by Eric Pearson, Founder & CEO, ALPEN Storage, Inc.
It was as if somebody hit the pause button on the global office market in 2020. The pandemic accelerated the work from home trend and forbid many employees from going to the office. But this will all change. Though it might seem as if we'll be stuck in this Covid twilight zone forever, the pandemic will end, we will have a vaccine and yes, we will return to the office. Remote work will certainly play a bigger role in the economy, but the notion of a shared physical office space is not going away. One of the things that will change in the germophobic, post-pandemic world is how people get to and from the office. Spoiler alert: they won't be taking the train or the bus, they'll be riding e-bikes. Office landlords are scrambling, or at least they should be, to prepare for all these sleek, new bikes arriving daily to their properties.
Mass transit ridership is down as much as 90%, while global bicycle sales have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. Our fears will eventually subside as things return to “normal,” but some of our new habits will become ingrained and endure long into the future. Attitudes toward hygiene, social distancing, and therefore, an aversion to tightly packed public transit seem likely to persist long after the end of the pandemic.
A big winner in this seismic shift appears to be e(lectric)-bikes, whose adoption in the U.S. market was in its infancy prior to the pandemic – less than 2% of the domestic bike market. Currently, bike dealers struggle to keep them in stock, global supply chains are strained and some top e-bike brands are reporting upwards of 400% annual growth. Electric bikes have existed for some time, but recent advances in battery and motor technology have cast them into the realm of viability for daily commuting. Speed and range have increased significantly, while weight and cost are falling. All the leading bike brands, as well as some well-funded newcomers, are investing heavily in sleek designs that seamlessly incorporate batteries and motors into bike frames. Gone are the days of Frankenstein-looking e-bikes with giant batteries stuck to the downtube. Many of these new designs are works of art that can cruise at speeds upwards of 20 miles per hour with a range of 60+miles. The average e-bike still costs upwards of $2,000, but some appealing offerings are getting down closer to the $1,000 price point, which could help break the market wide open. This burgeoning new market reached a key inflection point in 2019, as the sale of e-bikes eclipsed the sale of traditional bikes for the first time in several famously bike-centric European markets. U.S. consumers are still in the early phases of e-bike discovery. The vast majority of the U.S. population has still never ridden an e-bike, but within a few years that will all change. The rapid adoption of this new, fun, healthy, and practical technology will start to rewire our thinking around short to medium distance travel, whether commuting daily to work or running errands around town.
The most common type of e-bikes offer 'pedal assist' which amplifies the power output from each pedal stroke. A rider can effortlessly climb a hill at 20 miles per hour while pedaling as if barefoot on a beach cruiser on a Sunday afternoon. This means conquering those pesky hills, that prevent us from riding our regular bike as often as we'd like and arriving at our destination without breaking a sweat. No shower required before the day's first meeting. We’ve also managed to avoid all the traffic congestion that haunts our dreams while getting fresh air and just enough exercise to get the blood flowing and the adventure endorphins firing in our brains. The morning commute has now served to rev up our day, more effectively than four cups of coffee, and we actually look forward to the ride home. No more soul-sucking 5:00 rush hour traffic. We are immersed in our environment, experiencing it with all our senses as we cruise past traffic jams. This is a higher plane of existence.
So, how can office landlords get ahead of this trend and prepare for the coming wave of e-bikers? A shift of just a few percentage points toward biking among an office building's tenant base could result in dozens of additional bicycles arriving daily to a single property. Many landlords prohibit lugging bikes up elevators into workspaces, yet owners of expensive bikes are increasingly uncomfortable leaving them locked to traditional bike racks or in shared bike cages, where theft and damage is rampant. These office commuters will be riding bikes valued between $2,000 and $15,000 and they will demand both peace of mind and convenience. This demographic shift creates an opportunity for landlords to monetize this new demand by renting ALPEN Bike Capsules to these cyclists. ALPEN Bike Capsules can be conveniently located near the building entrance in parking garages or common areas. They offer security and convenient access, as well as plenty of room for cycling accessories and a change of clothes. No more clicking down the hallway in your bike cleats, as all that stuff can be neatly organized in the ALPEN Bike Capsule.
ALPEN Bike Capsules can rent for $50+ per month, generating a healthy ROI and quick payback relative to other property amenities. ALPEN even offers qualified landlords a lease option with zero upfront capital required.
The e-bikes are coming, there's little doubt about that. This leaves just one question for landlords: Are they willing to invest in the infrastructure to support this fast-growing commuter trend or will they allow all these new bikes to become a headache for them and their tenants?