One of the many attractive features of Australia’s bike industry is its diversity. There are many niches that are surprisingly large in business sales revenue terms.
Some of these niches are on a growth trajectory. Recumbent bicycles is one such niche that after many years on the margins, is seeing rapid growth in sales. This is due to a range of factors including rapidly improving electric power assist models, more attractive places to ride such as rail trails and changing population demographics.
Ben Goodall has spent 20 years growing a significant hi-tech bicycle manufacturing business in Australia. Until now, Ben has focused upon a ‘niche within a niche’ so specialised that it would almost literally fly under the radar of most of our industry.
Human powered vehicles (HPV’s) are highly aerodynamic recumbent bikes (or trikes) capable of astonishing speeds. In fact the current world record is 144.18 kph, riding on a dead flat course with 100% human power, completed in a machine so streamlined that they’ve even excluded any window for the rider, relying on a video camera instead, as you can see here.
It’s a cutting edge science and technology driven niche, the love child of nerds and athletes if you like. There’s an established calendar of Australian HPV events and activities, mainly high school science program driven, that has given Ben a steady stream of work, designing, building and repairing many of the HPV’s they use.
But now he’s decided to take his expertise and experience and expand in to the relatively mainstream and larger market of recumbents for every day riding.
A significant first step in this process was moving in February 2020 to a much larger premises that will give him room to warehouse and display his expanding range of brands.
“After spending 20 years on the Mornington Peninsula we decided to move out the Latrobe Valley, which is positioned in the dead centre of Gippsland which has some of the best riding in Victoria,” Ben said.
“It also has some of the most affordable industrial property as well as industrial experts. It’s a good manufacturing base for us to move to, which was the original reason for it, but the lifestyle benefits have been awesome so far.
“We actually hope that more of the bike industry will move out here.
“Trisled is very much a manufacturer, distributor and retailer all together. We design our own Trisled products as well.”
Ben’s new premises had to fulfill all of those requirements, which he did by segmenting it into logical sections.
Giving a virtual guided tour, he said, “If we move from the front of the building to the very back, the front is a full recumbent showroom. We’re the first full recumbent bike shop in Australia.
“Moving back into our assembly area, dispatch area for our dealers, then moving back further we have our manufacturing area where we have full steel and chromoly manufacturing capability with all the jig fixtures, welding etc.
“We then move into our composites area. We do all of our own carbon fibre composites and mould designs in shop. We have our own CNC machines for making moulds. We have a temperature controlled room and pattern making room for making all of our carbon fibre parts. Finally, we have our paint booth where we do all of our custom paint work.
“Our new premises is about four and a half times the size of the old premises. It also includes a test ride area out the front where people can come and try without having to immediately go onto the road.”
Rather than try to create his own brand and models of everyday riding bikes, Ben has taken on exclusive Australian distribution for two of the best known brands.
“GreenSpeed is probably the most established recumbent trike brand in Australia,” Ben said. “The founder of the company, Ian Sims, passed away about two years ago, leaving the future of the company in question. The American company WizWheelz opted to purchase GreenSpeed and continue on with the brand.
“Our knowledge base of GreenSpeed and knowledge of recumbent market in Australia positioned us well to take on the responsibility for distribution of GreenSpeed in Australia.
We got along very well with the WizWheelz guys. We were aligned and had similar agendas and visions for where it could go. Covid times have added challenges, but our relationship is good.
“Our goal is to get GreenSpeed out there and more into the retail setting and empower retailers to get on board with what we think is the coming recumbent revolution.
“Moving into April next year we will be taking on WizWheelz’ other brand which is TerraTrike. This is an American heritage brand of recumbent trikes. There is both overlapping and complementing products in their range which we think are right for the Australian market.
“Our agenda is to have a range suitable for retailers to take on and to give them an understanding of what they need to do to be a retailer of recumbents.
“We took on about a dozen existing GreenSpeed dealers in Australia. We have good relationships with those, focusing on maintaining them, given that in these times we have had limited stock available.
“We also have two or three test shops, if you like, which are more mainstream bicycle retailers holding recumbents on the floor at the moment. We’re using them as a learning tool to figure out what resources they need in order to be able to sell recumbents effectively.
Moving into next year when we have more stock available we plan to actively rep and seek retailers.
“If any retailer is interested, initially they should contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org and then we’ll set up a phone meeting and learn about them and where they are.
“We’re very interested in location, not so much about dealer zoning but more that the right location is important in terms of where people ride a recumbent and their first exposure to it.
“We’re also interested in the type of shops they are. We’re looking for shops whose agenda is to get people on bikes and get them riding.”
WizWheelz is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Director of Sales and Marketing Marshall Randal explained that now that GreenSpeed was under WizWheelz ownership, dealers will need to place pre-season and future orders rather than ordering ‘just in time’ to meet specific customer purchases. He said that WheelWiz intends to roll out pre-season programs in Australia from 2022.
Randall explained that this system is posing no difficulty to dealers in the USA and in fact orders are growing dramatically.
“Our 2021 spring preseason orders for TerraTrike and Greenspeed in the US are up over 100 percent,” he said. “We have enough product on order for 2021 to support over 50% unit growth compared to 2019 unit numbers. We suspect when fall (autumn) winter preseason orders come in that this growth will increase. We have orders in place to support significant growth in Australia as well.”