10 Most Influential People of the E-bike Revolution 2017

February 17, 2017
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Editor Note: This list  excludes anyone who owns an ebike company and makes a living off of Ebikes. Nobody wants to pick the top 10 of those…what a  bag of cats that would be.

It made me sad when Ron “Spinning Magnets”  did not write his customary “end of the year ebike review” article in 2016, which is the most exciting year for ebikes in my lifetime. That is because the ebike industry is moving a little fast right now and is getting a little speed-wobbly, and some of the old schoolers do not know how to react. I am Eric Hicks, and I started this website 6 years ago to try to move an industry forward, I saw as totally stagnant and I thought honest reviews might help with that. As a guy who did not make a dollar off the industry for years, I learned that the passionate guys who give most freely of their time to promote ebikes and really care are often-times neglected and forgotten and shunned by ebike industry people. If you say one negative word in a review you are hated.

Ebikes stayed expensive, heavy, ugly and about 8 years behind in technology no matter what I wrote.  To industry people? I was just the guy with a bad-ass domain name (electricbike.com). And who cares if I think this ebike biz is like a group of old Fred Flinstones, and their ebikes and kits suck.

So I started www.lunacycle.com so that I could really shake some life into this place and jump both wheels into the ebike biz. That happened in 2015, but none of the established ebike reporters will write about it — so you can only read about it here. The silence is deafening. If your favorite ebike reviewer has nothing to say about Luna Cycles or Sondors…I would write him and ask why?

Back in 2012 I wrote a story here “The Most Influential People of  the Ebike Revolution”…the people most likely to really move this thing forward.  I was pretty naive back then and I am pretty embarrassed about some of the people I put on that list. This year I am rewriting that old post and I am slicing the ebike business owners out of that list, and just write about the unsung heroes…the guys who are moving the thing because they purely believe in ebikes.

Three people on this new list survived from the old list. I think it’s a pretty honest list. In fact I know at least a few people on this list who dislike me, but their contributions to ebikes are undeniable, with personal and business differences aside.

Here is a list of the 10 most influential people in the USA Ebike revolution who aren’t industry players…meaning they do not own an ebike company.

Also to qualify they must be known to own and ride an ebike.  Sounds incredible but a lot of ebike company owners never ride ebikes. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to come up with this list once you make the qualifier “Can’t own an ebike company”.

At first I tried to make a list that can’t make a full time living off ebikes, but then 3 people off this list disappear and it gets even harder to compile 10 names.

Did I forget someone? Let me know in the comments if I  did.

#10  Dogman Dan

dogman

 

A throwback from the old list, Dogman Dan is the most active poster on any ebike forum that I know of (second place is not even close). Dogman has more posts than anyone on ES. Read Dogman’s story about building an affordable ebike commuter. Although he does full-time support work for a DIY company, we count this as just getting paid for what he loves to do and did for years for free anyway. Dogman has been a big help to a countless number of newbies for the last 5 years.  Roll on, Dogman Dan.

#9 Philip Hillis

sondors harris

2017 signaled a new day in the ebike world, and it’s when Facebook E-bike groups became as big and as influential as forums were. Philip Hillis started and runs probably the most active Facebook ebike group, the Sondors  Storm Owners Group which has not only 5000 members, but is very active and has positive members.

#8  Turbo Bob

turbo bob

Love this guy or hate him, you gotta appreciate all he does for ebikes without making a dollar. He has been accused of getting paid off with free ebikes (even if they were slow ebikes, not worth anything)…but the guy loves ebikes and is not getting a paycheck from them, and has dedicated a large part of his life to them,  so he is more than cool to us. At one point Bob even almost joined the electricbike.com team and he was more than welcome. Bob has been organizing ebike test ride events that have grown over the years, and that is something that every major city needs.

#7  Dogati  (Ben Chui)

dogati

A survivor off our list from 5 years ago.  Still one of the most talented ebike engineers in the world and his bikes are amazing. And he has never made a dime off an ebike, and doesn’t care if he ever does. To give you a hint of who this guy is…he was one of only two Asians to ever appear on the cover of Wired Magazine. This guy is in a unique position to say he does not care about money…and mean it. He has plenty of it, and is not too concerned with profiting off his hobbies….the way to get this guy to bring one of his awesome bikes to market is convince him his bike will make the world a better place.

