Vintage Electric Bikes – mobile works of art
Where do kids go who aren’t excelling in traditional school? For Andrew Davidge, founder and CEO of Vintage Electric Bikes, it was to his metal shop class in high school. His teacher Mr. Muntz sought out students like him and taught them the value of building things with their hands. Using the skills learned in class working with lathes, CNC machines, and welders, Andrew was able to build his first electric bike in his parents’ garage. 13 years later, Andrew and his team at Vintage Electric are making some of the most beautiful and fastest electric bikes in the U.S.
California-based Vintage Electric Bikes design their all-electric bicycles to evoke the style of early 20th-century board track racing motorcycles. In fact, most of their employees today have a racing background. Andrew built a track ready e36 BMW M3 in metal shop class and was racing 125cc shifter karts when he built that first electric bike in high school. It was intended to be a pit bike just for him but the attention it got at the races gave him an idea.
“I had always intended on going to design school and becoming an automotive designer” Andrew shared. “I was doing graphic design work for team trailers to pay for my racing, but people kept stopping me and asking if I’d build them a bike. The experience of having people want something that I had created with my own hands changed everything for me. School would have to wait.”
A couple years later when he and a few friends had built two prototypes for their new company they went where any typical kids in their early 20s would go. To the most exclusive party at Pebble Beach, the Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center. Andrew first had to purchase a suit just so he could fit in, then headed to Pebble Beach with the intention of showing off his creation. He was not prepared for what happened next. People liked what they saw so much that they were ready to pay for one right then.
“I actually had to go hide in a bathroom while I created a PayPal account just so I had the ability to take payments,” Andrew laughed. What began as a chance to display his bikes ended with 40 paid-in-full orders in a couple hours. Vintage Electric Bikes was off and running.
With their collective motorsports backgrounds, the team always knew they were only going get into this business if they could make them fast. Their current lineup of bikes consists of two types – throttle bikes and pedal assist bikes, and they are considered the fastest e-bikes in America. Andrew explains the difference by asking, “Do you want a motorcycle experience with the simplicity of owning a bicycle? Or do you want a bicycle experience amplified?”
The bikes use a simple direct-drive hub motor with no more moving pieces than a traditional bicycle. An upside of this technology is their ability to engage regenerative braking. When you pull the rear brake lever it engages regen, slowing you down and charging the batteries. Shut off the throttle and the bike slows down just like a motorcycle. All of the bikes have pedal-assist sensors that measure the amount of torque and assist your pedaling. This allows you to pedal it like a traditional bicycle or throttle down and ride like a motorcycle.
Each model is created with a nostalgic flair making them stand out compared to other electric bikes on the market. To understand the inspiration, you can check out this short documentary on the history of the board track racers.
Vintage Electric Bikes may look like a small motorcycle from long ago, but unlike a vintage bike, they are reliable and full of modern technology.
“What we want to do with Vintage Electric Bikes is create a beautiful product that will run and work years from now” says Davidge. “We want to inspire people and have passion behind our products.” All new technology they create is always backwards compatible and available for their older bikes.
Matt Farah of the Smoking Tire Podcast has one of the original bikes, but recently updated his with a 2022 motor. This meant the 5-30mph time went from 10 seconds, down to 5.5 seconds.
“This is not a good bike for introverts,” Farrah explained. “When I drive mine, I always get stopped by people because it looks so good. But oh man are these fast and fun! I love it.”
The bikes, which start at just under $4,000, have a range of up to 75 miles with power coming from a lithium battery which has an estimated service life of 30,000 miles. Vintage Electric says their batteries are rated at about 12,000 charge cycles. Another difference between them and other cheaper e-bikes out there is that they make sure when your battery does eventually die, they will have a replacement battery ready for you. Andrew explained it by saying, “It means a lot to us to be able to take care of our customers for a lifetime. If you buy a bike from us you know that we will always produce replacement parts for it, unlike a lot of cheaper e-bikes you may find on Amazon.”
