Category Archives: People

Oh, the places you’ll go with a bike & SEPTA

Several years ago, there was a lonely bus rack. Purchased by cycling advocates to encourage people to use SEPTA buses in conjunction with their bikes, most of the time this bus rack stayed in the back of a dark garage.

lone rack
We agreed to store this bus rack, which ended up being pulled out to the sidewalk each morning. New bikes built were displayed here for passersby, providing a constantly changing street-side display.  This worked well for a number of years.  And I noticed this bus rack turning invisible. No one noticed it. Those that walked in commenting on the bike on display outside, right on the bus rack, didn’t even know it was a bus rack.

In conversation, though, we discovered that many people didn’t know quite how to get their bikes on a bus. More than we had realized. So we decided we needed a bus behind the rack to encourage questions and learning.

Then I saw Meg Lemieur post a photo of a garage door with a heart.
garage door with heart

Surprised, we called Meg, who agreed to paint a bus mural for us! And managed to create a very large mural in her very tiny studio.

Even the delivery of mural to our shop in her very tiny car was creative, with use of air mattress and shrink wrap.

mural delivery

The day Meg delivered the mural, our very loyal customer & friend Charles was visiting. And offered to help mount the mural on our outside wall. Follow Charles & Afshin’s installation here.

We soon discovered that this 2-dimensional work of art needed to fit the 3-dimensional world of the bus rack, which involved creating wooden bumpers for the bus. A week or so later, the bus rack finally met it’s bus!

Oh, the places you’ll go with a bike and SEPTA!


Why Should One Buy an Electric Bicycle from Philly Electric Wheels?

You’ve come to the decision to buy an electric bicycle. Through rigorous research or perhaps a flash of insight, you have decided that an ebike will meet your needs and desires. Great! But what now? How will you make the purchase? How will you purchase your ebike such that you are happy, confident, and satisfied? Well, you can get anything on the internet: one can purchase a whole bike, a conversion kit, or parts directly from China via the internet, one can purchase from a reseller such as Amazon, or one can purchase from companies based in the Fifty States who have an internet storefront. However, internet shopping does not jive well with confidence or satisfaction. One could also purchase an electric bicycle from the odd powersports store or local bike shop that is experimenting with electric bikes. And electric bicycles are available through some department stores as well.

Is that it? Is your only choice buy without a test ride? To buy without any comparison? To buy from someone who doesn’t know what they are selling? Or to buy online…? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a friendly local electric bike shop where you could walk in, meet the owners and employees, test ride the largest selection of ebikes in the tri-state area, and ride away happy with your purchase, confident that you will have all the support you need?

At Philly Electric Wheels, we believe an electric bike purchase should be similar to the purchase of a vehicle such as a car or motorcycle. We believe the customer has a right to touch and feel what they are purchasing, to test ride the vehicle that you are spending hundreds or thousands of hard-earned dollars on. We believe in support, that the customer has a right to meticulous assembly, qualified service, and long term support. We at PHEW! believe in personal relationships, in trust, and in access to professionals who care about you and care about electric bicycles. Try getting that over the internet.

This may sound idealistic, because we are a company of idealists. If this sounds like a sales pitch, that’s because it is, we are trying to get your business. Philly Electric Wheels is trying to sell you an electric bicycle. For so many reasons, we believe electric bicycles are a long-awaited solution to complex problems. In terms of transportation, ebikes have a lower environmental impact (carbon footprint, if you will) and are more energy efficient than any other option- including normal bicycles. Electric bicycles have some of the lowest operating costs over their lifespan of any powered vehicle. Electric bicycles inspire in riders the confidence they need to deal with traffic on crowded streets. Ebikes are darn good fun. The health benefits of regular exercise like cycling are well researched and adding electric assist negates none of them. The psychological benefits of cycling are less researched, however studies are available, and anecdotal evidence of riding versus driving is available. Its about being in the environment rather than being cut off from the environment inside a metal box. These points are arguable and we would love to talk to you about them! Come on down!

