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Each year EVELO brings new and constantly improving electric bikes to market. These bikes are specially designed to meet customer needs. Recently, John O'Donnell, who is responsible for product design at EVELO, joined us for a podcast. In the podcast, you will learn about John's background, the EVELO design process, and bicycling industry manufacturing and design trends. You can listen to The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO and read along with the transcript below.

Meet John O'Donnell

Armando: Bicycles and even electric bikes seem pretty simple. There are a frame and some pedals. What else do you need, right? There are some nuances, some challenges, some interesting little tidbits that make the bike industry fun to learn about. My name is Armando Roggio, and this is The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. I've asked John O'Donnell to join us. John is responsible for product development at EVELO Electric Bicycles, and we're going to learn why electric bicycles -- and really almost all bicycles -- are manufactured in Asia. Hint, it has to do with supply chain and market size. We will talk about what goes into designing an electric bicycle, and perhaps, by the end of this podcast, you'll know more about how the industry works and what really electric bikes are and maybe even why you're interested in them. John, would you mind starting us off by telling us what is product development or, really, what do you do for EVELO Electric Bicycles and, perhaps, describe some of your background in the bicycle industry? John: Sure. I head up the product team here at EVELO, which handles all the product development, basically from the design to implementation to actually getting the bikes in the warehouse, so all the steps along the way. Obviously, we're a small team, so everyone wears many hats, so it's anything from picking up the phone for a warranty or sales questions to traveling over to Asia to do QC on the bikes and everything in between. That's my role here now. As far as my background, most of my adult life has been spent in the bike industry. I've managed a shop in D.C. many, many years ago, and then, from there, actually went over to what at the time was Univega, one of the Raleigh brands, and during my time there, I also did lots of different things from basic customer service to managing an inside sales staff to working as an outside rep, and saw a lot of changes there during my time there just not only within the company, but within the bike industry because it's right around the time that the move from production in the U.S. to Asia was being finalized.

The Move Toward Asian Manufacturing

John: An interesting thing, Raleigh was actually one of the last manufacturers of domestic bikes that were at a reasonable price point. There were some specialty manufacturers doing high-end stuff, but, at the time, we were one of the last people making $200 bikes in the U.S., and it was around that time that Bill Austin actually ended up moving production from Kent, which was where we were located, over to Taiwan, and it was interesting because I got to see the production facility. It was actually right next to our office, so we got to see exactly what was going on. I got an early taste of the production side of things then, and so it's interesting to see how it's come full circle, traveling to Asia and seeing the bikes made over there. Armando: What was the driver that moved bicycle manufacturing to Asia, and what's the reason, I suppose, that so much bicycle manufacturing is done in Asia? John: I can tell you first hand that the driver at Raleigh wasn't cost, which I think is the first thing people think of, that it will drive the price down. The big thing was lead time. Our factory was literally across the street, and we would basically place orders to the factory and they would produce the bikes for us, and lead times were generally 180 days, best-case scenario. Sometimes, they would run all the way up to 360 days, and although that sounds ridiculous, I got to see... again, see first hand how one part not being there would just shut the assembly line down, and, whereas in Asia, if you are out of front derailleurs, you can put them on a cart, drive them over to the factory, get the production line back up. Back then, air shipping was prohibitively expensive, and pretty much everything involved, putting it in a containing, shipping it overseas. All the supply chain is in Asia, China, Taiwan, so that was a big part of it was just the lead time. The other thing was the level of assembly. At the time, it was pretty antiquated. It was a legacy factory that we kind of Band-Aided together. The factories over there were newer, more modern, more automated, and the end result was that our customers at the time were getting a much higher level of assembly on bikes from companies that were producing overseas, and we would get feedback a lot of times from dealers that it would take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to build one of our bikes, whereas competitors' bikes, Trek, Specialized, they were putting together in 15 to 20 minutes, so lead times and level of assembly were really the two big drivers for it. Armando: The fact that most of the supply chain was already in Asia and the idea that the decision was maybe to go to Taiwan because of lead time, these things seem like symptoms or indicators of something larger, so could it be market size? Is the consumption, if you will, of bicycles greater in Asia than in the U.S. or the E.U.? John: By far, that's one of the reasons that the sub-suppliers have been over in Asia. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but it's several orders of magnitude larger over in Asia and in Europe, to a lesser degree, than the U.S., so, consequently, that's where most of the derailleurs are produced then. We're really a niche market for the global bicycle industry in the U.S., so, yeah, from derailleurs, tires, spokes, you'll find some high-end specialty stuff that to this day is still made in the U.S., and even that seems to be less and less as more high-end suppliers go offshore, but for large production of basic bicycle components, things like chains, spokes, rims, tires, we're doing so much more volume in Europe and in Asia than in the U.S. that all of the sub-suppliers have moved over there. I honestly can't remember the most recent derailleur, front or rear derailleur, shift cables that have been made in the U.S. It's probably been I would say since the '70s that when Schwinn was manufacturing in Chicago that the sub-suppliers were actually producing stuff in the U.S.

