Updating early 20th century bicycle styles to modern, sleek modes of transportation, Santa Clara’s Vintage Electric draws inspiration from the 1900s to design environmentally friendly, manual-electric hybrids and fully electric bicycles that can be used for weekend adventures and weekday commutes.
Founder Andrew Davidge always had a passion for motorcycles, cars, bikes and hands-on experiences. Growing up, he raced mountain bikes across the United States and, as he got older, looked into the history of Harley Davidson and 1900s racing, which gave him the bug to build his own bike. Quickly realizing his first gas-powered creation was not practical, he began researching batteries, controllers and motors, leading him and Vintage Electric’s Director of Operations Brian Hamilton to produce their first electric-powered bike in Davidge’s parents’ Los Gatos garage.
“We took it out for the first time, and I was just blown away,” he said. “I was, like, ‘this is the perfect way to get around the city.’ There’s no noise; there’s no maintenance; there’s no more moving parts than normal bike. And, that’s when I was, like, maybe we should start a little business out of this.”
With that, Vintage Electric was born in 2013. Early on, Davidge took two prototypes to Monterey Car Week and was quickly overwhelmed by the interest and response from consumers. A handful of marketing opportunities — everything from being featured on Jay Leno’s Garage to customers offering to invest in Vintage Electric’s growth — also helped catapult the business.
“It was just this kind of motley crew of metal shop kids,” said Davidge. “Brian’s super smart, business-wise and operationally. He kept us all in line, and we just started selling these bikes.”
Six years later, Vintage Electric offers two basic bike styles: a thumb throttle Roadster version that can be modified to reach 36 miles per hour on private property (20 miles per hour as sold) and a pedal assisted Cafe bike that can reach up to 28 miles per hour.
And, according to Global Sales Manager Eddie Johnson, there is no average customer. Buyers range from 16-year-olds who finance a bike to use in place of a car to bikers who need to step away from their motorcycles; and weekend warriors to those who want to jump start weight loss.
“We have a customer on the east coast,” said Johnson. “And, when he first reached out to me about two years ago, he said he weighed something like 280 or 300 pounds. He bought the Cafe and he didn’t ride bikes; he was scared to ride bikes. It’s actually such a cool story. I heard from him yesterday; he sent me a picture and he had done 5,000 miles in one year. He has now lost right around 60 or 70 pounds by commuting on the Cafe to work every day. He actually sent us cupcakes and a card.”
Johnson said, in addition to becoming part of the family of Vintage Electric owners, the bikes are easy to maintain. All models plug into a standard wall outlet and are fully charged in between two and four hours. Depending on the bike and battery, a full charge will last a minimum of 20 miles at top speed and a maximum of 75 miles, and each bike comes with a display showing battery life, lifetime miles, average and maximum speed, trip mileage and trip time, allowing owners to get the most out of their purchase.
To further simplify the buying process, Johnson said each Vintage Electric model comes almost completely assembled. Local buyers can opt to have the final assembly steps completed at Vintage Electric. For those living out of the area, Johnson said Vintage Electric will work with a local bike shop to complete the assembly at no additional cost to the buyer. Vintage Electric additionally offers a service allowing owners to easily replace their batteries or upgrade outdated electronics on earlier models without having to make another investment.
“I get so many thrills every day over just seeing the enthusiasm and experience that people have on a product that me and my buddies have created really out of a passion for building something cool,” said Johnson. “It’s an incredible community that we’ve been fortunate enough to foster through like-minded people who appreciate a really well built product. We’re very fortunate — a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck but we’re having a blast.”
Vintage Electric is at 1725 De La Cruz Blvd., Ste. 4 in Santa Clara. For more information, visit vintageelectricbikes.com.