But while their bike rides were exhilarating and eye-opening, they found themselves often wanting more. That’s when they discovered the joy of electric bikes, an ever-growing field of bicycles with integrated electric motors to assist the rider’s pedaling to varying degrees.
For Blevins and Watson, it quickly became a fulfilling personal hobby. “We just wanted to get out and explore,” Watson says. “This is god’s country here and we really wanted to see all of it. To be on our bicycles while riding the coast or exploring woodlands and spotting wildlife, it was amazing. But e-bikes opened our eyes to a great way to go further than we’ve ever gone before and do so in a way that really enhances the experience.”
The couple were so taken by their e-bike experience that they drew on their disparate, respective professional backgrounds – Watson’s in the fashion industry, Blevins as a construction – to dig into e-bikes as a business. Fast forward two years and Watson and Blevin own Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a pair of eclectic e-bike shops in Carmel and within the Mill Valley Lumber Yard that look and feel nothing like your typical bike shop.
Their e-bike interest was first piqued by the realization that nearby Carmel didn’t have a bike shop at all. As they dipped their toes into creating a retail business around e-bikes, the couple knew they wanted to create something unique.
“It was one of those light bulb moments: ‘we can actually be a part of something special,’” Watson says.
The first step inside Mad Dogs & Englishmen at the Lumber Yard reveals some traditional e-bikes but plenty of eye-catching finds that span from vintage and stylish to the slick but utilitarian, all comfortably mixed with apparel and accessories that draw a sharp distinction from a typical bike shop. Watson says he and Blevins gravitated to e-bikes from brands Butchers & Bicycles, Elby and Vintage Electric like those in the photos above in doing their research.
“In exploring e-bike shops, the consistent theme we found was walking into a shop that’s literally full of bikes, and nothing particularly stands out,” Watson says. “Because of that, we struggled to gravitate towards anything special. We thought, ‘let’s seek out bikes that are a game changer. We started looking at how we could accessorize and add flair to an industry that had become a little bit staid, creating a bit more of a boutique effect and a custom shop.”
Watson says that not long after they opened Mad Dogs & Englishmen, they began hearing from customers and passers-through that Mill Valley bore quite a few similarities to Carmel in a variety of ways and that the 94941 would lend itself a unique bicycle shop. They opened in July.
“When you head toward San Francisco or over the Golden Gate Bridge toward wine country, Mill Valley is one of those places you gravitate towards,” Watson says. “Who wouldn’t fall in love Mill Valley?”
“It’s all been a very natural progression into a business that we’ve fallen in love with,” Watson adds. “And in doing so, we’ve connected with so many amazing people on the way and continue to do so. Through e-bikes, we’ve come into contact with so many amazing people we now call friends. We’ve established a great community in Carmel, and we’re thrilled to be doing the same thing here in Mill Valley.”