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Bimotal in Bentonville

Bimotal in Bentonville

I went to Bentonville, Arkansas to connect with mountain bikers and spread the word about Bimotal.

Group Ride

The three-day visit started with a Friday-morning ride at 7:30 AM. Although groggy from flying in late the previous evening, it was awesome to start the day with a group ride. I rode with my host and a collection of mountain bike coaches—people super-passionate about the sport and even more passionate about passing it along to others. They were also in great riding shape, so I was glad to have Elevate on the ride, which was about 50% ebikes and 50% analogue bikes. It was a perfect use case. 85% of the time I was under pedal power only, but in the few sections where I was starting to get dropped, a bit of juice from Elevate got me caught up quickly.

Walmart Moves

Later that morning, I met with a key representative from Walmart Moves. The group ride went long, so I showed up sweaty in shorts and a shirt—something that’s becoming socially acceptable with the strong bike culture in town, especially for a meeting about bike commuting. Walmart Moves has a vision to get 10-15% of their employees biking, one-wheeling, or scootering to work. The goal is to reduce the usage of single-occupancy vehicles for commutes less than 5 miles. This makes sense from a climate, health, parking, traffic, and social perspective. But what are the big barriers to succeeding in this mission? The biggest barrier, it turns out, is simply trying an ebike once—usually, people get pretty hooked after that. Other hesitations include showing up sweaty, needing to be dressed formally, and the extra time associated with lockers, showering, and changing. Even in a town with heavy bike usage, there is still an aversion to using bikes for anything other than recreation. We had a good chat about the idea that bikes need to be considered work tools: just like Microsoft Teams or Zoom are software tools to meet people remotely, electrified bikes are hardware and software tools that get people places to meet in person.


Bike Shops

I visited a handful of the major bike shops in town: Phat Tire Bike Shop, Mojo and Mojo rental shop, OZ Suspension, Bentonville Bicycle Co., and Spoke Adventures. Note that I generally lean towards the introverted side, so walking into shops or approaching people publicly is not my typical MO. After enough reps, I realized that all I needed to say was, “Look at this ebike motor I’m working on,” and most folks would listen for at least 5-10 seconds. I’d immediately do an on/off demo, and a flood of questions would ensue. From there, persuading folks to test ride became fairly easy. From the test ride onward, I let the product do the work: I have never seen a test ride not end in a smile.

Shop owners were not concerned with Elevate potentially affecting ebike or analogue bike sales; they looked at it from the customer’s perspective. The sentiment I received can be paraphrased as: “We get to provide more value and options to the customer, and that’s a good thing.” Many of the folks working at shops quickly had ideas of project bikes they wanted to Elevate. Bimotal can’t wait to help them make that a reality, and with our production line now running, we are able to ship units within weeks of orders.

The Town

I took Friday evening to enjoy the town of Bentonville. I made it to the Crystal Bridges Museum at 7 PM and was able to enjoy it for an hour. Entry was free, courtesy of the Waltons and Walmart sponsorship, but there was a $12 fee for a special exhibit called “Exquisite Creatures,” which was well worth it. On my journey back, I stopped by the town square where there was jazz in the park and took a moment to listen to the live music.


The People

Everyone I met in Bentonville was friendly. Folks wave and say hi or good morning consistently on the trail. There’s a very strong sense of community. My host ran into people she knew quite often, making the city of approximately 60,000 feel very closely knit. A storm had hit the town 2-3 weeks back. Within 24 hours (as the story goes), folks started clearing the bike trails. There were still quite a few road closures here and there in town and clearing of debris, but many of the trails were already in great shape. Bentonville has its priorities straight.

Bentonville Trails

The trails at Bentonville are something else. The terrain is rolling, with lots of singletrack and wider flow trails. The trails are intentionally set up for cyclists, with bike pumps, tools, and designated bike parking along the routes. (My only ask would be for more drinking fountains given the heat, but perhaps this is a challenge with winterization.) The trail network had clearly marked trails and sections with catchy names so you can easily tell people: “I just rode ‘All American,’ and that trail was riding good today.” But the thing that struck me: the whole town feels like a playground for bikers, in a really good way.

Saturday morning, I ran demos at the beginner skills park in the Slaughter Pen trail region and showed the capabilities of Elevate at Castle, a flow/jump park designed to be lapped. I met quite a few people on the fence about making an ebike purchase: Elevate struck many as the solution to their dilemma. I quickly ran out of business cards. We hope to see them Elevating shortly. Saturday evening, I met with Adam from Phat Tire Bike Shop, a shop interested in doing pilot installations of Elevate. Adam was a big fan of the product and volunteered to take it off some rollers and jumps—he’ll probably be getting a unit on his Santa Cruz bike shortly. After dinner at Flying Fish (great local spot) with my host family and a group of their friends, we headed back home, but I had a demo bike and all the kids had to try it.

Product Feedback

I talked to many people over two days and did as many bike demos as I would at a larger bike show. Feedback was always shock/surprise at the power-to-weight ratio—something the Bimotal team and I are quite proud of. Folks are keen on a mobile app, which is about two months out at the time of writing this article. Pedal assist (PAS) is also something that about 50% of the testers really wanted. This has been on our radar for some time, and we’ve developed various PAS prototypes to date. The Bimotal team is crystal clear on the notion that good pedal assist will enable Elevate to have a broader reach. It’s coming, but it’s a difficult engineering challenge. We essentially need to build an entire power meter company to do it well, and we need a faster power meter than anything the market has seen.

Coming soon: YouTube compilation of reactions from demos in Bentonville

Thank you

I’d like to thank my host family—who only knew me from a Zoom intro and a friend introduction—for welcoming me into their home and community. It was especially considerate of them to let me crash, considering they have two young kids and a busy family and professional schedule. I’m also grateful to the city of Bentonville, which was very welcoming to me, Bimotal, and the invention of Elevate, and to bicycles. If you live in Bentonville and are considering an Elevate, let us know. We’d be excited to have you as a customer and have good relationships with local bike shops ready to do installations!

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