If you’re looking for the best time on two wheels at the beach, look no further than Pedego 30A. The Emerald Coast’s first and only all-electric bicycle shop, they’ll take care of you from sales to service, helping you see the Panhandle in a way you may never have experienced it before. And, the reaction, said owner Jason Medina, is priceless.
“I mean, it’s kind of life-changing to people when they first ride it because they’re like, ‘I had no idea. This is the most fun thing we did while we were here,'” said Medina, a Destin native and retired United States Coast Guard. “Everybody gets to ride together. Nobody falls behind, from grandma to daughter to granddaughter, everyone is riding at the same pace and that’s really cool.”
Medina may have initially explored the idea of an electric bike for selfish reasons but has since grown it into a tour de force with locations on WaterColor Way and in Grayton Beach.
“I grew up sailing all over the area, joined the Coast Guard with the idea of doing four years and then I was going to go to the Virgin Islands and be a bartender and 22 years later I ended up retiring,” Medina said. “I’d come back all the time, obviously to visit and stuff, but my only complaint about the area was just continued traffic and parking, they just seemed to be getting crazier and crazier.
“I never like to come to anything with a problem without some sort of a solution. You can’t complain unless you have a solution.”
That solution, as it turned out, was e-bikes.
“Nobody was doing it. Nobody, from Austin, Texas, to Jacksonville, Florida. So, I started researching and fell in love with the idea and reached out to Pedego,” he explained. “I was living in Virginia Beach at the time but they actually held the territory for me for a year until I could retire and move back. We opened our shop in October of 2016.”
To say it’s been a hit would be an understatement. Even during the uncertainty surrounding a pandemic, Medina found that people still had a desire to hop on a bike.
“We were scared, you know? My staff was scared. We didn’t know what was going on. So, I shut it down. I’m like, ‘I live 15 minutes away. If somebody needs something or a bike repair, they can call me and I’ll come up,” Medina remembered. “Day one, I got a phone call, ‘Hey, I want to buy a bike.’ Fifteen minutes later, another one. The next day it was two bikes and then three bikes, and then we were just drowning in sales. It was neat but it was also exhausting.”
Medina attributed the surge to people being more comfortable outside at a time being inside of any place other than your home presented something potentially scary.
“People were looking for an outlet and that was anything outdoors — paddleboards, fishing, going to the beach, and the bikes, of course,” he said. “Instead of the grind, people were enjoying themselves so it was kind of refreshing.”
The bikes themselves are pretty self-explanatory, offering both the traditional experience of pedaling and changing gears, as well as pedal assist which Medina likened to “going downhill all the time.” A third option involves a throttle for slightly heavier bikes, making it easier (and safer) to get across a street.
“For me, getting to the beach is super important. And, you know, unless you live on the beach, beach accesses are kind of difficult as well as the idea of parking,” he offered. “So, the idea that I can take my bike, throw a little trailer on it with my chairs and cooler, and get access to all these tiny little accesses from really far, that makes the beach, to me, way more accessible than trying to get there in the car. We ride our bikes and boom, we’re there.”
Beach access isn’t the only driving force behind e-bikes. There are also opportunities to explore neighborhoods and enjoy the natural beauty of the area via the nearly 19-mile Timpoochee Trail that runs along Scenic Highway 30A, connecting a host of beach communities. On a full charge, customers can enjoy up to 100 miles of biking, more than enough to cycle 30A four times over.
Medina, who said he’s probably on a bike 50 percent of the time these days, said the benefits of biking everywhere are more than just environmental — although that’s important to him, too.
“You just start exploring so much more. You see a neighborhood and now it’s an exploration day. You stop and shop in that little store because you’ve got front-row parking or you visit that restaurant you never go to because you’ll never find parking. And, then, of course it’s trails and parks and a whole other side of what our area offers,” he said. “It really changes the way people engage with our area because it’s just easier to get there.”
Medina is constantly lobbying local officials and entities for more safe cycling options, particularly on 98 and to the north of it. He said the county is working on that and he’s excited to see what’s in store. For now, he’s content to convert the non-believers.
“We love people coming in and just giving it a shot. Give it a try. We let people ride in the parking lot all day long with no commitment. Our rentals start at an hour and we do that as, like, a gateway, because people will go, ‘Yeah, I just want it for an hour,’ and we’re like, ‘O.K., well, call us if you change your mind.’ And, I’m telling you, probably 80 percent of the time they call and say, ‘We’re going to keep it a little bit longer.’ And, that’s the fun part.”
From getting more exercise than on a regular bike (he’s got the studies to back that up) to seeing the area’s rare coastal dune lakes from a new perspective to simply spending time together as a family, Medina savors being able to immerse people in nature, in architecture — simply, in the great outdoors.
“When I first opened, nobody was doing e-bikes and I was always hunting for an e-bike when I’d be out. I’d look for a battery or a motor every time a bike went by,” Medina said. “And, it dawned on me, if you watch a regular person riding a beach cruiser or whatever, you can see them swaying a bit side to side, a little bit of a grimace on their face, some sweat.
“And, I could spot the e-bikers instantly because they’re sitting upright. And, they’re smiling.”