Electric bicycles’ surging popularity has caught the attention of SoundCloud’s original founders. Today, Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung have announced that they’re teaming up with Christian Springub, the co-founder of website-building service Jimdo, and launching an e-bike company called Dance. (I’m not sure how dancing relates to bicycles or electrified transportatin, but never mind.)
Dance will be focused on subscription-based ownership. The company won’t be flooding cities with dockless bikes, though. Instead, you’ll be paying for a single bicycle that stays with you while you’re at home, at work, or running errands around town. If the bike is stolen or needs any kind of repairs, the company promises to replace it “immediately.”
Dance is starting in Berlin — which is hardly surprising, given that’s where SoundCloud is based — with a small invite-only program. As TechCrunch reports, early subscribers will be offered a special “introductory price” of 59 euros (roughly $68) per month.
Subscription-based ownership isn’t a new idea. Electric bicycles are generally cheaper than buying and running a car, but still prohibitively expensive for the average person. Many companies, therefore, are considering subscriptions and monthly finance plans to help more curious riders make the transition.
You can lease one of Cowboy’s sleek e-bikes, for instance, through companies like MeinDienstrad, BusinessBike and Kazenmaier for roughly €80 per month. At the end of the 36-month plan, you can choose to keep the bike forever by paying 16 percent of the original sticker price. VanMoof offered a similar service called VanMoof+ a couple of years ago. You paid a one-time ‘key’ fee of €298 ($298) and then €19 ($19) or €23 ($23) depending on whether your wanted the three or eight-speed version of its standard S and X bikes. If you wanted an electrified version, the amounts involved were considerably higher.
Companies like Lime have also added e-bikes to its fleet of dockless vehicles. The hire-and-leave-anywhere formula is convenient for cyclists who don’t have an obvious place to lock up their bicycle at school or work. Some residents have criticized the business model, though, because it leads to cluttered sidewalks that are tricky for pedestrians and wheelchair users to navigate. In addition, dockless bikes tend to get beaten up pretty quickly. They also require staff to routinely round them up and redistribute them across the city, eliminating some of their environmental benefits.
Dance’s model, meanwhile, should require fewer bikes and encourage customers to care for their individual ride a little more. Still, the company’s two-wheelers will need to be robust.
For now, the company is using a fairly generic-looking ebike built "with a couple of smaller e-bike brands and manufacturers," a spokesperson told Engadget. It comes with cruiser-style handlebars, front and rear mudguards, and a bottle-shaped battery that looks similar to the one fitted on Analog Motion’s e-bikes. The bike is also equipped with a 250W motor, a spokesperson confirmed, and can manage 45KM (roughly 28 miles) on single charge.
Thankfully, the startup has a fancier ride in the works. You can see glimpses of this bike, which includes some special three-spoke rims, on the Dance website. A Dance spokesperson said the bike is being developed by "a strong in-house R&D team" and will be used for the service's global roll-out at a later date. “Together with our riders we want to transform our cities to become more bike-friendly, greener and ultimately more livable,” Quidenus-Wahlforss teased today.
It’s a good time to be launching an e-bike company. The electrified mode of transportation is already popular in Europe, and sales are trending upward in other markets including the US. Cycling’s overall popularity has also spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, as people seek out safe ways to exercise outdoors and travel to work without using crowded public transport.
“We are convinced that Dance provides the missing piece of the puzzle at the right time to accelerate a broad and lasting movement from individual car ownership to daily use of e-bikes,” Quidenus-Wahlforss concludes. “Together with our riders we want to transform our cities to become more bike-friendly, greener and ultimately more livable.”
“Several cities around the world are taking serious steps towards expanding their bicycle infrastructure, including Bogota, Barcelona, Milan, New York, Oakland, Paris and Toronto,” Quidenus-Wahlforss said. “Covid-19 is further accelerating this development. We are convinced that Dance provides the missing piece of the puzzle at the right time to accelerate a broad and lasting movement from individual car ownership to daily use of e-bikes.”
Ljung stepped down as CEO of SoundCloud in August 2017. He was replaced by former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor and still serves as the company’s chairman. Fellow founder Quidenus-Wahlforss left his post as chief product officer in January 2019. Springub, meanwhile, stepped away from Jimdo in 2017 but remains a member of the company’s board.
Update 7/21/20 11:10AM ET: Added more information about the company’s first and second-gen e-bikes.