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  • Velorution celebrates London Design Festival

    To celebrate the London Design Festival, Velorution hosted an evening of talks by some of our electric bicycle brand designers, aiming to promote the image of clean air, a greener London and the electric future. Velorution Electric is our first and the only electric bike store in central London, on Great Portland street.

    Guests viewed our amazing selection of electric bikes from Gazelle and Orbea to GoCycle and the new Brompton Electric, as well as Kalkhoff, Ahooga, Budnitz, Trek, Biomega and ARCC Innovations.

    The event started in the Electric bike store and then guests headed to our other more spacious store a few doors down for the talks.


    + John Styles from Orbea featuring a range of electric bicycles

    + Tim Jones, graduate design engineer at ARCC Innovations

    + Laura Parry from Zero Emissions Network & Hackney Council


    Velorution Electric Bike Store



    Tim Jones, Graduate Design Engineer at ARCC Innovations



    Laura Parry from Zero Emissions Network & Hackney Council



    John Styles from Orbea



    John Styles from Orbea

  • Bern Unlimited

    ‘Our goal is to make it cool to wear a helmet’

    You don’t have to sacrifice style when you wear one, says Dennis Leedom, of helmet maker Bern Unlimited

    Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 12.20.21

    Where did it all begin?

    I began working in the early nineties with a brand called Boeri from Italy. A friend I worked with wore a Boeri helmet as a kid in the 60’s. Together we had an idea to create recreational helmets.

    What’s unique about the Bern concept?

    The whole idea of Bern was to create some differences that the market had never seen, like making head protection specific to women; no one has ever really done that, from a style standpoint, from a fit standpoint and from a profile standpoint.

    What is Zip Mold technology?

    It’s a liquid injected foam that provides a thinner, lower-profile helmet, that simply looks better when worn, and is engineered from a style standpoint.

    Has your mission changed?

    In the beginning it was one lid for all action sports. Now we are becoming more specific to each sport, like the Allston, our new helmet that’s doing great. It has a lot more vents in it for the biker, this helmet is our first specific all season bike helmet.

    What do you think about the cycling revolution in London?
    It’s huge. I think London is arguably the biggest bike city in the world. You guys have to make biking safe and inviting. I was riding in London yesterday and it was insane how many bikers there were, competing with the cars and the buses to get a piece of the road.

    Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 12.20Why wear a helmet?

    It lets you protect your brain, the only part of your body you can’t fix. I heard a lady say ‘I don’t wear a helmet, I don’t go fast, I’m always on the pavement’. But it’s not about you, it’s about the other guy out there.

    What are you working on in the UK?

    Our mission is to raise awareness about the value of head protection. Almost half the cyclists in London don’t wear head protection. Our goal is to make it cool; the safety is common sense.

    What’s new for the girls?

    The new Berkeley, Bern’s most popular women’s bike helmet, provides superior protection, and is made from a new material. The Berkley is also stylish, great fitting, and comfortable.

    What makes Bern stand out?

    I think a lot of the success with Bern comes from the fact that we are super-passionate about action sports. We are not doing it just for a job or the money, we are doing it because we are experts at protection, and to accomplish our mission, which is to make head protection cool and something that all action sports athletes want to use. We are 100 per cent focused on protection for non-motorised sports.

    What does cycling mean to you?

    I’m a skateboarder, a snowboarder, and I ski with my family, and now I’m way into biking. I cycle 12K to work, and I’ve just bought a new bike in New York; it’s an urban commuter bike and I love it! Since I have being riding my bike to work, I have this psychology where I don’t want to get in
    my car and drive anymore. If I have lots of samples and paperwork I think, ‘Oh man, do I have to drive my car to work today?’ Once you start biking to work, you never want to go back, and that’s what’s happening in cities across the world. It’s a cultural phenomenon. Cities are smart to support this revolution – and it’s so exciting to be part of it.

