It’s no secret that Atlanta’s traffic can make four miles take the time of 60 on any given day. For Ryan Hersh, this was his daily commute to and from Emory, where he’s a project manager. Like many Atlanta commuters are increasingly doing, he ditched his car in favor of a bicycle out of frustration. While the commute became significantly shorter, he would often arrive drenched in sweat to the office thanks to the city’s often-suffocating heat.
“Tackling Atlanta’s heat and hills presented a new set of challenges of sweaty and spent arrival,” says Hersh. “In 2012, I tested an electric bike and was instantly enamored. The feeling was liberating and addicting. However, my elation was crushed when I learned that the bike that I was riding was $5,500. I knew that I could build something that was more affordable and better looking.”
That’s how Edison Electric Bikes went from dream to reality. Hersh turned his living room into a bike shop — working with the best bicycle parts, battery packs, and motors he could find until he was able to find the perfect match for his working electric bike. He carefully chose each design component on the bike as well — from the welding to where he sourced the parts from.
His design inspiration? The iPhone.
“In 2014, I aimed to build a bike that was like my iPhone. Sleek and polished, everything that makes the iPhone work is INSIDE of it. Traditionally, electric bikes are pretty clunky; you have a battery, motor, and controller married to a bike frame,” says Hersh. “Our design starts with a custom built frame that is designed around the electrical bits. The result is a discrete and well-balanced commuting machine.”
His commute went from a grueling hour to 12 effortless minutes with the help of his electric-motored bike prototype. The current model of an EDISON electric bike costs, for the average regular commuter, less than a dollar a day versus the $9000 average cost of car ownership per year. At an $1899 price point, the EDISON bike rides like a regular bike with a few sleek features like a thumb-throttle for when you do not feel like pedaling at all or easy-to-change assistance for when you do want some exercise. Each bike will run 20-30 miles at 20/mph on a single charge and takes about four hours to charge.
With shop locations in Kirkwood and Ponce City Market, Hersh has found that the biggest hurdle wasn’t building an electric bike from the ground up, but dispelling myths about electric bikes to attract skeptical customers.
“Educating potential customers that we exist and about what the bike can do is our biggest challenge,” says Hersh. “I can talk to you all day about electric bikes, I can publish videos, have a cool website, but one of my customers said it best — ‘When you ride it, you get it!’ Meaning that you understand that this bike can fix a problem. Word of mouth has been the biggest contributor so far. We also attend festivals where folks can see the bike in action and set up test rides.”
In the end, he hopes this non-traditional addition to the city’s transportation roster will help the city’s residents hop off their cars and onto two wheels.
“Atlantans have better things to do than sit behind the wheel. Dedicated bike lanes and path networks are popping up all over our great city, but Atlanta’s not getting any flatter. We’re removing the final barrier so everyone can enjoy and utilize these networks. The costs associated with car ownership, traffic, and parking are staggering. We want to provide a viable car replacement — one that gets Atlantans there faster and keeps money in their wallet,” says Hersh.
“I grew up in Atlanta and my love for this city and its citizens is unwavering; I am so honored to be a part of the solution to one of Atlanta’s most publicized and daunting challenges.”