Dōst
Credit: Dōst

The company is pledging to do business differently than its competitors 

Sam Atakhanov was on the e-bike trend before most. In 2012, the self-described outdoor junkie injured his meniscus while mountain bike racing. So he built his own e-bike kit to ease the stress on his body. Two distinct voices in his life immediately emerged, taking opposing sides on what he had constructed.  

“My buddies and people that view bikes as exercise and sports machines called me a cheater for being on an e-bike,” says Atakhanov over a Zoom from his shop in Port Coquitlam. “Yet my dad and all his friends were like, This is the best thing since sliced bread, it gives me the opportunity to get back on a bike.” 

Atakhanov, a native of Uzbekistan who came to Canada in 2006, then lent his skills to a few different e-bike operations in Vancouver, including GVA Brands, Surface 604 and Biktrix, before starting his own endeavour in Port Coquitlam-based Dōst Bikes in 2019.  

Dōst officially launched on February 24, 2020, right as the world was going through what Atakhanov calls a “toilet paper crisis.” Of course, the outdoor recreation industry saw a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dōst was no different, as the company hit $5 million in revenue with most of its business done online through backorder sales.  

As things calmed down slightly, Atakhanov realized that he’d have to do things differently to battle the hordes of competition in the market. “I thought about how I could put myself out there and compete with the Trek and Norcos of the world, as well as the cheap newcomers, like the Rad Power Bikes that are coming in at the entry level price point that we’re not,” he recalls.  

Atakhanov found a few ways to do just that. The first was turning phone calls into video calls. “That little thing increased our conversion rate sixfold,” he says. “All it was is having a beautiful warehouse and showroom in Port Coquitlam. We want you to come in, but if you’re in Edmonton and shopping for a bike, give us a video call. That mimics the experience of having you come in.” 

Similarly, Atakhanov and his crew of 15 launched a road show that took their product to people’s houses across the country for a free test drive. Those had a 40 percent conversion rate.  

“When we ran ads, we never tried to push you to buy a $4,000 bike online,” he says. What we did say was, You have to try this e-bike, it's bloody awesome. It allows you to do these things you never thought you could.” 

DōstDōst

Atakhanov learned a decade ago that his ideal target market for e-bikes was baby boomers, and so he’s been customizing the marketing of his product to that age group. Any owner of a Dōst bike can become a brand ambassador and meet with potential customers for a test drive. “Thats the beauty of working with boomers, they have a lot of time and they want to talk,” chuckles Atakhanov. “It’s amazing to see how many conversations are being had on our website.” 

Atakhanov also prioritizes three main things when it comes to the actual bikes themselves: “Performance, so range and power; comfort, these people have bad backs and bad wrists so you give them more comfort in an upright, cruiser-style position; and utility. The traditional bike business is to get customers to buy a bare bones bike and upsell them on the fenders, the lights, the kickstand. 

“That’s how bike shops make money. But consumers feel ripped off when they see $999.99 and then they walk out with a $2,400 bill. I wanted to offer that all-inclusive solution to the customer.” 

Dōst, which means “a friend” in Atakhanov’s native Uzbek, is also seeking to become a certified B Corp company as its founder pursues his goal of getting to net zero emissions.  

“I want to see this as a replacement for the second car. It’ll never replace the first car, but if it can replace some of the second car trips, that would be amazing.”