  • Twist & Fold

    Velorution meets the man behind the Strida, the smart folding bike for the discernible commuter, and discovers Mark Sanders is a visionary engineer who ignored career advice to design toasters...

    Interview Jack Cuthbert & Joanna Dudderidge, Portrait Joanna Dudderidge

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 17.51.59

    A folding bicycle is a fantastic solution for a commuter who takes the train to work, and the Strida was specifically designed with this is mind. Unlike the traditional chains on most bikes, it’s fitted with a greaseless Kevlar belt drive, so you don’t have to worry about getting bike grease on your clothes, and isn’t messy when you fold it. The ‘A’shape frame is light weight, but can carry up to 110 kilos, and with it’s long ‘buggy-like’ collapsible design, the Strida fits into narrow overhead storage compartments, and can be wheeled along even when folded. Originally designed in 1984, the Strida has evolved over the years and is now available in three models, the LT, SX and Evo, and is available in a huge range of colours. However the revolutionary concepts behind it’s design are what makes Strida the great folding bike it remains today. Mark Sanders, engineer, industrial designer and the man behind the Strida, popped into Velorution for a chat.

    Velorution: In 1984 you had the idea to create a folding bike. Where did the initial idea for the Strida come from?

    Mark: Well, the weird thing is I was going through my petrolhead phase. I used a bike a little bit for work, but mainly I was into restoring cars. I gave up a well-paid job as a design engineer to return to college, and had to travel from Windsor to London every day. It became a real challenge to find the fastest, most economically sensible route. I tried to drive, but that was useless with nowhere to park, plus the traffic jams.

    Trains were fine, apart from the extra mile at each end. At that time, folding bikes were in their infancy. You could get a Bickerton or a Brompton, and that was it. I wondered, could there be something simpler than them? All you’re trying to do is connect the house and the station – you do the big journey on the train, and a little journey at either end. So why not design a bike specifically simplified to do that?

    As it happened I needed to have a project that combined engineering and design, except my tutor said, “No, no, no! Bicycles were designed a hundred years ago. What can you bring to the party? Choose something simpler, like a toaster.”
    I think there was once a famous American patent worker who at the turn of the century said, “You don’t need patents anymore, because everything useful has already been designed.” Think of what has happened since then!

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 17.52.28This may surprise a lot of people but wasn’t the design based on a pushchair?

    Mark: Yes, exactly. A pushchair is going to spend, by its nature, 50% of the time folded and being pushed along, so the baby buggy was the obvious thing to relate to, as it’s long and thin, like an umbrella or walking stick, with it’s own little wheels on the end. I figured, well, you’ve got a free pair of wheels on a bicycle, so why not use them?

    Were you a cycling enthusiast when you decided to design the Strida? What does cycling mean to you?

    I always rode bicycles as a kid, but for me it was more of a getaway vehicle. When you’re 11 years old you can escape – ‘Just going for a bike ride Mum!’ The fact you can get miles away, going to new, weird places that you’re not really allowed to go, but who cares... Fantastic! Plus that feeling of freedom. I didn’t really get the thing about going particularly fast.

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 17.52.39Where did the name ‘Strida’ actually come from?

    After designing the Strida, as part of my graduate studies on the Masters of Industrial design course at the rCA in 1984, I met a marketing guy who wanted to build the company and raise capital investment.
    So he put together the business plan, along with his board of directors, who then employed a professional marketing company to come up with a name. They used one of the top Pr companies at the time. They obviously spent a fortune, and came up with so many names, their favourite was ‘The Blake’. They were just about to go for it, when the director’s nine year old boy, who was sitting at the table with ‘the big people’, overheard this conversation and asked, “daddy, why don’t you call it the ‘Strida’?” The dad asked why, “Well, you sort of sit astride it, and you kind of stride with it...” The penny dropped. The director had spent all this money, and the kid came up with a brilliant name.” I think the company gave him around £150... That’s a lot of money at that age!

    What do you think of Boris Johnson’s plans for cycling in London?

