Story: Bicycles

Page 2. Bicycle manufacturing

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New Zealand velocipedes

New Zealand manufacturers were quick to produce their own models of the velocipede, using local materials such as horoeka (native lancewood) for wheels. During the 1870s many ironmongers, coach builders and makers of agricultural machinery also made bicycles. Thomas Boyd & Son, the first business devoted solely to bicycles, was set up by an engineer in Christchurch in 1878. It was followed shortly afterwards by Richard Kent, also in Christchurch.

Bike factories

The safety bicycle led to a boom in cycle manufacturing. In the early 1890s locally produced bikes overtook imports. By 1900 New Zealand had 71 cycle factories, 25 of them in Christchurch. Zealandia Cycle Works, which started manufacturing in 1880, made almost all bike components in its Christchurch factory, which employed 40 people. Other companies imported components and assembled bikes, to avoid tariffs on importing whole bikes.

Cycling booms and declines

Cycling took off in the early 20th century. By the late 1930s, New Zealand had one bicycle for every six people. Between 1900 and 1950, nearly 800,000 bicycles were imported and many thousands more were manufactured locally. Learning to ride a bike was part of growing up in New Zealand. As car ownership increased in the 1950s, cycling began to decline in popularity.

Manufacturing ceases

By the 1950s bicycle parts were no longer made in New Zealand, and imported bikes and parts tended to be sold and repaired through other shops such as lawnmower businesses.

Morrison and Healing

In 1963 Morrison Industries began producing bikes almost completely from New Zealand-made parts. The new Glenbrook steel mill provided the raw material, and the government helped the local bike manufacturer by reducing bicycle import quotas by 90%. In the 1970s, 90% of all bikes sold in New Zealand were locally made.

Healing Industries started manufacturing bicycles in 1967 and had early successes with the Loline, which, with its 20-inch (50-centimetre) wheel, competed with the imported Raleigh 20. Healing’s Dragster was the local equivalent of the Raleigh Chopper, with a central gear shift and motorcycle-style seat. In the late 1970s Healing Industries produced up to 700 10-speeds a day for the local and export markets.

End of local manufacturing

Morrison and Healing produced some of the first BMX and mountain bikes in the 1980s. However, after the lifting of import restrictions in the late 1980s, allowed in cheaper bikes from Asia, both companies were bought by Masport Group which ceased manufacturing bicycles. Sheppard Industries continued to assemble Avanti bikes from imported parts.

How to cite this page:

Jamie Mackay, 'Bicycles - Bicycle manufacturing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 April 2024)

Story by Jamie Mackay, published 11 Mar 2010, reviewed & revised 27 Sep 2016