When Brian Ballard's blood sugar dropped so low during a bike ride that he didn't know where or who he was, Beth Black, his girlfriend, decided it was time to stop cycling.
"I am a type I diabetic," Ballard said, "and on pedal bikes my blood sugar would drop at any time. It was really scary for Beth."
For about a year, the couple didn't cycle. Then they heard about electric bikes.
After test riding several, they decided on Pedego, and that led them to where they are today — operating the Pedego Electric Bikes shop in Seal Beach, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
"It gives me security knowing I can always get home," Ballard said.
The couple have been riding electric bikes for 3 1/2 years, and for them the business is a perfect fit.
"We sell fun," Black said. "It makes you feel like a kid again, and they are easy enough to operate for anyone."
The bikes sell for around $2,100 to start but can also be rented for $50 to $100 a day. The shop offers guided tours of Seal Beach, Naples Island, Shoreline Village and Belmont Shore with lunch from local restaurant Brix included.
Ballard said a common misconception is that riding an electric bike is cheating.
"You pedal if you want to, but the throttle is always there in case you can't make it up a large hill or physically can't keep pedaling," he said.
Black said one of the couple's friends lost 200 pounds just by riding a Pedego bike, proof that there is work involved.
"The bikes are built from the ground up to be electric bikes," Black said. "People ask all the time if they can put electric motors on their Schwinns, but that can be very dangerous because those bikes aren't built to handle the power."
She said the Pedego bike's welding is heavier, making it more stable under power, and the tires are made of Kevlar. In fact, Black said her bike, which is more than 3 years old, has never had a flat.
The throttle is on the handlebars for easy access, and the bikes go up to 20 miles per hour, which is the legal limit for electric bikes.
The batteries are lithium and can be recharged by plugging them into an outlet with a charger that looks similar to one used with a laptop. They take four to six hours to charge and can last up to 20 to 30 miles on a single charge.
"We have often stopped at places to charge our bikes during a longer ride," Black said. "That is the great thing about them. You can just walk into Starbucks or a restaurant and charge them up while you rest."
She recalls a funny memory, a time when she charged her electric bike in a biker bar.
Ballard and Black are most concerned with making sure they provide excellent customer service.
"When I sell a bike, I am going to make sure they know everything about the bike, how to use pedal assist, how to take out the battery and charge it, and anything else they might need to know," Ballard said.
Black said Ballard usually spends 30 to 45 minutes helping people adjust to their new bikes, even taking rides around the neighborhood with them.
The store also has a mechanic on site two or three times a week. If anyone calls with a bike problem, the business owners aim to solve it as quickly as possible.
"We get their bikes repaired as quickly as we can, and we take them loaner bikes to use until they get their bike back," Black said.
Gail Silverton of Los Angeles recently rode with three generations of her family, a total of 10 people, the youngest a 6-month-old.
"Some of us are bike riders and some of us haven't been on a bike in 20 years," she said. "My daughter-in-law doesn't even ride and was scared to death, but she did really well."
Silverton said the family spent the day riding from the store's location in Seal Beach to the Queen Mary area of Long Beach, as much as 18 miles round trip.
"I have rented Segways, which I loved, and bicycles everywhere in the world, and this is by far one of the best inventions," she said.
She said that while the price may seem high, the experience was well worth the cost.
"I don't know what else a family of 10 could do for the same cost that lasts the entire day," Silverton said. "With the electric bikes, we all stayed at the same pace so everyone could keep up. We had a small trailer on the back of one bike that the baby's car seat just slid right in. He slept most of the trip."
She said Black and Ballard make the experience even more exceptional.
"You can really tell they are passionate about what they do," Silverton said. "They are really terrific, answer any questions and spend time showing us how everything works."
Black and Ballard said they want people to have the most enjoyable time possible while renting their bikes.
"After all," Black said. "Our motto is 'Hello, fun.'"
If You Go
Where: 1065 Pacific Coast Hwy., Seal Beach
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
Phone: (562) 296-5782
Bike rentals: $50 for a full-day electric cruiser; $100 for a tandem, or two-seater, bike
Guided group tour: $89Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun