Unavailability of urban appropriate utility style bicycles in New Zealand

While there seems to be some effort being made by a few cycle retailers in New Zealand to stock a couple of (token?) 'commuter' style bicycles, there are virtually none selling the fully equipped modern European style urban utility bicycles which are the choice of the much wider demographic who make up the masses of cyclists in the Europe 'cycletopias' and in other countries such as Japan.

There is an obsession among New Zealand's existing cycling culture , with speed and with at least, seeming to be going 'hard out'.
By catering exclusively for this culture, the cycle retail industry in New Zealand is depriving a lot of ordinary New Zealanders (i.e. the elderly and women in general and those of us disinterested in 'athletic' pursuits) from taking up cycling as an alternative to driving for their everyday transport needs ( i.e. for 'getting around (at a relaxed pace)' as opposed to just (hard out) 'commuting').

The mountain bikes and road racers , to which New Zealanders are almost exclusively limited, are neither designed nor appropriate for
urban utility style cycling and are virtually useless for carrying stuff ( shopping etc) and in wet weather and are definitely not appropriate styles
for a very large section of the potential cycling population.

There must be a huge market among the vast majority who currently choose not to cycle, for the 'comfort' bicycles that dominate the market whereever cycling is really prevalent.

'Sit up and beg' posture, step through frames, folding frames,
technologies such as internal hub-powered dynamo LED or Halogen lights with capacitors to keep the lights going while stopped at intersections, maintenance and problem free internal hub gearing systems, mudguards, chain-guards, baskets on the front and back, wheel-brace snap locks, pull back stands, skirt guards and of course bicycle bells...
- all of which are pretty much standard on bikes in Europe and Japan , -the kinds of technologies that make cycling so much more convenient, practical, practicable, comfortable, convenient, reliable, and safe,- are sadly virtually unobtainable in New Zealand.

Having lived for 10 years in Japan where there is a very broad cycling demographic (of 86 million cyclists!) , it is glaringly obvious to me that the unavailability of urban appropriate utility style bicycles in New Zealand is limiting our opportunities for seperating ourselves from our cars.
What do YOU reckon ?
Alan Preston , (presently) in Christchurch.


As an ex bike shop manager, wholesale rep I have the experience and insight to disagree with alot of the comments posted in the script reflecting Japan's cycle stocks with New Zealand's. The comment of 86 million Japanese cycling says already the difference between New Zealand and Japan. Greater population equals more availability and more opportunity for bulk buy deals. The wholesalers/retailers do a great job at trying to meet the needs of New Zealanders and New Zealanders budjets. Most of what you have asked for is available in New Zealand. Comfort bikes are available in two different wheels sizes 26" and 700c. With such a small market here, our wholesalers/retailers are fuelled by trends. The 1980's MTB trend helped our bike shops to make a decent profit for a change. The comfort bike has done the same over the last seven years.
Personally I love all the types of bikes that are available and that they are attainable, because of the lower prices (due to no accessories on them).
Remember that extra's add weight to your bike, especially a dynamo system. And not all of New Zealand is flat.
Off road cycling lanes have made a big difference to the ammount of consumers wishing bikes. I take my hat of to the Councils and CAN (and their sub-agents)for doing that. Especially here in Nelson. Roll on, roll on.
There's a blessing and a curse with having a small population.
Wheelfully yours, Marianne.

Thanks Marianne.
Of the 86,000,000 people (of all demographics) who cycle (almost exclusively for transport) in Japan, (and in the European cycletopias) I'd guess that the vast majority of them would abandon cycling if you took away their utility style bikes and forced them to ride the recreational styles of bikes that we're limited to here in New Zealand ( especially if you forced them to wear helmets and share the roads with motor vehicles as we do here).
The hypy attitude that pervades and prevails in the bicycle retail industry in New Zealand seems to reflect the products that are being sold ( assertive/athletic,
mechanorexic, 'nth degree, high-speed styles and technologies )and must dissuade a lot of people who are seeking a slower, less assertive/agressive approach to getting around on a bicycle.

You don't see many old people in bike shops here, and not many unathletic women or anyone who's into 'slow cycling'.

Whenever I've made inquiries as to whether they have anything that is 'not a mountain bike or road racer' I'm frequently greeted with a general attitude expressing disinterest (even disdain and ridicule) and ignorance of
utility style bicycles. "Na,-that's old technology mate,-they don't make those any more".... etc..

The cycle retail industry ( BIANZ) doesn't seem to be making any concerted effort to educate its members and their staff about what 'alternative'(mainstream actually)
technologies are available, in order that they expand their market by providing for those (ie. the elderly/unathletic) within the vast majority who don't/won't currently cycle , who might otherwise, given the appropriate technologies (not to mention environment and a less punative legal framework) choose to do so.

If any of you members of CAN can understand where I'm coming from here and acknowledge that what I'm saying has some validity, the next step would be to form a group to work with BIANZ to try to create an awareness of(in order to stimulate market demand) for styles and technologies that are more appropriate practical, convenient, reliable and appealing to the demographic groups who aren't currnently being provided for.

i.e. the elderly, women in general, those of us disinterested in speed , the unathletic, those of us who
want to carry stuff on a bike, ride in the rain, at night etc...

I've ridden 15 kms around Christchurch today ( a beautiful week) day, I've seen thousands of cars but I don't think I've seen another cyclist. This is indeed a sorry state of affairs...

Alan Preston in Christchurch
Promoting urban appropriate utility bicycles and utility cycling in New Zealand

I'd agree that things have got better in recent years with options for bike types. when my old touring bike was too difficult to maintain a few years ago, I bought a 700c wheeled comfort bike from a local bike shop, added dynamo, mudguards, racks and new handlebars to get something I consider eminiently suitable for a utility and touring bike for both road, and light offroad use. That wouldn't have been easy to obtain 10 years ago. I commute to work on it too. I realise that this isn't the same as an ideal urban utility bike talked about, and I had to source some of the extras myself, but it is an option that didn't used to be available.

Stephen Wood , based in Central Otago