Chris Nolte has a history with transportation. He joined in the Army reserves in 2000 as a transportation specialist. It may not be surprising that he got into the electric bike business, but as a disabled veteran, he wasn’t always so certain about his future on a bicycle.
He arrived in Kuwait on Thanksgiving Day in 2002 and found himself in Iraq on the second day of the war transporting fuel to forward deployed units.
A vehicle accident in Kuwait left Nolte with a bulging disk and in severe pain. But today, he is the founder and CEO of the electric bike company, Propel Bikes in Brooklyn, New York.
“It was painful when I was there, but through the encouragement through my unit and my own personal thick-headedness, I pushed on,” says Nolte.
Some initial physical therapy helped a little, but being active like he once was didn’t seem to be in the cards.
After the Army, he went back to school for computer science. It was there, that he and some friends got into bike riding. “I didn’t have that much physical ability, and tried to avoid further pain,” says Nolte.
Even though the bike kept calling him, the thought of getting on a bike in front of friends was intimidating. When he was introduced to electric bikes on the internet, he was instantly hooked.
Through the process of building a bike for himself, it struck Nolte that there weren’t a lot of companies out there. “I had a lot of experience working on websites, and I decided to start an online electric bike business.”
From there, it grew. In 2014, he decided to open a retail store. “It was an early shaky market at first,” but Nolte thought it was the right time.
Propel Bikes uses pedal-assist technology, which has quickly become the industry standard for electric bicycles.
“When you pedal the bike, it provides assistance, but it only provides assistance when you pedal,” says Nolte. “And the assistance is proportional to the input.”
When a rider gives the pedals one full revolution, the output can be up to three full revolutions.
Nolte sees the pedal assist technology as the future of electric bikes. “You’re always getting some exercise with it, and it’s much more efficient,” says Nolte.
“It’s gotten me more active, I’m out there more, and my health has improved dramatically.” He still has some pain, but Nolte says it is nowhere near what it used to be, and he isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“A significant part of our business is working with people that have some sort of injury,” says Nolte.
“Sometimes there is lingering pain, and they accept a limited lifestyle, but electric bikes help people,” he adds. “They can help level the playing field.”