Designing New Models

Armando: Okay, so, this year, EVELO has introduced some new models, the Aries hub-drive, the Aries mid-drive, the Aurora hub-drive are all examples, but given that all the sub-suppliers and all the manufacturing is done in Asia, how do you bring a new bike model to market here in the United States? John: Actually, it starts with feedback from the customers as far as trying to design something that folks want, so it really does start as a clean sheet of paper and trying to figure out what we're selling now, what people like, what they're looking for, and then, once we wrap our head around a design that people want to ride, then we start from there, design the frame, pick the components and then source all the parts. It's really a collaborative effort. We do the basic frame drawing and then work in conjunction with the factory's engineers to finalize the drawing. There's always a bit of a divide between what you want and what the factory can efficiently produce and they're not always necessarily the same thing, so there's a fair bit of work on that side of things, tweaking the frame design so that it's something that can be produced efficiently and work for what we want it to do. After the frame drawing is done, we basically go through every single nut and bolt on the bike and then decide what parts are going to be on there, and we get feedback from multiple people on the team to decide not only what people or what the end users are looking for, but things like ease of service out on the field is always a consideration as well. We want to make sure that not only is it a good bike to ride, but if it does need service, servicing can be done relatively easily. Things like the position of the motor housing, like how easy is the controller to get to on the bike, all of that sort of stuff is factored in, and, yeah, so it's a pretty big project because, obviously, there are tons of moving parts on a bike, from the bike design to the box that holds the tools that are shipped with the bike, to the packaging, which is also another big part of the process. All that has to be figured out before anything runs down the production line. Armando: As you are working through a new electric bike design, are there some known problems or bottlenecks where you always know this is going to be a challenge, or is each new electric bike design is sort of its own adventure? John: A little of both actually. I mean, every time there's the first production of something, it brings some new challenges. That said, there are things that are always going to be a challenge. For us, especially since we ship direct to consumer, one of the most tricky things is packaging because, when a bike shows up to a bike shop, the first line of defense is going to be the shop unboxing the bike and, potentially, fixing anything that goes wrong in shipping. The other thing is how the bikes are shipped is a bit different when you're shipping to a bike shop versus shipping to an end user. Typically, if a bike ships to a bike shop, the shop will normally order 15 to 25 bikes at a time, and they'll show up on a pallet, shrink-wrapped, and it's a lot more safe environment for them to travel. In our case, we're almost always shipping individual bikes, and they're going by individual carriers such as FedEx or UPS. They lead a harder life en route to the end user. There is no way around that, so packaging is one of those things that we've done really well with. That's always a moving target. We're always trying to improve and makes sure that the bikes arrive as good as possible. Armando: The solution I'm guessing is not to include more bubble wrap, right? You've got to be more efficient than that. John: Correct. It's funny when you asked that. At one point, we were throwing more and more foam at the equation, and it actually worked pretty well, but the end user experience was pretty poor when they would be covered in this foam that would be broken into millions of pieces when they pull the bike out of the box. You have to balance getting the bike there in one piece with not wasting a ton of resources and making it a positive experience to pull it out of the box and build. Fortunately, particularly the factory we're working with right now, they brought a lot to the table in terms of ideas on packaging, so we were able to use not a ridiculous amount of packaging to keep it in the box, but also do a good job of getting it there. Also, things like the quality of the box, it's not something you really think about, but there are different levels of cardboard. Some of the boxes use a very, very high level of recycled cardboard that's really soft and is a lot more prone to damage in transport, so using higher quality cardboard or sticker box ends up paying some pretty big dividends in getting the bike there in one piece.

EVELO Electric Bikes are Assembled Then Packed

Armando: What about getting the bike in the box? You have a product that is going directly to the consumer. You want to make it relatively easy to assemble. How does that impact your packaging? John: That's a good question. It's one of the things that I think most people don't realize is that all of the bikes are actually fully assembled and test-ridden before they actually go into the box. That is actually not typical from the normal production situations particularly on bikes that are shipping to a bike shop. Those bikes are normally not 100 percent assembled. They're actually built as they go in the box. In our case, the bikes are completed, standing in a row for us to test ride and then are broken down and then put back in the box. One of the big advantages there is that you're able to check things like shifter adjustment, brake adjustment, make sure the wheels go through. It basically reduces the amount of time that the end user has to get the bike together and increases the likelihood that, when it's put together, everything works correctly as it should, so... but it also makes for extra steps for the factory. In terms of how it goes from that bike to being put back in the box, it actually goes back on the assembly line for packaging, and there's a dedicated line that's just for that, and, at that point, it's disassembled to a point where the customer has to then put it back together. It's normally pretty straightforward stuff. We pull off the front wheel, pull off either the stem or the handlebars and then pull off the pedals. All that stuff is put in the box, and then the protective wrap is then put on the bike and then put into the box.

Electric Bikes and Conventional Bicycles

Armando: Obviously, EVELO doesn't make conventional bicycles, but rather an electric bike. Would you describe the difference? John: It really starts with the frame. There are different ways obviously to make an electric bike. With ours, the frame is actually a purpose-built electric bike frame, and I think you're seeing that across the industry more and more. When we started seven years ago, it was a bit different in that there were a lot of bikes out there that were basically conventional bikes with the motor stuck on the back, but there's a lot more power going through the bike, so, having the frame, spokes, tires, all of that stuff being operated for the extra weight that you're going to be carrying with an electric bike and the extra power, all of that stuff is a consideration. Besides that, I mean, the basic parts are actually the same but will be more durable. Take, for instance, spokes, they look the same, they're just going to be a heavier gauge. Same with rims, the extrusion will be a little bit thicker, so that it will weigh a little bit more, but it'll be able to withstand the extra weight of the bike and the extra power that's going through it. The basic bike components, for the most part, are similar, just built a little more durable, and then, the electric components, that's obviously something that's specific to the e-bike, which should basically be comprised of the motor, the controller, the battery, and then the display panel.

Electric Bike Trends

Armando: You mentioned the trend toward purpose-built electric bike frames in the industry. What are some of the other trends you're seeing in electric bike design? John: I think more and more folks are realizing the benefit of a mid-drive design. I know, when we started, we were one of the few in the U.S. selling a mid-drive bike, and now I think it's generally accepted that, for the most part, a mid-drive is more preferable. It comes with an extra cost because, again, you need a purpose-built frame and motors. It's little more complicated than just sticking a hub motor on the back, but there are a lot of benefits to it, and, now, you're seeing more and more companies that are incorporating a mid-drive. In addition to that, I would say that things are being a little bit more integrated, having the bike look less and less like an electric bike. The first electric bike, when you would see one rolling down the street, it was pretty obvious what it was, whereas now the batteries are a little more in line with the bike, more and more center-mount batteries, so the battery isn't included in the rear rack. We still do one model that has that because it offers the advantage of having a really, really low step-through height, so it offers the easiest on-off access than any bikes that we have, but, for the most part, batteries are migrating towards the middle of the frame. Motors are migrating towards the middle of the frame. I think those are the biggest trends right now.

