After realising there was a gap in the market for chic city bikes, Meindert Wolfraad, owner at Lekker Bikes, brought the popular Dutch designs to Australia.
When Wolfraad was growing up in Holland, he had surf stickers covering his school books. “These laid-back surfers were catching perfect waves – it was my dream lifestyle,” he says. So, in 2008, he headed for the University of Sydney in order to improve his English and spend some time in “paradise.”
When he realised his daily commute to campus meant taking several modes of transport, he decided the easiest way to get to class would be to cycle – but he couldn’t find a bike he liked. “I wanted a Dutch ‘city bike’ like everyone in the Netherlands uses for the daily commute through the urban jungle,” he recalls. “All I could find in Australia were mountain or racing bikes.” He ended up shipping his bike from home to use in Sydney – and it got a lot of interest. “Some people thought I was crazy cycling around campus,” he says. “But lots of others stopped me to ask where I’d got it and where they could buy one.”
Meindert Wolfraad had a lot of interest when he shipped his own Dutch-style 'city bike' from Holland to Australia in 2008.
The Beginnings of Lekker Bikes
Wolfraad’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in; he bought a shipping container, filled it up with Dutch bikes and started selling them around Sydney. “It soon dawned on me that while I was quite good at marketing, I was resolving a lot of issues for the designer bike company I was selling for,” he says. “I thought, ‘I might as well do this for myself.’” He started searching online for bike manufacturers, and with some cash he’d saved from selling bikes, flew to Shanghai to visit some factories. But his first foray into buying and distributing bikes wasn’t successful. “I bought the same steel designs that are popular in Amsterdam - but the sea air in Australia made them rust quickly. Also, the steel frames were too heavy and upright for the hilly Australian landscape, compared with the flat ground in Holland. The bikes weren’t received well.”
He eventually found a supplier that could work with his new specifications and Lekker bikes – which is a commonly used Dutch word that translates as ‘sexy, nice, tasty’ - was born. “They are aluminium, which means they’re lightweight, durable and don’t rust,” he explains. “Our Elite Amsterdam range includes innovative technology, which enables users to change gears seamlessly and offers them a greater gear ratio compared to the usual gear hubs. We also use carbon belts instead of chains on these models, making them maintenance-free and extremely long-lasting.”
Wolfraad redesigned Lekker's Dutch-style bikes with specifications that would suit the Australian landscape - bicycles that are lightweight, durable and won't rust.
Cycling Through Lekker's First Year
The first year of the business was “about survival”, says Wolfraad. “I was $100,000 out of pocket and sales were slow. For a while, I even lived and worked in a warehouse, inside an igloo built from bicycle packaging!” He decided to do something drastic, and set off on a bike trip around Australia to spread the word about Lekker bikes. By the time he came back, he had around 40 retailer partnerships.
“I was able to hire my first employee – a product designer – and we introduced the Sportief model, a lightweight ride with three gears, for both men and women he says. “Four years later I opened a store in Melbourne, and in 2015 we started distributing bikes across the world. Now we have around 30 employees and sell bikes all over the world, from Japan to Chile to South Africa.”
Their best seller is the Jordaan model. “It’s a versatile bike that’s fit for every aspect of your life – riding to town for groceries, taking your kids to school, or going out to explore. People across the world love it,” he says. Wolfraad’s personal favourite is the Amsterdam Elite NuVinci in Space Blue. “It’s a simple, hassle-free ride that includes 10 gears you can shift through seamlessly and some powerful brakes – and it’s fast as lightning. My kind of ride,” he says.
Wolfraad survived the critical first year of his business by taking drastic action. Now Lekker Bikes sells their Dutch-designed bicycles globally.
The Future of Lekker Bikes is All Smiles
He believes the bicycle culture in Sydney and Melbourne has changed a lot since launching Lekker bikes in 2009. “In the beginning, finding bike lanes was nearly impossible, making daily commuting on a bike pretty much unthinkable – now the culture is growing and it’s becoming easier,” he says.
Keen to tap in to this growing culture, his ultimate goal is to cultivate the ‘Lekker dream’. He explains. “I’d like to set up a piece of paradise by the water, with a guest house surrounded by Lekker bikes and boats. It would be the ideal getaway from the hassles of daily life, where people can get together to enjoy life outdoors.” Money has never been the motivation for Wolfraad to succeed. “I just want to give people a bike that will enrich their lives and put a smile on their face,” he says.
Wolfraad's motivation for his bicycle business has never been for money. His 'Lekker dream' is a piece of paradise by the water where people can enjoy life outdoors.
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