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
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
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
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)
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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)
Ride On Karl
Written by Eric, February 2017