Electric Bike Step-through Height

Armando: John, you mentioned step-through height. Why is that important for some customers? John: I would say two reasons. First off, I think our average customer is probably a little bit older than we initially thought right at the beginning, like six years ago. At the beginning, I think our basic thought was that commuters, people using the bike as a car replacement would be really the biggest market, and what had turned out was there are a lot of Boomers looking for exercise, looking to get back into riding. People that used to ride, been off the bike for 15, 20 years, are looking to get back into it, has started to ride, and a lot of those customers are a little more limited in flexibility and they want the ease of access to get on and off the bike. That said, I think there's more to it with an electric bike. The bike itself, even a lightweight electric bike, is still going to be relatively heavy, and it is just easier to get on and off the bike. I mean, I ride a conventional bike. Most of my riding is done with a nonelectric bike actually, just a regular pedaling bike, but if I'm riding an electric bike, I prefer the step-through. It's just easier to get on and off with a heavier bike. Even a lightweight electric bike is going to be anywhere from... They're going to be roughly double the weight of a conventional bike, so it does make it easier to get on and off.

Electric Bike Battery Technology

Armando: A key contributor to weight is the battery, so why not talk a little bit about battery technology, perhaps how it is evolving and where you think it might be going? John: It hasn't evolved as much as folks might think. For instance, the 2700 cells that were just introduced, everyone knows it as the Tesla cell, it's an evolutionary product. It's really not anything that's revolutionary. It will basically take the weight of an electric bike battery from about eight pounds down to maybe six pounds for the same range or it will increase range a little bit. JFor the last probably 10 years, the basic technology on batteries really hasn't changed that much, and if you look at battery technology in general, it generally goes in cycles of about 20 years. When lithium-ion cells were first introduced, that got full acceptance and then gradually became the standard for all consumer products. Things like power tools used to be NiCad. Now, it's almost exclusively shifted over to lithium-ion, but it isn't a change that happened overnight. It was a long time in coming, and then if you go back before that, the lead-acid battery packs, it's the same thing. They had a period of about 10 to 15 years where they were the standard for consumer products. As far as where it's going for the foreseeable future, I don't see any huge changes. Things like solid-state batteries have a lot of promise, but we're talking 15 to 20 years before there's going to be something that's going to be commonplace in not just E-bikes, but consumer products in general.

Electric Bike Costs

Armando: John, you've done a good job describing the electric bike production process, but is there anything else you'd like folks to know about how electric bikes are designed or made? John: I think one of the things that's worth discussing is the issue of cost because, obviously, and this isn't just with electric bikes, but bikes in general, bikes can ranges anywhere from 10,000 and up, down to $200. There are obviously pretty big differences between the $200 road bike that you're going to buy and the $10,000 road bike. What I will say with electric bikes is you really don't hit the law of diminishing returns until you get to probably four or $5,000. When you get above that price point, you start paying lots of money for small increases in performance, so, for the most part, if you're making the jump with an electric bikes from, say, $500 up to about $4,000, you're getting a commensurate increase in performance for the amount that you're spending, and then once you start going above that, you'll start spending a lot of money for small increases in performance. Just to give you as kind of a for-instance, I've seen electric bikes through various online channels where the retail price of the bike is roughly the same cost of the battery, not what we retail a battery for, but our actual cost, so, obviously, if they're doing a large volume, they can get some break on pricing, but they're doing it by using lower cost components. It's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, if it's people's first entry into an electric bike and it gets them on an electric bike, that's great, but if they're using it regularly, chances are they're going to run into reliability issues. The other thing we run into pretty frequently is that we'll get calls from customers looking for parts to service the bike that they bought online a couple of years ago from a company that went out of business, and, unfortunately, we rarely can help those folks because the bikes used proprietary parts, and so part of selling and serving electric bike is making sure that you have replacement parts in stock. From the bikes that we've discontinued and sold seven years ago, we still support out in the field. We still have replacement parts for them. That's also one of the drivers of cost. Armando: Makes sense. John, you have been great. I really do appreciate you for taking the time to chat today. John: Hey, it's my pleasure. Armando: Thank you, everyone, for listening to The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. We want to cover topics that interest you, so, if you have suggestions for a podcast topic or maybe you want to share your electric bike experience, please email us at contact@evelo.com. Let us know what you're thinking. We'd love to hear from you. Also, if you want to learn more about electric bikes, please visit evelo.com and look for The Complete Electric Bike Buyer's Guide. Take care. Thanks again for listening.
Seattle, WA. March 8, 2017

EVELO Announces Industry’s Best E-bike Warranty: 4-Year/20,000-Mile

EVELO Electric Bicycles announces the launch of the most comprehensive warranty in the electric bike industry.

The details are as follows:

  • All EVELO electric bicycles are now warranted for 4 years or 20,000 miles (whichever comes first) from purchase.
  • This covers new electric bikes, as well as any certified open-box purchases from EVELO.com
  • We are retroactively applying this warranty to any EVELO bike purchased since January 1, 2017.

More information is available at EVELO.com.

This warranty complements existing customer-centric features like our 10-day at-home trial, free returns, perfect seat guarantee, and much more.

“Electric bikes represent a significant investment for a new rider. Especially as a fairly new industry, we believe that it is critical to ensure that the customer’s purchase is protected for an extended period of time. The 4-Year/20,000-Mile Warranty represents our promise to our customers to be there not just before the sale, but for years after,” said Boris Mordkovich, EVELO’s co-founder and CEO.

For more information, visit EVELO.com or contact jonah@evelo.com.

Brr! It may finally be March, but it’s definitely still chilly out there. If you’re like us, going too long without getting on your bicycle can make you go crazy, but you don’t want to risk your health by going out into the cold unprepared. We already gave you 10 tips for biking safely in winter weather, but if you complement that with some of these amazing accessories, you’ll be happily biking no matter what the temperature or weather is outside. So read up, strap on this gear, and get out there!

Balaclava

BKNo, you’re not robbing a bank; what you’re doing is keeping your whole body toasty by wrapping your head in a balaclava. Unlike hoodies or hats that may restrict your peripheral vision, a Balaclava will keep you safe AND warm at the same time. They’re available in many materials, with the cheap ones usually knit, and the most expensive ones made of neoprene.  

