In Highlands, Electric Bikes Power Scenic Tours

June 19, 2018
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Garrett Newcomb is the owner of Kranky Cycles, a bicycle retailer and repair shop located on Bay and Waterwitch Aves. that has been rejuvenated by the introduction of a fleet of electric bicycles, which can be rented to make a cruise along the Bayshore and Sandy Hook much less strenuous. Photo by Chris Rotolo

By Chris Rotolo |

HIGHLANDS – The owner of Kranky Cycles is hoping for a wave of outdoorsy customers who want to take a spin on something different: an electric bicycle.

With all the scenic bike paths leading in and out of Highlands, owner Garrett Newcomb believes renting e-bikes is a natural fit.

“These are augmented bikes to help those people who want to enjoy the ride and all the beautiful views the area has to offer but may not be athletes,” said Newcomb. “Electric bicycles are about accessibility and getting more people out and riding.”

An electric bicycle is not to be confused with a scooter or electric motorcycle. These electric bikes – or E-Bikes – pedal and handle just like a normal bicycle and utilize many of the same generic bicycle parts.

However, manufacturers are able to seamlessly integrate components like a motor, battery and controller to augment human power on demand but not completely replace it.

The 2017, Kranky Cycles, located at 321 Bay Ave., initially invested in five electric bicycles, then 10, and now Newcomb currently stocks a dozen. Four are suitable for women’s smaller frames.

The idea to rent E-Bikes came about when Newcomb’s wife Karen suffered injuries in a car accident that left her unable to perform strenuous physical activity. “She still wanted to get out and be active,” he said. “At first she said it was ‘cheating,’ but after one ride she was sold. And so was I.”

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Newcomb figured his shop would be ideal for rentals.

“You have the ferry right down the road. The Henry Hudson trail goes right through town. And the extension of the trail to Sandy Hook’s multiuse path is a big draw,” he said.

Electric bikes have piqued the interest of visitors to Highlands who want to tour the bustling nightlife and eclectic food and drink offerings.

They also take some of the anxiety away from a strenuous adventure.

“Normally you’d see a place out on a ride that you’d like to try and then you imagine what the ride back will be like on a full belly, up hills and against the headwinds we have at the Shore,” he said. But with the electric assist, it takes that anxiety away. You’re not exerting yourself as much. It’s like a post-dinner walk as opposed to a run.”

Questions have been raised about the legality of electric bicycles being ridden on bike paths within the borough, as well as along the county’s Henry Hudson Trail and the multiuse bike path at federally owned Sandy Hook. But Kranky’s rentals are considered bicycles, not motorized bikes, he said.

The United States has federal regulations in place to determine the status of an electronic bicycle and when it crosses that line and becomes a motorized vehicle. According to the Consumer Product Safety Act, an electric bicycle must have fully operational pedals, may not exceed a maximum speed of 20 mph, and cannot have a motor that produces more than 750 watts or the equivalent of 1.01 horsepower.

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All of Kranky Cycle’s bikes comply with these regulations.

The bike batteries do require charging. The charge varies based on the amount and length of the electronic assist. At a constant rate of 10 mph the lithium-ion battery should last at least four hours.

Electric bikes can be rented for $20 for two hours. Newcomb also offers a “Date Night Special,” where a couple can rent a pair of bikes for three hours at $50. Patrons may also rent traditional bicycles for an entire day for just $20 each.

Kranky Cycles also has traditional beach cruiser, hybrid and mountain bikes for sale – KHS, Sun Drifter and 3G are Newcomb’s most popular brands – starting as low as $100 for children’s bikes and $200 for adult frames, including a Jimmy Buffet-themed Margaritaville-model that comes complete with a squeaking parrot on the handlebars. The base price jumps to $350 when the bikes are equipped with gears and increases further to $450 for lighter-weight models.

A pair of thick black lines painted upon the walls of Kranky Cycles indicates the high-water marks left in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy.

Newcomb speaks with pride when discussing the devastation his business and community has endured since he launched Kranky Cycles nearly seven years ago. But the borough resident is less confident about how his establishment will weather competition from online shopping.

“It’s a tough business and we have to constantly adapt because it’s all changing so rapidly,” said Newcomb, who has been in the bicycle retail and repair business for more than 25 years. “Having a brick-and-mortar location isn’t as profitable as it once was if you aren’t willing to adapt. Embracing the electric bike has recently been a big adaptation.”

This article was first published in the June 14-June 21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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