- September 9, 2022
Since July 9, 2021, Matthew McKay has ridden more than 10,000 miles on his electric bike.
McKay, the owner of Pedego in Baldwin Park, fell in love with the bike from its first use, when he bought it that same day in his home state, Delaware.
Pedego, founded in 2008, is America’s No. 1 electric bike retailer, with more than 200 locally owned stores.
Don DiCostanzo, CEO and founder of the company, says Pedego is different because it puts people first.
“The most important part of every Pedego isn’t some high-tech gadget or fancy bicycle component — it’s the person riding it,” he says. “Producing great electric bikes is just the beginning. To be truly great, a company has to stand for something. … Pedego stands for you.”
The Baldwin Park Pedego store hosted its grand opening in April and already has become a destination for Central Florida locals and visitors alike — a goal McKay says he had hoped to fulfill from the beginning.
“The idea is that we are trying to bring people into Baldwin Park,” McKay says. “Whether that be by engaging with our residents or partnering with our local businesses, we want to really create that destination experience.”
McKay said he believed Baldwin Park was the perfect location for a store.
“The ideal model of Pedego is to have a bike trail outside your back door, and Main Street outside your front door, and that’s really exactly what we have here,” McKay says. “There are so many beautiful trails here, there’s great parking, and you can even enjoy a drink or a bite to eat all in one location.”
In addition to a strong sense of community, McKay prides himself on the importance of family. In the Pedego lounge area, where customers can go to relax, recharge and converse after bike rides, there is a sign on the wall the owner said has been a motto for him throughout his business journey which reads, “God, family, Pedego.”
To follow through on this message, the owner closes his store on Sundays for his employees to enjoy a day off.
Although McKay says all electric bikes are similar in terms of what they do, Pedego is known not only for its high quality bikes but also extensive warranties and services.
Pedego offers a five-year parts warranty, five-year battery warranty, five-year anti-theft protection and lifetime frame warranty, all qualities the owner said drew him to the company when he originally had a deposit on another national brand of bike.
“I got my money back after deciding I didn’t want the original bike for some reason, and on the way home we passed the Pedego store that had opened up only a week earlier,” McKay says. “I spent more money on this bike than the other brand, but I didn’t feel like I was spending too much, because I got a whole lot more for it. It had more things on it, it fit me better, I rode it better — it just checked all the boxes.”
Despite the common misconception that electric bikes provide little to no exercise, some consider e-bikes to be more inclusive, allowing people of all ages and fitness levels to enjoy bicycling. They can be less demanding physically (depending on customer adjustable preference settings), which encourages riders who may otherwise be inactive and offering the opportunity for people to ride longer periods of time and go greater distances.
The day after buying his bike, McKay’s wife, Gretchen, and one of his two daughters rented bikes, and the family rode more than 30 miles together, burning about 1,400 calories.
Pedego offers 16 different frames of bikes with multiple colors and styles including adventure bikes, cruiser bikes and commuter bikes, all depending on where and how the customer chooses to ride.
The business’ most customizable bike style is the “element” bikes, which McKay and his friend and general manager, Jack Thomas, refer to as “Jeep Wranglers.”
“No one ever buys just a normal Jeep Wrangler, they always want to customize it with accessories to make it unique,” McKay jokes.
In addition, the company offers maintenance and repair services on any and every Pedego model.
Thomas says although the pair can tell their customers every single element and function of the different bicycles, actually getting on the bike is a whole other experience.
“One of the first times we ever had true freedom in our life was when we got on a bicycle and mom or dad was holding the seat, they let go, and all of a sudden for the first time we were riding a bicycle on our own,” Thomas says. “Now here we are getting together again, helping people of all ages relieve that feeling again, pain-free, worry-free and filled with excitement.”
McKay considers himself a serial entrepreneur. His business background began with becoming the largest franchise owner of Oreck, a vacuum cleaner and air purifier business. He owned 15 stores.
After selling off most of his stores, McKay then started a painting franchise and was a national trainer for 150 franchises across the country, followed by starting his own disinfection business before COVID-19 in both Maryland and Delaware.
The purchase of his first electric bike ignited his pedaling passion, and within a week, McKay had flown to Florida, talked with his old friend and former Oreck employee, Thomas, who lived in Orlando, and began to search for places to open his own Pedego store franchise.
“I like the model that Pedego offered, I like the way that the business is set up, I like the fact that it’s not real high pressure,” McKay says. “It’s more about the experience that the customer wants.”
Thomas says when his old friend called him and said they were going to go ride bikes, he laughed, as it was not something he said someone at his age does every day.
“I loved my job at Disney, but I have absolutely zero regrets in leaving Disney and coming back here and doing this, because I really feel like we are making an impact on people’s lives that, truth be told, needs to happen,” Thomas says. “Hope is a wonderful thing, and we provide that.”
Although McKay still lives full-time in Delaware, he and his wife plan to move to the Orlando area when their youngest daughter graduates from high school.
The owner says the business has some new bike styles coming out soon, and he is working on planning group rides for local residents this fall.
In addition to the local rides, the electric bike enthusiast says he is planning a “Tour de Florida” for November.
His goal is to ride from Baldwin Park to the store in Deland followed by the store in New Smyrna Beach, the new store opening in Melbourne, Jupiter, Boca Raton, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, The Villages, Mount Dora and then finally back to Orlando.
The total ride will be about 900 miles and will take about two weeks, with the longest segment being 130 miles in a day.
Although he is going do the ride by himself first, if all goes well, next year, he will invite others interested in riding to participate from select destinations.
McKay also is looking at opening more locations in Central Florida. He has explored locations in the Windermere/Dr. Phillips area as well as the Lake Nona or Avalon Park area.