Bike Gloves

bikegloveNow that we’ve covered your head, what about your hands? While many riders already have a set of biking gloves, those usually leave the ends of your fingers exposed to the bitter cold. Consider getting a thermal bike glove; unlike your average glove or mitten, it’s extra grippy, ensuring you can still change gears and brake with ease, all while keeping your extremities warm and comfy.

Thermal Shirt

81bIrPIIjEL._SL1500_So we’ve got your heads and hands warmed up, but what about your core? Those setting out into a serious freeze may want to purchase a thermal shirt. Obviously this purchase will be just as great for any other activity you do in the cold, but you’ll find it especially helpful as you’re speeding along on your bike, no longer licked by cold winds as your shirt’s insulation keeps you extra toasty.

Studded Tires

EXOREANow that we’ve covered your body, let’s talk about your ride. After all, if you’re all warm and bundled up but still struggling to get traction, we haven’t done you a lick of good. That’s why serious winter cyclists should consider studded bicycle tires. They’re surprisingly affordable, and will let you gain traction in even the most inclement of weather. While others stay home when it snows, you’ll be out having fun!

Spare Parts

Obviously getting a flat sucks no matter what the weather is like. But if it’s cold out there, getting stuck without a replacement tube can take on serious health consequences. That’s why we highly recommend riding with a spare part kit. This will ensure you can make any tune-ups or swap-outs as quickly as possible, so you can get back on the road without wasting too much heat and energy.

Bike GPS

cf-lgThis next recommendation is for those that are planning SERIOUS rides out in the wild. Given that it may be too cold to consult your phone, and there’s a risk you could get lost, consider investing in a bike GPS. Not only will it show you your next turn, some models come with important features like weather warnings, and the ability to summon help if something goes wrong.

Shoe Cover

616B1db08iL._SL1200_For cyclists that use “clip ins” to stay attached to their bike, this next product can make all the difference on a wet day. Shoe covers slip over your bicycle shoe, but still let you clip into your pedals, and keep your feet dry no matter what the weather is like. Beyond that, they improve your aerodynamic profile, meaning you’re going to be both warm AND fast.

Extra Powerful Lamp

856-0550_urban800fc_1_1While every bicyclist already has a light on the front and back of their bike, sometimes the illumination those basic models puts out just doesn’t quite cut it. Consider investing in a higher-end bike lamp, which will throw off some serious lumens. A high end lamp will make it so you can see further, so vehicles can see you from greater distances, and as a bonus are going to be waterproof for extra durability. So instead of squinting to see the road, think about picking up one of these bad boys. Are you ready to ride in any weather? Let us know your favorite year-round riding spots, as well as any of your preferred accessories to keep on biking during winter.
Looking for some new reading material? Well, whether you like blogs about health & nutrition, retirement planning, housing, technology, or general news, we’ve got you covered. The EVELO team has chosen five of our favorite websites in each of those categories, so with 25 new sites to read, you’ll have plenty of fresh news to keep you sharp. Some of the sites are specifically tailored for the 55+ crowd, while others feature great content for people of any age, but either way - these are THE sites to read, starting with our favorites in each category first.

Health & Nutrition

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Better Health

betterhealthWhile staying fit and healthy can be a challenge at any age, we know that seniors face their own unique obstacles to staying in shape. Whether it’s creaky bones, old injuries, or just plain ol’ reduced mobility, special consideration must be taken before setting out to exercise or diet. That’s why a site like Better Health, which is specifically tailored to older folks, is such a great resource. It’s a mix of health news, exercise regimens, pain management advice, and more, that really speaks to seniors.

New York Times Health & Wellness

well_main_winterIt was a sad day when the New York Times shut down their dedicated senior health blog last year. Fortunately, all that great content, as well as new updates, continue to live on at two related sites: The New York Times Health section, and their “Well” blog. There, you’ll find all sorts of amazing updates for living well, staying healthy, and feeling great at any age. We find their tips on how to best avoid injury while exercising to be especially helpful.

AARP’s Sexology

American_Association_of_Retired_Persons_(logo)AARP has been a respected resource for retirees for over 50 years, so it only makes sense they’d have a number of great resources for seniors looking to stay learned. As such, they run a number of blogs, but we find their most unique one to be Sexology. There’s no squeamishness here; they tackle love and sex for the 55+ set in a head-on manner, doling out helpful advice for keeping love lives (and marriages) healthy and working at any age, as well as fun pointers for widowers and divorcees.

Sunrise Blog

banner-senior-eatsLove to cook? Looking to stay healthy and active in the kitchen at any age? Well then Sunrise Blog is the website for you! While they do cover a range of topics, their focus on fun and simple recipes for seniors is what makes this site shine. A recent post on how to make a chicken caprese had us licking our lips, while “6 Smoothie Recipes That Pack In The Nutrients” looks absolutely delicious.

EatFresh

eatfresh-logo-org_2Trying to cook healthy while sticking to a limited income? Well, EatFresh has you covered, with a series of easy to follow recipes that are as cost conscious as they are nutritious. Add in their blog, where a real dietitian answers readers’ questions, and you’ve got yourself one great resource.

Retirement Planning

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The Roaming Boomers

roaming-boomers-lets-go-have-fun-header-1A successful retirement doesn’t have to mean sitting around the house. In fact, with some proper saving, planning, and by making smart use of travel deals, you can spend many of your golden years roaming the world. The Roaming Boomers shows you exactly how to do that, complete with tips and photos that will make motivate you to hit the road ASAP.

Money Over 55

aboutmoneyWhether you’re stressed about finances as you retire, or just want to keep up with the latest stocks, investment, and social security news, Money Over 55 has you covered. As part of the About network, this site features both original content and articles sourced from their whole collection of sites, meaning you get a number of smart perspectives on how to save and spend wisely. Some articles, like “5 Ways to Become a Millionaire” are fun and aspirational, while others like “Social Security Just Changed. Are You Affected?” get straight to the need-to-know facts.

Can I Retire Yet?

caniretireyetFor those looking to keep an eye on their stocks and bonds, Can I Retire Yet? offers savvy financial insight that’s always paired with an eye towards living as comfortable a retirement as possible. If you’re looking for not just financial news, but an analysis of how that financial news will affect you and your portfolio, this is the site for you.

