Blog 4wielers

KPN makes 4Wieler’s special bicycles connected

For many senior citizens, riding a normal bicycle is no longer safe. Thankfully, they can regain their mobility with a four-wheeler. “It’s fantastic to see how happy people are when they can finally cycle again,” says Robert van Hees, managing director of bicycle manufacturer 4Wieler. Van Hees, an entrepreneur at heart, sees plenty of opportunities in this target group that seems to have been neglected by the traditional bicycle industry and, with the help of KPN, is taking the bicycle market for seniors by storm with an innovative, ‘connected’ product.

4Wieler mainly focuses on the sale and rental of four-wheelers to private individuals. These are usually senior citizens or people with a disability. While a normal bicycle is often not an option for this vulnerable group, a four-wheeler provides a safe alternative. Even so, these vehicles are not yet as well known as tricycles.

Van Hees is keen to provide seniors with a safer alternative to the current bicycle range. Moreover, this target group is growing due to the ageing population. So there are plenty of opportunities, and he, together with designer Herbert Vissers, the technical brain behind the bicycles, is seizing them with both hands.

Advantages of a four-wheeler
Van Hees enthusiastically explains why a four-wheeler is better suited to seniors. “With four wheels, the bike is much more stable and therefore safer. You won’t easily fall and it’s a much simpler bike to learn to ride. Cycling on a tricycle is very different from a normal bicycle. It’s a skill you have to learn. A four-wheeler is easier to master. In fact, most people can use it immediately.”

“One customer did have to get used to cycling on a four-wheeler. But after a few test runs her rides were flawless. She was so happy,” Van Hees continues. “Often, our customers have been looking for a solution for quite some time. They’ve cycled all their lives, but have had to give it up due to issues like poor health, age or an operation. It’s great if you can still cycle when older, and our four-wheelers make it possible. It is very satisfying to be helping these people.”

Pilot in the Colombian care sector
4Wieler’s ambitions extend beyond the consumer market. Van Hees also sees opportunities in healthcare. “I think a four-wheeler can be of great value to patients and care professionals. We are currently testing this idea in practice in Colombia.” The idea began with a trade mission to the South American country. “I was invited through the Dutch Cycling Embassy, of which I’ve been a member for years. Ultimately, this led to a wonderful project at Colombian care institutions.”

As far as Van Hees is concerned, this won’t be the only project. “Colombia is a great springboard for the rest of South America and North America. Meanwhile, Western Europe has priority, and Scandinavia, for example, is an unexplored area. We already have a partner in England, Belgium and of course Colombia. That’s why it is now important to find partners in other countries so we can grow further. Discussions are already underway in several places in Europe.”

Better quality of life
The four-wheeler must also lead to better quality of life for seniors. “We are making 20 four-wheelers available in Colombia to four care institutions where seniors with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other health problems are being cared for,” says Van Hees enthusiastically. “We work together with a local partner for the storage and maintenance of the bicycles. The main objective of the project is to see whether our bicycle is technically and commercially compliant for use in rehabilitation centres and nursing homes. Thanks to the four-wheeler, the residents regain their mobility and thus their freedom. Moreover, exercise is healthy and improves their well-being.”

Four-wheelers for transport
Under the name Bykkar, the company also supplies cargo and courier bicycles to businesses. “Our four-wheelers are a sustainable and healthy means of transport,” says Van Hees. “If necessary, they can be equipped with one or more electric motors. They can be used to easily transport large numbers of packages.”

Insight into use
The bicycles are equipped with a track-and-trace functionality via an add-on. This provides insight into how they are used: 4Wieler knows exactly how and when the bicycle is being used. “Thanks to this technology, we can position the bicycles as the Rolls Royce of multi-wheel and cargo bicycles. In addition, the bicycle immediately sends a signal in the event of an incident, such as a fall or theft. This enables immediate intervention. In addition, the remote localisation options and insights mean that our company avoids a lot of administrative hassle. A next step is preventive maintenance, so we will receive a signal when the tyres need replacing. This is aimed at setting a new standard for the entire 4Wieler portfolio, so our customers can enjoy carefree cycling.”

“From connectivity to better suspension: we are working on all kinds of product innovations. But getting other parties in this industry on board is at least equally important.”

Van Hees

Van Hees has great confidence in the future of 4Wieler. “From connectivity to better suspension: we are working on all kinds of product innovations. But getting other parties in this industry on board is at least equally important. Examples are bicycle mechanics, government agencies and the Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclists’ Union). We also want them to become familiar with the advantages of a four-wheeler in terms of safety and accessibility.”

Every entrepreneur wants to be commercially successful. The same applies to Van Hees, but his main motivation remains helping people. “This is how I initially came into contact with my partner Lennart. I wanted to buy a four-wheeler for my father, who was suffering from dementia. It took a while to convince my father, but in the end my parents got so much pleasure from the bike. I get that same good feeling from every satisfied customer.”

KPN as an innovation partner
KPN ensures these four-wheelers are connected using IoT connectivity. The managing director had no doubts when he learned the details of KPN’s technology. “KPN is of course a well-known and reliable party that we are happy to associate with. In addition, they proved to have the best mobile global data network and extensive experience with connected vehicles. Both are important aspects, given our global growth ambitions. Moreover, KPN is a real innovation partner. We truly innovate together. The quality that KPN contributes boosts the high quality of 4Wieler’s bicycles even further.”

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