    Having spent some time in Amsterdam, anything that makes London more like Holland would be great, but I think they just have such a long culture of cycling in Holland that cycling is classless. They grow up cycling bikes to school, granny rides a bike, dad rides a bike; it’s a sociable thing. They breathe in the air, they say hello to each other. It’s so inclusive, it’s wonderful.

    Do you think the surge in the urban cycling market comes from the top down – i.e. via government-initiated schemes – or bottom up through sport, music, fashion and popular culture?

    I think it has to be bottom up and top down. I think, going back to the purist thing, a bicycle is this human amplifier; a thing that takes you three times the distance in three times the speed, with the same energy as walking. That’s my favourite little stat that I like to tell people. In the city, a bike just makes so much sense.

    Belt-drive systems seem to be all the rage at the moment. What are your opinions on them?

    It’s really great to see some lovely examples of belt driven bicycles in Velorution, because many years ago I was questioned by many respectable bike designers about using a belt drive on the Strida. “They are OK on packing machinery, but you’ll never get them on a bike!”

    So when you designed the Strida, was it a surprise for people that it had a belt drive?

    It always had a belt drive, and a lot of people just said it wouldn’t work. They looked at it without even riding it, classic armchair critics – “Triangle? It should be a diamond frame”; “Belt drive? Should be a chain.” But when I asked them, “Have you actually ridden one?” they said “No.”

    Well, it’s been tried and tested. The Strida has been around for more than 20 years now, and has been bought by thousands. Do you think it’s safe to say you proved them wrong?

    Well... When Apple made a glass phone, not many people thought that would work either!Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 17.57.01

  • Made in Britain

    Pashley is a British institution, based in Stratford-upon-avon, producing bikes using the skills of local workers and resisting the rush to outsource production to the far east. Velorution visits the factory to find out how the company has stayed true to its roots

    Words & Photography JOANNA DUDDERIDGE

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.12.48

    On arrival at the Pashley factory, a modest building, sunbathing in the middle of a quiet residential Stratford-upon-Avon street, we take a quick tour of the offices before heading through an unassuming door, like an engineer’s Narnia, into a suddenly very noisy, industrious workshop with high ceilings, separated into workstations by various obscure pieces of heavy machinery. Leading the way is Lee Pillinger, sales director at Pashley, who cheerily calls out above the continuous hiss, buzz and clunk of activity, “Let’s take a look around!”

    Aside from the ‘health and safety’ enforced thick red plastic curtains that separate the welding areas from the rest of the factory, you get the feeling that it’s looked like this for years. Traditional methods, used by the same local people, generation after generation.

    “So, if you imagine we’re pretty much manufacturing this side, and assembly and dispatch this side [indicating the areas of the factory], that’s how it works. What we haven’t got as much of any more is heavy machinery. Where we would have had the hot press, where we do all the bending and stretching of material, quite a lot of it is now done off site, still using a lot of our machines, and still done locally, or as locally as possible, within Warwickshire.”

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.13.01

    Do you think it’s more economical to do it here?

    “We should move, really, but this is where we are. We need to increase production levels but still keep control of manufacture. It’s a very tricky balance of what we do in-house. We produce around 10,000 units a year. At the moment we’re not making any more bikes for Royal Mail, although the absence of that gives us more scope to make more of our traditional bikes.

    “Pret a Manger is a good example of one of the delivery services; they replaced some of their vans and motorbikes with the delivery bikes when they found after a survey how much more economical using a bicycle is. And not just in fuel – you don’t get parking tickets.”

    We move on to a row of cubicles, concealed behind thick red, plastic curtains, where young men with welding masks are deeply engrossed in their work, while Lee continues to guide us through the ‘birth’ of a Pashley bike. Despite the order and routine, you sense there is a lot of spirit in the room. One man I spoke to proudly told me, “I’ve been working here in the factory since I was 18 years old.” He looks about 35. “I’m 55,” he adds.

