Juicer Electric Motorbikes – SoCal Custom eBike Start-Up
Artistry, self-expression, environmentally friendly and economical – all those elements and more are poured into every Juicer Electric Bike. And founder/CEO, David Twomey, says he’s open to prospective partners to help take his creations to the next level of production.
Recording date – January 10, 2018
David Twomey: They’re something of a prestige item. People love to show them off. You get a lot of comments, and they’re really channeling some of the design influences from the early era of motorcycling. I was really channeling the bikes of 1910, the board track racers as they were known, and L.A. was kind of the center of that in those days. And like you say, it was just at the beginning of the time when motorcycles were starting to have custom built frames around the motors instead of just attaching a motor to a regular bicycle frame. And those early motorcycles had pedals still on them. They were often pedal start Depending on the bike, it’ll recharge in 90 minutes to 2 hours. And I use a safer chemistry lithium battery, anywhere from 22 to 30 miles without pedaling a stroke.
Tom Smith: Welcome iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. I’m Tom Smith. And joining me today is David Twomey. David is the CEO and founder of a really cool company that’s a bike, it’s an electric bike, and the company is called Juicer and Juicer is working out of the L.A. Cleantech Incubator. David, thank you very much for joining me today.
David Twomey: Thanks for having me, Tom.
Tom Smith: So tell me about Juicer kind of high level. Well drill down a little bit more.
David Twomey: Well, Juicer is an electric bike company that makes powerful electric cruiser bikes. So these are bikes that are meant to commute in or be your weekend ride. And they’re not just a to b. They’re something of a prestige item. People love to show them off. You get a lot of comments, and they’re really channeling some of the design influences from the early era of motorcycling.
Tom Smith: And they do that very well. They look like… I’m from the Midwest so I’ve been to the Harley Davidson museum and some of their really old stuff. Back then you had a hard time making out if it was a bicycle or if it was a motorcycle. And your designs are beautiful and retro, I guess. Way retro.
David Twomey: Right. Right. Yeah. When I started in 2010, I was really channeling the bikes of 1910, the board track racers as they were known, and L.A. was kind of the center of that in those days. And like you say, it was just at the beginning of the time when motorcycles were starting to have custom built frames around the motors instead of just attaching a motor to a regular bicycle frame. And those early motorcycles had pedals still on them. They were often pedal start. And today they’d be considered mopeds. But I still think they’re maybe the most cherished era of classic motorcycles.
Tom Smith: How did…and you’re a designer, right?
David Twomey: That’s right.
Tom Smith: So the engineering aspect of this is something that you farm out or something that you just self-teach, or…I get the design part they’re beautiful, they’re appealing, but how…? And you’re also a one man band for the most part, right?
David Twomey: That’s right. Yeah, I didn’t really have the technical expertise when I first wanted to build an EV, so I had to teach myself. And let’s cast our memory back to those heady days of 2008 2009 when there really were no EVs on the road. Tesla had just started. But by the end of 2009, I think they still hadn’t have 200 cars on the road yet. So if you want an electric car, you have to make it yourself. And I wanted to make one; I wanted to have one. And I had an idea of sort of a hot rod electric car. And you know, the thing about hot rods is, especially our parents’ and grandparents’ version of a hot rod, is they would take a car that was sort of dorky like a Model A or a Model T, and they would subtract from it. And so you could see the engine. They’d rip the hood off and throw it away. And that’s what I wanted to do with like a Volkswagen. I figured a Super Beetle was the perfect platform for me to put an array of batteries with the plug wires coming out and just display it right there in front instead of trying to hide it. And so I caught wind of a free lecture being done by Michael Brown who self-published a book called “Converted”, where he walks you through the process of making your own EV out of a donor car. And I took notes, I bought his book, and I looked around and decided that my garage was too small to do a car project. So I switched to bikes and the rest is Juicer history.
Tom Smith: But this is a business for you, right?
David Twomey: Yeah.
Tom Smith: I mean, because it sounded like it started from a very hobbyist just kind of “hey this is my passion” kind of thing.
David Twomey: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I’m not making scads of money, but I am making multiple bikes, and they’re all selling. And I’m getting more and more customers, people who have their own ideas. My last bike was a corporate commission. So, yeah, I don’t know what else to tell you about that. I would like to expand, but I haven’t found the right strategic partnership yet.
Tom Smith: Okay. So ding, ding, ding, strategic partners. We have an open ear here from David. It sounds like.
David Twomey: That’s right.
