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Hey, this is Jason with Recharged Rides.com, and today we're joined by Bryan Child, one of the co-founders of Utah-based Bakcou, one of today's premier manufacturers of electric hunting bikes.
Bryan, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and also how you initially became interested in the world of electric bikes?
Hey, I'm Bryan Child, one of the co-founders of Bakcou. I co-founded this company with my brother-in-law, Dave Andre. We are big outdoor enthusiasts and archers. We love the outdoors. Bakcou started because of that passion.
We were on an archery elk hunt in 2016 and it seemed like every bull we bugled was always two ridges away. I came home from that hunt and Dave was kind of looking for a way that we could move across the mountain quietly, but quickly and scent-free while being minimally invasive and putting little stress on the environment, and we came across electric bikes.
The bikes at that time, primarily in Asia and Europe, were built for commuting and not really built for off-road and rugged terrain like the demands of hunting and backcountry access would require here in the US, so we took some of these early, early bikes that were meant more just for kind of city riding and with the help of engineers, designed frames, motors, and components that would stand up to the rigors of backcountry hunting. And essentially that's where Bakcou started.
Thank you, Bryan. For the benefit of our listeners who aren't yet familiar with your e-bikes, can you share a bit about Bakcou — the brand and also your current range of models?
One of the Bakcou taglines is built for hunters by hunters, and that truly is the case. We didn't build these bikes to sell them, we build them for ourselves as I mentioned, and so we started as a hunting e-bike company. We still have our roots very deep in the hunting community and just are grateful for all the relationships that we have in the hunting space. However, we do have a line of bikes that is now crossing over into the outdoor space. When you build an off-road, rugged, heavy-duty, durable type bike, then there's certainly some crossover and opportunity for it to be used in the outdoor space. We have bikes that are built for military and we have bikes that are built for police and first responders. Even some bikes that are utilized by hotshots that are fighting forest fires and able to use them to navigate and even to remove injured people on gurneys using the assistance of an electric bike.
We have several different models from our mid-drive Mule and Storm. The Mule has been the number one selling fat tire electric hunting bike in the US for nearly four years now.
Our Storm is patterned after the Mule and is our full suspension version of the Mule. Both built around the Ultra mid-drive motor with its heavy-duty metal gearing built for torque and climbing and off-road use. We have our Flatlander which is built more for those that are hunting or traversing flatter terrain, rolling hills, and things of that nature in the Midwest.
And then we have our Kodiak which is our all-wheel-drive bike. It's a front and rear 500W hub motor that is an incredible bike. It produces a lot of power for climbing and riding in sand, and snow, and mud, and things of that nature.
We have our line of scooters. Our off-road heavy-duty scooters patterned after our electric bikes, you know, our Kodiak and our Timberwolf. And then we also have our sport trail bike that is built more for those riders that aren't necessarily hunters —maybe they like to hunt and would like to use their bike from time to time for hunting purposes, but they're primarily sport trail riders and that is our Scout, which also utilizes that powerful Ultra mid-drive motor and allows them to go further with the extended distance lithium-ion batteries that are in all of our bikes.
Bryan, what are your long-term goals for the brand?
Long-term goals for Bakcou are to be a household name. We want to be recognized by those that love the outdoors. “Bakcou” comes from backcountry, and if you follow us on social, our Instagram page is the @bakcoulife, and we like to define Bakcou life as that place that you go to get away from the cares and stresses of the world, whether that's on the beach, whether that's in the backcountry, whether that's in the city. We want to design a bike that is dependable, and is comfortable, and is in a price range that people can afford but still comes with those high-end components and allows it to be that tool that they purchased it for.
What can you tell us about what's coming in the near term for Bakcou in terms of new models, improvements being made to existing bikes, etc.?
The focus Bakcou has, and will continue to be, is leading the industry in design and innovation. As I mentioned before, we built these bikes for us and so we build them to be dependable. We build them around the very best motors, the very best batteries, and the best component groups that will stand up to the rigors and the stresses that are placed on them.
So our focus in the future will be to continue to improve on that —to continue to find the most innovative designs and frames that are lightweight, batteries that will carry you further. I tell people all the time that your battery is your gas tank —the bigger your battery, the further you're going to be able to go. And in addition to that, there's a difference in battery cells. So you can go to the grocery store and you can buy a $3 9V battery, you can go to the grocery store and buy a $12 9V battery. We build our bikes around that $12 battery. We want the batteries that are going to hold a charge for an extended period of time and give you more distance per charge. Likewise, we are continually looking for the component groups, in improving componentry and frame design that will allow our customers —our tribe members —to be able to push the limits in whatever arena or area that they're looking to.
