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Van Raam special-needs cycles exploring untapped potential of North America

Published July 23, 2019

WARWICK, R.I. (BRAIN) — Making cycling more inclusive to those with special needs is at the hub of what Van Raam bicycles represents. And with Spinov8 as the North American distributor, Van Raam's sales focus is becoming decidedly mobile.

Spinov8 became the Dutch company's distributor in 2016 and established four dealers in North America. During that process, Spinov8 realized the importance of dealers being mobile to showcase the product in a "tow and show" format, said Alison Zack Darrell, Van Raam business development director.

"So, the mobile sales partner idea was born and became our primary focus just this year," Darrell said. "We see an outstanding opportunity for motivated, self-driven, community-minded individuals to build a business with flexibility and low overhead."

While targeting rehabilitation hospitals, veterans associations and senior-care communities, Spinov8 recruited a network of sales partners in the U.S. and Canada, Darrell said.

"We are identifying and recruiting a small network of sales partners in key areas ... where there is a cultural awareness of inclusion, healthy lifestyles and an active elderly population," Darrell said.

Van Raam, with its North American distribution center in Warwick, Rhode Island, has three dealers established in the U.S.: All Ability Cycles in Jefferson, Iowa; Bike-On in Warwick; and Lancaster Recumbent in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It also has one in Canada, Hamilton Trikes & Recumbents in Hamilton, Ontario.

Darrell said potential dealers have emerged in Georgia, Florida and greater Montreal.

"Our approach in recruitment is to offer a new-profit stream in adaptive cycling, a relatively untapped market that local bike shops and durable medical equipment companies might embrace to diversify their product portfolio with something new and different that will contribute to the well-being of their communities," Darrell said. "There's an opportunity to reintroduce cycling to the elderly, and to individuals and families with a person who is challenged beyond an ability to ride a traditional bike."

Van Raam products are manufactured in Varsseveld, Netherlands. The company elected to focus on special-needs cycles exclusively about 30 years ago. It recently opened a 25,000-square-foot factory and showroom and received a $224,000 award from the government for its sustainability qualities.

Models include tricycles, scooters, wheelchair bikes, tandems, double-riders and comfort bikes. Each model also is available with a pedal-assist option.

Spinov8 ships fully assembled bikes direct to dealers/sales partners and/or to their customers, said Darrell, who added the sales goal is $3 million annually in the near term. MSRP pricing is from $2,000-$6,000 for nonelectric and mid-$4,000-$10,000 for pedal-assist. Margins are between 25%-30%.

North American marketing platforms for Van Raam are the website and social media. Also, Van Raam attends adaptive cycling events, expos and clinics. "Word-of-mouth is particularly strong for this product," Darrell said. "It's very unique. Once one person, program, organization, community has one, others see it and develop interest."

Darrell said Van Raam will debut a new model in August, the Chat rickshaw bike. It's designed for the Cycling Without Age movement that offers seniors recreational mobility with volunteer-piloted rides. There are more than 1,600 chapters around the world.

"We hope they (Chat bikes) will also be ideal for assisted-living communities and nursing homes, especially those with intergenerational programs," Darrell said. "There are several Van Raam models that have been game-changers for organizations, institutions, health care facilities and programs serving people with disabilities, in particular age-related disabilities such as Alzheimer's, dementia, balance instability and stroke."

The Sequim Wheelers program uses the Van Raam OPair wheelchair bike.

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