Ben built probably the most elegant DIY bike every built and documented the build beautifully on ES. Check out article here. This isn’t exactly a garage build, the man had access to some amazing tools in his workshop, but the Dogati bike shows what’s possible for one person to build using mostly off the shelf electrical components. This bike utilizes a 3220 Astro Flight motor. Expect to see this bike on the market soon as probably the most elegant commercial bike available. Being offered by Benjamin Button Bikes.

#6  Micah Toll

micah

 

We love to see fresh young minds on this list who are cutting their own path on how to break through to the public on how cool Ebikes are. Micah created the website Ebike School  from scratch, and meant to educate people about the joys of ebike building. His videos are down-to-earth and do a good job of breaking difficult concepts into easy to understand terms. Micah is a pioneer on ebike building along with other young heroes like Damian Rene, another up-and-coming young star making fantastic  videos making  ebike battery building look fun.

Although Micah and Ebike School do have a few kickstarter projects…Micah does not make a full-time wage off of these endeavors and therefore earned his spot on this list.

Be sure to subscribe to his Ebike School website here.

#5  Bruno

bruno

 

Although Bruno does work full time for an ebike company, Bruno has built and runs the most active non-commercial youtube.com ebike channel on the web. He has an exciting style to him that is not standard for industry reviews and commentary (that is a good thing). Bruno’s screeching “more power!” catchphrase has become an anthem for a lot of power hungry subscribers (now over 5000).  Visit Bruno’s YouTube page here and be sure to subscribe. 

#4  Richard Fechter

fachter

 

Richard Fechter is the work horse behind Endless-sphere.com, one of the original and largest DIY ebike forums. He is pretty much the guy who built it and has been running it as the main administrator since its inception.  Although it has changed ownership a few times for large sums of money, this guy has run it all this time without ever making a dollar off it.  It’s about time on the DIY forum that the guys who built it get credit over the guys who bought it (cough).

#3  Ron / Spinning Magnets

 

Liam and Ron, listening to "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf

Liam and Ron, listening to “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf

 

Ron helped Eric Hicks (owner of lunacycle.com recently) to build this website from a bare domain name 7 years ago.  Ron put in countless hours to helping make electricbike.com one of the most popular ebike sites on the planet, starting with just a blank slate and a killer domain name. Before electricbike.com, Ron was an avid poster and moderator on the endless-sphere forum and patiently helped thousands of newbies get into ebikes. Recently Ron and Eric started the Fast Electric Bike Facebook Group, which has quickly grown to 2000 members in two months, and is a rowdy ebike loving group.

#2 Luke –  Live For Physics

luke9

 

Building and racing the fastest ebikes in history and and putting a gigantic spotlight on ebikes. Not only does he risk life, limb, and personal bankruptcy — he posts prolifically, and generously shares his knowledge in a way that is brilliant and funny.  The greatest living entertainer in the ebike world… Every week I think at least once how much the ebike world would suffer, mourn, and moan if this guy gets into a serious crash…set us all back at least three years and suck the wind out of an awesome community.  He built the fastest ebike ever. (read our story on the 10 fastest electric bikes).

#1 Karl Gesslein

karl g

Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail….and then write about it and change your world.

 

Rejected in the big ebike forums (even banned from ES FB)  for being too radical and truthful, electric biker Karl Gesslein went renegade and built from a simple Word-Press site, one of the most significant ebike review websites on the planet. So few people in this industry write the truth…Karl has no fear.  Why? His blog  www.electricbike-blog.com  accepts no advertising dollars and he does not sell a product. It has grown into more than a blog but an ebike review source as strong as any other.  Karl writes awesome stories and reviews and they keep getting better. Without making a dollar in this industry, he has become one of the most respected voices.

I like that…I felt such a close affinity when first talking to Karl last year. Black sheep of the forums starts his own blog…that’s the way to roll. The way he thought and talked reminded me of the way I did when I started electricbike.com. Talking to Karl made me miss writing and building up a blog.

I am proud to be kind of a blogger-mentor to Karl and help him with advice on how to get that blog to kick ass…and in return I get a lot of life advice and bike advice. Sometimes he even spell-checks my writing for me. Some would call this friendship like the blind leading the blind, and then I would say something like “Stop thinking in cliches, give it 6 months and then see where the chips lie”.  And then ask Karl if I spelled “lie” right.

