Dealer Spotlight: Rocket Electrics in Austin
Rocket Electrics is a pioneering bike shop in a pioneering town – Austin, Texas. A town where being different isn’t just a badge of honor, it’s almost the expectation. For that, and many other reasons, their combination of rental and sales business, with a focus on electric bikes, has been a huge success – and made them a perfect dealer for a bike as unique as the Faraday.
We recently had a chance to exchange emails with the folks at Rocket Electrics to discuss how it’s been being at the forefront of the electric bike revolution in a town that is known for being at the forefront of just about everything. Enjoy!
Are you originally from Austin? If so, where? If not, where are you from and what brought you here?
I moved away from Texas for a while, living overseas and in California, but I had the good sense to come home in 2005. Like most people that come to Austin, it drew me because of the eclectic mix of city and country, with great live music, outdoor things to do, friendly attitude, and the fiercely independent spirit of the place.
What are your earliest memories of biking or bikes?
My first was a red metal trike with streamers, then came banana seats – I don’t remember any more bikes vividly until mountain bikes became big. I had a cheap Schwinn mountain bike (that was probably more of a hybrid) but when a friend went to work for Specialized I was able to get a deal on a Rockhopper. I had that bike until just a couple of years ago.
How/why did you end up owning a bike shop?
I never thought I’d want to own a business, especially retail, but when my co-founder, John Dawson, and I saw the magic in eBikes we knew that we had to do this. We wanted to give more people the eBike experience, so opening a shop was the best way to do it.
What has been the toughest thing about being in the bike business?
We’ve had to coach customers that they deserve – and should expect – the kind of exceptional customer service and support that we provide. Bikes and eBikes are not without occasional issues that happen in manufacturing or in the supply chain, places that we as retailers cannot control. How we resolve those issues for our customers is key – and sometimes it is tough because it takes some time.
What has been most rewarding?
The most rewarding thing is to have a customer say “my eBike has changed my life”. That is always very special.
You offer a mix of rentals and sales. Did one come before the other? Does one predominate your business or is it an even mix?
During SXSW or the Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) or a beautiful holiday weekend, our rental and tour business has the spotlight, but it is typically an even mix.
Austin is a notoriously progressive outpost in relation to the rest of Texas, how (if at all) do you think that has helped with eBike adoption?
It’s a trendsetting town where we are surrounded by early adopters but we draw folks from all over the state. Once I was talking an older native Texan about all of the people moving to Texas when he said: “we get the smart ones”. I think that’s true for eBike shoppers too – the smart ones come in and ride everything in order to make an informed decision. We get the smart ones.
Give us a sense of your customer base. Is there a predominant type of customer (family? commuters? Recreational bikers?) or does it run the gamut?
We always see that although our customers come to us to use an eBike as for a specific purpose, all of them end up using it for so much more. Commuters are leading the trend since our hills and the monster summer heat can make for a very sweaty ride to work and eBikes mitigate that. We also have a lot of customers who use eBikes for recreation, most often when a couple wants to ride bikes together but one person is not as physically capable as the other. Once you plug an eBike into the mix, everyone can ride together happily.
What makes Austin a great eBike town?
I think that in some towns, people would look at you like you had two heads if you said “I rode my eBike today” – in Austin, being unique is not just embraced, it is celebrated. There is so much to do all the time and so much of it is more accessible when you can get there without worrying about traffic and finding an expensive parking space.
How has the bike industry changed in the past 5-10 years?
As an eBike only shop, I still don’t feel like we are in the “bike industry”. Since we’ve been open, I see more of the industry getting e-curious, which is great.
Has your customer base changed as well, or the way people are using bikes?
Our customers are unique because they are electric, but “bike industry” people might enjoy knowing that many of our customers end up dusting off their traditional bike after some time on their eBike. An eBike is the gateway back to bike confidence.
Specifically thinking of electric bikes, has adoption been growing? Who do you see most interested in them, and for what use? (Commuting? Errands? Recreation)
The use question is funny since no one has ever had to categorize how to use a pencil or pen….are you going to write or are you going to draw? Are you going to write in cursive or are you going to print, or scribble? When you present a great solution, you just need to step out of the way.
Are there customer needs that aren’t being met by current bikes?
From our perspective, we’ve got an eBike for just about any customer need.
And, of course, we’d love to know how the Faradays have been received. What are customers saying? Where do you see Faraday fitting into the biking landscape?
Customers always say “THAT is an eBike?!” when they see a Faraday. It’s like the iMac launch when people said: “THAT is a computer?!” There are a few things that are that are aesthetically well designed, simple to operate, and provide exceptional enjoyment. Faraday electric bikes have all of those qualities.