Pandemic prompts Aspen couple to start E-bike business
Silver City Cycles can be found and booked at silvercitycycles.com and Silver City Cycles Facebook page.
Like many people in Aspen and across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Derek and Ryan Attema to reassess their lives.
The restaurants where the longtime Aspen locals worked shut down in March and the couple found themselves home alone with nothing but time — and wine — to contemplate their future.
“We were forced not to work,” Derek said in a recent interview outside their Hunter Creek apartment. “So the timing was perfect.”
Perfect, that is, to execute their plan for Silver City Cycles — an E-bike rental business idea the couple had been kicking around since a trip to Europe four years ago.
“We were thinking all winter about doing it,” Derek said. “Then COVID hit.”
Four months later, Silver City Cycles is one of Aspen’s newest businesses, complete with 10 superfly, motorcycle-style E-bikes and a mobile workshop and trailer to deliver bikes to waiting customers.
“(During the lockdown), we did take the time to evaluate what was important to us,” Ryan said. “We loved our restaurant jobs, but the whole thing changed us, too.”
The couple — who got married last fall after nine years together — first experienced the wonders of E-bikes about four years ago during a trip to visit Derek’s parents, who were living in Basel, Switzerland, at the time.
“Everyone there has E-bikes,” Derek said. “We went to France, Germany and Switzerland for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was such a fun experience just cruising around all day.”
Not long after, Derek was back in Aspen folding napkins at a local sushi restaurant and getting ready for another shift waiting tables when he saw a chopper-style bicycle roll by the front window. A motorcycle aficionado, he said he remembered thinking how difficult it would be to pedal such a contraption and wondered if it was possible to convert one to an E-bike.
So he tracked down a chopper bike frame, stripped it, bought an E-bike conversion kit and spent the next couple years perfecting the design. He said he also noticed the reaction he’d get riding the bike around Aspen, not to mention the ear-to-ear smiles people wore after he let them take it for a test ride.
“I got such a big response from everybody,” he said. “People would ask, ‘Where can I get one?’ I said, ‘I think I have something here.’”
E-bikes are great because they can be ridden on trails — with the exception of single-tracks — on paved roads, dirt roads and just about anywhere bicycles can go, he said.
“They look a little intimidating at first, but then you get on and people are like, ‘OK, this is great,’” Ryan said. “I’m kind of a goofy bike rider — I’m not very coordinated — and I feel totally comfortable on them.”
In addition, E-bikes are totally green and quiet — as opposed to motorcycles and mopeds, she said. They also provide the added benefit of a bit of exercise, Derek said.
“With E-bikes, they say you pedal 60% less and ride 600% more,” he said. “You get in better shape because you use them all the time.”
Fast-forward to the pandemic shut-down, when the Silver City Cycles business plan came into focus.
The couple leveraged their solid credit and bought a mini school bus that Derek converted into a mobile workshop, a trailer and 10 E-bikes they ordered from manufacturers that Derek built up. They also put a website together and a Facebook page and have debuted their new business just in time for the Fourth of July weekend.
“We’re open for business starting this week,” he said.
The E-bikes Derek and Ryan settled on are more like motorcycles than traditional bikes in that the rider is set back from the pedals, the handlebars are more upright and the fat-tire bike itself is lower to the ground. The different setup works because unlike traditional bikes where the rider is situated over the pedals so body weight can propel the bike, the electric motor takes care of most of the momentum, he said.
“They have a more comfortable feel,” Derek said. “It’s like you’re on a La-Z-Boy or a couch. They’re real head-turners.”
The bikes cost $100 to rent for four hours, or a half-day, and $130 for a full day. Multi-day rentals also are available. More information and online booking is available at silvercitycycles.com, as well as Silver City Cycles’ Facebook page. In addition, because the business is totally mobile, the bikes can be delivered to hotels or rental condos and picked up there, as well.
“I always felt like I had to sacrifice a career to live here,” Derek said. “Now, for the first time, I’m able to do something I’m really passionate about.”
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The pandemic’s impact on Aspen’s retail economy and the city’s sales tax coffers in June wasn’t half as bad as predicted.