Tom Smith: You started it officially, so you mentioned ’08, ’09 was when you were thinking electric car and then switched to the bike. And you told me off mic 2010 is when you started, right?
David Twomey: Yeah, my first bike was completed in 2010. I incorporated a year or two later. So yeah Juicer Electric Motor Bicycles is a limited liability company.
Tom Smith: All right. And how many bikes have you made since 2010?
David Twomey: Just about 10 bikes. I do about one or two bikes a year. Some of them if I reuse the designs, they go more quickly. But to keep it fun for me, I’m just constantly developing and adding features. You know, I’ve gone from modifying off the shelf frames to making fully custom frames. Gone from rigid bikes to fully articulated full suspension.
Tom Smith: Yeah, you were showing me on the website the one that’s actually full suspension for off-road when we were talking about some of the single-track out in the Santa Monica Mountains here in Southern California that the bike can definitely handle.
David Twomey: Yeah, yeah, my hill climber bike has a great suspension, telescopic forks, everything you need. And the idea for that is that you would ride up the hill on battery power and then when you run out of juice, you just coast back down and maybe regen some of that power back into your pack so you can complete your journey maybe not even pedal at all.
Tom Smith: So on that note, let’s talk a little bit about the battery. Is this plug into the wall? Any old wall socket?
David Twomey: Correct. I use separate chargers. So yeah, you can plug it in anywhere into the wall. Depending on the bike, it’ll recharge in 90 minutes to 2 hours. And I use a safer chemistry lithium battery, lithium iron phosphate, which handles all kinds of abuse without catching fire. And that’s one of the ways I limit my liability.
Tom Smith: And a full charge is going to get you approximately how far? I know you have different size batteries.
David Twomey: Yeah, anywhere from 22 to 30 miles without pedaling a stroke.
Tom Smith: Okay, and what is the regen capabilities when you’re pedaling or where when you’re going downhill?
David Twomey: Well, I’m still tinkering with my uphill bike as far as the regen. I want to get to a place where it’s variable regen so you can roll it on. There’s some technical hurdles there, but most of my bikes, in fact, all the rest, I allow you to coast when you roll off the power. And in almost every case, you will have a further range if you’re able to coast rather than working against the motor when you roll off the power.
Tom Smith: So then is the regeneration exclusive to the off-road…?
David Twomey: Correct.
Tom Smith: …like the hills? Okay. And you said 22, 25 miles?
David Twomey: Twenty-five is a good average. You have to keep in mind that most of the bike manufacturers when they quote you a range, they’ll say, “with moderate pedaling.” And I do all my range testing with no pedaling at all because, to me, that’s the only honest number you can get.
Tom Smith: And then, of course, being on the tail end of the holidays that we’re recording this, it also maybe factor in how much you weigh. If you’ve had a big holiday celebration one after the other and maybe a extra few pounds at the end of the…
David Twomey: Absolutely, although, you know, I don’t know. If F equals MA, once you get the…however heavy you are, once you’re accelerated, it takes not so much energy to keep you going. I do most of my testing on the bike path by the L.A. River, which is nice and flat, and you can just go until you are out of juice.
Tom Smith: And you have three different motors?
David Twomey: I’ve done more than three, but the main motor I use for the lower end model, the 50 state street legal model, is a Curi motor, which you can get in 750 or 1000 watts. Most states only…if you want to call it an E-bike, only allow a 750 watt motor which is equivalent to one horsepower. And then for my higher power models, I’ve used E-tech variants, but I’m moving more into AC or brushless DC motors because they are lower maintenance, and they’re a little more complicated but seem to have higher efficiency and less maintenance.
Tom Smith: And now the rules and regulations on a per motor basis, we were talking about this a little bit off mic, but run me through it again now that we’re on.
David Twomey: Well, California is a great place to be a E-biker or a moped guy in that you don’t have to have any special licensing to ride a 1000 watt electric bike and 1000 watts is pretty good. You can get up to speed on flat ground. Now, if you’re willing to get your moped license or you already have your motorcycle license, you’re allowed to have 3000 watts which is really fantastic. It becomes a real competent commuter bike at that point. And so that’s really the niche I really want to exploit is this 4 horsepower, 3000 watt bike and try to get people out of their cars and onto basically an electric moped that can compete with traffic at rush hour.
Tom Smith: That you may or may not have to have a license for depending on the preferences of your configuration.
David Twomey: Well, at 3000 watts, you’re supposed to have a moped license, but you don’t have to have insurance, and you register the bike once for, I think, it’s $16 and that lasts a lifetime. They give you a little plate and you’re done. That’s all. That’s your entire interaction with the DMV as far as that vehicle is concerned.
