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Retailer partners in new program to offer e-bike subscriptions

Published January 2, 2024

By Sara Stover

A version of this story ran in the November issue of BRAIN.

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — Earlier in 2023, Joe Connors decided it was time that more people in the Bay Area knew what he did: That e-bikes can be integrated into anyone's everyday life as a means of transportation and a catalyst for positive change.

To do so, however, would require lowering both the financial and mental barriers to riding an e-bike through a subscription program. Connors partnered with Brett Thurber, founder of the well-known Bay Area e-bike retailer The New Wheel. Together, Connors and Thurber launched Friiway to bring a subscription program to consumers in the Bay Area and beyond. The program lets curious e-bike owners try out a quality Stromer or Riese & Müller model for a few months.

Mitigating financial and mental barriers

"An e-bike subscription is ideal for students, snowbirds, traveling nurses, or anyone who might only be in the area for a limited time. Maybe they're in the Bay Area for six months for work and don't want to buy a car," said Matti Rajakylä, Stromer Bikes' general manager for North America. "Or maybe they have a bike at home but they don't want the hassle of bringing it with them for a short period of time. For them, Friiway is a great option."

Not to be confused with a bike share, users of an e-bike subscription service bring their bike home with them at the end of the day instead of returning it to a bike-share station. Much like a car lease, the subscriber pays for the e-bike's usage instead of for the bike's full purchase price.

Inspired by the success of e-bike subscription services in Europe, Connors and Thurber launched Friiway to mitigate the barriers that keep Americans from buying an e-bike up front, including price. Friiway users can choose from a monthly, half year, or annual subscription plan, and prices range from $229 a month to $299 a month. Users also have the option to apply 15% of subscription payments toward purchasing a new bike.

“A price point of $300 makes it easier for someone to try out an e-bike from brands like Stromer. Even if they don’t buy the bike in the end, they get to ride an e-bike for way less as a subscriber,” said Rajakylä. “Finding out how it feels to ride one is as easy as picking a bike, picking a subscription plan, and going to the shop for new bike orientation day.”

Friiway's e-bike subscription includes the rental of one of The New Wheel's e-bikes, as well as necessary accessories, locks, general maintenance, and parts and repairs.

Theft and damage are also barriers to riding an e-bike, so each Friiway bicycle is covered by a theft and damage policy.

And at the heart of Friiway lies Stromer and Riese & Müller, two premium e-bike brands that are addressing mental barriers like safety.

"We chose these brands because they are on the cutting of e-bike technology," said Connors. "Stromer's high-quality, low-maintenance e-bikes are based on Swiss technology. And Riese & Müller makes high-end e-bikes based on superb German engineering."

Riese & Müller's Multitinker is a family cargo bike with day-running lights for visibility and an integrated high-beam for navigating after dark. And Stromer's ST2 Pinion is a commuter bike featuring an integrated anti-theft alarm, GPS system, and OMNI app, enabling the user to see their bike's location, as well as lock and unlock it.

A means to expand reach and inventory for retailers

"Our vision is to tear down misconceptions of what a bike is and what it can carry. People are more likely to think of an e-bike as a transportation option if we get them on one. This program makes it easier to get on an e-bike by helping lower the up-front costs of owning a premium electric bike," said Rajakylä, citing Europe as an example of how successful subscription programs can be. Globally, Stromer has about 113,000 users, with 51% saying they opt to use an e-bike instead of their car and 87% using it for commuting.

"Even with snow in the winter, 54% of using are riding their bikes year round," Rajakylä added. "If just one user replaces 50% of car trips with rides on their e-bike, it will be beneficial to the planet, their health, and their wallet."

E-bike subscription program users aren't the only ones that can benefit from Friiway. Connors and Thurber intend for Friiway to be a means of supporting independent bike retailers and increasing their reach.

"At the moment, the core requirement for participating dealers is that they sell or service bikes by Stromer, Riese & Müller, or both," said Connors. "We chose these brands because they are on the cutting edge of e-bike technology."

While there is no upfront cost for bike retailers to participate, they do commit to building and servicing Friiway subscription e-bikes.

"We pay for this at an agreed labor rate based on your market," said Connors, adding that dealers also commit to having some Friiway subscription e-bikes on-hand by keeping them in storage.

Plans are underway for Friiway to expand to more cities in the future, a move that won't be possible until more retailers see the value in the subscription program.

"We definitely see the opportunity for leased Friiway e-bikes to eventually become used bike inventory for dealers," said Connors on why an e-bike subscription service would be a good fit for a retailer. "While we don't have specifics, the idea is that dealers could purchase bikes at significant discounts after a two-year period or so."

A new marketing and sales tool for local dealers

"In Europe, some brands are offering subscriptions themselves through their dealers, and then there are some retailers that are setup to do subscriptions exclusively. There isn't anything exactly like the Friiway model in Europe, however, where a company works with retailers to offer subscriptions. Our model is designed to be a marketing and sales tool for bike retailers," Connors said.

"Friiway's partnership with Riese & Müller and Stromer lets us expand accessibility to premium e-bikes without cheapening the product. By offering higher quality, durable e-bikes through a subscription service, bike shops can give customers a more elevated experience," said Thurber, pointing to The New Wheel as an example of how an e-bike subscription service can enhance a shop's sales experience and aftermarket service.

Connors and Thurber have national ambitions to build on the success of The New Wheel model, taking Friiway's e-bike subscription service to other shops by this year. E-bike retailers interested in offering subscriptions can get more information by visiting

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike, From the Magazine

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