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Cruising in Style

On the eve of its 30th birthday, Encinitas bike-maker Electra stays true to its roots, building casual cruisers for everyday riders

By AnnaMaria Stephens

Electra Bikes san diego

Electra Bikes san diego

Kevin Cox gets a kick out of spotting vintage Electra bikes. In Holland, while strolling scenic canals, the Electra president saw several classic Townies, the laidback bike with braun that made the Encinitas-based company a global hit in the early aughts. In Idaho, it was an old- school Electra Townie Go!, which is one of the best-selling e-bikes on the market today.

“You could tell this thing had been ridden a gajillion miles,” says Cox. “That’s awesome. People are using them all the time. They really don’t wear out.”

Electra turns 30 next year, and it’s been quite a ride. For the first decade, the brand turned out a stylish modern riff on the mid-century American beach cruiser—think a souped-up Schwinn in fresh colorways.

“The ocean and beach are part of our DNA,” says Cox, wearing a Hawaiian shirt in his Electra HQ office filled with surfboards and bikes, just a 30-second walk from Moonlight Beach.“You can’t take that away from us. It’s ingrained in who we are as a company.”

Electra bikes, socks

Electra bikes, socks

Then came the Electra Townie in 2003. The attractive bike landed somewhere between a beach cruiser and a Euro-style commuter model. It had sturdy gears and brakes. It came in fun and edgy hues and graphics packages, including collaborations with artists and other brands. And, most importantly, it was painstakingly designed to be easy and comfortable.

“It’s our flat-foot tech,” says Cox. “And I say that tongue-in-cheek because it’s not so technical. You can put your feet flat on the ground when you stop without having to jump off the seat.”

In a market once dominated by road, mountain, and BMX bikes, the cool- looking comfort bike became a sensation.

“The Townie got a lot of people on bikes who thought they’d never ride again,” he says.

Electra bikes - 30th

Electra bikes – 30th

Today’s much-improved Townie has stood the test of time, and it’s also gone electric. “In 2012, we took our best-selling Townie and made it an e-bike,” says Cox, describing the Townie Go! “That’s our biggest evolution. We’re still a lifestyle bike brand, but we’ve transitioned into being a leading global e-bike company.”

Cox adds that just like the comfort bike, e-bikes are for everyone. Even though he’s a longtime avid road cyclist— the high speeds and Spandex kind—he and his family spend weekends cruising around their Encinitas neighborhood on Townie Go! bikes.

“We’re the 90 percent brand,” says Cox. “There are hundreds of millions who ride bikes, but only 10 percent of those are high-end enthusiasts. The rest are leisure lifestyle riders.”

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