How one woman is turning Kiwis on to Euro-style cycling

How one woman is turning Kiwis on to Euro-style cycling


The $67 billion global cycling industry has ubiquitous brands such as Taiwan’s Giant, which employs 11,000 people and has annual revenues circa $2.6 billion. But it also has plenty of entrepreneurs making waves at a local level. One such is Kiwi Emma Jonsson, a one-woman hive of energy whose mission it is to introduce New Zealanders to the practical and stylish cycling accessories Europeans have enjoyed for years.

The Urban Cyclist’s Emma Jonsson: Euro-style for Kiwis on bikes.

Emma sells retail through The Urban Cyclist website and to the trade through Velocity Distribution. The distribution business started first, five years ago, when Emma returned to New Zealand from a trip to Copenhagen with her Danish partner, Sebastian. She discovered there a new kind of cycling: everyday commuting on city bicycles, complete with racks, carriers, baby seats and all the others bits and pieces required to move yourself, your possessions and, if you like, your kids.

“That was inspiring,” Emma says. “Until then I hadn’t been a regular cyclist, but I came back from Denmark wanting to do that kind of riding back home in Auckland. It turned out not to be that easy – the bike shops here were geared to sports riding, not commuting.”

Emma, whose background is in owning and managing retail stores, decided to import and distribute the Bobike range of bike seats.  Since then, she’s added Melon helmets and AXA bike locks and lights.

The next move was The Urban Cyclist, an online retail store which showcases her full range, including the classic-looking Lekker bicycles. With the exception of the Lekkers, which come from Australia, all her vendors are European. The range, Emma says, is aimed at people who’d “like to ride their bikes without dressing for a triathlon”.

Both the distribution and retail businesses are humming along nicely, fueled by steady demand from a market that Emma says is oriented towards commuters, split evenly between men and women and is of a wide age range. “One group we sell to is families, which come to us for child seats, but there are also quite a few retired people who are getting their first electric bike.”

The junior Jonssons discover Auckland’s Lightpath by cargo bike.

One thing Emma doesn’t sell is cargo bikes, something that she might be quietly regretting. Her family’s last cargo bike, a cherished Triobike, fell victim to a car driver who pulled out in front of it on Dominion Road. Sebastian was riding it at the time; he survived intact but the Triobike was a write-off. The Jonssons bought the wounded bike back at auction and are fixing it up so it can again be pressed into service ferrying the two junior Jonssons around the city. In the meantime, Emma is waiting on delivery of a second cargo bike.

The Jonsson family with their beloved Triobike ‘family wagon’.

Crashes notwithstanding, Emma is a staunch advocate of cargo bikes. With electric assistance, she says, they’re ideal for moving both progeny and product, even in hilly Auckland, and the kids prefer them to being shuttled around in a car. No surprise, then, that the Jonssons sold one of their two cars a couple of months ago. “Through the summer we had two cars sitting in our driveway every day and it was driving us bonkers,” Emma says. “So we sold it. Sebastian has a demolition business and he does need a work car, but the second one wasn’t being used and we don’t miss it.”

The Urban Cyclist is a Bike Auckland merchant partner and offers BA members a 10 percent discount of all regular-priced items.  For similar discounts and incentives from a steadily growing list of partners, become a member now.

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