Danish cargo bike specialist Omnium is about to gain a much greater prominence in Australia, with former architect Ben Kampschoer drawn to become its national distributor.
A long sequence of serendipity has led Ben to establish Omnium Cargo Australia, with his first shipment of bikes soon to depart Taiwan.
Based in Victoria, he has secured a relatively modest shipment of 100 bikes amid the current supply challenges, and has begun talking to retailers to build a network.
The first container load will comprise Omnium’s non-electric Cargo, which launched Omnium 10 years ago, and Mini-Max models.
A second shipment, also expected to arrive in Australia before summer, will also incorporate a number of e-Cargo bikes, including several demo bikes, and a few Omnium Minis.
“Omnium’s electric cargo bikes are difficult to source at the moment, because of demand in Europe and there’s a lead time of around 12 months on the Shimano Steps motors that Omnium uses,” Ben said.
“We’ve been able to get a few of the European run redirected to us so we can get them into shops as demos and generally make them available in Australia.
“These initial shipments will be enough to get started and then we’ll gauge how things are going to grow.”
Ongoing Demand for Non-Electric Cargo Bikes
He said he is confident the non-electric Cargo and Mini-Max bikes will enjoy a strong niche in Australia, among the steady rise of e-cargo bikes.
“While e-cargo bikes will be invaluable in attracting people to take up cycling as an alternative to their cars, there will be existing cyclists who will be attracted to the simplicity and nimble handling of Omnium’s non-electric cargo bikes,” he said.
“I ride single-speed mountain bikes, so I’m coming from the other end of the spectrum and maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.
“E-bikes make the riding experience accessible to more people but they can take away some of the beautiful purity of cycling .
“Omnium has a history as a messenger brand and a courier style. There’s an emphasis on simplicity and the idea you can just jump on a bike and pedal. Omnium’s non-electric bikes also offer a cheap price point.
“We’re looking at a retail price of around $5,000 for both the Cargo and Mini-Max bikes and that will be confirmed when the shipment is finalised for departure.
“Omnium are keen to develop their electric range to give people the option and we’re certainly looking to bring the e-cargo models to Australia.”
“We will also be testing the waters with the Mini initially, to see how popular it will be in the Australian market.”
Chain of Events
Ben has been working as an architect for half a dozen years when the pandemic struck.
“My passion outside architecture has been bikes for the past decade or so – mainly touring and mountain bikes and enjoying being car free in Melbourne,” he explained.
“I began riding cargo bikes more and more, and in more remote locations. I was riding through the outback at one stage of the pandemic and decided I’m not going back to the office.
“I’d made a number of friends through bikes and one of them had just started working as a designer for Omnium.
“He mentioned they were looking to bring Omnium into Australia and I said if they were looking for someone to take over that, I’d be interested.”
To add to the serendipity, Omnium had just announced it was releasing its first mountain bike – a limited release of 50 hardtail bike for the European market.
“There’s not many brands of know of that are doing cargo bikes and progressive 29ers. That really appealed to me as a mountain biker,” he said.
Ben was also attracted to Omnium’s focus on simplicity, fit and handling.
“As someone really into the aesthetics of bikes and classic-looking bikes, the steel construction of Omniums is a step above what you tend to expect from a utility orientated bike,” he added.
“Omnium also seems to be the only cargo bike manufacturer that is not compromising the ride experience for cargo capacity.
“The biggest obstacle to getting people on bikes is comfort and that is very much related to getting the right fit. It’s about getting them on the right sized bike and having a bike you’re not working against, with a quality drive train and all the things that make a bike effortless to ride.
“With the weight directly over the front wheel, Omniums maintain responsive handling.”
Ben said Omnium’s geometry also enabled it to adhere to standard, high-quality bike parts.
“With a lot of the adjustable features on cargo bikes, such as seat posts and stems for a universal fit, you can end up with a lot of lower-quality components.
“Omnium works with standard components where you can get higher quality parts from the regular bike industry. It also gives you the ability to swap parts between bikes.”
Existing Omnium Retailer
Omnium bikes have been available in Australia for around five years through Sydney urban bike specialist Omafiets.
“The brand has been really well supported by Omafiets but they couldn’t commit to taking 100 or so bikes at a time,” he said.
Ben said he has been liaising with Omafiets and would work with the store to help it remain a prime source for the brand in Sydney and wider NSW.
“My first priority with these initial shipments will be to help stores get bikes into the hands of customers as soon as possible.
“The focus will be getting demo bikes out there, into stores, and directing interested people to their favourite stores, so they can experience high-quality cargo bikes.
“Once people experience cargo bikes and being car free, they become indispensable. You just need to get people to take the first step.”