"Just like riding a bike!”
Matt Holmes is the owner and resident bike aficionado at Sun-E-Land Bikes. His big, yellow shop is located inside the container village on Bellingham’s waterfront. Sun-E-Land Bikes specializes in smart, sustainable, and affordable e-bikes, accessible for all riders. By the way, the "e" stands for electric.
This family-owned business originally started as a pandemic project inside Holmes' garage. The inspiration came from his dad, who suffers from knee problems. When his dad experienced difficulty riding a regular bicycle, Holmes began to investigate e-bikes. Together, they researched and tried a few models before finding a bike that fit just right. Taking his research one step further, Holmes began tinkering with e-bike models and, one thing leading to another, Sun-E-Land Bikes was born.
Until this past spring, Holmes' bike shop operated online and out of his garage. But it was always his goal to move to a storefront.
"I never intended to keep selling from my garage. A storefront was always the vision, and this community has been really supportive," Holmes shares.
Sun-E-Land Bikes rents, sells and services e-bikes - and even delivers these two-wheelers throughout Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties - and now even into King County. They recently paired up with the City of Bellingham to lead e-bike courses as well as bike safety lessons. The course through the city is called Pedal Power.
Holmes, a physical education teacher, values outdoor recreation and staying physically active no matter your age. With Bellingham’s reputation as a city with the most parks, it is as easy as riding a bike to stay active. And with the pedal-assist acceleration found with e-bikes, enjoying the ride became even easier.
The crew at Sun-E-Land services each bike personally with each rental being all-inclusive to your needs: helmet, locks, and a quick tutorial test run are all included to ensure both safety and a great ride!
How to Ride an E-Bike
While riding an e-bike differs slightly from a regular bike, due to they are pedal-assist (meaning the power from the battery kicks in while you are peddling), most newbies get the feel of it quickly and easily. Even I did, after a few trips up and down the sidewalk! The test ride is perfect for a little practice before hitting the trails and the streets.
Initially, I rode it as a normal bike only using the assist sparingly through the downtown streets. But as I approached that first hill, I reached for the buttons on my handlebar to shift into high speed. Additionally, Sun-E-Land Bikes come equipped with a throttle for extra power with those really steep hills. The bike's battery life will last about 40 miles for city riding before requiring a re-charge. Charging the battery is as easy as charging a laptop, just slip it off the bike and plug it into any regular outlet for about an hour. It charges while you have a cup of coffee or perhaps kick back for a small nap.
Tour with Sun-E-Land
Sun-E-Land Bikes features several tour options. Experience the best of Bellingham on an e-bike, including the Waterfront Tour, where you wind along the water towards the artsy Fairhaven district and then back through the campus of Western Washington University. A beautiful ride for anyone visiting or local to Bellingham.
The Parks and Trails tour allows you to visit some of the more popular parks, and some lesser known ones, in the area. A ride out Cornwall Park or Whatcom Falls takes in the lush landscape or ride along an old railroad grade to see more of this burgeoning city. Private tours may also be arranged for parties of up to 8 riders, creating an ideal outing for birthdays, corporate events, or plain old family fun.
Cruising through downtown Bellingham on e-bikes with Holmes as our guide proved to be a blast! We easily conquered the hills and our speed kept pace with traffic. We instantly saw the accessibility in getting around town, especially when a car might be impractical. And you are not drenched in sweat at the end of your ride. E-bikes are a game-changer.
They are certainly one option for a greener and cleaner method of transportation with the U.S. market beginning to catch on, doubling in its market. People are opting for e-bikes as they reduce carbon dioxide emission by reducing the number of cars on the road, they use no fuel, do not require paid parking, and increase one's exercise, all while experiencing more joy along the way.
The Cost of An E-Bike
An e-bike price tag is far less than the sticker price of a car. But even so, some models still seem out of a consumer's price range. For this reason, Holmes decided to explore more affordable options for his bikes.
He currently imports his bikes from a company in Tianjin, China, and services them in Bellingham, adapting them to the needs of an everyday rider creating more accessibility.
Sun-E-Land Bikes sell their e-bikes for $920, substantially lower than other e-bikes on the market. Holmes focuses primarily on the rentals for the average rider offering $40 for half a day, $60 for a full day, $220 for a week, and even monthly rentals at $450.
"Our bikes are perfect for the general public or people visiting town and they are a great price," says Holmes. All Sun-E-Land bikes come with a one-year warranty.
Looking ahead, Holmes is excited to partner more closely with the City of Bellingham, bringing on additional bicycle programs. Bellingham is one of the most bike-friendly cities and, if Holmes has his druthers, it will also be the place for a revolution of the bicycle, with Sun-E-Land Bikes, in the big, yellow box, at its center.
MaryRose Denton is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. While the products, services and/or accommodations in this story were provided without charge, the opinions within are those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board.