I can tell you how many times my husband, Ted, has come with me when I was getting information for a Leaside Life column: zero, until this one.
I showed him the web page for Revelo Electric and he asked to go with me when I went to meet with Henry Chong, his sister Mary and Steve Evagelou, at the Revelo office at 42 Industrial St. in the Leaside Business Area.
Within 15 minutes Henry and Ted had on helmets and were out on the street each going for a ride on a new FLEX e-bike! And now Ted has one on order. So much for the unbiased story!
Everyone knows the story of Steve Jobs and friends starting Apple in a garage in California. Someday, Henry Chong and his sister Mary may be telling that same story about the garage behind Mary’s house on Millwood as the startup of Revelo.
Both Henry and Mary graduated from the University of Waterloo and worked in the IT field for years, but Henry had the tinkerer’s urge, and 20 years after graduation went to OCAD University for a degree in industrial design.
His thesis project in 2011 was a new form of electric bicycle, using a lithium-ion battery. The bike parts he used were in Mary’s garage, from her kids’ bikes.
He designed the bike from the users’ perspective, with a large front wheel for good travel over uneven pavement, a lower seating position to make getting on and off easy, a lockable, detachable, lightweight battery pack for easy charging and a total weight of 15 kilos.
It has a range of 32 km and a top speed of 28 km/hr. It’s the world’s only chainless, front pedaling e-bike. (Yes, you can pedal if you wish.) It even folds quickly into something you could walk through a busy plaza, or even pack in a suitcase.
Both Henry and Mary left their earlier IT careers to start up Revelo in 2012. Last October, the business moved out of the garage and over to Industrial St., in the same building where the famous bicycle company, Cervelo, was a tenant when it started up. Henry and Mary are hoping for the same karma for Revelo.
The name combines the “re” as in “revolutionary” with the “velo” of “velocipede/bicycle.” They’ve named this first production e-bike the FLEX – folding, lightweight electric transport.
On a new CBC-TV series, Disrupting Design, hosted by Matt Galloway, the lead-in to a segment on Henry and the e-bike said: “The commute is changing. Streetcars are being redesigned. Cars are evolving, but what about the bicycle? Let’s meet somebody who’s disrupted the design of the bike to better suit the commuter.”
Steve Evagelou, who has been a friend of Henry’s for many years, is now in charge of customer experience at Revelo. He uses the analogy of all the companies making smaller and smaller computers, and then along came Apple with the iPad – smaller but very different, and very successful.
He’s betting that Henry’s e-bike is the iPad equivalent in the electric bike field, smaller but very different, and hoping to be very successful. “We’re re-thinking the category.”
This month, the first production shipment of 200 e-bikes, made in China, will arrive. Some have been sold, pre-arrival, including the neon green one Ted ordered.