The main thoroughfare of West Cornwall saw some impressive leaf-peeping crowds in October. Covered Bridge Electric Bike may also have been part of the draw. Bob Ensign opened the shop a little over a year ago, and he said business is good and getting better, soberly acknowledging, Covid-19 has been good for business.
Outside activity is on the rise, and people are changing up their commutes, especially ones on public transportation.
As for his e-bike rental business, he has reservations booked through Thanksgiving. To allow more turn-around time for disinfecting and cleaning the bikes, Bob raised the minimum rental time from one hour to two hours.
While rentals have continued a steady, if modest climb, sales have gone into high gear. While he did not want to talk numbers, he said each month has seen more sales than the month before.
This reflects national trends. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, e-bike sales have increased between 84% and 137%, according to the trade publication Bicycle Retailer.
Widening his stock from three or four models to a dozen has helped too. One popular addition: GoCycle’s compact, foldable e-bikes. Weekenders who have fallen in love with the e-bike experience want something compact for their daily city commute.
E-bikes have captured some statewide attention as well. Over the summer, a group of e-bike-related businesses and supporters asked state legislators to expand the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate program (CHEAPR), which provides subsidies for hybrid and electric cars to include e-bikes, especially this year when new car purchases are down significantly. Other New England states are promoting e-bikes too. In Vermont, Green Mountain Power offers $300 rebates for e-bike purchases.
Of course, Bob supports these efforts. He also hopes new roadwork will incorporate more consideration for bikes, electric or other-wise: broader shoulders, bike lanes, anything that could help bikes and cars travel more comfortably side by side.
Bob is happiest talking about how people use the e-bikes they buy, whether they are seniors rediscovering biking, a selectman commuting by bike to town hall, or a local artist whose “cargo”
bike carries his easel and art supplies while he peddles, assisted of course, in search of the perfect vista to paint—a particularly “Cornwallian” use of an e-bike. Bob is quick to point out just how much he appreciates the local support he has received, even from people who were initially skeptical. He hopes to continue not just selling and renting, but converting people to the way of the e-bike.