Whether it’s a prim Dutch shopper, a trendy fixed gear or an off-road BMX our fascination for the simple bicycle has taken on a new level of obsession. From the amazing lycra-clad commuters who weave amongst traffic in slick racing bikes to the picnic basket carrying weekend riders, we’ve fallen head over wheels for the classic contraption. But the bicycle we’ve been fawning over all summer (and will surely be lusting after well into autumn) is a Tokyobike. Celebrating its 10 year anniversary the brand has wowed the cycling community with its high-tech frames, slim wheels and beautifully simple aesthetic. The number one cycle brand in Japan was founded in the old Tokyo suburb of Yanaka and made it’s UK debut just two years ago. Firstly in the form of a cute pop-up shop in 2010 and secondly as a stand alone store in Shoreditch that is not just a clean and lovely place to shop but also offers bike maintenance classes and has a workshop on site.
We spoke to Tokyobike founder Ichiro Kanai and co-owner of their east London store Neil Davis about their cycling pet hates and favourite London cycling routes.
How did Tokyobike start?
Ichiro: It was 10 years ago this month. The idea came from the name. In the same way the mountain bike was designed for the mountains so Tokyobike was designed for Tokyo.
What was the inspiration behind the brand?
Ichiro: We imagined people riding around the city enjoying themselves and tried to design the perfect city bike – something that would match with people’s lifestyle.
Do you have a typical type of cyclist who buys Tokyobike?
Neil: No. We have everybody from Boris bike graduates to collectors who like our 650 wheels. We’ve had girls buy bikes for their mothers and fathers buy bikes for their sons.
How has it been opening a store in Shoreditch?
Neil: Great. We are close to our customers and surrounded by creativity, good food and drink. Everything that makes living in the city fun.
How would you like to see Tokyo Bikes evolve?
Ichiro: We want people in cultural cities all over the word to enjoy Tokyobikes.
What’s your pet hate as a cyclist?
Neil: Aggression. Whether drivers, pedestrians or other cyclists. If everyone was just a bit nicer to each other… lets call a truce.
And what’s the best thing about cycling?
Neil: It’s hard not to be evangelical about cycling. I only started a few years ago and can’t understand how I managed before. It’s the best way to get the most out of your city.
What’s are your favourite London cycling route?
Neil: The five minute cycle from my flat in the Brunswick Centre to Lantana (favourite cafe) on a Sunday morning is up there. Riding through the grand squares of Islington, getting on the the Regents Canal and stopping at Towpath Cafe for breakfast is pretty good. But if I have to pick one it would be the Tweed Run – London at its very best.
What do you think will become the new trend for cyclist?
Neil: Comfort. As we mature into a cycling city like Amsterdam or Copenhagen so people will get off their fixies and their vintage racers and onto something more comfortable.
What new technology do you think we’ll all be using on our bikes soon?
Neil: In a way cycling is immune to technology. Bike design hasn’t changed in 100 years. Although if you’ve been to Shanghai recently you would have to say a battery – everybody rides electric bikes.