A different level of normal


Dutch bike buyerThe Dutch spend five to six times as much on a new bike compared to Australians reported Bicycling Trade magazine in November. Ride On spoke to shops selling Dutch-style bikes in Australia for comparison.

The average Dutch outlay for a new bike is now €1,200 (AU$1,846) the Australian industry publication Bicycling Trade reported in November. It went on to make the comparison: “Although Australia does not collect retail sales price data, based upon Australia’s import price data it would be fair to estimate that this figure is five to six times higher than the average bicycle sale price in Australia.”

That makes the average sale price of a bike in Australia between $308 and $369.

The report points out that more bikes in the Netherlands are used for transportation, in all weather, year around and this requires a higher standard of bike.

The Dutch figure also includes ebike sales: “Total bicycle sales in Holland are around one million units per year, so although ebike sales still only represent a quarter of sales in terms of units, given their much higher value, they would now represent over half of the complete bicycle sales income that bicycle shops earn. The actual figure was 47% in 2014.”

There are a handful of shops in Australia selling bikes set up Dutch-style for transportation and offering ebikes as well. Maurice Wells is the owner of two such complementary bike shops in Sydney: Glowworm Bicycles, specialising in ebikes, and Omafiets Dutch Bicycles, specialising in conventional bicycles for transportation.

Wells told Ride On: “I’m pretty sure that if you asked some random Australians whether they think $2,000 is a lot to spend on a bicycle they’d just choke. They wouldn’t believe it. Whereas in reality that’s a pretty sensible amount to spend if you want a no-hassles, comfortable, safe and good bike.”

“I’m pretty sure that if you asked some random Australians whether they think $2,000 is a lot to spend on a bicycle they’d just choke. They wouldn’t believe it. Whereas in reality that’s a pretty sensible amount to spend if you want a no-hassles, comfortable, safe and good bike.”

The average sale price across his two shops, Wells reports, can be viewed two different ways: “You might be looking at it as $1,500 but I think of it as two distinct groups. In certain categories the average spend is over $2,000 and then there’s another category that is not as high—it’s been creeping up but it’s not as high—which is just under $1,000. That’s the category of someone’s first commuting bike.”

Garry Paddick, owner of Spokes bike shop in Melbourne, has a similar experience: “We tend to have a client base that probably spends $1,200 to $1,500 on a normal push bike and when they go to electric bikes they’re really getting to typically over $4,000. Electric bike sales probably represent about 30–40% of our total sales, so the average bike spend is probably quite high but it’s very tailored to a special need.”

“I really don’t think most customers are price driven—they’re solution driven,” says Paddick. “When they know they’ve had a buckled wheel every third week because of the quality and age of the bike they’re running…they understand that if you want quality you pay for quality.”

Wells puts it this way: “Basically the group that’s spending a little more has in one way or another already become convinced that a bicycle is worth investing in and that there’s a real difference between a good bicycle and a better bicycle, and a difference that matters to them. They’ve probably already had a couple of bikes and some of the apprehensions about buying a bike don’t apply to them. They’re probably a little older and a bit more likely to have a bit more money.

“Then the category that are spending a little less are probably more likely trying out riding or doing something new and they have things on their mind of will I use this a lot and what do a really need.”

There’s a tendency, says Wells, for people to think that a more expensive bike is only relevant to a minor segment of society. “With the industry having been dominated by sport bikes for such a long time, very often hear a customer say something like, “Oh, I don’t need a bike like that—I’m not too serious.” It’s basically a misunderstanding. When you’re looking at utility bikes it doesn’t really matter whether you’re serious of enthusiastic or whatever, you still want them to be comfortable, you don’t want flat tyres. But there’s a tendency to think, “Well if I buy the $2,000 bike off this guy it’s just going to be more fragile or something that doesn’t matter to me.”

“I really don’t think most customers are price driven—they’re solution driven”

Paddick concurs that good customer support is key: “When you open up that conversation with people who are even novices and not intending to ride continuously they’ll often move towards higher quality anyway.

“We don’t sell on price. We compete but if you came in expecting a bargain from us we’d be talking to you about what is the quality you’re looking for rather than what price you’re looking for. Most people are honest and say ‘I hadn’t thought about spending that much on cycling because I hadn’t thought about all the issues’. That’s where they come to in the end.”

While most bikes from his shops are sold set-up for transportation, Wells feels the Australian market generally doesn’t value either utility or quality in bicycles. “I think it’ll be a long time before the average Australian spend on a bicycle is $2,000,” he says.

“In the Netherlands they went through the same thing with electric bicycle where lots of people were buying very cheap ones. Eventually the market figured out that anything less than €1,500 was just not worth buying for electric. The average spend was higher but they figured out their minimum. There’s always a temptation to go for something that looks the same but is cheaper. We all do it—generally with products we don’t understand or value as much.”

There’s room for developing that understanding though, concludes Wells: “I have frequently talked to Dutch people in Australia who are of the opinion that the bikes they are riding in the Netherlands are not very good. So when they come to buy a bike they say, ‘Oh, anything will do—I’m not picky.’ But they don’t know how bad our bikes are. They don’t realise that that 40 years old bike that they ride in Amsterdam and looks bashed around is actually a very good bike and that’s why it’s being used after 40 years. I don’t think it’s a cultural thing, it’s just a different level of normal.”

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