Electra Bikes

Electra was founded in 1993 by Benno Bänziger. A Swiss national, Bänziger grew up in the Swiss Embassy in West Berlin interested in California and action sports. As a teenager, he began designing and manufacturing snowboards in Germany, later moving to California after graduating with a degree in graphic design. He founded Projekt Design in 1990, working for companies including K2 and Adidas. Bänziger considered manufacturing snowboards or skateboards, but felt those markets were crowded with competitors and seemed a poor bet for a beginning manufacturer. He turned his attention to bicycles.

Founding The Company

Electra BikeAt the time, there were very few cruisers, the classic "fun" bike, on the market. "Back in 1993, there were no cruisers available", Erforth told the Carlsbad Local News, "You could buy a $99 Huffy at Wal-Mart, or you could try to find an old one and restore it, which is very expensive", Bänziger decided there was a market niche for a stylish, affordable cruiser bicycle for twentysomethings and began working on designs that combined classic looks with contemporary technology. About this time, Bänziger met Erforth, a fellow German transplant who was selling pieces of the Berlin Wall. Erforth said he could sell the kind of bikes Bänziger was designing, so the two pooled $30,000 in personal savings and founded Electra Bicycle Company. The two were the firm's sole shareholders through at least 2004.

The new Electra cruisers were manufactured by a Taiwanese contractor and the two partners began trying to sell them to bike shops. At first, "Dealers laughed at us," says Bänziger. "But people realized they didn't need a mountain bike to go to the grocery store." However, when bike shops tried stocking the Electras, they began to sell, and word-of-mouth convinced more dealers to sign on. In fact, the fledgling company's cruiser sales were so strong that larger firms were spurred to start offering their own cruiser models. Today, Electras are available in bike shops throughout Europe, the USA, Japan, and Australia.