Tom Smith: So you’ve been doing this for seven years. Is this your full time gig? I mean are you making a living off this?
David Twomey: I moonlight sometimes doing storyboards and other graphic work. But yeah, this is my passion and this is where I put the bulk of my energy.
Tom Smith: And is there a 3, 5, 10 year plan on the business or is it so much of a passion and you’re more artisan as opposed to, you know, a business…?
David Twomey: I’ve blown through a few three and five year plans. So I would have to say, at this point, it’s the latter. But, as you said earlier, my ears are open for the right collaboration.
Tom Smith: Yeah, I mean when you when you explain it to me, I think, you know, from a mass produced kind of situation, I think along the lines of the customization that you could do to a Mini Cooper when those first came out and the big promotion that was behind that, you know? Really make it yours, customize it for you, and show your show your personality in your means of mobility kind of thing.
David Twomey: Absolutely, and that is one of the key points about Juicer is that it’s a bike you can be proud of. It’s a bike that you can tinker with, that you can customize, and that’s something that we’re not seeing in much of the other areas in the EV sector. We need more EV hot rods. We need more EV customs. And you know, I’m trying to provide an avenue for people to do that.
Tom Smith: What is the price range of your Juicer bikes? It sounds like it would vary quite a bit depending on the custom because everything is custom, right? Absolutely everything.
David Twomey: Yeah. Well, the low end is $4,000 and the high end is, I guess, my most expensive bike was $7,000, but I’m sure I could sell you something even more expensive.
Tom Smith: Have there been any celebrity purchases or anything of the sort that you hang your hat on and like to mention?
David Twomey: Who’s the guy who’s in…? Oh, Kurt Russell. I was at the L.A. Auto Show a couple of years ago and Kurt Russell came to my booth twice and had a lot of questions but, ultimately, he didn’t pick up a bike.
Tom Smith: All right. So you’ve been promoting actively at something like the L.A. Auto Show or other shows as well?
David Twomey: Yeah, yeah, I used to go to the hot rod shows because I feel like that’s where my customer base should be because what I’m trying to do is take customers who normally wouldn’t consider an electric vehicle. And so while a lot of E-bike companies are operating in the space where they compete with each other to grab each other’s customers, I’m trying to grab customers that have never thought of…wouldn’t think of themselves as clean commuters, let’s say. And the way you get those people is by grabbing them through the eyeballs and grabbing them through the seat of the pants when they feel the power roll on a nice cruiser electric. So I would go to the classic auto shows; I would go to the Long Beach swap meet. I even did the Easy Riders Motorcycle Show one year, and I rolled in that classic looking white tired bike that I showed you. And they didn’t even know it was electric at all. I thought they were going to turn me away at the gate but instead I got a lot of looks and a lot of thumbs up. So there’s potential there to get the gearheads, the petrol heads over to clean transportation.
Tom Smith: With investment money, would you be open to more of a structure where say you have three different models from which you could customize?
David Twomey: Sure. There’s a couple of ways to do that or even selling kits is another way to go. But absolutely, I want people to customize it. I want people to know that we or they can create a one of a kind machine.
Tom Smith: Why are EV bikes so hot right now?
David Twomey: Well, they’re not as hot in America as they are in places like China, where it’s just a very useful convenience. But, in Asia, the electric bike is seen as a stepping stone until they get a car. I think, in America, they’re…most people who have electric vehicles are doing it out of a feeling of eco rectitude. They want to be doing the right thing for the environment and certainly they’re very economical to operate so. So that’s a great advantage. But, like I say, I’m trying to get the people who have never considered an electric bike, and I want them to get it not because they have to ride something economical but because they want to, because they like the feeling of going without having to pedal, and they like how their ride looks.
Tom Smith: So we’re here at the L.A. Cleantech Incubator and you are technically one of their portfolio companies.
David Twomey: That’s right.
Tom Smith: Tell me about that structure of your agreement.
David Twomey: I joined the Cleantech Incubator about four years ago, and they’ve mentored me a bit. And a year ago, they opened this advanced prototyping center which, for the first time, really gave me access to some higher tech machinery. And so I’ve sort of set up shop here, and I’m hosting the welding lab. And, suddenly, I’m building bikes using tools a little more sophisticated than my angle grinder.
Tom Smith: That just sounds like something I should chuckle at because an angle grinder must be an old school tool…
David Twomey: You’d be surprised how far you can get with an angle grinder. But, yeah, no, it’s great to have the access to the mill and some of the other high tech machinery.
