The economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged industries from tourism to trucking, but while some (including companies selling Ikon and Epic ski passes) are reporting double-digit losses, others are booming. Among them: bike manufacturers and retailers. With travel banned and the quarantined going stir-crazy at home, sales of everything from BMX to electric bikes spiked this spring, and the beneficiaries included two local e-bike manufacturers, Wildsyde and QuietKat.
“We’re actually rocking and rolling right now,” Wildsyde founder Paul Hields said in early June. “I just placed another order for another shipping container full of bikes, which should arrive in mid-August.”
Hields, who moved to Vail to ski in 1984, grew up in Leeds, England, and is a lifelong cyclist. He founded Wildsyde (wildsyde.com), a vintage-style e-cruiser brand based out of his garage on Whiskey Hill in Eagle-Vail, in 2018, after trying to keep up with his wife as she rode an e-bike and he rode a traditional pedal bike. “We would be commuting to and from restaurants, a friend’s house, shops, and whatnot, and I was turning into a sweaty mess by the time I got there,” he said, while she, on the other hand, remained as composed as someone behind the wheel of a Tesla. Wildsyde now makes four models of what he calls “lifestyle bikes” designed for rec path or in-town riding, which retail for about $2,000, including a black-and-red throwback, the Beast, and the retro-chic Hunni Bunni, in mint green and baby blue. Since March 1, roughly when the pandemic began to influence local business, Wildsyde’s sales have been up 150 percent over the same period last year.
Downvalley in Eagle, QuietKat (quietkat.com) has experienced a similar curve. “We had been on a massive growth trend for the last two years, just because the e-bike industry in general has been nearly doubling year over year,” Director of Product Development Ryan Spinks says. Spinks declined to provide metrics but said QuietKat’s sales “have not really slowed down due to the pandemic.”
The brand skews slightly more core than Wildsyde. Founded in 2012 by twin brothers Justin and Jake Roach, QuietKat initially built electric tricycles for deer hunters in the Midwest. Now the company makes nine two-wheeled models, most of which are built for overland adventures. “Our bikes are more utilitarian than what big brands like Trek and Specialized offer,” Spinks says. Two of the nine models are full-suspension, including the new Ridgerunner, which weighs nearly 80 pounds. Reflecting their higher performance, QuietKat’s steeds range in price from $2,300 to $6,200 for a Jeep-branded, top-of-the-line model that created a sensation in February when Bill Murray rode one with a groundhog in its handlebar basket in a commercial that aired on Super Bowl Sunday.
E-bikes aren’t allowed everywhere, and the same holds true locally. US Forest Service trails generally don’t permit e-bikes, which have caused controversy by blurring the line between motorized and nonmotorized travel. For instance, you can ride Class 1 e-bikes (which are governed at 20 mph, have no throttle, and usually get about 25 miles per charge) on the rec path between Edwards and East Vail but not to the top of Vail Pass. For singletrack, e-bikes are welcome in much of the Hardscrabble area between Gypsum and Eagle and on dirt roads open to vehicles. “The best rule of thumb I’ve found is if you’re allowed to ride a motorcycle, then you’re allowed to ride an e-bike,” Spinks says.
You can rent Wildsyde and QuietKat bikes from Pepi Sports in Vail Village ($65 half day, $115 full day; 231 Bridge St, 970-476-5206, pepisports.com). If you’re thinking about buying one, both companies also deliver demos to try on location. Call 970-949-3261 (Wildsyde) and 970-328-2399 (QuietKat).