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Simplicity and authenticity sit at the heart of WA wholesaler and retailer Future Bicycle Innovations, and have underpinned its enduring success.
Its strong emphasis on electric bikes and trikes with quality components, longevity and bang for your bike have served the company extremely well since its origins way back in 2008, when the e-bike industry was very much in its infancy.
That focus – and a greater emphasis on customer needs than completing a lucrative sale – has also engendered extraordinary loyalty among its retailers, supply partners and customers … with many from its earliest days still along for the ride.
It’s not surprising then that simplicity and authenticity continue to underpin Future Bicycle Innovations as it now makes a concerted push to increase its nation-wide presence – as a retailer and as a distributor through its wholesale arm, Easy Cycles.
Future Bicycle Innovations last month opened its first store in the eastern States – Fully Amp’d in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale – to complement its longstanding eBikers outlet in Fremantle.
Future Bicycle Innovations co-founders and owners John and Marie Schelfhout will operate Fully Amp’d in partnership with WA marketing director Justin Walker, whose limitless energy and promotional knowhow has brought added vigour and a broader vision.
The shop’s previous owner when it traded as iBike, Don Taylor, has also stayed on as part of the team.
The Heart of Future Growth
Fully Amp’d will become a showcase of personal e-mobility in all its forms, and will also serve as an eastern hub for Easy Cycles, which distributes bullet-proof e-bike brand Ezee, German mobility cycles specialist Pfautec and the Schelfout’s own brand, Ryder.
While Fully Amp’d will provide a physical hub, John says the most important foundation will continue to be partnerships with like-minded operators.
“We’re looking for people focused on the needs of customers – not the dollar,” John said.
Fast approaching his 72nd birthday, John has been a salesman throughout his working life.
“I’ve sold everything from cars and vacuum cleaners to encyclopaedias and packing tape. I even sold carbon paper – that’s how long I’ve been doing this for,” he joked.
However, he’s quick to point out it’s a sales career underscored by integrity and customer needs.
“If it’s not something the customer needs, I won’t sell it to them,” he emphasised.
His career deviated to bicycles when he fulfilled a 35-year-old ambition to cycle from Perth to Sydney.
Journey of Discovery
“It was something I’d wanted to do since I first met Marie and, once our five kids had all grown up, I decided I was ready to make it a reality,” he recalled.
“When I told Marie, she said ‘buy me a bike and I’ll come with you’ and she did. She hadn’t done a lot of riding and – while I wasn’t an elite rider – I couldn’t keep up with her by the time we reached Sydney.”
Thirty-one days after departing Perth on their e-bikes, John and Marie stood on the water’s edge at Bondi Beach and emptied a small bottle of Indian Ocean into the Pacific.
As they stood looking out over the ocean, they declared at exactly the same time and in exactly that same words that their “legs feel like springs” … and that prompted Marie to suggest they get into the bicycle industry.
They accepted an offer to become part of a four-way partnership to establish E-Bikes R Us, one of only two dedicated e-bike stores in Fremantle and Perth at the time.
They found a dependable Chinese supplier to supply three e-bike models – a commuter, a folding bike and a step-through – and the Ryder brand was launched, named after John and Marie’s grandson born on the day they were brainstorming to find an appropriate title for their new venture.
The folding model quickly emerged as the store’s biggest seller, as caravaners got wind of electric bikes and the potential of folding models they could fit in their caravans for added mobility.
E-Bikes R Us responded by targetting grey nomads with a campaign that included advertising on a WA community radio station popular with older residents for its ‘50s and ‘60s music, and the business went from strength to strength.
E-Bikes R Us evolved into eBikers and the Schelfhouts eventually became the sole owners of the store and Easy Cycles wholesale business.
Strength Through Shared Ethos
While Easy Cycles set out with a goal to build a network of up to 50 retailers, it ultimately opted to stick with a nation-wide community of just over 20 stores with a shared ethos of personalised service and high customer satisfaction.
“Pfautec has pioneered the mobility sector with a focus on quality, quality, quality.”
Those strong connections are evidenced by the fact around a third of their earliest retailer partners are still with Easy Cycles a decade and a half later, and the number of retail and supply partners who join the intrepid fund-raising bike rides the Schelfhouts organise each year.
The multi-day adventures cover hundreds of kilometres between WA destinations and have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the charity Bicycles for Humanity.
It’s a fitting charity for a husband and wife duo that is passionate about getting everyone involved in cycling and has restored the mobility of many customers through Pfautec and other mobility specialist brands.
“More and more older people and people with disability are realising the potential of electric bikes and trikes to keep them mobile.”
“Pfautec has pioneered the mobility sector with a focus on quality, quality, quality and is now further upgrading its best-selling premium products,” John explained.
“That includes the introduction of Roeloff 14-speed gearboxes, which might sound like too much to a lot of people … but once you experience it, you understand why.”
The advent of electric mobility has made e-trikes an attractive option for many people, including those with disability, and John says trikes now comprise around a third of their total business.
“More and more older people and people with disability are realising the potential of electric bikes and trikes to keep them mobile. It’s exercise without stress,” he said.
“And as e-bikes emerge, more retailers are comfortable with including mobility bikes and trikes in their range.”
John says emergence of mobility bikes and trikes has been very successful in attracting people back into bike stores, at a time when online sales is challenging the viability of some bricks and mortar retailers.
“Fully Amp’d aims to become a premium retailer, both online and in-store, of all forms of high quality personal electric vehicles”
“Customers have to know they can use it and like it … and it’s right for them,” he said.
“You would never know that by looking at a photo of a Pfautec online. You need to ride it and feel it.”
That need to experience the bikes was a large motivation for establishing Fully Amp’d. However, the store also represents a new phase for the organisation – in the breadth of its e-mobility range and its move into online sales, though Justin and his marketing knowledge.
“Fully Amp’d aims to become a premium retailer, both online and in-store, of all forms of high quality personal electric vehicles,” he revealed.
“We’re now seeking new products and brands with proven track records of reliability and customer satisfaction.
“Online sales will be a new direction for us. In the past, we’ve always had a preference for personal contact and working with retailers, but there is a much greater customer preference for online sales in the eastern States.”
John said while the push east is initially aimed at Victoria, if that is successful, they would certainly look at opportunities in NSW and Tasmania.
Ryder Coming of Age
To add to the momentum of change, the company is also reinvigorating its own brand, adding to the Ryder range and generally creating a more premium product.
“We’ve call on our experience over the past 15 years and we’re looking at all the things we’ve had to replace on the bikes, to upgrade them with better quality parts,” John said.
“We’re partnering with a new supplier who can provide better controllers and wiring, and higher quality wheels, spokes and bearings for our Ryder commuter, fat-tyre trikes and step-through bikes.”
They will sit alongside another brand renowned for strength, reliability and very torquey motors, Malaysian manufacturer Ezee, which signed Future Bicycle Innovations as its Australian distributor last December.
“We’ve known the maker of Ezee bikes for quite a while and, while they’re not the most modern-looking bikes, they are ultra reliable and have high specs in every detail,” John remarked.
That reliability and attention to detail convinced John that Ezee would be an ideal brand to supply bike hire companies and he asked Ezee to develop a new model tailored for that sector.
The new model will be available to retailers early in the new year.
Anyone interested in finding out more about opportunities with Easy Cycles, Future Bicycle Innovations and their brands can contact Justin Walker at 0439 935369 or email@example.com