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Adelaide-based distributor The Bike Collective is aiming to bring more well-priced individuality and style to Australia’s urban bike market.
The business was formed last year with a clear focus on simple but high-quality bikes and accessories for urban cycling and lifestyle, particularly with brands that are relatively new to the Australian market.
The Bike Collective co-founder and director Sam Neeft, a long-time bike store owner, said he had noticed an increasing gap in the market that was running in direct contrast to what he was seeing with customer demand.
Sam started The Bicycle Collective with fellow cycling enthusiast Ben Trussell to supply independent stores with “something a bit different”
“Just five years ago, you had brands like Lekker, Linus and Papillionaire making their mark in Australia. There were lots of steel-frame commuter bikes you could choose from; good quality, simple steel bikes at a good price,” Sam said.
“The people bringing them in were small distributors and, while Lekker bikes are still around, others have dwindled or even closed down.
“Now a lot of the bikes coming into Australia at the moment from the bigger brands are a bit same, same. There’s lots of road, mountain and gravel bikes and even hybrids.”
However, Sam could see an emerging trend in how many people were travelling through Australia’s increasingly densely populated cities, encouraged by improved bike paths and other active transport infrastructure.
Growing Urban Bike Movement
He said while a lot of people are buying e-bikes, many others are opting for simple urban bikes for commuting.
“The growth has been building steadily and there’s more to come,” he said.
So Sam started The Bicycle Collective with fellow cycling enthusiast Ben Trussell to supply independent stores with “something a bit different”.
It began by distributing tokyobike, a small, independent company founded in 2002 in the quiet Tokyo suburb of Yanaka.
“It’s a niche brand with a simple, elegant style and a cult following, especially in some Asian countries,” he said.
“We get calls from people around Australia looking for tokyobike because the brand is well-known among commuters. It has a reputation among retailers as a really cool brand.”
Tokyobike had its own stores in Sydney and Melbourne from 2011 but closed its Australian operations during COVID because of lack of supply.
Sam saw an opportunity.
He had been selling tokyobike in his Adelaide store and was impressed by the brand’s reliability and durability.
“Over the decade we’ve been selling tokyobike, we’ve only had a couple of minor warranty issues,” he said.
“I get customers coming back with their bikes they bought 10 years ago. They are trashed but we give them a good service and they are like a new bike again.”
Brooklyn Bicycle Co.
Last month, The Bike Collective announced it would be bringing Brooklyn Bicycle Co. to Australia, another stylish urban bike brand with an emphasis on quality and simplicity and a strong following overseas.
“The Australian market has been on the Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s radar for some time but it’s only recently that they have started distributing outside America,” Sam said.
“They wanted to grow their brand organically in America first and they have built a solid brand with very good customer reviews.”
He said Brooklyn Bicycle Co. had done a great job advertising its brand and now has more than 400 stores stocking or assembling their bikes across America.
“The brand has already been well received in Europe,” he added.
“Brooklyn Bicycle Co. is a more mass-produced brand but their philosophy behind bikes really captured me, as well as their design, quality componentry, customer service and their focus on sustainability in manufacturing, which I haven’t seen in a lot of brands.
“And that focus on sustainability is becoming very important with customers.”
Good Fit For Price Gap
Sam said both tokyobike and Brooklyn Bicycle Co. also fit a current price gap in the Australian market.
“There are urban bikes available that are a little cheaper, such as Reid, XTS and 99 Bikes’ own brand, that serve a purpose and a price point,” he said.
“However, I’d been looking for similar bikes that had a slightly better quality of componentry and finish.
“When you go up to brands like Fuji or an Orbea Carpe, they are going with disc brakes and more gears, and you’re moving above that $1,000 range.
“There was nothing in between.
“We are keeping it simple and target that gap in the market, for people who want a nice, quality bike, without going for a cheaper, mass-produced option.
“We know the demand is there for those kinds of bikes and it’s growing. But it’s an option that is missing on the floor of many stores.”
Sam said that quality and simplicity has further advantages for retailers.
“I pull a tokyobike out of the box and it takes half an hour to build. The grease is where it needs to be, the brakes work well, the gears work and the wheels are true.
“When customers test ride the bike, they get an appreciation of the quality of a tokyobike, and it’s quite likely they will buy one because it’s under or around that $1,000 mark.
“Stores won’t have to oversell it and the customer will be happy because they’ve got a great quality bike.”
Sam said tokyobike and Brooklyn provided retailers with a great cost comparison that can help elevate what customers spend.
“Once you get just over the $1,000 range, people want disc brakes and more gears. However, in that price range, customers are often better off going with a higher quality calliper brake and fewer gears, depending on how they plan to use the bike, and how often,” he said.
“If you explain that to them and show them the quality of the simpler tokyobike or Brooklyn bikes, it provides them with clear options.
“Customers who then decided they want quality disc brakes and more, better quality gears, will most likely go and spend $1,500 to $2,000 instead.
“With Brooklyn and tokyobike you have a price point that starts at $749 and goes up to $1,200 at the moment. You can show customers the quality built into the bike for that price and it grabs their attention.”
Pelago Racks and Bags
In recent weeks, The Bike Collective has added high-quality rack, basket and bag manufacturer Pelago to its stable.
Pelago, based in Finland, produces highly adjustable bike racks designed to fit any bike.
Sam said they have a much cleaner finish than other brands of racks currently available in Australia and provide a lot of flexibility with pannier, basket and bag configurations.
“They are beautiful accessories and there’s nothing like them readily available in Australia,” he added.
The Bike Collective is also planning to start importing Pelago commuter bikes from 2023.