Pedego electric bike wheels in motion in Bird Rock

To serious cyclists, employing a motor is like doping. In fact, the Tour de France labels it “mechanical doping” and scans all entered bikes with infra-red heat detectors for secret motors. But is using an electric bike cheating your own workout if you can touch a control and lighten your load as much as you want at any time?

La Jolla’s first Pedego electric bicycle dealership has opened in Bird Rock. Constructed over nine months in a new building atop a former gas station at 5702 La Jolla Blvd., it’s the Costa Mesa-founded company’s 111th store worldwide and fourth in San Diego. (A fifth is opening soon by San Diego Harbor.)

Pedego La Jolla co-owner Tracy Sheffer said she was among those unsold on e-bikes until last November, when her friend’s boyfriend rented Pedegos for an all-day ride from Coronado Island to Imperial Beach along the Silver Strand. “I had my arms crossed,” Sheffer said. “I’m an athlete, I’m a cyclist, I’m a runner, and I wanted a workout. But my girlfriend wanted to do it. It was her birthday.”

So, Sheffer said, she used minimal electric power and, to her surprise, “worked out the whole time, because you’re always pedaling. You have to be pedaling or the motor doesn’t kick in.” (On the minimum setting, a 500-watt motor provides 20 percent assistance to your energy output, the next step up 40 percent and so on.)

Of course, you can always engage an override throttle for 100 percent battery power if you need it, but the point is to leave that option for emergencies only. And Sheffer happened to find herself in exactly that situation that day, when a nasty headwind meant that — without the throttle as an option — they would have gotten back to Coronado after the shop already closed.

“As soon as I got back to the car,” Sheffer said, “I started looking up Pedego and trying to understand their business model and what they do as a company.” Sheffer — then a sales exec for sporting goods, cycling apparel and footwear companies — said she became so hooked, she and Terry Galka (her romantic and now business partner) were at a prospective-dealer meeting within two months, where they instantaneously decided to switch careers. (Galka owned a waste and recycling sales consultancy for commercial properties.)

The Cardiff-by-the-Sea residents picked Bird Rock for the venture because “it’s got a similar community feel” and because the hills make it difficult for recreational residents to pedal back home after a cruise along the beach.

“They can get on a bicycle and go further and get up into the hills, get up to Mt. Soledad and do all the things they want to do that right now that they’re using a car for,” Sheffer said. (The bikes can go up to 60 miles on a single charge using pedal-assist.)

Two other bicycle shops already sell and rent electric models to La Jollans. But, according to Sheffer’s research, Pedego is far enough from the others in location — and merchandise — for her not to worry. “Pedego is like the Tesla or Mercedes of electric bikes,” she said. “And they sell only through dealerships; that’s all this brand has done for 10 years.”

Pedego La Jolla carries all 12 of the company’s e-bike models including the most popular, the Interceptor beach cruiser. Prices range from $2,300-$4,800 and all are available to rent for $20-$35 an hour.

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