    Later, I meet ‘Pete the Painter’, (you’ve guessed his job), who is happily whistling ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ while spraying a bike frame green. I notice on the side of his booth a handmade cardboard sign with a countdown of days left until Christmas, and I make a note to self – if anyone would appreciate a Christmas card this year it would be Pete. (It’s currently May).

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.13.25

    It was after a ‘lightbulb moment’ while stuck in gridlocked traffic on his way to the Paris Air Show in 1990 that Adrian Williams, whose previous work had been in helicopter engineering, decided that he was going to explore the technology behind electric bikes. This is where his career in the cycling industry began, which later led to him becoming the main shareholder and managing director of Pashley Bicycles.

    “You’ve got to push doors open”, Adrian explains. “You’ve got to be heading in a direction and know what you want to do, and be ready to push the doors open when the opportunity presents.” So when Pashley phoned up in 1992 to talk about applying electric- assisted technology to their bikes, he decided this would be a good opportunity to learn more about the bike industry, and took up a position there, initially as a four day a week contract, leaving the other day to concentrate on his own business.

    “What I saw quite rapidly was that this business needed quite a lot of work, and I saw that the bank were not at all interested in it because everybody was off- shoring manufacture, which is something that Pashley wasn’t prepared to do. I just thought, ‘This is ridiculous. This company can work. It can survive. The phones are still ringing, so people do want to buy the product.’

    “In the time we’ve been here there have been many Pashley equivalents that have just gone by the wayside, and that many people coming out of engineering is just ridiculous. So for me it wasn’t really a money thing, it was an intellectual thing – I wanted to show that I could take this thing and make it work. Fortunately, I’ve got a reasonably supportive wife!

    “So we did a management buyout, in December 1994. It’s been hard work since then,” he laughs, “but it’s also been a pleasure, too. It’s been a journey of survival, but once you’ve dealt with that, it’s about getting the infrastructure in place for growth, too.”

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.13.33

    Do you think companies that off-shored their manufacturing envy Pashley’s ‘British Made’ branding?

    “Basically they’re all just box shifters now. This is why it’s a bit of a misery to go around somewhere like the Eurobike convention – it’s just so depressing. Where is the originality? Where is the soul of some of these products? It’s difficult to find.

    “What we have at Pashley are real people, as you’ve seen, who have real families. We buy from as many companies as we can: 95 suppliers in the UK with 85 service sector people supplying into us. The whole aspect is of community, and actually putting something back into the local community, as well as making our product, which is what manufacturing is all about really; trying to inspire people, but also serving the community.” But manufacturing in the UK is expensive.

    “It’s true, and I’m not blaming the likes of Raleigh. It became incredibly difficult for them to compete with the Far Eastern suppliers. So I’m not blaming them for doing what they’re doing because it was difficult. I think if it wasn’t about money they would have kept the Special products division in the UK and offshored other things.”

    Over the past four years Pashley’s percentage of export sales has grown from 15 per cent to about 45 per cent. Is that because the demand is for ‘Made in Britain’ products?

    “It is that; I think it’s also people wanting individuality. If we were 90 per cent export, I think I’d be a lot more keen to lift our prices. We’ve only put our prices up a little bit, and from what I can see the market can stand that.”

    In Holland 40-50 per cent of journeys under three miles are made by bicycle, compared to roughly 2 per cent here. What do you think we need to do in Britain to change that?

    “I think it’s a combination of things. The whole cultural environment has to change – and this has started to happen. Ten years ago, when people asked what I did and I told them ‘bike making’, it was a bit of an off subject, whereas now people listen. A cultural change is happening in London; you have the incredible ‘Boris Bikes’, as they’ve been dubbed, which are really changing people’s perception. And what’s interesting is to see the American take on it, where their whole infrastructure is so car-orientated. It’s picking up now. They’re lagging behind us, but it is happening.”

    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.13.42

    Do you think your typical customer is changing?

