Back in 2009, industrial designer Meindert Wolfraad identified a gap in the market for practical, comfortable and stylish commuter bikes that would enable Sydney-siders to get around, similar to what he saw growing up in the Netherlands. Now, the brand he established – Lekker Bikes (lekker means ‘yummy’ in Dutch) – has expanded internationally, and become a market leader in the urban e-bike space. It opened a new Brisbane store at the end of 2022, has just released a limited-edition, con
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conventional bike range, and is launching four e-bike models in the coming months. We spoke with Wolfraad about how Lekker bikes came to be, the brand’s financial performance and sustainability agenda, and whether Aussies are adopting e-bikes as their primary mode of transport. Inside Retail: Can you tell me the story behind Lekker Bikes, and how the design, vision and philosophy cater to an Australian audience. How is the brand’s Dutch heritage, and your industrial engineering background connected to this? Meindert Wolfraad: Lekker Bikes started back in 2009, in Sydney. I’d just finished my mechanical engineering degree and decided to go travelling and kite-surfing in Australia for a couple of months before starting my job in the Netherlands. As it turns out, the world had different plans for me! When I arrived in Bondi, I soon realised that there was something missing – my Dutch bike. Having grown up in the Netherlands I was very accustomed to a bike being the primary mode of transport, so it came as a surprise that this wasn’t the case in sunny Sydney. Soon after arriving there, it became my mission to bring ‘The Amsterdam Way’ of moving across the world. A comfortable, everyday commuter bike was a totally new concept for the Australian consumer, the majority of whom were more familiar with mountain and racing bikes. Although the Dutch cycling mentality was an easy sell, the traditional Dutch-style bicycle was definitely not suited to either the Australian weather or terrain. It was at this point that I leaned on my own mechanical engineering and cycling experience. My mission was to adapt the traditional Dutch bicycle to fit the Australian rider, weather, and terrain. Maintaining the foundation of a Dutch bicycle was essential: they had to be practical, comfortable, convenient, and of course, stylish. For example, we chose to use premium, tried-and-tested components as opposed to proprietary parts because we know that it’s essential for our customer to be able to service or repair their bikes either themselves, or at any local bike shop–worldwide. Convenience, quality, and practicality have been considered every step of the way. Today, after many years of testing, learning, and tweaking, we have a core product range of five e-bikes and four conventional bikes. We’re the market leader for urban e-bikes in Australia – with brand stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, alongside our European stores in Amsterdam and Berlin, and an online presence in America. IR: Can you discuss how Lekker Bikes performed over the last calendar year? MW: In 2020 and 2021, we saw extreme growth; with 2022 slowing slightly as we focused more on investing in our brand, products, brand stores and infrastructure. We celebrated some great successes, but also faced several challenges. One of the key challenges we faced was the Australian team’s isolation as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. Our management team generally works six months of the year from Australia during the peak season, which unfortunately had to come to a halt for a two-year period. With our CEO only being able to revisit the Australian team in March 2022, it was a long period apart. On the positive side, however, it did give the cycling industry a huge boost – accelerating e-bike usage as a key mode of urban transport. This really helped to shift perceptions from bikes being used solely for racing or mountain biking, to being used as an urban commuter by anyone and everyone. IR: Can you discuss the performance of the store network – in particular, the new Brisbane store? How has it performed following the opening in 2022? MW: Our brand stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane continue to play a key role in our customer journey. They serve as a physical touchpoint where the consumer can interact with the brand, have personalised conversations with our sales experts, and test our products prior to purchasing. Next to that, the location of the store is extremely important for the amount of foot traffic you are generating. We opened our Brisbane store in October 2022, which has continued to surpass targets ever since. Initially we tested a four-day trading week, which soon turned into five days per week to keep up with the footfall and demand. Having a physical store in Queensland provides our existing and potential customers an additional touchpoint, and we’re happy to see that they’re taking full advantage of this. In Sydney, we moved from a tiny store in Surry Hills to a huge space in Alexandria. This has transformed the way in which our consumers can interact with the brand as there’s ample space to display our products and test ride the bikes. IR: Can you discuss the brand’s four new e-bike models? What’s the vision behind them, what materials are used