This Tokyo-based bicycle brand is bringing the carbon-free urban lifestyle to Japan’s capital … and soon a city near you.
tokyobike is a small, independent bicycle company that began life in 2002 in the quiet Tokyo suburb of Yanaka, founded by product designer Ichiro Kanai. From the start Kanai had a very specific idea: “In the same way the mountain bike was designed for the mountains so tokyobike was designed for Tokyo.”
He didn’t miss the mark. The bike is lithe and stylish, with an East-London vibe and an instagram-ready silhouette. Yet at heart it is about comfort and “Tokyo Slow”, freeing riders to enjoy the sites of the city they love and call home. tokyobike now have a number of models — children’s, women’s, single-speed and sports bikes — but the core of the design stays consistent and defined across the range: city bikes and nothing more.
Though the initial plan was to create a bike specifically for Tokyo, the product proved highly popular world-wide and tokyobike became a bike for city-living in general. They have taken that popularity and run with it, opening stores in London, Berlin, LA, Sydney, Milan, Bangkok, Singapore and more.
While the product is beautiful in itself, with all the sensory endearment of the best Japanese design, tokyobike has more than a bit of the lifestyle brand about it; often more experience than product focused. Take their blog; it is not about the bike but the lifestyle around it – possible day-trips, brunch sites, the perfect cagoule to wear. And their Instagram is never about the bike alone, but always its relationship with the city. The two are organically linked; the bike a product of the city and the city opened up by the bike. Essentially, their brand strategy is to sell an idealised vision of Tokyo to the rest of the world. (European entrepreneurs take note: we think this could be successful for other bike-friendly cities too – what about “Amsterdam Bike” OR “Zurich Velo”?)
Tokyobike, though, don’t take their mother-city for granted. They give back. First is their rental service (also available in some other cities), which opens up the city to tourists and weekend users, too. But tokyobike is also helping a lot to change the perception of Tokyo – a city synonymous with pollution – into a more bicycle and eco-friendly city. Other cities could learn a lot from this. Supporting entrepreneurs with similar visions will make cities better, healthier places to live.
Photo credit: © tokyobike official