    “Yes, I do. We sell predominantly to women, and also the typical age group is coming down. Also, other people coming into cycling are slightly more mature, but do have disposable income, and while we don’t do racing bikes, there are those who are looking for something a bit distinctive, different and with style.”

    How do you think your product and design team will change to accommodate this new customer?

    “I think doing classic bikes to a certain extent is fine, but I think it’s good that we now look at the more contemporary sort of product with a classic feel to it. The thing about Pashley is that what is important for the future is design and innovation, but obviously paying respect to where we’ve come from.”

    And given your background, would you ever consider making any electric-assisted Pashleys?

    “We’ll look at doing a few electric things. We’ve got a couple of items that I’d like to see come into use, but we can wait on that. We did do a bit of work with electric assist in the last year, and I was rather shocked to see that the technology is still pretty rubbish in certain areas. After all this time people haven’t developed it. So I’m being cautious on the electric side, as far as Pashley is concerned. There are some potential applications, but remember we are a company that does consumer bicycles too. We’ve also got tricycles and work bikes in there, so we’ve got other areas that we can apply technology to. We’re a reasonably small team, so we’ve got to focus on one area, then the next, then the next.”

    Are you on the design team yourself?

    “I like to have a say. I listen to what people want, and the way that works out is Lee will say, for example, ‘We really need a red bike,’ and that red bike will turn into a range called the Britannia, offering red, white and blue. There is a rationale behind these concepts.”

    So there is a meaning behind the names of the bikes? Am I right in thinking that the Guv’nor is you? 

    “Well yes, that came about because I needed another bike to ride to work, and because we moved just three miles up the canal from here. I really liked the idea of a simple bike, and so set about creating it with the team. Then people saw it, and liked it, and it sort of took off by itself. I loved the whole creative process with it. It’s not just the creation of the product, it’s everything else that goes with it; how is it going to be presented to the market place? So the imagery that went with it.

    “The name came about because we were sitting in the office bouncing ideas around, and it was John who said, ‘What about the Guv’nor? You’re the Guv’nor!’ Each name has a reason behind it. This is the sort of ‘soul’ that goes into our product.

    “With the Poppy, that was different in that Pashley had just turned 80 and at an exhibition we displayed a tongue-in-cheek ‘birthday cake bike’, which had pink in it. I was surprised how many people liked it, as it’s not the sort of bike I’d think of selling. We were very traditional – mostly black at that stage. But three years later people still remembered the pink bike. So I found a pink and a blue that worked together. I could appreciate that this appealed to a younger audience. This also came around the time of the credit crunch in the UK, so we decided, as a kind of counterintuitive sort of thing, let’s get this into the market place at a lower price point, and actually lighten up things a bit. Let’s say, ‘Don’t worry’. It’s a statement. It just felt right.”

    Having spent the day at the factory, practically hugging our new friends goodbye, I thought to myself, ‘I really will send a Christmas card to Pete the Painter, and I really must buy myself a Pashley.’ It’s not just bikes they’re selling, but a real piece of history, tradition and heritage. A bike that will not only stand the test of time, but says, ‘This is England’.

  • Simply Safer

    Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 17.07.44

    Designer Anirudha Surahbi’s Kranium liner is a brilliant innovation. It’s strong, flexible, and offers unrivalled protection to your head if you’re unlucky enough to come off your bike.

    You hope that the helmet you wear will protect you in the a crash.
    But safety has been slow to progress – until now. After three years in development, the Abus Performance and Abus Ecolution Helmet, each with a Kranium liner, marks a revolution in helmet technology. The Kranium liner was created by industrial designer and Royal Collage of Art graduate Anirudha Surahbi. He was inspired to come up with it after a cycling accident, which resulted in a cracked helmet and a concussion. “Helmets hadn’t changed in 40 years,” he says. If your helmet receives an impact it should be replaced because it develops small fractures,” he explains.