Time Goes By

timegoesbyFor those of you that have just crested the 55+ barrier, the road ahead for the next 30 or more years can seem daunting and confusing. Why not learn from those that have already travelled that path, to see what they’ve experienced, and how they dealt with various challenges? That’s exactly the premise behind Time Goes By, as it’s filled with great personal stories, usually containing nuggets of wisdom, from your fellow retirees.

The Retirement Cafe

retirementcafeHere’s another retirement focused blog, but with a more personal twist. Instead of being run by some big company, The Retirement Cafe just offers the personal thoughts and advice of one man: Dirk Cotton. But Dirk isn’t just some run of the mill Joe spouting off blog posts; he’s a retired Fortune 500 executive who holds multiple degrees. As such, you can expect sage advice on how to best manage your money, trends to look for, and retirement pratfalls to avoid. How smart!

Housing

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A Place for Mom

placeformomA Place for Mom got its start running a service that connects seniors with retirement communities and senior care facilities, so they definitely know their audience. That said, their blog is by no means a simple advertisement for their services. Instead, they cover a wide range of topics that anyone on the wiser side of the hill will find interesting. That includes helpful tips like “how to beat the high cost of senior living” to helping diagnose dementia and other ailments. So if you want to stay both safe and smart, this is the blog for you.

Inside Elder Care

insideeldercareInside Elder Care’s slogan is “helping families get the most from their elder care experience” and that’s exactly what you’ll find on this helpful website. They’ve got personal stories, reviews, news, checklists, and photos to ensure that if and when you decide it’s time for elder care, you’re making the most informed decision possible.

55Places.com

55placesOften times, the best blogs are more than just mere news updates, they offer unique tools or databases that complement their writers’ offerings. 55Places.com is a great example of that. On one hand, they have a great blog that offers advice for seniors looking to sell their home, or considering a new housing community to join. And on the other hand, they have a powerful search tool that lets you compare and contrast active adult communities across the entire country. It’s a win-win!

Zillow Research

zillowZillow Research has some similarities to 55Places.com, but features a broader focus. Their site contains tools for people of any age to buy or sell a house, and their blog is similarly concentrated on news and their own unique research into housing market trends. So, while this might not be quite as useful for those looking to compare retirement community options, their insight gives seniors looking to sell their existing home all the information they’ll need to get the best price possible.

Old House Online

oldhouseAre you looking to stay in your existing home as long as possible? Well, living in an old house means loving it, and helping keep it in good shape. Old House Online offers lots of helpful articles on how to keep your home looking and functioning well. They also offer specific articles geared towards seniors that may need to retrofit an existing home to accommodate their new needs as they age.

Technology

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AARP’s The Download

American_Association_of_Retired_Persons_(logo)As we mentioned earlier, AARP runs a litany of blogs, seemingly one for every topic. Another one of our favorites is The Download, which is focused on technology news and advancements for daily life. We’re not talking about pie-in-the-sky high tech things here, just real advancements that can make real people’s lives better.

SeniorNet Blog

SeniorNet_1986_transparentThe SeniorNet Blog is generally focused on technology and how advancements are changing our world. Some recent topics include social engineering, price checker apps for your smartphone, and how to use the Internet to best utilize your Medicare. So, if you’ve been bitten by the tech-bug, you’ll love this blog!

CNET

cnet-redball-largeWhile the stereotype may say that only youngsters can be gadget lovers, we know many older tech wizards that laugh in the face of that out of date generalization. If you love the nitty gritty on the latest gizmos and gadgets, we really do think CNET is the site for you. While there’s nothing inherently senior focused about it, this site does a great job of making its content accessible to everyone, while not getting bogged down in arcane pop-oriented side shows that can detract from some competing sites.

Parent Giving

parentgiving-logoLooking for great gifts for yourself or another golden-ager? Well, Parent Giving has you covered. They’re not just a smart shopping site for all sorts of items geared towards the 55+ crowd, but they also have clever articles and guides about how to best use those items. So whether it’s a new telephone or a “smarter” pillow you’re looking for, Parent Giving has what you need.

Jeff’s Help Blog

jeffs-help-blogFor some seniors, there’s no piece of technology more vital than a health alert device. For those not familiar with the term, think of the iconic Life Alert - “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials. Jeff’s Help Blog covers a number of tech topics, but has a deep focus on the features and pros/cons of various health alert devices. So if you’re considering one of those products for you or someone you care about, give this site a read.

General News

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HuffPost50

Looking for a never ending stream of content? Well, The Huffinton Post’s HuffPost50 has got you covered! While specifically geared to those 50 and over (as the name makes clear), this site still manages to churn out dozens of new posts a week. And don’t think this is just quantity over quality, recent stories like “Staying Behind The Wheel As You Age May Help You Stay Sharp” and “5 Things We Can Learn From Our Grandmothers' Generation” offer real thoughtful takes on important topics.

Senior Planet

seniorplanetSenior Planet’s slogan is “aging with attitude” and they really mean it! This blog has something for every golden-ager that’s looking for what’s new and cool: technology, environmental updates, general news, and more. So if you’re looking to keep up with the latest and greatest, give this site a spin!

Babyboomers.com

babyboomersYes, some baby boomers are only 52, and some healthy and active 75 year olds aren’t technically “baby boomers.” But either way Babyboomers.com, a news site focused on America’s biggest generational cohort, is bound to have smart takes on the latest trends, and thoughts on how they’ll impact people like you. Here’s to booming!

BoomerCafe

BOOMERCAFE_banner_SnapseedHere’s another great site for you baby boomers or wanna be boomers - boomercafe.com. While not as “hard news” focused as Babyboomers.com, BoomerCafe offers interesting takes on how to live a great life as you age, all while keeping relevant with the latest news, developments, and trends.

