It all began with engineer Jim Summers, frustrated by his daily commute, figuring out how to convert his bicycle to run with electric assistance. A decade and several moves later, his family business, Human Electric Hybrids, grosses north of $2 million annually supplying e-bikes for recreation, transportation, and cargo.
“Ten years ago, we had to tell everybody what an electric bike was,’” says his wife and partner, Kim Mayes. “Now everybody knows what an electric bike is. Most people haven’t tried one [though], and so a lot of our customers are trying one for the first time.”
To mark ten years in business and celebrate the consolidation of most of their sales into their new showroom at First and Miller, HEH and its related entity, Urban Rider Cargo Bikes, are hosting an open house February 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Door prizes, refreshments, discounted accessories, and bike-related games are promised. And as always, prospective customers can take test rides, as this reporter’s eighteen-year-old son did on a recent visit.
“So Dad, when are you getting me one of these?” were among Elliot’s first words after a “surprisingly fun” motor-assisted ride along Miller’s protected bike lane. The response: “When you stop asking me for a car.”
Three members of Mayes and Summers’ blended family work at the store: Clayton Mayes-Burnett and Cody Summers are full-time, and U-M student Julian Mayes-Burnett, a cognitive science major, works part-time. “We only have three grown sons and we’d employ more!” Mayes laughs.
The business has successively outgrown several spaces since its origins at a Pittsfield Village condo. They moved to a house in Ypsilanti Township and began selling factory-made bikes in addition to Jim’s custom conversions. Five days after getting a cease-and-desist letter from the township, they moved everything to Ypsilanti. They leased a small upstairs space in Kerrytown in 2019, then a larger basement one when Hollander’s moved its decorative paper and bookbinding supply business online, at which point they closed the Ypsi shop.
Last October they added a service center just across the street from Kerrytown at 409½ N. Fourth Ave. They will continue to repair and maintain the products they sell there, and are cutting prices on the remaining stock at Kerrytown. Their lease there goes through July, Mayes says, but they may close earlier if another tenant is found or when “we have reduced inventory enough that we can move everything here.”
As a car replacement, e-bikes require no license, insurance, or gasoline, and they’re easy to park and repair. “Maintenance on a bike is a fraction of the maintenance on a car and it never needs an oil change,” Mayes notes. “A really expensive bike repair is a few hundred dollars.”
New e-bikes and cargo bikes range from about $2,000 to over $10,000 and fit a variety of use cases, from environmentally minded commuters and baby boomers revitalized into recreation riding to families toting children and delivery services hauling goods in deep-welled cargo bikes.
Delivery is the line of business “we’re most excited about, because that’s the one that has the most environmental impact,” Mayes says. “Businesses and municipalities can do wonderful things by replacing some of their fleet or all of their fleet with cargo bikes.”
After a sales surge during the pandemic, she says, “bike shops really struggled in 2022. We’re just very lucky that we’re all e-bikes because that market continues to grow.
“There are people like me who wouldn’t ride a bike if it wasn’t electric. I don’t want to struggle up hills. That’s not fun. I want riding a bike to be fun. And here is an activity you can do with your spouse that’s not eating or shopping!”
Human Electric Hybrids, 320 Miller Ave. (734) 238–2269. Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. human-electric-hybrids.com