Yet another reason to shop our brick and mortar store, our well informed and affable staff would love to talk to you about bicycles, electric bicycles, electric vehicles, and your needs concerning them. In addition to our administrative and part time staff, Philly Electric Wheels employs a full-time electric bicycle mechanic, something no other shop in the area and few shops in the country can claim. And all of our staff is committed to and enthusiastic about electric bicycles and bicycling. We are simply the best trained and most qualified place to purchase an electric bike and the only place to service and support them. We have the largest selection of electric bicycles in PA, NJ, and DE. We have in stock, parts, supplies, accessories, conversion kits, and batteries for all of our models. We have relationships with a diverse set of suppliers which enable us to get whatever you need as quickly and economically as possible. We have ebikes to rent and ebikes to loan you whilst yours is in our shop. We also have a mobile service unit we can use to bring our shop to you, and a bicycle trailer to pickup your stranded machine should an accident occur. PHEW has dedicated service bays for your electric bicycle and is prepared with all the necessary tools for diagnosing and servicing electronic and electromechanical components.

Lest it go unsaid, PHEW is also a stellar bike shop! We pride ourselves on approachability, customer satisfaction, and service. From airing up your tires to custom builds, we at PHEW can meet all of your bike shop needs. We realize that great electric bikes should first and foremost be great bikes and we are committed to selling great bikes. Our staff is experienced and well trained to deal with any and all sorts of bicycles. Our premier mechanic has over 30 years of personal professional experience working on and with bikes in the greater Philadelphia area. We also specialize in folding bikes, cargo bikes, bike trailers, and make and sell exclusive bike panniers.

If you’ve made the decision to purchase an electric bicycle, Philly Electric Wheels is the best place to buy it. We believe that we can serve your needs better than any other physical location or internet storefront. We are committed to our customers and committed to supporting the products we sell. We have bikes in stock and parts in stock- the largest selection of either. We love ebikes and we love happy customers. And we love happy customers on ebikes! PHEW!

Come visit us at Philly Electric Wheels, 7153 Sprague Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119

The Car-free Mitzvah – A Rite of Passage into car-free living

The first ever car-free mitzvah was held at the High Point Cafe at Allens Lane Station. Over coffee, iced cocoa & iced elixir friends gathered to honor & support Barb Pearson (52), a Mt Airy resident who decided to sell her car and attempt to live car-free in Philadelphia. With a job about 2 miles away, Barb often bikes to work. When too hot or rainy, she opts for a combination of walking and the bus. Barb decided that she could save about $600 per month (see AAA driving costs) and use PhillyCarShare (Philadelphia’s unique car-sharing system) the occasional times she needed to drive someplace.

Barb with friends

Barb with friends, holding up transit map of Mt Airy

Smart woman.

An adult American giving up her car is breaking new ground – a decision to honor and support.

Suggested gifts to celebrate this step were…

  • stories about (y)our relationship with (and dependency on) cars
  • bus tokens
  • bike & transit maps
  • gift certificates to keep her bike well-serviced
  • refill on her High Point Cafe Yummy card; remember.. food is fuel for a cyclist!

By sharing her decision with friends, Barb has found them offering to include her in their driving plans. So for example, she was going to the Manayunk Arts Festival later in the day with a friend. Turns out Another friend gave a coupon for rides to the vet.  We learned about a car-sharing arrangement between friends, where the costs are split and a contract spells out details like who gets use of the car when both want it. Barb & I are considering  modifying this contract to try a car-sharing scheme amongst ourselves, since my car often remains at home.  Anna, a friend that couldn’t make it to our mitzvah, shared that she, too, chooses to live car-free, and just hearing about this celebration has greatly added to her self-esteem.

Though ready with the 12 suggested steps of Oilaholics Anonymous, and this ad asking if it’s OK to support terrorism if it’s only a little bit, I held back on the political, and instead pulled out a transit map of Mt Airy, showing bus & train routes to get in and out of Mt Airy. Though familiar with the bus system, Barb found the map useful, as did neighbor & friend Rick.

Ideas for future car-free mitzvahs to celebrate this significant rite of passage are welcome.

PHEW re-opens at new digs on the Avenue

PHEW’s settled at our new digs at 7102 Germantown Avenue, by Mt Pleasant Ave (map). Yes, we have electric bikes. We also have a new line of city bikes, folding bikes, and used bikes for all the people that asked for bikes without electric-assist for their daily commute.