Bryan, if you and Dave had an opportunity to start back up from the ground up all over again, what would you guys do differently?
So one of the questions that we've been asked is if you had a chance to start your company over again, what would you do differently? And I can honestly say nothing.
We have focused right from the get-go on producing a product that we can be proud of. In addition to that, relationships are extremely important to us, relationships with our consumers, relationships with our dealers, with other industry professionals, and with affiliates.
We focus on relationships and producing a product that we can be proud of, that our customers can be proud of, and that those that affiliate with us will find sheds a positive light on them and their company and will benefit everybody moving forward.
Bryan, how important have good employees been to the success of Bakcou up to this point.
So Bakcou is currently headquartered in Northern Utah in the Ogden area for those of you that are familiar with Utah. We have grown significantly over the last couple of years. If you were to stop and visit us about 2 1/2 years ago, you'd have found us in just over 2,000 square feet. Within six months, we had outgrown that space and moved into a 5,500 square foot space, and within six months had outgrown that and have moved into our new headquarters where we've been for about a year and a half now, which is approaching 30,000 square feet. We also have an additional space right down the street that is an additional 8,000 square feet where we house a lot of our accessories.
Our employees are what separates Bakcou from other companies. We have phenomenal people that work for us, from our marketing team, to our sales team, to our folks in shipping and receiving.
We currently have 28 employees — that has changed drastically over the last couple of years. If you had stopped and seen us a couple of years ago, you'd have found four of us. So, we're very grateful for the people that we have working for us — some extremely bright people in all areas of Bakcou — and that's certainly what set us apart.
Thank you, Bryan. What do you think is the main problem that electric bike companies are currently facing?
So the problems that many e-bike companies are currently facing has changed significantly from what e-bike companies were facing about a year ago, 18 months ago.
Of course, we went through the COVID years and there were some significant delays in shipping. The supply chain was severely bogged down. Port congestion was intense, and we were placing orders for component groups such as SRAM, and SHIMANO, and some of those common brands that were requiring an 18-month lead time. So, that puts drastic stresses on a company when you're having to place an order and you won't see those products for 18 months.
A lot of the supply chain issues have gradually resolved and now we're seeing product moving much quicker. When we started our company in 2017, we could order a container of bikes and from the time of order to the time it was sitting in our warehouse, it was about four months. As I mentioned it was 18-plus months about a year ago and now we're seeing somewhere right around the six-month mark. So, things have definitely improved with regards to problems that e-bike companies might be facing at this time. I think it's just more of education of consumers and helping them realize all of the vast areas that e-bikes can be utilized in getting out and exploring and also just in being more environmentally friendly and accomplishing things that we're already doing — from commuting, to delivery, to enjoying the outdoors.
What are some of the biggest challenges that personal EV companies are dealing with right now when it comes to design and engineering?
E-bikes are successful and are so prevalent nowadays because of lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion has changed everything for electric vehicles and certainly for electric bikes.
So, in looking forward, one of the challenges is going to be in continuing to develop lithium-ion and making cells smaller so that they can continue to fit on a bike.
Right now, if you were to get an 11Ah battery, say, and compare it to a 25Ah battery, there's just a difference in the size of the case of the battery. So, you can only carry a battery that's a certain size on a frame, and at some point, we're gonna have to find ways that we can pack a more condensed charge in a smaller package which will allow us to continue to go further on an electric bike and in an electric vehicle in general.
Thanks, Bryan. In your experience, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of marketing your product range?
There's many aspects. When you're talking about marketing for electric bikes, and for us, the best type of marketing is just word of mouth. As I've mentioned earlier, we put a lot of focus on taking care of our customers — we're not happy if they're not happy. We know a happy customer is going to tell all of their friends and family about this incredible product that they have and how it's changed their lives.
And so we start there, we certainly have a lot of industry professionals that use our product and as they use them, they're talking to their colleagues, and to their family, and friends.
And so, that really is kind of the focus of our marketing. We play in the same game that many other companies do with social media, and print, as well as TV, but our focus truly is on building a product and taking care of people, and that will sell itself.
What are some of the biggest opportunities that e-bike companies are presented with today?
One of the greatest things about being associated with an electric vehicle or an electric bike company is just a feel-good feeling that you get in knowing that you're doing something good for the environment, and reducing pollution, and reducing contaminants that are in the air — just makes the air that we're breathing better, makes our environment safer, and then just to put a smile on people's faces by allowing them to get out and enjoy this beautiful world that we all live in.
Bryan, as far as misconceptions go, what are some of the most common ones that you hear about electric bikes?