His blog keeps getting better with improved photos, improved domain name, “all in” writing style…and in 2016-2017, finally new and awesome DIY ebike products are getting better and better so he has the advantage of having cool stuff to write about (a blessing I did not have when I started as a blogger)

Subscribe to his blog here. 

Ride On Karl

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Written by Eric, February 2017

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.

22 Comments

  1. Ely Schless is probably THE only pioneer you should mention – a background in championship motorcycle racing and a history of innovation and mechanical mashups including special effects and robotics. I had the pleasure of working with him briefly in 1989 in Hollywood – he’s a true inventor and Zero Emission projects have ruled his world for many years. Denali Cycles was the first credible exercise in production performance ebikes. That’s my £’s worth from the UK!

    • wtf is Ely? what the hell.

    • Thanks for mentioning Ely Schless. Most of his contributions have been for electric dirt bikes instead of bicycles, but…i am glad he is mentioned by you. he deserves more attention.

    • I own a Denali that’s been gathering dust in my garage for years now. Why? Fun as hell to ride–0-30 in four seconds if I recall–but the party’s over in about twenty minutes, which is how long the (3) little lead acids last. The other big problem–and why I never upgraded to lithium–very limited riding opportunities for me locally offroad, and the bike is a bear to try to transport. Someone make me an offer!

  2. Great list of influencers in the e-vehicle world. It was nice to see recumbents & a unicycle in there. For even more variety, I’d add Gildo Bileski & his electric Trikke (Pon-e). It’s a lot of fun and would be the only stand-up PTV on your list. http://www.trikke.com/hd_2/Pon-e-48V

  3. Cool. I’m a “tyrant leader” in your historical narrative! That is hilarious. To what do I owe that particular title? The fact that I donated my site to the community it spawned? The fact that I staged open electric vehicle events? The fact that I donated thousands of hours to this community over the years?

    How did this “tyrant” behavior that is being ascribed to me manifest? Genuinely curious.

    Also, the fact that you omit Ely Schless from Denali Cycles and Bert Cebular from NYCEwheels shows you don’t know very much of your own space’s history.

    • Ahh! I see with some more digging that it is Eric Hicks that bought this site. Glad to see you are still advocating for PEVs! Not sure why I am the tyrant in your story, especially considering all the promotion I did of your store and staging events in the Bay area around it.

      It’s all cool though. I thought maybe you were one of those other guys from the goped shop that were hating on us back then for staging a competing hill climb race event. Kind of surprised to see it was you. Still doing the Chess thing? Still living in the mission? Hope all is well with you and yours.

      • hey ken its me i was just being sarcastic….. never saw you as a tyrant 🙂 glad to see your still alive and still with us….. please come visit again….

        Remember that day we spit in the face of those gangsters?

  4. Really, I’m on a top 10 list? For something other than ‘people I would never loan my ebike too’. That is crazy. Thanks Eric.

    Articles like this really offset all the horrible emails and messages I get on a regular basis from people who don’t see a problem with telling someone in no uncertain terms that I would be better off if I put a bullet in my own head. I’m not sure why there are so many assholes on the interweb, maybe they are really great people that are just misunderstood or lonely. I don’t think for a minute that I have contributed more than Luke or Ron, but I’m glad to be on the list. I think its great that you put people like Bruno on, too. I love his videos. We need more energy like that and less of the ‘grandpa get off that ebike before you hurt yourself’ energy.

    • honored man to make your day…. your one of my heroes 😉

  5. It’s been the ugliest year ever in ebikes. No one is on the same page and there are so many vendors you have to wonder what a downturn will do to the situation.

    I’ll nominate (for no reason whatsoever) two people I really think are trying to do things. The first is Trent at Titan Flight. They just sold their 10,000th cell and I just made my first ebike battery pack from four of his RC modules, the 6s GA pack. I put 4 together with three connectors and it works as expected. I’ve mentioned to Trent that he could shift his products into ebikes.

