By Sal Pizarro
POSTED: 04/04/2014 07:09:33 PM
I felt like one of the cool kids a few weeks ago, when I got to take a spin on an E-Tracker, one of the nifty, retro-styled bicycles being produced by Vintage Electric, a startup with its entrepreneurial roots in Los Gatos.
The E-Tracker, as you might guess, is an electric bike, which looks like the kind of cruiser you might find near the Santa Cruz beach but zips around like a two-wheeled version of a Tesla (and looks a lot less dorky than the Segway). Its creation, like so many Silicon Valley stories, began in a family garage, where Los Gatos High grad Andrew Davidge built a prototype, which he showed off to family friend Bill Weiner.
Weiner, who had an eye for workmanship and experience in the auto industry, told Davidge he’d front him the money to build another bike, knowing that the next generation would have improvements. Fast forward a couple of years and Davidge — barely in his 20s — leads a small team of fellow Los Gatos grads who are producing the custom-made bicycles at a Santa Clara workshop.
Everything on the E-Tracker — modeled after a World War I-era “board racer” — exudes the kind of class you’d expect around Silicon Valley, from the Brooks leather grips and saddle to the fat Schwalbe tires. You might think the big aluminum box in the space between the wheels holds the motor, but it’s actually a case for the battery that runs everything. It runs about 30 miles on a charge and cruises at a good 20 miles an hour (It takes about two hours to fully recharge it). You could pedal it if you wanted to be more eco-friendly, but it’s a lot more fun to let the bike provide its own power.
The bikes have turned heads everywhere from last year’s Concours D’Elegance in Pebble Beach to C.B. Hannegan’s in Los Gatos, where one’s been on display. So far, Vintage Electric has sold more than 50 of the bikes at a price tag of about $4,500 each, though someone’s going to ride away with one this summer when an E-Tracker is raffled off at this summer’s Jazz in the Plazz concert series.
Check out the nifty bikes at www.vintageelectricbikes.com.