August 20 2010
Lucia van der Post
It’s not just Dutch monarchs who famously cycle around town – these days Brits, and Londoners in particular, are taking to the bicycle. From David Cameron and Boris Johnson to those who merely want to avoid the crush on the Tube, cycling is the mode of transport du jour.
So which cycle do you choose? During Clerkenwell’s Design Week journalists were offered tours of the studios using one of the best-selling bikes in Tokyo, the Tokyo Bike (first picture). This is not a bicycle for bike geeks. It’s one for the ordinary cyclist who wants something simple, without gimmicks and pointless gizmos, that looks great (it comes in around 30 colours) and is extraordinarily light – it weighs between 9kg and 11kg, and that makes a difference if you have to carry your bike anywhere.
Tokyo Bike was founded by a cycling enthusiast, Ichiro Kanai, who wanted something neat and manoeuvrable for getting around Tokyo’s lanes and suburbs. It has a smaller, thinner wheel, 650 diameter, which apparently makes for a quicker start and a smoother ride. The frame is made of Cr-Mo steel, which is strong and flexible, while the straight handlebars are good for easy control. It looks cool in a wonderfully understated way. Here, it seems to say, is a bike for those who don’t like things that are flashy but who know good design when they see it. The bikes start at £400 but there are some limited-edition numbers for £1,000.
For those who want something more glamorous, then the name to look out for is Ciocc, which is to the world of bikes what the Ferrari is to that of cars – in other words, it causes the rest of the world stop and stare. Its heritage is in racing, so these are strong, light and beautifully made. The two O’Brien brothers who import them make the comparison with Lobb shoes or a hand-made suit from Savile Row and have set up a new showroom in Amersham, Grupetto Italia, so that bike enthusiasts can come in for exactly the same sort of bespoke advice that you’d get from your tailor or cobbler. The frames are hand-built to order in Italy, with lots of choice; they could be made from the latest form of carbon or from aluminium, or retro steel, which is used on the Mokba and San Cristobal models which have more than a nod to the past.
If you’re a serious bike rider with a love of truly fine design and want something made for you, then Ciocc could be worth investigating. Prices start at £1,200 and go on up to £7,900. City types wanting to create a real impression go for the Syluro Crono, the cycling equivalent of a Ferrari Enzo (third picture, from £6,500), which makes it look as if you’re a serious racer. Lower down the price range there’s a beautiful Mokba (second picture) with a crema/white frame and a tan leather saddle, which starts at £1,100.