Though we loved the social hub at our old location of Carpenter & Greene, we’re thrilled to be at this location that offers more space, a full basement, and something hard to appreciate right now: air conditioning! Over the last month, we gradually made this space ours. Our first task was to install a programmable thermostat so the space wasn’t being heated when no one was around. The next task was to empty the space of stuff left behind by prior occupants which turned out to be quite an archeological dig, since it used to be…

  1. a Democratic Campaign office, fondly known as the local Obama office – circa 2005-2010
    • Several printers and monitors were brought up from the basement, with post-it notes proclaiming DEAD or TRASH. These were all taken to the City’s e-waste recycling at nearby Domino lane. There is now room in the basement for bikes and bins of bike parts.
    • Voter registration forms were found all over the premises, filled up 5 liquor store boxes and were put out for curbside recycling.
    • Numerous clipboards were given away to whoever wanted them – to children, to retirees, and to a local non-profit.
    • Donated furniture was donated back to a local school as well as through PhillyFreecycle. A couple of the folding chairs will be used by the PHEW crew for a lunch break in our backyard.
  2. a Doctors office – circa 2000-2005
    • the heavy physician’s pelvic examination table from 1981 could not be passed on through PhillyFreecycle or the local Craigslist, nor through our network of friends in neighborhood clinics. We even considered using it as a work table in our repair shop, but eventually disassembled it to elemental components and disposed of; the particleboard to dump; metals to scrap yard; light fixture to architectural salvage shop opening in Mt Airy; drawer bins to be used in our shop for sorting bike parts. This freed up much needed space in our rear “box” room.
    • A non-functioning heart-monitor-type machine was a puzzlement to me, but Afshin dismantled the electronic hardware for e-waste recycling and is planning to use the wheeled base in our repair shop.
    • Hand wash sinks will be sold to new architectural salvage shop.
  3. the Hot Topics Info Cafe, touted as Philadelphia’s premiere coffee house – circa 1995-1999
    • Evidence of this was the plumbing in our showroom space which is probably where they had the coffee machines and sinks. Versatile Afshin capped the pipes in the basement, and traded the extra pieces of copper for some greenbacks at the local scrap yard.
    • In the basement was an espresso machine and Bunn-o-matic coffee machine, both to be revived at Cosmic Foods new cafe at Lloyd Hall.
    • Cake stands were taken to the local thrift store; flavored syrups were still good, I tried some!. Any suggestions before they get poured down the drain?
    • The receipts got recycled, the rusty cash register taken for e-waste recycling, and
    • the box of assorted teas (still good) is being savored by the PHEW crew daily! Stop by for a taste of these, or some freshly brewed mint tea with local honey.

In the last month, we made at least 7 trips to the transfer station in our little car, each time with a mix of debris and recyclables.  We’re ready to leave the car at home and get to work on a bike. Are you?

Newbie Cyclist Next Blogger at PHEW

I’ve enjoyed reading Anthony’s posts here and will miss him. I’m a relative newbie at cycling, having spent a quarter century on a swivel chair behind a computer screen and learning to ride a bike only after I turned 40, about 8 years ago. It was the Vatavio, shown below, that convinced me that cycling could actually be fun.

Riding mainly within the City of Philadelphia, I’m to be found on a Sanyo Eneloop pedal-assisted bike, like this:

Now, almost 2 years since I discovered the joy of cycling, I look for excuses and errands that’ll get me pedaling.

Yesterday, I rode in the rain. Not quite ready to invest in rain pants, I ventured out in a yellow poncho, which, when draped over my lap, kept my pants mostly dry. Though I found the rain refreshing on my face, I managed to get my feet wet and quickly returned for a change of clothing.

PHEW’s Blogger and Mechanic is Moving On

I’ve been working at Philly Electric Wheels for a year now, nearly from the beginning. I remember coming in on my first day when the shop didn’t have so much as a bike repair stand and thinking, “This place is too clean to be a bike shop.”

I soon got my repair stand, and as we built the business the repair area got a truly authentic layer of grime from the many bikes I’ve worked on in the last year. Soon after I started working, we decided to broaden our focus from electric bikes to include repair work and used bike sales and the shop evolved into a neighborhood bike shop where local folks could stop in for some bike repair or advice.

I’m proud to have played a role in getting PHEW off the ground, and I’ve learned a ton about running a bike shop in the process.

Despite all of the great things about working with Afshin and his wife Meenal, my penchant for wandering has got me thinking of moving on. When I finish at PHEW this week I’ll be heading back to my home state of Vermont. I’ll be there until the new year, when some friends and I will be flying to Chile for a bicycle journey that will take us from Santiago to the tip of South America, then up north to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I will be posting updates on the trip at my blog, Anthonywanderedaway. Thanks to all the customers and community members who kept me in a job and made me feel welcome. See you later on down the road.