AARP’s Bulletin Today

American_Association_of_Retired_Persons_(logo)The last of our favorite AARP blogs truly has something for everyone. Bulletin Today focuses on the latest news: not just what the stories are, but how they impact and affect senior citizens. So, next time you see a headline in your local paper and think “but what does that mean for me?” head here first. Do you have a favorite blog or website? Let us know in the comments below!
“So, where are your electric bikes made?” This question comes up often in our interactions with customers. There is a simple answer and a more complex one. The simple answer is that we work with two factories – one is based in Southern China in a large city called Guangzhou. The other factory – which we recently began working with — is located in Taiwan. bikes_1440024270581_block_1 The more complex answer is that the final assembly is done in China and Taiwan from parts sourced from dozens of different suppliers all over the world, although mostly from Asia. So even though many of the components are designed elsewhere – our unique mid-drive motor, for example, was designed in Italy — most of the production and assembly of our electric bikes is done in Asia. So, why China? Like the previous question, the answer is a bit more involved than it appears to be on the surface. The assumption that many people make is that lower costs and lower wages are the only reason our bikes are put together in China, but that’s not really accurate nor is it the main reason behind our decision. The finished cost of a bike made in Asia vs. a bike made in the U.S. isn’t actually that different. The cost of labor — which certainly is a big factor in the manufacture of any product these days — is only a portion of the total cost of the bike. Materials, freight, independent quality control, product design, and assorted other costs all factor into the mix – and their economics change drastically when the location of the final assembly changes. So what’s the biggest reason for building bikes in Asia? The biggest reason that production of electric bikes is done overseas is that Asia is where the bike industry and the electronics industry are both centered. It’s amazing how much simpler it is to develop, assemble, and continuously improve our products when all of the suppliers we work with are located close to one another. Of course, it is possible to do some final assembly of overseas components domestically, and some companies do, but managing the supply chain of Japanese battery cells, Taiwanese control boards, tires from Thailand, and so on is infinitely more problematic when the assembly location is weeks away from the source of the parts. Even in Asia, the lead time can be a couple of months for parts and components. Time to market would be even longer if the final assembly were done in the U.S. Lead time has a direct correlation to our ability to predict and stock the inventory that will be most in demand. This is already a huge challenge that would grow even larger if we had to make those decisions 6-9 months in advance. As well, shipping a variety of parts from many different manufacturers to the U.S. for final assembly would significantly drive up costs. For a young company, being flexible, nimble, and ready to adapt to changing conditions is even more important than the cost savings. In the end, we realized with this model, we have more flexibility with production, can make changes more quickly, and improve both our product and predictive power regarding supply and demand than if we were coordinating parts deliveries from several countries an entire ocean away. The two questions on everyone’s mind Even given the above motivations, two main concerns arise when overseas production of products to be sold in the US is discussed: 1) the loss of American jobs, and 2) the quality of goods made in China. sub-1 Question #1: The effect on American jobs No one can deny that the manufacturing of many products has moved from the U.S. to overseas locations over the last several decades. In the bike industry, the overwhelming majority of bike parts (tires, spokes, frames, etc.) are currently made in Asia, as are bike electronics. Most of the bike brands that you’re familiar with today – even if the companies that sell them are U.S.-owned and U.S.-based — will produce the components overseas. As a U.S.-based company, we do want to provide more U.S. job opportunities here at EVELO and we do – 80% of our team is based in the U.S. We expect to double in size within two years and keep growing – with most of the new openings also being filled team members in North America. So, we certainly do provide new jobs – but the jobs that we provide are different – rather than manufacturing positions, we have customer support, sales, warehousing, logistics, design, QA and other positions. Overall, the best opportunity EVELO has to provide jobs for Americans is to grow as a successful U.S. company — which means being competitive in today’s marketplace. We’ve taken the approach that the best way we can build a successful U.S.-based company is to fully implement international resources to produce our bikes when that makes the most sense, to offer the best value to our customers for the price, and to hire locally whenever we can for other positions. sub-2 Question #2: The quality of products made in China When considering the quality of goods manufactured in China, it’s worth keeping in mind that we’ve known for years that Asian companies are very good at producing bikes and electronics! Of course, a wide range of quality exists. Plenty of low-cost, low-quality products are produced, but on the other side of the spectrum, the vast majority of high-tech (not to mention all of our iPhones) comes from Asian sources. It’s important to remember that the quality of a product depends to a large extent on an organization’s management and team members. If the focus is on continuous improvement and quality control, an organization can product high-quality products – regardless of whether located in the U.S. or China. In fact, a former colleague of mine likes to tell the story of a group of welders from a high-end Italian brand visiting an Asian factory to learn the intricacies of tig-welding aluminum frames! The Asian factories that supply parts for electric bikes have decades of experience in producing high-quality products. Electric bikes originated in Asia, and currently more than 40 million of them are built every single year. The final assembly of our own bikes is done in a fairly small, privately-owned factory with whom we work directly. There is a team of around 30 folks – from assembly line workers to management — most of whom have been with the factory for years and are extremely good at what they do. At this point, we know them personally having spent a fair amount of time there. To ensure that all of our rigorous quality standards are met, we employ our own Quality Control inspectors to inspect every bike in every production run that we do. Each bike is fully assembled and ridden on an indoor test track, after which the bike is packed for optimal shipping and easy assembly. As with any mechanical device, problems can occur, but we work closely with our factory to minimize these problems, and to address them when they arise. In conclusion Our objective at EVELO is to make our customers happy. Our goal is to provide a high-quality bike, built with attention to detail and care, backed by phenomenal customer service, and sold at a fair price point. When we make decisions at EVELO, we aim to balance all factors – the cost of production, the cost to the customer, the needs of our workers, and ways to make use of the best resources in the U.S. and abroad. bikes_1440024270581_block_0 It ends up being a team effort – with our U.S.-based team working very closely with our counterparts in Asia to produce high-quality electric bikes that we can be proud of offering to our customers. Article is written by John O’Donnell & Boris Mordkovich
As EVELO continues our fourth year of operations, we keep working towards becoming a company that our customers are proud to do business with, where our team members look forward to working at, and where we always aim to do things a bit different from the rest. One thing becoming increasingly important to me, as the company's co-founder and CEO, is transparency. I strongly believe that the more transparent we are - as a company - the stronger the relationship we build with our customers and the better the environment we create for all of our team members. I started this blog series in an effort to take this goal of transparency to a new level. Traditionally, businesses tend to be very closed off with their internal financials, product ideas, trade secrets, and other things of that nature. However, we believe that by being more open and transparent with these things, it helps to foster trust and a connection between us and our customers. I want to put my money where my mouth is (so to speak) and take you - our reader, our customer - behind the scenes to show you exactly how your money gets spent when you purchase an electric bike from us. Given the fairly high price of an electric bike in today’s market - ranging between $1,500 to $15,000 with a plethora of options available – I’m fairly certain you have wondered why they are priced as they are. Let's take the example of one of the most popular models we sell –the Aurora model with a NuVinci N360 upgrade that retails for around $2,524 (other models with this upgrade also retail at around the same price point) and break down where the money actually goes. All of the figures are taken from our own internal planning documents for 2015. If you buy a complete electric bike from us, here's how your money is allocated: transparent-pricing

