There’s a solid brick barn on Victor Yoder’s property near Kalona that has seen many uses over the years, he said.
It started life as an Amish homestead barn built by Joe Gingerich in 1931 and served as shelter for cows, horses, pigs and finally dogs. Yoder raised his own baby goats there when he took ownership.
But the barn’s new tenants are part of a different economy entirely.
Yoder, a young entrepreneur, has made his barn the home of Creekside ebikes, where you’ll find an inventory of 50 Magnum brand electric-assist bikes and accessories lined up in an immaculate showroom, with his repair and conversion shop in the adjacent room.
We’re talking state-of-the-art e-bikes smack in the middle of Amish country, where late 19th century horse-and-buggy transportation is more the norm.
“We were Old Order Amish when I was growing up and I never rode a bike,” Yoder told me on a recent visit to his eight-acre farmstead.
He is now 28, having joined the New Order Amish about five years ago and eventually acquiring a two-wheeled machine.
“One day I converted my own bike to a 35 mph e-bike,” he said.
Soon, he was doing more conversions for neighbors and friends, who urged him to start the first and only Amish e-bike shop in Iowa — which he did last year.
Business has been brisk, Yoder said, and he has hired Eric Gingerich to assist him in the shop. Although the surrounding territory is populated mostly by Old Order Amish families who do not ride, he estimates most of the New Order Amish have e-bikes, many of them purchased from Creekside.
These days, about 90 percent of his customers come from the general public, including shoppers stopping by from adjacent states. While we talked, two men from Washington, Iowa, entered the shop asking for directions and were clearly amazed to happen upon high-tech e-bikes in this territory. Like most Amish, Yoder politely declined a request for his photograph.
Does battery-powered transportation blend well with the Amish off-the-electrical-grid lifestyle? Yoder thinks so.
His main source of income is a dairy farm, where he milks 300 goats twice daily, using a diesel generator, battery banks and solar power. Many of his neighbors also use these kinds of systems to supply power to their homes, farms and businesses.
“I just like the idea of e-bikes,” Yoder said. “They are very efficient and take little energy to run. You can enjoy being outside and the hills are so much easier to climb.”
Before my visit, he rode his e-bike into Kalona for supplies, pulling a bike trailer that he says can haul 200 pounds. That makes him a visible public endorsement for what he sells.
“You can go three miles for one cent of power,” he proclaimed with a grin.
Yoder said Magnum bikes are also popular in Amish communities in other states, like Ohio. His sell for $1,600 to $2,500 generally, offering 36- or 48-volt batteries.
“Magnum uses pedal assist plus throttle technology,” he said.
Batteries can provide 30 to 60 miles on a charge and are designed with top speeds of 20 or 25 mph depending on the model.
Besides the dairy goats, Yoder also raises about 300 baby goats for milking stock, plus performs custom bale-wrapping for other farmers.
With the bikes as a new sideline, that makes him a pretty busy entrepreneur.
“I love it,” he said, “if I can keep after it.”