Tom Smith: And in exchange for your access to their resources, including their tools as well as their space, as well as their mentorship and whatnot, they have a share of your company or how does that…?
David Twomey: Yeah, the Cleantech Incubator has a contract with their companies that only upon the sale of the company do they get a percentage. So, really, until then, it’s just in their interest that your business succeed and grow.
Tom Smith: And do you have a specific timetable that the LACI, which is short for L.A. Cleantech Incubator, is having you work? When did you start working here?
David Twomey: Well, I joined the incubator four years ago but only moved in this past year as far as making bikes at the facility.
Tom Smith: Do you guys sit down and re-up every year or what does the timetable look like?
David Twomey: I have a month to month contract, but I’m very happy here. And there’s great resources, great people here, and they really work with you to solve your engineering and manufacturing problems.
Tom Smith: And on the sales front, you mentioned you’ve basically done a handful of bikes. Is there a geographic area that you find most of your bikes going to or are they just stay local here? Who’s buying?
David Twomey: Well, I’ve sold bikes internationally as well as on the far flung coasts of this country, but I really prefer to have my customers be local just so I can give them the level of service that ensures that their bike continues to work and be ridden as often as they want. And the way I make these bikes is modular so that really there’s no reason why these bikes couldn’t last forever because any piece can be swapped out unlike most E-bikes where they have a proprietary pack where, once it goes out, they’ve moved on to a new model, and you’d be lucky if you can find a replacement.
Tom Smith: The bikes are 100% custom. When I come to you and say, “Hey, David, I want to build a bike,” do we sit down and you sketch it out and start brainstorming some ideas with me?
David Twomey: Well, I think what I would do is I would show you some examples of bikes I’ve made and say, “Can we base it on this one or base it on that one?” and go from there. I get a lot of people sending me e-mails saying, “I have this Schwinn frame and can you put a motor in it for me?” And I’m not really willing to reengineer every motor frame combination from scratch each time, so, yeah, I’m going to lead you towards a couple of designs to choose from and then, from there, the sky’s the limit or there’s as many options as your imagination has.
Tom Smith: And what’s a typical turnaround from the time that we sit down and sketch something out or get a plan in place to the time that I’m riding?
David Twomey: It could be as quick as six months or as long as a year but depending on the complexity of the build.
Tom Smith: Right now, the bikes are available only on your website or do you have any physical place that prospective customers can come in, touch, feel, maybe test ride?
David Twomey: At the moment, they’re just available online. The best place to find me is on the web, juicer.bike.
Tom Smith: juicer.bike?
David Twomey: That’s right.
Tom Smith: juicer.bike. J-U-I-C-E-R dot B-I-K-E.
David Twomey: That’s it.
Tom Smith: I guess there’s all kinds of…forget about the dotcom, forget about the dotnet.
David Twomey: No, no, that’s so 1992.
Tom Smith: How about social media? Do you have your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, any of that?
David Twomey:I am on Tumblr and Instagram, and you can find those links at the bottom of my web page.
Tom Smith: Do you know what they are off the top of your head?
David Twomey: On Instagram, I am flugelwagen. That’s German for flying car. And on Tumblr, I may be the same.
Tom Smith: Flugelwagen. Do you want a spell that?
David Twomey: F-L-U-G-E-L-W-A-G-E-N.
Tom Smith: Okay.
David Twomey: Oh no, Tumblr, I’m idontevenknower, so I-D-O-N-T-E-V-E-N-E-R.
Tom Smith: David Twomey, CEO founder of Juicer, completely custom electric bikes, very cool, very retro. And if you want to have one built, they’re not a short turn around, but I’ve seen it. I’ve sat on one. It is a very special piece. It’s almost more artistry, I think, than anything that I’ve seen out there to date. So, again, CEO founder of Juicer is David Twomey. David, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. And if you are interested in the Juicer bikes, it is juicer.bike. You can also follow him and Juicer on Tumblr and Instagram. Pfluger…
David Twomey: flugelwagen on Instagram and idontevenknowher on Tumblr.
Tom Smith: Yeah, so probably the juicer.bike route is going to be the best way.
David Twomey: That’s the best bet.
Tom Smith: But, David, thanks again for joining me, most appreciated.
David Twomey: Tom, it’s been great talking to you. Thank you very much.
Tom Smith: I’m Tom Smith. This is iDriveSoCal. Thanks so much for listening, until next time.