    The inspiration for using honeycomb cardboard came from a nature documentary. He learnt that a woodpecker will peck a tree 10 times a second and its head goes through a huge amount of shock every time it makes contact. The woodpecker has honeycomb- structured cartilage that reduces the force of the impact. Surabhi saw that this structure could be an ideal basis for a ultra-safe, strong, lightweight helmet. The Kranium helmet uses laser-cut, dual-density recycled honeycomb cardboard. The board is built into a lattice structure, that is designed to be stiff in certain places and flexible in others. each segment is slotted together with a simple numbering system, and these pieces form a protective shell for your head.

    When tested against the British Standards (EN 1078) at Imperial College, the Kranium absorbed more than three times the amount of impact energy compared with regular cycling helmets. So, during a crash, the impact is reduced, making it less likely you’ll suffer head injury. When standard helmets are tested according to the EN 1078 standards, they record impact values ranging from 200 to 250g. When the Kranium helmets were tested at TUV test labs in Germany and HPE test labs in Surrey, they recorded improved impact values ranging from 75g to 170g. Ani explains “Some helmets only just meet regulations and some helmets on the market don’t get anywhere near. This is the reason why we designed the Kranium: it’s stronger and safer.”

  • The FABIKE frame set


    We caught up with Fabio Putzolu, founder and chief designer of FABIKE

    Tell us something about the design of your frame set?
    We wanted to create something different. We started with a road bike logic and stripped away any unnecessary frills from the shape and details of the frame, all the way down to branding and colour selection. We really wanted to focus on a clean, minimal look: instantly recognisable, but subtle.

    What about the technical side?
    The main technical innovation is the patented rear dropout system. The FABIKE frameset is the only one on the market that can be customised into many different cycling configurations: urban/fixed, road, gravel and anything in between. There’s a lot of flexibility and freedom for the end user.


    Why did you decide to design components as well?
    We thought there were some holes in the component market - simple things that we thought were missing or could be improved, and we wanted to offer our customers clever solutions to these previously unaddressed issues. Our reinvented flip-flop hub is an example of this.

    Who do you think your main target market is?
    Our customers appreciate clean design; cycling enthusiasts with exacting demands who are looking for a unique, super-lightweight product that is both modern and technically capable.

    You’re still a young brand. How do you see your brand developing in the coming years?
    The most important task for us at the beginning was to enter the market and start presenting our vision. With a year and a half already behind us, we’re now working on expanding our flexibility philosophy into other developmental advances and new designs. Our core principles will always remain flexibility, performance, innovation and design, and we want to push these concepts further.

    You believe that the future of cycling is flexibility. Can you expand on that?
    We feel that more cyclists are looking for flexibility and personalisation; a unique personal expression of their own style and needs. We wanted to embrace this trend and apply it in our own way to the cycling industry as a whole.


  • Three Wheels Good. Four Wheels Bad.

    Tricycle_VéloSolex_-_Mons_161112 Vélo Solex


    EU data has proven that if only 10% of car drivers cycled instead, then traffic congestion could be reduced by up to 40% for all road users in general. Another figure has mentioned that if that 10% could rise to 25% then congestion would become a thing of the past altogether. This in turn would free up roads for dedicated cycle lanes and improved safety. A vehicle that addresses the total ‘user experience’ would gain acceptance, not just from existing commuter cyclists, but the lapsed, cautious and uninitiated too. And this could benefit other road users too.

    The classic double-triangle diamond bicycle frame has been with us since James Starley invented it in 1877. Apart from some notable exceptions – such as Alex Moulton’s pioneering 1962 F-frame bicycle with suspension and tough little wheels – there has been little significant change to the basic layout, but plenty of incremental innovation in fabrication methods, materials and fittings. Even the three-speed Sturmey-Archer epicyclical gear hub has changed little over the last 80 years. Although beautiful to some eyes, bicycles today can look like a mismatched assortment of components bolted together, rather than a cohesive piece of integrated modern design.

