Tom Bock had just sold his company when he heard about Pedego electric bikes. “My friend had a bad experience with service, went to see Don, and he got him squared away. I bought one and thought, ‘This could work. I could rent them out, do tours.’”

The Don was Don DiCostanzo, co-founder of Pedego Electric Bikes. The problem then was service at the mercy of bike-store owners. No control over the 4 Ps.

Bock had an idea. Maybe they came to it together: Branded dealers. One brand. Pedego. Exclusively.

“I met with Don, easy to convince him. In business, distribution is the hard thing.”

That was 2011, a handful of electric bike brands. Today there are 205. By recent measures, Fountain Valley-based Pedego is No. 1 in the U.S., $20 million in sales last year, up 35%, opened 24 stores to reach 120.

“This year 30, and we’ll be at 150,” DiCostanzo said.

The boys are on their fifth Orange County warehouse in Fountain Valley, up to 47,000 square feet.

“They execute,” said Ryan Citron, senior analyst at Navigant Research, a consulting firm that conducted the last global market study on electric bikes in 2016. “They have a lot of branded stores. When you sell quality, that helps.”

“We ended up disrupting the bike business in a big way,” the founder said.

Almost Local

DiCostanzo is New York-bred, became a Corona del Mar Sea King in 1975, a California State University-Fullerton Titan, and met Terry Sherry—now lifelong best friends and partners in Pedego.

Today, electric bike guys—neither man can change a tire—DiCostanzo spent 30 years as a car guy, many with Wynn’s International. He was marketing, rose to division president. Parker-Hannifan Corp. bought Wynn in 2000 but kept its president of innovative product. DiCostanzo’s entrepreneurial belly was making noise.

He started companies, sold trade-publishing company Prism Automotive. The Great Recession arrived, a good time to start a venture in the much-derided electric bike business, right?

“That’s cheating people we would call e-bike riders,” DiCostanzo said.

Electric bikes use a battery—a Pedego costs 9 cents for a full charge that ranges 60 miles—that’s if you don’t pedal. Pedaling or triggering the throttle drives the electric motor, providing power to the wheels. Motors of 250 to 500 watts supplement pedaling or throttling and boost speeds up to 25 mph—“convenience, health and fun factor,” DiCostanzo said.

He still had to figure out how to sell the e-bikes. A man who could sell ice to the Eskimos could make “acceptance” happen. Cultural factors and time have helped—to some extent. Navigant pegs the worldwide electric bike market at 40 million units by 2024, but 75% of that is China.