Smooth Operator - A FIRST for Western Australia!
12 October, 2017 By: Courtney Pearson
A Bunbury man has created the first WA-designed electric bicycle and now he’s taking it to the world.
Conrad Lovett is the first to admit he’s a sucker for big boys’ toys.
One day while browsing online he came across what he described as a “feat of boganeering”. It was a motorised drift trike – a low-riding tricycle designed to slide around corners and it was for sale. Lovett had to have it.
It was a fine piece of machinery but Lovett, a mechanical fitter who at the time worked FIFO in oil and gas, thought he could do better, so he began building and then selling his own.
The venture became so successful that Lovett and his wife, Krystle, shifted the manufacturing of the trikes to a Shanghai factory and launched their business, Lovett Industries.
Looking to try his hand at a new product and recognising the growing interest in electric bikes (ebikes) Lovett came up with the idea for a retro-styled ebike and in 2015 the Greaser was born, its styling a mix between a board tracker, classic café racer and a motorbike.
Lovett, who also has a young family and was still working FIFO until the business became fulltime, says that while it’s been an exciting ride, the project has required commitment.
Driven by a desire for quality, the small Lovett Industries team spends hours making sure every Greaser is built to a high spec with Lovett’s business partner on site to monitor the production.
After doing the initial designs in Bunbury, it took five prototypes in Shanghai to get the frame right.
“We put a lot of effort into our builds,” says Lovett.
“We only do small batches at a time to monitor the quality control and keep everything in check.
“It was a challenging process, especially because it was the first bike that we’d ever done."
With a top speed of 25km/h, a 50km range, five-speed motor assist and taking four hours to charge, the bike is also the very first ebike designed in WA to hit the fast growing ebike market, tipped to grow to $24.4 billion in sales globally by 2025.
Designing an ebike in WA
The Greaser's design is what sets the bike apart from others, says Lovett.
“From a rider perspective, design-wise when you’re on it, it throws you back in time,” he says.
“It seems to confuse a few people because when they ride it they can’t tell whether it’s a motorbike or a pushbike.”
It was the interesting mix of design elements that sent Lovett down an unusual path to give the physical bike its brand and identity.
The team created a character named Michael Blast – a fictitious designer of bikes and “cool things”.
“It was one of those things that at the time sounded a bit silly but we ran with it and it grew on us,” Lovett says.
And so the bike become known as the Michael Blast Greaser.
Lovett Industries debuted the Greaser at the Technology and Gadget Expo in Melbourne in late August. The ebike saw such a massive response that they ended up on local Channel 9 News and it now has distributors in Perth, France, Germany, the US and Canada.
“Over in Europe there are so many electric bikes it’s like electric bike central,” he says.
“We want to try and help bring electric bikes to life here in Australia and to launch a bike that’s cool, and the Greaser gives it a good kick along the way.”
Garry Crofts, manager of Perth ebike retailer Bikemore, says the unique look of Lovett’s Greaser always draws the attention of browsers in the store.
“Every single person that comes in has a look at the Greaser.
“They’re all drawn to it – they reckon it’s so cool, so vintage, and they’re very surprised it was designed in Bunbury.”
Lovett is now working on extending the Michael Blast ebike range and its old-school vintage style.
“If someone said to me three years ago before my wife and I started that this is what we would be doing now, we probably would’ve laughed at them,” says Lovett.
“My wife Krystle is the backbone of our company and without her support we wouldn’t have got this far.
"We are always thinking about the next project, always thinking about the next thing to do. It’s non-stop, but it is extremely rewarding.”
Credits for this article: RAC Western Australia