Local Spokes' e-bikes help cyclists of varying abilities access Iowa's 'beautiful trails'
Taylor and Emily Christensen weren’t exactly avid cyclists when Taylor bought a couple of electric bikes he saw in a Facebook ad.
“My wife and I fell in love with the bikes,” he said.
Riding together to the High Trestle Trail Bridge was not an option before they got the e-bikes, he said. Emily was not a fan of long bike rides and Taylor wasn’t a frequent cyclist either.
“We could jump on these and ride to Woodward and back. No problem,” Christensen said. “She enjoyed it and I enjoyed it. I’m not someone who would ride 26 miles regularly.”
After one “really good ride” on their e-bikes, Christensen came home, got online and ordered six more bikes.
“It was just on a whim, that same day. I was dead-set on doing it, so I texted two of my cousins to see if they and their spouses wanted to join us in this business,” he said. “There’s nowhere else that’s geographically positioned better that rents electric bikes.”
In early April, they opened Local Spokes, which is located at 211 Main St., in the long garage attached to the Christensens’ home. The space has been a business since the 1950s, including a plumbing company and a small engine repair service.
Local Spokes is just a few blocks from two bike trails, the High Trestle Trail and the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail.
Owners include the Christensens, Amy and Matt Holmes and Ben and Emily Gibson.
“We’re really trying to increase people’s accessibility to the trail. People who wouldn’t be able to ride that far on a regular bike are able to get there on an e-bike,” Christensen said.
Local Spokes offers various sizes of Aventure e-bikes by Aventon for rent and is also a dealer for new purchases. It also offers accessory add-ons like tagalongs and kid trailers.
Accessibility is a key focus for Christensen and the other owners.
“We’ve had a person with a prosthetic leg. We’ve had people with children and babies,” he said. “We had a couple in their late 70s who really wanted to see the bridge at night. They wanted to ride and it was possible for them with our e-bikes.”
Craig Conley of Slater started out as a rental customer at Local Spokes and quickly decided to order a new bike for himself through the dealership.
“I had a bad hip and was trying to get some weight knocked off so I could have surgery,” Conley said as he took a break from one of his bike rides. “I really like it. I’ve put 550 miles on it since I bought it.”
He’s had the e-bike for three months but was off of it for the month of July as he recovered from hip replacement surgery.
Conley said it’s aided his recovery to be able to exercise on the e-bike, which is a fat-tire version from Aventon.
“It’s working like a charm,” he said. “The battery life is great. I think I’ve only been down to about 70% battery life after a trip to the bridge and back.”
That powerful battery gives riders the “peace of mind for knowing they can make the return trip” when they take off on the trail, Christensen said.
The bikes are available in different sizes and are set to go 18 to 20 mph with pedal assist. When the cyclist stops pedaling, the pedal assist stops and the bike coasts. Brakes on the handlebars work like any traditional bicycle.
Local Spokes recommends ride from Slater to Whistling Donkey in Woodward
It’s a 26.5-mile round trip from Slater to the Whistling Donkey in Woodward, a sports bar and grill that’s popular among cyclists.
“We recommend people go to Madrid and have a meal or a drink at the Flat Tire. Go see the bridge – that’s about 9 miles,” Taylor said. “Then venture on to the Whistling Donkey and have an appetizer and a drink, and then come all the way back doing the same thing. When you roll back into Slater, stop by the Nite Hawk or The Station.”
Rental customer Veronica McGee took a 70-mile roundtrip adventure from Slater to Des Moines in late July.
“We had such a wonderful day on the bikes! We are bikers but found the e-bikes so easy to pedal, we could go so much farther!” McGee told the Ames Tribune in a Facebook message. “They really make a difference up any hills or inclines! Fortunately for everyone Local Spokes connects to such a nice trail system with so many potential destinations. I am excited to go back!”
Christensen said they’ve had customers from far-flung locations such as England, the Netherlands, Alaska, Maine and Washington.
He said some first-time customers are a little nervous to try an e-bike.
“Once they jump on the bike, they realize very quickly, ‘I am just riding a bike.’ The electronic and pedal-assist components are not difficult to utilize or navigate,” Christensen said. “When you pedal, you get help. When you don’t pedal, you don’t get help. It’s really simple.
"It's a great way to get out and enjoy the beautiful trails we have in central Iowa."
E-bikes can be reserved for rental through Local Spokes’ website, thelocalspokes.business.site, or by calling 515-203-3472.
Ronna Faaborg covers business and the arts for the Ames Tribune. Reach her at email@example.com.