One of the best things about being a journalist and podcast host is access. We get access to new cars before a lot of people do, we get access to racetracks and auto shows before most of the public do, but the best, best part is access to the people who are actually making the e-mobility revolution possible. One of those people is my new friend, Juls Bindi, founder of the electric bike brand ZuGo Bike.
The Rhino e-bike was born out in the desert sands of Burning Man. If you’re unfamiliar with Burning Man, it’s a very expressive sort of music festival that features wild outfits, art installations, and — most relevant to us — wild rides. It looks sort of like this …
… Juls is a “burner,” and not only met her husband at Burning man, but had the vision to start ZuGo Bike. “We wanted a way to get around Burning Man,” she told me in LA (I’m paraphrasing a bit). “We needed something that was tough enough for the extreme conditions out there, but also comfortable … one more thing: you had to be able to actually pedal it.”
What Juls is saying here is something that sometimes goes unsaid with high-powered e-bike models, and that’s the fact that you can’t really pedal them. Bikes like the 50 mph Xion and even the super-adorable Segway C80 technically have pedals, sure, and they can kinda, sorta motivate the bike forward, but they’re either awkwardly placed or awkwardly geared, and exist mostly to skirt motorcycle laws than function as proper cycling gear. Juls wanted her e-bike to be rideable, fully practical transportation regardless of the battery’s state of charge.
“You can actually pedal our bike,” says Juls. “We use a larger ring gear that makes the Rhino easier to pedal, and it has a bicycle gear shifter on the right grip, just where you expect it.”
That line is worth paying attention to. Most of the e-bike models I’ve ridden have a motorcycle-style throttle on the right grip, which you twist to engage the electric motors. On the ZuGo Rhino, the throttle is thumb-activated, on the left. I found it to be a love-it-or-leave-it experience, but it was easy enough to cycle through the various pedal-assist modes that I’d never use it anyway, except on steeper hills than I ever ride on.
Speaking of things I don’t ride on, ZuGo Bike had a couple of very impressive one-off customs on display at the Electrify Expo shows in Miami and Austin that I’d never ride — because they are simply way, way too awesome. The first is Diplo’s personal “tiger” bike, the second is Juls’ bike, painted by ZuGo staffer Karl Scmidt (who gave me the awesome Blue Hippo cycling hat I’m wearing, below).
One-Off ZuGo Art Bikes
Admittedly, the ZuGo Bike is not fundamentally unique. You can buy an e-bike that’s visually very similar to the Rhino, but Juls is OK with that. “What sets us apart are really two things,” explains Juls.
“The first is the components we use. You can buy a bike that looks like ours, but it might not have the hydraulic brakes, or high-quality tires, and it definitely doesn’t have our gearing. The second is our customer service. If you buy a bike in Asia from some random website, you might be on your own when something breaks. ZuGo Bike stands behind our product with a solid, 1-year warranty.”
If you’ve ever bought a “big box” e-bike or ordered one from a discount website, you already understand what a big deal that is.
One final thing to note about ZuGo Bike, in addition to being a greener option than a car, the company plants ten trees for every purchase of a ZuGo Bike Rhino. They also hold regular contests that speak to their “green” cause. “We want to protect the environment by making it simple to plant a tree while also giving you the chance to win a new ZuGo Bike,” reads Juls’ website. “We will plant a tree for every $1 donated, and you will be entered into our contest for a chance to win a new ZuGo Rhino.”
What do you guys think? Is the tree-planting a bit of a reach or a genuine effort to do some good? As a burner, I tend to give Juls enough credit to think it’s the latter, but you can take a listen to an episode below of the Electrify Expo Podcast I hosted with her and CleanTechnica alum Chris Demorro, then let us know what you think of her brand in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Warning: lots of name-dropping in this one, so wear a helmet. 😉
Electrify Expo Miami – ZuGo Bike Interview
Original content from CleanTechnica, special thanks to ZuGo Bike.