E-bike curious Bay Area residents can now try e-biking through new leasing program

Friiway is seeking to change the e-bike industry by offering a first-of-its-kind subscription service

Ribble
(Image credit: Ribble)

E-bikes have risen in popularity over the past few years, with recent research finding that 30% of e-bike trips represented trips that were previously done via car. 

Purchasing an e-bike will set a buyer back generally at least $1,000 - and as much as $5,000 or more. As with any motorized mobility device, there is an upfront cost you must pay in order to get rolling, literally.

And as great as e-bikes are, that cost can be prohibitive even for the most enthusiastic e-bike advocates. It’s not uncommon for companies such as Specialized and Trek to offer financing on e-bike purchases, but some may not like having outstanding e-bike payments hanging over their head for a year or more. 

San Francisco, California-based startup Friiway is seeking to change the e-bike industry by offering a first-of-its-kind subscription service for those who are “e-bike curious,” according to the brand. 

Unlike a bike share program, where riders must return the bike to the bike share hub at the end of the day, Friiway is a true subscription setup, in which riders pay a fee to lease an e-bike for a predetermined amount of time and can bring the bike to work, to home - wherever.

An e-bike subscription service is not a new idea - it’s a common occurrence in Europe, with companies like Buzzbike and Swapfiets offering month-long e-bike subscriptions for $80-100 USD per month.

Friiway founders Joe Connors and Brett Thurber took inspiration from these successful overseas models to launch their subscription e-bike service in California in 2023. 

Connors and Thurber have partnered with e-bike brands Stromer and Riese & Müller as their available e-bikes for rent. 

Customers can select monthly, half-year, or full year rentals of Riese & Müller Multitinker cargo e-bike for $259 per month (MSRP $7,300) or a Stromer ST2 Pinion e-bike for $229/month (MSRP $7,000). 

A photo of a black, flat-bar e-bike taken from the drivetrain side.

The Stromer ST2 Pinion

(Image credit: Stromer)

"We chose these brands because they are on the cutting of e-bike technology," said Connors. "Stromer's high-quality, low-maintenance e-bikes are based on Swiss technology. And Riese & Müller makes high-end e-bikes based on superb German engineering."

The monthly price tag for either may seem hefty, but depending on your budget, a yearlong subscription to either may still net out to costing less than purchasing a new e-bike. Additionally, Friiway users can apply 15% of subscription payments towards purchasing their rented bike if they so desire.

General maintenance (which is not clearly defined on the Friiway site) is covered by your subscription so long as you receive service from a Friiway retailer. You are required to bring your bike into a Friiway retailer for service at the 200-mile mark and then every 1,200 miles thereafter.

A photo of a blue cargo e-bike taken from the drivetrain side.

The Riese & Müller Multitinker

(Image credit: Riese & Müller)

Each bike is covered by theft and damage insurance, but that comes with a $500 deductible that the subscriber is responsible for.

It’s important to take a good look at the subscription terms as they have key stipulations that can impact coverage and general maintenance. 

For example, subscribers must wear a helmet at all times when using the rented bike, must be over the age of 18 in order to subscribe, and must store the rented bike in an “enclosed, covered, and locked area.”  

Subscribers must also provide a 28-day cancellation notice in order to exit their subscription.

Friiway began operations in August 2023 and is just getting started - they have just 150 followers on Instagram. Time will tell if the U.S. is ready to “go European” and adopt the idea of e-bike subscriptions.

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