Production Cost

42.3%

$ 1,066.67

Shipping From Factory to Our Distribution Center

1.7%

$ 42.80

Warehousing & Fulfillment Costs

1.2%

$ 31.27

Shipping to Customer

5.3%

$ 133.19

Warranty/Claims Reimbursements

1.3%

$ 32.42

Insurance Expense

1.5%

$ 36.60

Human Resources

17.4%

$ 438.62

Marketing Costs

9.0%

$ 227.70

Promotions

3.5%

$ 88.34

Merchant Fees

1.9%

$ 47.96

Interest Expense

0.8%

$ 20.82

Phone & Call Center Expenses

0.5%

$ 12.26

Web Services

0.8%

$ 20.82

Rent Expense

0.4%

$ 10.58

Miscellaneous Expenses

2.3%

$ 58.29

Profit

10.1%

$ 255.65

  Let's break down these expenses a bit further, so you get a better idea of how the funds are spent.
Production Costs - 42.3% or $1,066.67
This category includes what we pay for the actual components and labor required to assemble them. We collaborate with two factories to meticulously assemble and test every single one of our complete bikes and Omni Wheels. Keep in mind, however, that these production costs only cover the first step in getting the bike from the assembly line to the end-user. Below are other necessary components:
Shipping From Factory to Our Distribution Center - 1.7% or $42.80
We carry out many production runs throughout the year, which allows us to better control quality and make continuous improvements to the bikes. Each time a production run of bikes is completed, and each bike has gone through a quality control process, we ship them to our primary warehouse and distribution center near Seattle. About 2% or $42.80 will be spent to get your bike to the Seattle seaport, process it through customs, have it delivered to the warehouse, and then be unloaded, checked, and placed into inventory.
Warehousing & Fulfillment Costs - 1.2% or $31.27
Another 1% or $31.27 will be spent at the warehouse itself - for storage fees and the labor involved in preparing a bike for individual shipment to a customer.
Shipping to Customer - 5% or $133.19
We ship to customers all over the U.S. and Canada - typically via FedEx Ground or UPS Ground. Due to the high volume of shipments that our warehouse processes, we get a pretty good rate with the major carriers. While the actual cost varies depending on the destination, shipping tends to cost around $130-140 per bike. The cost is high partly because of the way we package the bikes - using double boxes with specialty wood inserts to protect the bike inside. This packaging adds to the weight and cost of shipping, but ensures that the bike arrives in pristine condition.
Warranty & Claim Reimbursements - 1.3% or $32.42
While we are proud of continuously improving our product and so that every bike will serve our customers well for thousands of miles, we are also pretty focused on ensuring that if a problem does occur, we're here to help. Warranty and claim reimbursements cover the cost of spare parts, shipping them to customers, and any other expenses associated with covering our customers under warranty. With a product as complex as an electric bike, problems can occur - but we're definitely working hard to ensure that all issues are resolved quickly and painlessly.
Insurance Expense - 1.5% or $36.60
We have an umbrella insurance policy — something that is quite important for any company that sells a product as complex as an electric bike. $36.60 or 1.5% goes towards this policy and ensuring that our customers are well-protected.
Human Resources - 17.4% or $438.62
We often say that the bike itself is only half of the product that we offer, with the rest being the customer service that we provide before and after the sale. In fact, the Human Resources category is the second biggest expense category (after the production costs). We run a fairly lean team, but at the same time offer some unique elements (especially for an online business), such as providing customer support 7 days a week and guaranteeing responses to all inquiries within 24 hours. salary Here is a further breakdown of what is involved in that 17.4% or $438.62: • 45.8% or $200.69 goes towards our customer service and back-office team. These are the folks that you'll interact with when you reach out to us with questions before or after purchasing an EVELO bike. They are also the ones who help coordinate test rides between you and an Ambassador and ensure that your bike gets to you quickly. • 5.6% or $24.64 goes towards our quality control team. We ensure that every production run, every single bike is individually tested and inspected - and these are the people responsible for that. • The remaining 48.6% or $213.30 is spread out among all of the other team members who work to continuously improve the product and operations.
Marketing Costs - 9% or $227.70
To grow the company, we allocate around 9% of our budget to marketing programs, including our fairly unique and pioneering Ambassador Program. Since we don't generally sell through dealers, we have developed a network of Ambassadors who are available to provide test rides and to share their experiences with potential customers. Every time we connect a potential customer with an Ambassador, the Ambassador receives a "thank you" payment from us for their help. The best part is that this program is available to all of our customers - any EVELO owner can become an Ambassador and also generate a revenue stream from their bike.
Promotions - 3.5% or $88.34
At times, we'll give out extras to our customers like free pannier bags or an extended-warranty on their purchase. As well, to make a bike more comfortable for a taller rider, sometimes we'll include a free seat post extension. We also have other promotional programs like a "100% Seat Satisfaction Guarantee" which ensures that our customer is 100% satisfied with the seat that comes on their EVELO bike. If not, he or she can purchase a seat of their choice at a local bike shop and we'll reimburse them for it. All of these promotional items of this sort are accounted for here.
Merchant Fees - 1.9% or $47.96
Since most of our customers use a credit card for their purchase, we pay 1.9% or $47.96 to our merchant processor to accept the credit cards.
Interest Expense - 0.8% or $20.82
Most businesses that sell physical goods, especially seasonal items like bikes, work with banks to finance the purchase of inventory. The production time for our bikes is a lengthy 3 to 4 months, each year we ensure that we have adequate inventory for our customers by arranging inventory financing through our partner banks. Around 0.8% or $20.82 goes towards the interest fees from that financing.
Phone & Call Center Expenses - 0.5% or $12.26
Our customer service team spends hours on the phone each day talking with our customers, for both pre-sale inquiries and after-sale questions. We love talking to our customers, so we don't mind! But the phone bills do add up. We use a third-party call-center to process phone calls during off-hours (e.g. after 10 pm) and really busy periods. This ensures that every single call gets answered by a real, live person - 24/7/365 — and the call center takes down key information and forwards the request to the team member best equipped to help.
Web Services - 0.8% or $20.82
As primarily an online company, we use a lot of different web services - from Shopify to manage our online transactions, to FreshDesk to manage customer inquiries, and Dropbox for managing all of our documentation in the cloud.
Rent Expense - 0.4% or $10.58
Our company is headquartered in New York City where we rent a small office. However, much of our team is based remotely in different locations around the U.S. This helps us keep overhead low, while also being able to provide service on both coasts, 7 days a week.
Miscellaneous – 2.3% or $ 58.29
A collection of miscellaneous expenses – accounting for less than half a percent of the purchase price - are combined in this category.
Profit - 10.1% or $255.65
And now we get to the one category that people wonder most about. How much profit is made on each electric bike sold? For a bike that costs $2,524, EVELO makes about $250 in profit. We use these funds to grow the company, invest in bringing new products to you, improve the customer service experience, and ensuring that we're here to back up and protect your investment for years to come. We'd love to hear from others - individuals and business owners – with your thoughts on this type of a profit margin? Do you feel it's too big? Too small? Just right? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Where Do We Go From Here?

