Electra Bicycle Company
|Headquarters||Encinitas, California, United States|
|Products||Bicycle and related components|
|Parent||Trek Bicycle Company|
Electra Bicycle Company, a subsidiary of Trek Bicycle Company, was founded in Vista, California, in 1993, by Benno Bänziger and Jeano Erforth. Electra offers a wide range of modern cruiser bicycles. Additionally Electra designed and sells comfort bicycles, and hybrid bicycles. Electra also sells a line of accessories, apparel, and bicycle parts.
Electra was founded in 1993 by Benno Bänziger. A Swiss national, Bänziger grew up in the Swiss Embassy in West Berlin interested in California and action sports. As a teenager, he began designing and manufacturing snowboards in Germany, later moving to California after graduating with a degree in graphic design. He founded Projekt Design in 1990, working for companies including K2 and Adidas. Bänziger considered manufacturing snowboards or skateboards, but felt those markets were crowded with competitors and seemed a poor bet for a beginning manufacturer. He turned his attention to bicycles.
Bänziger told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "The one thing I found when I looked at cycling in the US was that everything was some kind of sport, but very few people used bikes for fun or for transportation. I wanted to introduce the 'having a bike in your life' factor, as opposed to 'being a cyclist'".
Founding the company
At the time, there were very few cruisers, the classic "fun" bike, on the market. "Back in 1993, there were no cruisers available", Erforth told the Carlsbad Local News, "You could buy a $99 Huffy at Wal-Mart, or you could try to find an old one and restore it, which is very expensive", Bänziger decided there was a market niche for a stylish, affordable cruiser bicycle for twentysomethings and began working on designs that combined classic looks with contemporary technology. About this time, Bänziger met Erforth, a fellow German transplant who was selling pieces of the Berlin Wall. Erforth said he could sell the kind of bikes Bänziger was designing, so the two pooled $30,000 in personal savings and founded Electra Bicycle Company. The two were the firm's sole shareholders through at least 2004.
The new Electra cruisers were manufactured by a Taiwanese contractor and the two partners began trying to sell them to bike shops. At first, "Dealers laughed at us," says Bänziger. "But people realized they didn't need a mountain bike to go to the grocery store." However, when bike shops tried stocking the Electras, they began to sell, and word-of-mouth convinced more dealers to sign on. In fact, the fledging company's cruiser sales were so strong that larger firms were spurred to start offering their own cruiser models. Today, Electras are available in bike shops throughout Europe, the USA, Japan, and Australia.
Hot rod influence
In 2002, the company diversified its products, introducing the new "Stream Ride" series. These new bikes were still in the cruiser tradition, but were inspired by the Southern California hot rod "kustom kar" culture. The lines of the bike frames became more exaggerated, chrome plating was applied liberally, and paint jobs became much more elaborate with flames, metal flakes, and wild colors. "Chopper" style elements like shortened rear fenders, racing "slik" tires, and elongated forks were introduced. Models carried hot-rod names like "Rockabilly Boogy" or "Rat Rod". The company even offered balloon tires with flame-patterned tread.
In a more explicit tribute to the car culture, Electra brought out a "Rat Fink" model, licensed by the estate of legendary hot-rodder 'Big Daddy" Ed Roth. "We have spent a lot of time at hot rod hangouts during our time in California," Erforth told the Tacoma News-Tribune. 'We made a connection with the people who have the licensing for the Rat Fink (logo and name). We wanted to make something that would be appreciated by that community." The bike's strikingly curved frame and poison green color has inspired widespread press attention, bringing new riders to the Electra brand. Car enthusiasts have begun buying Electra bikes.
In 2003, the company introduced its Townie model, using a crank forward geometry, marketed as Flat Foot Technology, where a seated rider's feet can rest flat on the ground — combining aspects of cruiser geometry with recumbent geometry, moving the pedals forward and the seat back.
Other bike companies have introduced bikes with a similar crank forward design including Day 6 Comfort Bicycles, the Giant Suede, the Trek Pure, the K2 Big Easy, the Sun Bicycles Ruskin and Rover, and the Rans Fusion. The Raleigh Gruv and the Cannondale Day Tripper were introduced after the Electra Townie, but as of 2009 are no longer in production.
The company partnered with fashion design firm Petro Zillia to produce a high-end fashion bike with a strong graphic quality. The bike was featured widely in the fashion press, and Petro Zillia’s chief designer Nony Tochterman gained coverage by riding the Electra up the runway at a fashion show.
- "Trek announces acquisition of Electra".
- "Accessories - Electra Bike Store". store.electrabike.com.
- "Retro Rides" by Michale F. Tevlin Alaska Airlines Magazine June 2004
- "Pedal Pushers: Electra Bicycle Co. Aims to put Non-cyclists Back on Bikes" by Conor Dougherty, San Diego Union-Tribune, January 25, 2004
- "Electra-fying" Carlsbad Today's Local News September 2005
- "One Speed is Enough" by Andrew Curry, US News and World Report May 10, 2004
- "Riding in Retro Style" by Bill Hutchens, Tacoma News-Tribune August 2005
- Anchorage Daily News June 2005
- "It's True: You don't forget, even after 25 years". Lexington Herald, August 2005
- "Both Feet on the Ground" by Marco R. della Cava, USA Today January 2005
- "Best Designer", Zink Magazine, June 2004