tariff.
“There is no U.S. infrastructure to take over the manufacturing,” Banks said. “It was just passing that 25% on to the consumer. It wasn’t penalizing China.”
LoopEride has a showroom on East Bunnell Avenue in the same building as the Homer Public Health Office. The showroom is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays for test rides and demonstrations. The LoopEride website at www.looperide.com offers information on all the models, complete with technical specifications and pricing.
Warren said LoopEride would make the perfect vehicles for visitors looking to ride around town and see the sights close up with the experience of riding a bicycle.