in the design, and is there a focus on sustainability? MW: We have two key ranges: the sportier and Australian-influenced Amsterdam range and the modern-classic Jordaan range. Within these, there’s a bike to fit every rider. As our e-bikes evolve, however, our key design philosophy remains the same: putting our customers’ needs first. We always ensure that our products stay true to the key traits of a classic Dutch bicycle: comfortable, convenient, practical and stylish. This can be seen in our choice of materials, for example. We use aluminium frames, with a durable powder-coat paint finish so that they’re rust-proof and weather resistant, whilst the CDX carbon belt drives are maintenance-free. We also sell bikes as the ‘full package’, so that there aren’t hidden extra costs. The Jordaan range, for example, includes a bell, fenders, two racks, a double kickstand and a handlebar lock (to avoid swinging handlebars when there’s load on the front rack) as standard. In terms of sustainability, we’re proud to be part of an eco-conscious movement when it comes to urban commuting. We purchase all our bike components, such as our saddles and tires, from certified suppliers who put their employees first. This is very important to us, and this is where we stand out from other brands. Next to that, we aim to only use necessary packing and recycle where we can. We are working towards getting our B Corp Certification as well in the coming years. Whilst we strive to create products that last a lifetime, we’re continually looking towards how we can be more sustainable. IR: Tell me about the demand for e-bikes in Australia. Do you think they are becoming more popular and normalised as transport, and health and wellness options? Can you elaborate on this? MW: We’ve seen a huge change in the e-bike landscape over the last few years. From being a relatively novel concept just a few years ago, right through to the unprecedented growth we see today, with e-bikes now accounting for the vast majority of Lekker revenues. Looking at the shift in attitudes and perceptions towards urban mobility, alongside an increasingly health-conscious consumer, the impact on e-bike uptake has been profound. It’s clear that the e-bike movement is here to stay. And with constant improvements and investments in cycle lanes and infrastructure, governments and councils are only further encouraging this healthier and more sustainable mode of transport. IR: Do you think customers are buying e-bikes over conventional bikes, or will customers typically own multiple types of bikes, and use them for different purposes? MW: At Lekker, we’re currently selling more e-bikes than conventional bikes, with a split of around 70 per cent vs 30 per cent. This trend is in line with the growth of e-bikes as a strong micro-mobility solution. They’re more suited to daily use, as opposed to being purely recreational. This trend is further amplified by better industry education, positive word of mouth, and a growing need for more sustainable urban commuting. Interestingly, however, this trend was bucked during Covid-19 when we saw an increase in our conventional bike sales vs e-bike sales for the first time since we released our first e-bike in 2018. IR: Can you discuss any regulations or policies that affect the use and sale of e-bikes in Australia? What would you like to see change, and do you see change occurring in this area in the future? MW: In Melbourne, we see a Lekker Bike on every street corner, with Brisbane showing an increasingly rapid pace of e-bike adoption. The reason being that in recent years, both cities have invested heavily in more cycling infrastructure and more bike trails that connect the suburbs to the CBD. It’s imperative that consumers feel confident and safe when making an informed decision around cycling as an e-mobility solution. This sense of scepticism is felt a little more in a city like Sydney, for example, where the ability to create space for improved cycling infrastructure is more challenging. It’s also a good example of where we need to prioritise bikes over cars in order to create the sense of safety that’s so imperative for a more seamless eBike adoption. It’s interesting to compare the Netherlands to Australia, in this instance, where the majority of people on the roads are on bikes. We were brought up riding bikes safely alongside road traffic, daily. In order for Australians to gain confidence in bikes and cars sharing the road, there needs to be continued improvements in infrastructure, as well as more education around road safety. It’s not quite the Netherlands yet, but we’re excited to be a part of the journey to help get it there! IR: What are Lekker’s plans and goals in 2023? Are there plans to expand further nationally, and potentially internationally? MW: In 2023, one of our key focuses will be to continue improving and delivering outstanding customer experience – we’re extremely proud to have a TrustPilot rating of 4.6, and would like to nurture this level of customer satisfaction as we continue to grow. We’ll also further develop and improve our products, as well as look at how we can provide more convenient services such as insurance packages. We’d like to be a one-stop-shop for any e-bike related need. As for plans to expand further nationally, and internationally – absolutely. Watch this space in 2024!