Santa Cruz company produces beautiful environment-friendly electric bicycles
By Luke Yates
Electric bikes are rapidly gaining popularity, and there is a notable company based near the ASJ office in Santa Cruz – Blix Electric Bikes.
Blix moved to the California coast from Scandinavia in 2014 and has been growing ever since.
“It started in Sweden in 2006. My best friend started over there so they’ve been doing it for ten years now,” says Pontus Malmberg, CEO of Blix. “The bike here has been under product development for ten years. We’re using the same technology.”
Earlier this year, ASJ staff was invited to join Blix for a test ride around Santa Cruz. The company produces three e-bike models: the Stockholm which features traditional geometry and a classic look; the Komfort+ which includes a European style convenient step-through; and the Vika+ – a foldable bike with the same electric capabilities as the other two. The Vika+ is incredibly compact when folded, but handles remarkably well and is nimble enough to even ride around the office when put together.
Blix bicycles are built with well-known, high-quality components and are powered by ActiveDrive technology, providing a pedal assist function as well as a throttle for when you really want to kick back. This technology is also particularly useful for when you pull up at a stop sign at the bottom of a hill or hit a red in the wrong gear.
The bikes appeal to current cyclists – who may just need a little help with their morning commute – as well as those who would never dream of riding. “The biggest customer group are those that are already open to the idea of biking to work. Otherwise you first have to convince them that biking is actually possible,” says Malmberg. “But we do have a lot of customers that don’t really bike because they can’t. Maybe they’re older or they sweat a lot when they get to work. It sounds like a detail but when you think about it, nobody wants to do that. So this eliminates that problem.”
Blix also promotes a line of electric bicycles from another Swedish brand, Wallerang. Wallerang Smartbikes feature a more modern feel, and utilize Shimano Steps technology, making for a pure pedal assist bike. It comes with solid luggage capacity and could make a fantastic option for delivery services.
All Blix bikes ride beautifully, and feel light, even with the pedal assist on low. The positioning of the battery keeps the center of gravity low and stable, and the throttle provides a great boost when you need it. For a long commute or in a hilly city, these are a fast, fun, and green way to get around. On our test ride, the sun was shining and we tackled some pretty steep hills, but when I didn’t want to push too hard, I just sat back and let the motor do the work. I’d love to ride to work on one of these.
Blix based itself in Santa Cruz to be part of the cycling culture in Northern California and the West Coast, and its bikes are ideal for city commutes in places such as San Francisco and Seattle. The company is quickly growing across the entire US, and it looks to expand north and south, into Canada and Mexico. Interestingly, Blix receives the most bike requests from New York; unfortunately, current legislation puts electric bikes in a grey area in that state, and they can’t be ridden without a permit.
Aside from producing beautiful and environmentally friendly bikes, Blix is involved with cycling advocacy as well. The company is pushing for a better cycling network, and hopes its products can convince even the most skeptical commuter. “Stronger bike lanes out there too. We’re trying to advocate for that,” says Louis Van Skaik, who handles communications and media work for Blix. “Getting protected lanes as well. There’s one thing about being on a bike lane that has green stripes, but that doesn’t mean I’m not uncomfortable. It’s better than nothing, but a nice protected lane is the next step.”
Blix sponsors Ecology Action’s Spring Bike to Work Week, donating a new electric bike as a raffle prize. 2015’s winner embodied all the company seeks to represent. Malmberg enthuses, “The guy who won it, he stopped using his car completely. He’s a living sign that it actually makes a difference.”