The reason I wanted to share this information is because I believe it will help our customers — and those interested in electric bikes — understand our pricing and our business as a whole. We truly strive to find a deliver a great experience to our customers, while charging a price that is fair and that allows us to keep working hard for existing and future purchasers of our products. It would be great to hear what you think stands out about our costs and how we operate and whether you see things we could improve on. Thanks for being part of this incredible journey with us, exploring a new way to do business and making things as transparent and accessible as possible. If you'd like to read more posts about work being done Behind the Scenes at EVELO, I invite you to take a look at some of the other recent posts:

This year, about 98% of our business will come from customers who buy directly from us online. For a lot of customers, it’s a fairly novel concept – to buy something like a bicycle online and its true, it is a fairly new approach to selling bicycles. However, it is something that has worked really well for our customers over the years, it offers considerable savings for them, and it’s the direction that the industry is starting to move to. While we have experimented with brick-and-mortar dealers, we have found more success in selling directly to consumer and augmenting it with the Ambassador network for doing test rides around the country. This has allowed us to keep prices significantly lower and manage the entire sale process inhouse. How do we address the service aspect? In order to sell directly to the customer, the first key issue we needed to solve was -- how do we provide service to our customers after the sale? Especially with something like electric bicycles which are new to many people, after-sales service is key to happy customers. We have experimented with a number of strategies in the last few years until we ultimately settled on an approach that seems to be actually quite good:
  1. When a customer has an issue with a bike that they have purchased from us, they start with a single phone call or email to us where they get connected with one of our service experts.All of their information, including past history, is stored centrally and is accessible by our team instantly. In about 30% of the instances, we are able to troubleshoot and resolve the issue directly on the phone right then and there within a matter of minutes.
  1. If the issue needs professional attention, our service expert with begin by checking our internal database of independent bike stores in the area that we have worked with in the past. Since we have dealt with thousands of customers all over the country, we have developed a network of dozens and dozens of shops who can handle service for our customers. Once a relationship is formed and the store has proved their capability, we maintain a relationship with them and refer future work to them.
It's also worth mentioning that we actually also tend to work quite a bit with chain stores, like REI, which are equipped to do full bicycle service. By working with a chain like that, we are able to even further increase our service coverage.
  1. If we don't have an existing partner shop conveniently located, we will identify 3 bike shops in the area within a few miles radius of the customer and reach out to them ourselves. During a call, we assess their service capabilities to see if they are able to handle that particular issue.
  1. Once a store is identified, we will set up an appointment for the customer to drop off the bike there.
At this point, a customer simply needs to bring the bike to the shop at their convenience and leave it there. That's all.
  1. Once the bike is at the shop, our assigned service expert will communicate directly with the shop's mechanic to troubleshoot the problem and guide them through resolving it.
We are able to guide them through procedures over the phone, provide specific videos and written instructions as needed, and express ship them parts. Once the service issue is resolved, we connect back with our customer and let them know that the bike is ready to be picked up. In a way, this becomes even simpler for the customer as all they have to do is drop off and pick up the bike. We do all of the rest.
  1. If the shop's level of service proves to be high, we recruit them as a Service Provider -- which means that the next time, for any customers in that area, we will send them directly to the shop. This allows our internal database of Service Providers to grow exponentially every year!

How we make this process even better:

In order for this system to work well, we’ve spent the last few years finetuning the critical pieces: - Parts - we stock a full inventory of spare parts in our Washington-based warehouse and ship them out express to the shops. That means that they can get the parts they need within a day or two and get the customer riding again quickly. - Video Library - we are very actively building a comprehensive video library that documents virtually every single procedure possible. Although we may not be physically present at the shop, guiding the mechanic over the phone along with providing them with the video that outlines that exact procedure they are working on is very effective. - Self Service - for those customers who prefer to handle the issue themselves, we provide them with full support, both in terms of guiding them on the phone, email and via videos, as well as express shipping them any parts that are needed. Buying online vs. buying offline We certainly realize that for many of our customers, researching and buying an electric bike can be an overwhelming process – especially since many of them don’t have a lot of physical electric bike stores nearby. We want to prove that by buying the bike directly from us online, our customers can not just save a significant amount, but also receive very personal, helpful after-sales service – even if we don’t have a physical store right next to them.