Local Arborist Does Business by Bike
A local arborist gave up his vehicle for an electric bicycle and says he now makes more money working fewer hours, giving him more time to play in the mountains.
Sean Shriver has done professional tree care for 23 years, mostly in Austin, Texas, where he owned a thriving business with a 4X4 truck, tree chippers, and employees. But his true loves were always snowboarding and mountain biking.
Tree care is a somewhat seasonal business, so he taught snowboarding in Fort Collins, Colo., and at Mt. Bachelor for several winters, returning to Austin each spring to run his tree care company. Two years ago, he moved to Bend full-time, bringing his business, Sean Shriver Tree Care (arboristbend.com), along with him.
It didn't take him long to figure out how much easier it was to ride a bike around his new hometown than his old one. He says, "I got to Bend and realized, I don't need a car. I can use my girlfriend's van to haul branches and debris when needed, but this way, I don't have to work as much."
Instead of spending several thousand dollars a year on car insurance, gasoline, vehicle maintenance and repairs, he rides a used Juiced Bikes Utility Electric Bicycle with a front-wheel drive battery that has a 50-mile range and a 350-pound hauling capacity. He takes it on sales calls, errands, and supply trips to the chainsaw shop and hardware stores.
"People laugh at me for trying to run a business from a bike, but they should think twice because it's very efficient. I have to charge it every night, so it probably costs me about four cents a mile. This one can go 20 miles per hour, so when I'm riding around town, I'm going close to the speed of traffic.
Since scaling down his business and running it primarily by bike, he says, "It's been a better life for me. This is more profitable. Before, everybody got a little bit of what I made; I ended up paying everyone else. I wanted to live a lifestyle where I could mountain bike and snowboard all over the West, and this allows me to do that."
Recumbent Bikes Offer True Comfort
Recumbent bikes and trikes are gaining popularity, and Backcountry Recumbent Bicycles at Tumalo Junction offers more of the feet-first, pedal-powered vehicles under one roof than any other bike shop in the Northwest.
According to Backcountry owner Mark Waters, riders are drawn by a combination of comfort, stability, and sheer joy. The former road racer turned long-distance tour biker first tried a recumbent bike in the mid 1990s on a long group tour in Colorado.
"It was like the sky opened up and God spoke to me," Water says. "What a revelation. Why would anyone subject themselves to the torture of a skinny bike seat?"
Shortly thereafter, he started touring on a recumbent bike, and about 10 years ago, tried out a recumbent tricycle. He says, "I didn't even make it across the parking lot before I knew I wanted to tour on it."
When he moved to Central Oregon, he stepped off the traditional career path and started peddling recumbent. In 2012, he set up shop on Industrial Way in Bend. "Some years we tripled our sales," he says. He moved the shop to Tumalo Junction a year ago, where recumbent trikes account for nearly 80 percent of sales.
"Eighty-five to 90 percent of our tricycle customers buy a trike because they have no other alternative," he says. "One of our customers had suffered a stroke, and we routed all the controls to one side (of the trike) for him. This guy hammers out 70, 80 miles a day on his trike, even though he can barely walk."
Another customer with Lou Gehrig's disease is on his way to the starting line of the Tour Divide, a self-supported, ultra-cycling challenge from Montana to Mexico. Waters says, "He needs crutches to walk, so he's attaching them to the back of his seat. He's going downhill fast, but he refuses to go quietly."
Mobility impairments and balance limitations aside, "The main reason we exist is the joy of pedaling," he says. "Going down steep hills in one of these is the most fun thing I've ever done with tires."