woom Boom: An Austrian Children’s Bike achieves Cult Status
You have to look hard to find a family in Austria without a woom bike. If you leave it too late for Christmas or Easter, you’ll be faced with empty shelves in specialist and online retailers – and even though these bikes aren’t much cheaper second-hand, you’ll have to be quick if you want to get hold of one from those markets too. That’s because Austrian children’s bike brand woom has achieved cult status, and deservedly so!
A note on transparency (advertising).
This article was created in cooperation with woom GmbH.
Founders Christian Bezdeka and Marcus Ihlenfeld dared to think differently about children’s bikes for the first time when they came up with the idea in 2013. What seems so obvious today was a revolution back then, not unlike the moment when the first iPhone was launched: it wasn’t until woom came along that children’s bikes began to be seen as a product in their own right and not just as miniature versions of adult bikes. Realising that children need different things from bikes, Bezdeka and Ihlenfeld completely rethought children’s bikes to suit those needs. They went to great lengths to develop and optimise the woom bikes so that they’re easy for children to ride: the result is lightweight bikes with meticulously designed bike geometry, high-quality components and special safety features.
Just 287 woom bikes were sold in the first year, but by 2020 that figure had risen to 230,000. The ongoing hype around woom, which now encompasses more than 30 countries, is in no small part due to the impressive power of innovation the company has shown over almost nine years. Part of their philosophy is to constantly question and develop what we understand by “good”, and this is evident in the step-by-step enhancement of the components in their products. But it’s also reflected in a fundamental openness to new developments, whether technical, social or economic. One of woom’s guiding principles is that successful companies can only operate in the context of society as a whole: growth alone is not enough if the processes behind it aren’t sustainable.
Innovation and sustainability – part of the woom DNA
“Sustainability is part of our corporate DNA”, explains woom Sustainability Manager Anna Vahle: “We’ve made sustainability one of our seven major corporate goals. Specifically, that means that we use environmental and social criteria to evaluate our organisation and our supply chain, because we want to identify potential gaps and put appropriate measures in place to close them.” Vahle makes clear woom’s ambitious goal: “We want to become the most sustainable brand in the cycling industry.”
A digital transformation is also underway in woom’s supply chain management.
“Our goal is a fully digital supply chain”, explains founder Marcus Ihlenfeld: “At any time we want to know which components have been completed in which place, or where a product currently is in terms of the supply chain.”
Not only does this make bike production more efficient and environmentally friendly: it also makes deliveries more reliable for customers.
Every woom product is designed to inspire children to ride a bike, so that they retain their love of cycling as adults and develop sustainable and climate-friendly lifestyles. And woom uses durable, high-quality materials that ensure their bikes last as long as possible, with packaging that follows the “as little as possible, as much as necessary” principle.
As Vahle explains, part of woom’s sustainability strategy is to bring production and assembly closer to the end users. Since the beginning of 2021, the woom Originals (i.e. the classic woom bikes) sold in Europe have been manufactured in a new plant in Poland, with 115,000 bikes coming from there this year – almost half the total number of bikes the company produces.
A sustainable future shaped by customer needs and megatrends
For the first few years after launching in 2013, woom bikes were sold mainly through word of mouth from parents to parents. The high demand and the consistently high resale prices for used bikes are one sign that they’re high-quality products which hit the spot with customers. Some parents have started referring to it ironically as “woom gold”, meaning that even though woom bikes are more expensive in the first place, the investment will pay off – at the latest when it’s time to sell them on. As part of the woom upCYCLING programme, customers can also send bikes that their children have outgrown straight back to woom and get 40% of the original purchase price back when buying a new bike. After a full service, the used bikes are put up for resale at a reduced price, which is a practical way to extend the life cycle of these children’s bikes.
Reliable, cooperative partnerships for greater peace of mind
From the beginning, partnerships with specialist bike shops have been very important – after all, like woom itself, they’re what customers see. Since woom started sales, their bikes have been available from specialist shops and from the company’s own online store, though not everywhere: in the USA, woom bikes are only available online. On this side of the Atlantic, looking, touching and potentially going for a test ride are enormously important for many parents when choosing new bikes for their kids. So specialist shops are their first port of call.
It’s not uncommon for bike shops like these to become the hub of a family bike scene. That’s what happened at United in Cycling, a bike shop with a workshop and café in Seestadt, Vienna’s largest urban development area in the Aspern district, which sees itself as a kind of laboratory for modern mobility and living concepts. Cycling plays an essential role there, and shop owner Julian Walkowiak serves as an unofficial cycling ambassador. “We get kids on bikes, and not just because we sell bikes. We run children’s cycling courses, and we also offer families a subscription service for children’s bikes!”
Cycling as the antithesis to mobile phones and games consoles
Looking at the big picture, the cycling industry has reasons to be optimistic. Parents will always have a basic need to give their children safe bikes that make cycling as fun as possible, and increased awareness of the climate crisis has focused people’s minds on the importance of more sustainable mobility. The need for a better quality of life in cities, the boom in cycle tourism and the desire to live healthier and more sustainable lives are also making cycling increasingly popular – so in many respects woom bikes have come along at just the right time.
Market research also confirms that parents want safe and high-quality children’s bikes, and want to experience those magical family moments while cycling with their children. And that’s exactly what woom bikes are built for.
“We want to get kids into cycling and get them outdoors,” says woom co-founder Christian Bezdeka: “Kids should be outdoors doing things together, because cycling is the antithesis of mobile phones and games consoles.”