Purchasing any e-bike is going to be expensive. Vintage Electric believes if you are going to ride one, it should be one that generates excitement, brings style, and looks amazing while also providing real performance. The battery pack is even styled to look like an old v-twin engine to keep that nostalgic feel.
Andrew likes to say that when he rides his e-bike to work in the morning he doesn’t need a couple cups of coffee to get going. “It’s such a visceral experience that my brain feels sharper when I arrive to work” he said. “Riding my bike to work is like having a cheat code to commuting for my city. I can get home quicker on my bike than my car. Plus, I can go directly from door to door, and not have to park far away. I actually use a couple small solar panels to charge my bikes so they are totally off the grid.”
Vintage Electric has a full lineup of models to take the strain out of your commute:
This retro-styled cruiser offers a more comfortable, upright sitting experience creating the ultimate boulevard cruiser.
Starting at $5,495 – 26mph top speed – 40-75 miles per charge – 750/3000 watt drivetrain
Davidge thought he was dreaming when Shelby International approached Vintage Electric about doing a collaboration. The result is a limited-edition bike with the aesthetics of Carrol Shelby’s personal Cobra Roadster matched with a 4000-watt drivetrain, and full-throttle racing speeds up to 40mph. It still maintains a 75-mile range with charging only taking 3 hours.
Starting at $7,249 – 40mph top speed – 40-75 miles per charge – 750/4000 watt drivetrain
Featuring laser etched wood inlays, the Cafe is fitted with the latest Vintorque technology creating power when you need it.
Starting at $3,995 – 28mph top speed – 0-60 miles per charge – 750 watt drivetrain
A more rugged suspension set up and knobby tires encourages the Rally rider to transition between asphalt and gravel.
Starting at $4,795 – 28mph top speed – 20-60 miles per charge – 750 watt drivetrain
Each bike comes in street mode that has a top speed governed at 20mph, which is what allows them to be ridden on public roads without a license. There is also a “race mode” available that unlocks additional power and can take the bikes faster (but that’s only for when you’re on private property). Davidge explained, “We wanted to make sure that our bikes could easily be ‘unlocked’ because a lot of our customers use these bikes to get around their properties or as pit bikes at race tracks around the world.”
As cool as they are, they aren’t designed to replace your Harley. These are for short commutes, having fun zooming down a twisty fire road, and, if you add the optional saddle bags, even for picking up groceries. It’s basically the most stylish, plenty-fast, small commuter e-bike you can buy… that sometimes feels more like a lightweight stripped-down motorcycle than a bicycle.
Their website has a previously-loved section where buyers can pick up a certified pre-owned example that has gone through a full factory refurbishment and save money. If you aren’t near one of their showrooms, you can schedule a live virtual demo with one of their experts.
At the age of 21, Andrew Davidge started building electric bikes in his parents’ garage in California, helped by a couple of friends. Just 10 years later he runs a Silicon Valley company with 15 employees, a permanent factory in Santa Clara, and a global dealer network stretching from England to New Zealand. And it all started because of a high school metal shop teacher that poured into the lives of kids who weren’t excelling at traditional school. By teaching them how to build stuff like go-karts and off-road race trucks, he gave them the skills and confidence to accomplish much more.
“That’s my passion. I want to tell kids that we need people that can build things with their hands. If you learn how to weld and run a CNC machine you will always have a job. This is a great path.”
Davidge still has the e36 M3 he built in class and says he’ll never sell it. He’s recently added off-road racing and collecting vintage cars to his interests. “I love cool cars and want people to always have them. But I also think there is place for our bikes to be used for short city commutes during the week or fun trips around the neighborhood.”
For more information about Vintage Electric Bikes visit vintageelectricbikes.com or call 408-969-0836. Vintage Electric Bikes are like mobile works of art that will hopefully continue to inspire others to create things for generations to come. To encourage Hagerty readers to get out and ride a Vintage Electric bike this summer, they are offering an exclusive limited time offer. Through June 30th, 2023, enter the promo code “HAGERTY1000OFF” and receive $1000 off a throttle or pedal assisted bike! Act now before this amazing deal ends.