By Jared Eborn
Duane Schaffer isn’t your average bike nerd.
He’s got no interest in carbon fiber, Di2 components or 120 mm travel shocks. Well, not a lot of interest, at least.
Instead, Schaffer sees the bicycle as an answer to a solution – a way to carpool the kids to school, haul groceries to the house or a way to thin the gunk that is the air in the Salt Lake Valley.
And with those ideals in mind, Schaffer and his wife, Tonya, took a calculated risk and opened Blue Monkey Bicycles in Murray – a shop specializing in “Car Replacement Therapy.”
“It’s something I really believe in,” Schaffer said. “I use my bike so much that I’ve run into people at school or the store and they’re like ‘I didn’t know you even had a car.’”
Blue Monkey Bicycles, as its name might suggest, is not your typical bike shop. You won’t find $10,000 bikes worthy of the Tour of Utah or capable of taming the Wasatch Crest Trail. Instead, Blue Monkey is all about being green. With a focus on electric bicycles, Blue Monkey caters to the client who values efficient urban transportation but doesn’t necessarily want to smell like a gym sock when arriving at the office.
With a line of bicycles from Pedego and Yuba, Blue Monkey offers everything from tandem cargo haulers to beach cruisers and classic commuter bikes.
Schaffer said the bikes can easily maintain a 20 mile per hour pace on city streets and parkways while handling rolling hills without a challenge. Though not performance bicycles by any stretch of the imagination, Schaffer said the electric bikes aren’t trying to compete in that market.
“These are bikes for people who want to use a get around, to work or to just enjoy a day on a bike,” he said. “Electric bikes are great transportation options.”
Schaffer said he can envision a time when electric bikes are not limited to urban centers and big cities, but utilized by commuters in suburbia. A worker – instead of driving a car to an office or park-and-ride lot – could get dressed for work at home, hop on an electric bike and softly pedal his way to the office. If that distance is too far, a quick (and non-sweaty) trip to a UTA Trax or Frontrunner station followed by a train ride and second bike trip to the office would save gas, pollute the air less and leave the worker a little more physically fit.
Blue Monkey Bicycles is located a bit away from most of its target market, but choosing a store close to his Murray home was important. With carpooling – Schaffer is frequently seen taking two kids to school on his Yuba cargo bike – and after-school activities part of his everyday life, the store’s location near the Murray Trax and Frontrunner station made sense. When Schaffer found a store that also had the capability to host a fitness studio, he pulled the trigger and bought the building. The back room of the building is a Zumba studio with regular classes.
Blue Monkey Bicycles opened in January and while business has been slow during the winter months, Schaffer said he’s seeing a steady increase in customers as the weather gets better.
The lure of electric transportation options isn’t limited to Nissan Leafs or Chevy Volts. Pedego and Yuba bikes are fairly affordable additions to a transportation options.
“The Pedego products provide all the advantages of a regular bicycle: fun, exercise, free parking, zero emissions and freedom from gridlock while eliminating one of the bicycle’s more serious drawbacks, lack of power. Fundamentally, a Pedego bike is just like a regular bicycle with a quiet built-in electric hub motor to provide additional assistance,” Schaffer said. “You can pedal normally and just use the motor to help out on hills and headwinds or use the motor all the time just to make riding easier. The experience is entirely different from riding a gas scooter or motorbike. The electric assistance is perfectly smooth and silent which complements, rather than supplants, human power.”
As for cargo bikes, Yuba is the choice of Blue Monkey Bicycles.
“We did our homework on cargo bikes and we chose to carry Yuba Cargo Bikes. There are many different versions of cargo bikes out there. Some that carry their loads in the front, some in the back, some with varying wheels sizes. We feel that the Mundo and Boda Boda are sturdy, rugged and well designed,” Schaffer said. “We like that you can ride them like normal bikes, get up to speed, get out in traffic and be confident that the bike will handle you and your load. In fact, we regularly carry our kids and their friends on our bikes.”
Blue Monkey Bicycles 4902 South State Street, Murray