Just like all automobiles are created differently, so are electric bikes. Some bikes are built for off-road, rugged use like our bikes are. And then other bikes are built more for just commuting around town. Kind of like buying a Honda Civic or buying a Ford Power Stroke — you're not going to buy a Ford Power Stroke to get your groceries in and to run the kids back and forth to school, and you're not going to buy a Honda Civic to take into the mountains and get into the backcountry.
Electric bikes are the same way. And so, regulations, in our opinion, should be similar. They certainly need to be regulated — you don't want to have electric bikes that are creating a tremendous amount of torque and power that are actually going to be detrimental to our trails and off-road use, and therefore we're big advocates of a classification system and one of the most recognizable classification systems out there is Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 e-bikes.
A Class 1 e-bike is typically considered no different than a regular pedal bicycle and to be a Class 1 e-bike you have to have a motor that is 750W or less, is pedal assist only (in other words, it does not have a throttle), and the motor will not assist you beyond 20 mph.
A Class 2 e-bike is the same as a class one but can have a throttle, still has pedal assist, does not assist you beyond 20 mph, and is a 750W motor. And then a Class 3 e-Bike is similar to a Class 1 with the exception of the motor —it can assist you up to 28 mph.
And so, we're big fans of this. We want to protect the environment. We're big advocates of nature and wanting to take care of our trail systems. And so, we support classification systems.
Bryan what do you and Dave feel is the biggest advantage to owning and riding an electric bike?
One of the biggest advantages to owning or riding an electric bike is pretty obvious — just being able to get into the outdoors and be able to enjoy everything around us.
But a study was done here in Utah a couple of years ago by a local university, Brigham Young University, and they took a group of cyclists and compared it to a group of e-cyclists and it was a double-blind study. It went several months and essentially what they found at the end of the study was that the e-cyclists actually came away with a higher level of fitness and they determined that was because the e-cyclists stayed on their bikes for a longer period of time and therefore continued to burn calories. They also didn't avoid the hilly or more strenuous terrain.
And as most of you know that are familiar with electric bikes, you can set the level of assistance to a level 1 through level 9. Most of our bikes are level 1 through 5, so on a level 1 you're getting very little assistance, whereas level 5, you're getting a lot of assistance.
And so, for those that are riding in an area where there's lots of hills, then if needed they can turn it up and get a little more assistance, and if they want to get a little better workout, they can just leave it in a lower level of assistance.
Bryan, how do you see bikes fitting into the larger picture of sustainable transportation?
When asked how electric bikes are going to fit into the larger picture of sustainable transportation —my wife and I took our daughter recently to San Francisco and we were really just blown away by how many people were riding electric bikes in these busy cities such as San Francisco where there's a lot of congestion.
We saw many, many people riding electric bikes to and from work and then also for pleasure. But we also saw many utilizing them for work in delivery — whether it was delivering food, or whether it was just in delivering commodities back and forth throughout the city, and I think that we're gonna see that do nothing but improve and continue to grow throughout the United States in the years to come.
What would you say is the number one thing that gets consumers to purchase an electric bike?
I'd say the number one thing that gets consumers to purchase an electric bike, as much as they can be used as a tool for work and in commuting, the number one thing that and probably that we see at Bakcou because of the type of company we have is just because they want to find adventure. They want a new lease on life to be able to get out and do something that they maybe haven't done before, or maybe age or physical limitations prohibit them from doing now, as well as those that just love to get into the backcountry.
And as I mentioned before, that backcountry is different for all of us. Sometimes that's riding through the city, sometimes it's on a beach, sometimes it's in the deep dark backcountry. But I find that people, and we find at Bakcou, that people buy electric bikes because they're looking for adventure.
Thanks Bryan. Our time’s almost up, but I wanted to ask you one last question — what do you think will be the biggest selling point of E bikes over say the next 5 to 10 years?
I think the biggest selling point of electric bikes over the next 5 to 10 years is going to be the same then as it is now. There's two things when you're looking at electric bike that make it an electric bike and that's a motor and a battery. And so, I think as motors become even more durable and dependable, and as lithium-ion batteries continue to evolve and allow people to go further, I think that we're going to find that more and more people are going to turn to electric bikes.
Well, Bryan, we really appreciate you coming on and for taking the time to share more about Bakcou and also your thoughts on the e-bike industry in general.
For those who would like to learn more about Bakcou’s electric hunting bike range, we've included a link in the description below along with an exclusive coupon code that'll save you 5% on any Bakcou e-bike.
Bryan, thanks again for coming on, and until next time, happy riding everyone.