Being a 100-year-old company, AXA has had a front-seat view to the evolving cycling industry. Now, with a global bike boom underway, the Netherlands-based bike lock manufacturer is riding the wave with accelerated production and innovative new features. We spoke with Joost Legtenberg, the company’s OEM and bike-sharing head, to find out how AXA is progressing alongside a growing industry.
Tell us more about AXA and your global presence.
We are a hardware manufacturer with more than a century of experience producing mechanical ring locks. In 2015, AXA Stenman was bought by Allegion (a commercial security conglomerate comprised of 35 companies). Under the Allegion umbrella, our focus remains on locks for bikes as well as electronic locks for the sharing market. We currently produce 60,000 mechanical locks per week and several thousand electronic locks per week. The lock uses the KeySafe-Cloud service and secure eKey sharing technology, which complies with all privacy regulations in Europe. Currently, 80 to 90% of bikes in Western Europe are equipped with our ring locks. Since the rise of e-bikes, we are providing locks for electronic systems, so it’s a big market for us right now.
What is AXA’s position in the micromobility supply chain?
Hardware is only as good as the app and software behind it. Our core AXA IN business structure is to make hardware and then let others build services on top of it. We don’t have any front-end solution for customers going into bike share, that’s where a software company like Joyride comes in. This model works best for us since the bike-share market is constantly changing with smartphone advancements. We let the experts take care of the IoT platform mechanics and GPS connectivity and we focus on doing what we do best.
How do AXA’s bike locks work?
One of our core products is the AXA IN Bluetooth lock. It’s an easy standalone device that runs for three years without having to change its battery. This lock, which can connect to any IoT platform and is activated through a fleet-management system, is most commonly used for bike-share businesses. There are all kinds of solutions on the market with solar panels or bigger lock sizes, but we have a big advantage of being able to offer three years without charging. One of the main features is an additional plug-in cable/chain and tether function that allows it to be fixed to an object that can also be monitored. This is really advantageous when it comes to tracking bike rentals.
What makes your partnership with Joyride unique?
Many companies say they are able to connect to our hardware, but oftentimes the whole system isn’t what was promised. It’s usually due to the way the app is developed or the way it’s integrated with our products. We’ve seen how Joyride’s software suite keeps growing and at a quality level that makes it easy for us to recommend. I’m responsible for our electronic locks, mainly within Europe and North America. While I’m seeing large bike-share companies developing their own software, smaller and mid-sized businesses only want to use third-party management software mixed with our hardware.
What’s next for the bike-share industry in terms of hardware?
Until recently, most of our locks have been for traditional pedal bikes. But now we’re witnessing many more e-bikes coming into the picture. These require charging considerations (just like electric scooters) and different fleet-management perspectives. The future is pointing to e-bikes that are connected through Bluetooth locks that communicate directly to their app.
Current reports and statistics point to a global bike boom, how has this impacted AXA and what do you anticipate for the industry down the road?
It’s a strange time. At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we saw a major decline in bike lock usage and many bicycles went into storage in cities like Milan and Copenhagen. Then we saw a huge curve that indicated biking was coming back. People want to avoid public transport and are jumping on these vehicles at a whole new level. The popularity of bike sharing is increasing. We see this from current customers growing their fleet sizes and new ones coming in the door. Biking and bike sharing in cities will become a huge growth channel, and our production facility is prepared to meet this demand right now.