Rentals offer riders chance to try out electric bikes

ST. PAUL, Minn. — “You can make it as easy or hard as you like.”

Sounds like a mobster threat from a vintage noir movie, but Eric Weber is talking about riding a pedal-assist electric bicycle.

Weber recently launched Port Of Hastings Outfitters, an electric bike rental business in Hastings. The 2003 Hastings High School grad has a trailer outfitted with charging outlets and a fleet of 12 electric bikes. He meets customers in a parking lot near the riverside trail in Hastings.

As the Summer of Nothing To Do winds down and restlessness grows, Weber’s venture offers a chance to get out and try something new, he tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

A pedal-assist electric bike is just what it sounds like. A motor helps the cyclist pedal, and there’s a throttle for a kick of extra oomph up a hill or getting started. It’s as easy as, well, riding a bike. A whole lot easier, in fact.

Mike Herman of Mike’s Electric Bikes in Stillwater knows there’s plenty of interest in pedal-assist bikes, but they’re expensive to purchase and in limited supply.

According to bicycling.com: “Prices vary widely, but you should expect to pay at least $1,500 for a decent e-bike, and considerably more ($2,500 to $5,500) for a quality bike with a motor system from a major manufacturer.”

Rentals give people a chance to try out electric bikes — and try out something new, say Herman and Weber.

“People are starving for things to do,” says Herman, who has 22 electric bikes for rent in his downtown Stillwater business, which is across a parking lot from a bike trail and has a coffeeshop in the front half of the building.

Herman moved his operation from a nearby location this spring and his business has more than doubled — because of the new spot and pandemic shutdowns. Most of his customers are tourists or “bored townies,” he says.

Neither Weber nor Herman is a bicyclist (the manual-pedal type). Weber’s uncle called him in April and had him try an electric bike. “I honestly felt like a 10-year-old,” he says.

Weber, a father of three kids under the age of 7, has a full-time job, but launched POHO on the side. He has a spot picked out for a shop in a riverside building that’s being renovated for apartments, retail and a restaurant.


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