Embrace the City and Two Wheels

In amidst the cycling sub species is the simple cyclist – no lycra or courier bag in sight. Tokyobike was founded in 2002 to cater for this common sense breed. 

In 2009 one of the more bizarre stunts of the modern Conservative party took place when David Cameron left his bike locked up to a bollard. Due to the bollard being roughly two and half foot high the bicycle was promptly stolen, the thief not even needing to cut the lock but rather just lift it off the bollard and be off. The whole episode scarily reminiscent of “The Thick of It” to say the least.

The story generated something getting towards a scandal with Cameron trying to impress upon the nation that policies must be implemented to stop bike theft and most of the nation thinking that bike theft is probably quite easily tackled by not being soft in the head enough to leave your bike tied to a bollard.

Whilst not exactly a piece of political history the whole episode did take place at a time where London was just starting to embrace the idea of mass cycling, a couple years before Barclay’s bikes were introduced and when riding a bike to and from work still had the reputation of being for the seriously fit or the slightly eccentric.

Since then London has certainly learned to embrace the bike; although hard statistics are surprisingly difficult to come by cycling in London has increased by 5 – 10 per cent year on year consistently since 2006 and around half a million commutes are made every day on bikes. This embrace of cycling has changed the London landscape; apart from some improved cycle lanes and a mild thaw in relations between bikes and literally anyone else that has ever used a road, strange sub cultures of cyclists have also formed.

Normally quite easy to spot, the over competitive, spandex clad businessmen or MAMIS (middle aged man in spandex) will invariably be decked out in gear appropriate for some of the more strenuous mountain stages of the Tour de France than for a five mile commute from Angel to St. James’s. On the other end of the spectrum there are infuriatingly laissez fair, recklessly quick East London fixie riders, decked out with all the kit they would need for a full day of courier work to deliver their three pages of graphic design work from one Hackney Wick to Hoxton. In amongst this are actual couriers: a bad idea to race, they cycle more than you do, don’t mess about. There are the strange ones like very slow cyclists who refuse to stop at traffic lights or people who wear noise cancelling headphones whilst commuting at rush hour through the West End, surely (literally?) a dying breed but there none the less.


Somewhere in the middle, and evidently less conspicuous, are people that just ride bikes, according to a recent survey men who commute via bicycle weigh five kilos less than their public transport riding brethren. Combine that with the fact that a zone 1-2 travel card now £126.80 per month and cycling looks a very attractive way to get to work.

Apart from the initial decision to ride a bike the process of actually procuring a bike can be quite an anxious experience, no one really wants to ride that old mountain bike that’s been in the shed for three years every day. On the other hand forking out several grand on a Pinarello also seems excessive and unnecessary. The area in between, normally dominated by shops like Halfords and Evans, seems corporate and boring. Not dissimilarly to a car, a bike invariably makes a statement about its rider, in addition if you’ve just started riding a bike you don’t necessarily want to fork out thousands on something you can’t be bothered to ride through the winter or wait over a year to balance against the savings on that travelcard.

This is more or less where Tokybike came in and set out to fix the issue. Founded in 2002 in Tokyo (unsurprisingly) the company decided that like a mountain bike is so called because it is designed for riding up and down mountains they should call their bike the Tokyobike. The bikes are designed whole heartedly for riding in Tokyo – or any city for that matter – and built with the urban commuter firmly in mind.

The bikes come in at a very reasonable price point, from £550 up to £720 for a luxury version, reassuringly expensive but also not so much that you’ll be incredibly angry with yourself if you end up only riding once a week.

The bikes have a simple and have a retro stylishness about them, taking cues from mid-century classic bike design. Nothing excessively racy here, although the sport model definitely has a nicely stripped down feel to it, and nothing to make it look or feel like you’ve borrowed your nan’s bike. The company as a whole has a wholesome feel to it, its Shoreditch shop has a workshop underneath where you can have your bike upgraded and serviced as well as having classes on bike repair – convenient if you’d rather not spend a fiver every time you cycle over a piece of glass.

Alongside that you can hire the bikes starting at £15 per day which includes lock, lights and a helmet as well as being able to pop in for a test ride. Tokyobike is just an example of a very well thought out company. Without wanting to do down middle aged men in Lycra or any other random sub strata of cyclist, sometimes it’s really just nicer to chill out a bit and ride a light, comfortable and nice looking bike: A Tokyobike.

Enquiries:  2 stores in Shoreditch & Fitzrovia, 6 UK stockists outside London 

Article by Nicolas Payne-Baader


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