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Kiwi entrepreneur Campbell Read was an e-bike pioneer, even by New Zealand standards.
The Queenstown-based distributor and bike store owner was the first person to bring Bosch-powered e-bikes to NZ, after experiencing the first-generation Bosch motor at Eurobike 2013.
“Campbell and his ChargeAbout team are launching a concerted campaign to bring Moustache to Australia.”
Not only was he quick to embrace a motor that has become a benchmark for quality – and a staple in many high-end bikes – Campbell was also early in recognising the potential of French brand Moustache.
The first Moustache exported out of France – unit number 298 of the brand’s initial urban commuters – was delivered to Campbell and began his enduring association with the brand.
Now Campbell and his ChargeAbout business partner, Rebecca Butler, are launching a concerted campaign to bring Moustache to Australia.
“With rapid growth of the brand in New Zealand, careful financial management was key. Enter Rebecca Butler, a wiz in all things financial and a business management advisor,” Campbell said.
“Rebecca was critical in the smooth running of ChargeAbout NZ and I’m glad she agreed to become a key stakeholder in ChargeAbout AU.”
Former ChargeAbout NZ staff member Will Shaw has been appointed to head ChargeAbout Australia, bringing him back to his native NSW.
Based in Newcastle, Will has so far signed seven retailers – one in each of the State capitals – and is on the lookout for more.
“We’ve had lots of enquiries from dealers since we started preparing to come into Australia, which was late 2020,” Will said.
“We got our first bikes in Australia in the middle of last year but, with limited supplies, we had to say no to so many people unfortunately.
“Now we’re in a position to say yes to a lot of new territories. For the first time since Covid, we’ve got really good stock.”
He said Moustache was also excited about the move into Australia.
“That flow of supply has been assisted by the fact Moustache assembles the bikes themselves in their French factory.”
“Their long relationships with Cam really got us over the line and we were the last territory they’ve taken on globally since the beginning of the pandemic,” he explained.
“They’ve had massive global demand, particularly during the pandemic, but their own stock levels have returned to a point where they can really assist with Chargeabout Australia.
“That flow of supply has been assisted by the fact Moustache assembles the bikes themselves in their French factory. They have more control over what bikes they manufacture for that day, and they can adjust quickly according to demand. They can change the bike they’re going to focus on with 20 minutes’ notice if they need to.”
Recognition of E-Bike Potential
Campbell first saw the potential of e-bikes about 10 years ago, with the growing network of trails around the South Island of NZ.
While the network provided a fantastic opportunity for leisure and commuting, the distances along the trails and between them were too great for a lot of people on regular bikes.
That inspired him to travel to Eurobike 2013 to experience the e-bikes available and was instantly sold on Bosch motors.
“Campbell was drawn to Moustache with its clean styling, thoughtful design, innovative tubing, and the background of its co-founder and designer, Emmanuel ‘Manu’ Antonot.”
“We rode all the different brands but then you got on a Bosch bike and you just wouldn’t bother with anything else. The drive system was just so intuitive, with multi-level torque sensing that gave more boost, based on what you put into it,” Campbell said.
“Moustache was one of the first brands to adopt the Bosch system. Their timing was awesome, and it narrowed our decision to a couple of premium brands.”
One of those brands was a well-established German company that was experienced in exporting. They had notepad in hand ready to take orders, but Campbell was drawn to Moustache with its clean styling, thoughtful design, innovative tubing, and the background of its co-founder and designer, Emmanuel ‘Manu’ Antonot.
Manu was a designer at Lapierre and had suggested the company start producing e-bikes. When the idea was dismissed, Manu decided to start his own company and teamed up with business expert Greg Sand.
Campbell said Manu’s abilities as a bike designer and manufacturer was immediately apparent on his first test ride.
“The current Moustache frames have triple-cavity tubing, so you get incredible frame strength without adding a whole lot of mass.”
“I have a design background myself and I was particularly attracted to the handsome frame silhouettes, smoothed-off welds, and minimal graphics.
“The subtleties of frame design are often ignored, but Emmanuel dives deep into how to achieve lateral stiffness while allowing flex in other areas for an exceptional ride quality.
“That takes really clever frame design and as a Lapierre lead designer, he had amazing contacts with frame manufacturers in Taiwan who do beautiful construction.
“The Moustache design team look at every detail of design, with the philosophy that the sum of all these detail make for a superior e-bike.”