    For a charger I am using a Drok CC-CV unit that cost $30 on Amazon. I have a balance monitor and some balance chargers, as well. I found this Drok on a link on Shawn McCarty’s site. I’m intrigued by his BatteryBloc system he sells, so between Titan and BatteryBloc, there are reasonable alternatives for building packs without a spot welder. The market just doesn’t provide 36v packs anymore, and my motors, mostly the throttles, are set up for 36v. They get too twitchy with 52v. If you had programmable throttles and decent PAS systems that could be tuned, it would be better, but there’s no focus there. So how does anyone compare raw power with pure refinement in a pedal assist?

    Ebikes and the ebike industry reflect the national problem that their is no love or understanding for unbiased journalism. You can’t fund journalism in the ebike space, so everyone is either getting products from the industry, or pimping advertising, or organizing trades shows, something like that, with a huge inherent conflict of interest. The people who write about ebikes have too narrow a perspective and I simply don’t trust what they say. There are a lot of things going on and there is not much of a flow of information. This has to be hurting consumers. It makes it very hard to explain DIY. Karl is a wonderful writer, totally engaging, but he covers a tiny segment of ebikes, but with a ton of dedication and energy.

    So, basically, it is everyone for himself. There really is no way to evaluate anything. The market is waiting for the next recession when the weak will, I fear, be crushed. But there are interesting people doing interesting things. Both Juiced Rider and Rad Power have built interesting lines of bikes, but I’ve never come in contact with them. Lenny, at Crazy Lenny’s, gets people into ebikes at lower prices.

    Anyway, thank you for letting me give credit to Trent and Shawn in these comments, as well as some other people.

    • THey cannot be ebike company owners. Otherwise i would really have a bag of cats here.

  6. Interesting list but one huge omission IMO, namely Justin Lemire-Elmore of Grin Technology in Vancouver, the guy behind the Cycle Analyst and a longtime ebike pioneer/evangelist in Canada. Justin is also from what I gather responsible for saving the Endless Sphere forum from the evil clutches of commercial capitalism. I know nothing of the details of that story but do know he’s always been a generous contributor and presence on that forum. And technology-wise Grin continues to put out new, cutting edge products in the ebike and scooter space every year. The fact is I would have put him #1 on this list for ongoing innovation and creative technologies that continue to push the electric envelope further.

    P.S. Glad to see Karl G included! I really enjoy his uber-honest blog and in depth reviews of the latest gear.

    • Ebike company owners are excluded from this list or their would be some very big names in the industry starting with Sondors.

  7. This is a fantastic list, and thank you for taking the time to write it. Having said that, I am without a doubt certain Court Rye from Electric Bike Review should be on this list. The amount of influence from his unbiased reviews is off the charts.

    • Except he owns an ebike company that pays salaries etc…or without a doubt he would belong on this list.

  8. Thanks for the mention, Eric. I didn’t really do anything great, I just wrote about people who were doing great things. I have some advice for anyone who wants to write about anything. If you are expecting 100% of the readers to like or agree with what you wrote, you’re gonna have a bad time. Write anyways. Hey Karl, if anyone says you’d be better off putting a bullet in your head? laugh at them, it drives them nuts. Keep writing, and don’t change. Nobody is forcing anyone to read what you or I write. If someone says they hate you, tell them to start their own blog and explain why.

  9. You guys are too kind! Thanks for including me, I’m honored to be a part of the list!

  10. Thank you for this list. I don’t quite understand the negativity against E-bike company owners. Aren’t those the ones who take the risk to make this whole discussion possible?:-) You might be tuned against profit making companies, but this is how any economy and industry works. Without entrepreneurs taking the risk, no product, no heroes who can make a name for themselves, like the ones on your list. Entrepreneurs are the enablers and the competition will decide who can offer a product at the best price. Please no blame on them and congratulations to those who made your list:-)

    • no negativity at all…just being an ebike company owner myself i could not write that list without my own personal bias coming in.

      • Self-aggrandizing or conceited is the word. And the consensus is in, conceited asshole.

  11. I would think all long distance E-bike riders would want fenders, a broad comfortable seat, medium size tires, some kind of duel wheel suspension, at least a soft sprung or hydraulic seat. Plus at least 40 mile range. Once a rider passes 45 years old the body is not as much acceptable to fatigue or pain. Market these bikes for under 800 dollars and you should be able to place one in every third garages in the country.

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