“The current Moustache frames have triple-cavity tubing, so you get incredible frame strength without adding a whole lot of mass. These are challenging designs to produce, so Moustache teamed up with one of Taiwan’s top precision aluminium manufacturers that has its own smelter! This ensures the quality of the raw material is always the finest aircraft grade.”
Bosch has also recognised Manu’s design skills and included him on a development board to help direct and finetune its drive systems. A devoted mountain biker, he has been particularly involved in developing the motors’ e-mountain bike modes, including Tour Plus.
“The Moustache design team looks at every detail of design, with the philosophy that the sum of all these detail make for a superior e-bike” Campbell said.
“For example, not satisfied with stock components, Moustache re-designed the motor-battery integration to get the battery even lower in the frame, to improve the centre of gravity.
“Although Moustache does extremely well in international e-MTB racing, Moustache e-MTBs are focused more on comfort and playfulness, and overall, there’s a real fun aspect to the brand, which has the hashtag smilingmachines.
“The focus on comfort and fun makes perfect sense for us because our market tends to be a little older and the last thing they would want is being stretched out on a long-geometry mountain bike.”
Rewards for Tackling the Less-Troden Path
Campbell said he knew Moustache wouldn’t be the easy option when choosing a brand.
“It was raw, it was fresh, and it was exciting.”
“They’d just started, and they’d never exported a bike. I asked myself which brand we were most passionate about,” he said.
“When we went to the Moustache factory, it was brand new. There were assembly instructions written in Sharpie pen on the walls.
“It was raw, it was fresh, and it was exciting.”
Now Moustache is producing 70,000 e-bikes a year and exporting throughout much of Europe, Canada, and the UK.
“They have incredible tech and work practices in the factory. They have one person assembling each bike to give each crew member the satisfaction of job well done but also traceability in quality control.”
He was also drawn to the company’s emphasis on sustainability.
“They ditched doing carbon frames a couple of years ago due to the lack of recyclability. They now only use carbon on a very limited selection of components, such as bars and rims on their high-end MTBs.
“There’s very little weight sacrifice with Moustache’s advanced aluminium frames.
“Also, each bike is packed in a blanket made from recycled clothing, which customers like to keep, to pack in the back of the car to look after their bike.”
Great Rental Bikes
Moustache was also the exclusive brand in Chargeabout NZ’s successful e-bike rental business. Also based in Queenstown, it had been NZ’s premier e-bike rental company until the decision was made last year to move out of rentals to focus solely on the distribution of Moustache.
“They make great rental bikes because the popular low-step frames are so rigid, large guys can ride them with no wobble,” Campbell said.
“Moustache low-step frames are truly remarkable. It’s obvious that once the top tube is removed, a whole lot of frame strength can be lost. Most manufacturers just start chucking more material at the frame, resulting in a brick-like ride, and some just settle for a wobbly frame.
“We had a zero-failure rate with the frames, the Bosch Gen 3 motors are insanely reliable, and the bearings can handle plenty of miles. With the e-bike shortage during Covid, some rental fleets in NZ couldn’t be replaced and many Moustaches have gone up to 15,000km and are still going strong.”
Introduction to Australia
Campbell said Chargeabout’s move into Australia will focus on a selection of models best suited to the market.
“There will be a high focus on the Xroad range. It’s such a versatile bike, from commuters through to recreational riders,” he said.
“It’s a very comfortable bike with modest mountain bike capabilities, for off-road and gravel trails. It’s great for urban riding, especially for somewhere like Melbourne, where you’ve got tram tracks and variable weather.”
The Xroad last year topped a review of e-bikes by longstanding consumer magazine Choice.
Moustache now has a full range of e-MTBs, road, urban, even tandem – as well as its recently-released e-cargo.
“We saw the concept for the cargo bike three years ago and I was surprised it took this long but they really wanted to make it perfect,” Campbell said.
“It also has the unique triple-cavity tubing that is rigid as hell. You can load it right up and experience a wonderful stable ride, keeping the rider and little passengers safer.
“There are some nice features, like the dropper seat post and the fact it will stand up on its bum so you can store it in a tight space.”
While Chargeabout Australia is opening its doors for more dealers, Campbell said they would have the same strategic approach they employ in NZ.
“Like a premium car dealer, we don’t want the bikes to be on every corner. We offer dealers exclusivity with decent territories, so retailers can have a sense of ownership of the brand and their region,” he said.
Interested dealers can contact Will Shaw via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 0448 834 452.