    Most aspects of the user experience of riding a bicycle haven’t changed much either: weather, safety and theft are still major issues, they need frequent maintenance and can’t take much in the way of baggage. On the plus side, you can accurately estimate your journey time, they are relatively inexpensive to run, environmentally sustainable and they give us the exercise that modern lifestyles seem to deprive us from.

    GYROX_02 Honda Gyro

    Maybe, though, some people want the convenience of cycling, but also a safer, easy, everyday user experience rather than setting out to becoming a hardcore cycling enthusiast. Cycling in cities is particularly troublesome due to the hazards of dense traffic, its stop-start nature and seemingly rampant theft.

    Like many I started my student days on a moped; this was a classic French petrol motor-assist front-wheel drive Velox Solex, and front wheel drive bikes are lethal in the wet. You would need to pedal away from lights to start, up hills and cruise with the engine, which is rather the reverse of how a modern electric-assist bike works where you use the additional electric power to get up to speed and up hills, and cruise with human pedal power.

    Now that technology is better able to deliver us lightweight long-lasting batteries, electric-assist bicycles are becoming more interesting. Admittedly, until I tried the superb Gocycle for a while, I didn’t entirely see the point of them, as I felt the exercise of cycling to be something positive. However, my summer commute of 14 miles from North Kensington to Tower Bridge and back was much improved, especially the last half mile up the Ladbroke Grove hills. However, I resorted to my cosy Vespa with granny-skirt for those dark, cold dark winter journeys.

    Sebb Moulton Sebb Moulton

    Tricycles have been with us for almost as long as the bicycle, but the extra-effort in dragging around the third wheel, cumbersome cornering and their physical size has always relegated them to second-class cyclists who could not cope with two wheels, or used for carting goods around large factories.

    The case for a handlebar-wide narrow-gauge tricycle was first made with the 1960s Ariel 3 moped, which had a frame that tilted while cornering and some weather protection; and the more refined Honda Gyro, which used similar technology in 1980s Japan. They were both petrol driven, which increased weight, used up luggage space and needed a driving licence.

    The last person of note to try this commercially was Clive Sinclair with his very innovative, but under-engineered and much derided, C5 tricycle design of 30 years ago. Crucially, he had tried to overcome the inherent cornering issue with a low centre of gravity, which put the recumbent cyclist at exhaust height, hidden from the sight of other motorists with little view of the road ahead in traffic.

    Maybe this was an idea too soon, like the similarly doomed Apple Newton of the same era. But what if we were now to address many of the issues of the C5 with modern materials, iPad battery technology and a more sensible eye height? Shall we one day see the C5 as the precursor of something new and ground-breaking in vehicle design? It would need to be practical and look desirable, maybe something completely new and aspirational. A very well thought out, visually clean and integrated piece of design that is versatile and easy to live with in most conditions. A vehicle that addresses the total user experience would gain acceptance, not just from existing commuter cyclists, but the lapsed, the cautious and the uninitiated too.

    Valentin Volev's Vienna bike Valentin Volev's Vienna bike

    • Integrated electronic locking system
    with battery drive electronics
    • Easily removable compact battery
    that can be charged indoors
    • Traceability with in-built GPS – ‘find my bike’
    • Frame on each bike has number embossed in,
    like number plates

    • No wider than handlebars, 50cm overall,
    and can be stored in a hallway
    • Bike can charge a smartphone while riding
    • Step-through frame
    • Lightweight, so that it can be taken indoors
    and achieve good efficiency
    • Clean enclosed drive – oily chains quickly
    get very dirty in cities and soil clothes
    • Easy-to-clean, integrated cables, handlebar
    controls and lighting
    • Integrated weather protection; windshield option
    • Low maintenance with puncture-proof tyres
    and self-adjusting hidden brakes
    • Self-charging electronic circuit
    • Integrated weather-proof luggage area between rear wheels – big enough for family shopping, briefcase, helmet and clothes
    • Tilting frame for better stability
    • Lighting integrated into body and handlebars

    • Integrated lights, horn and bar-end indicators – modern LEDs use 10 percent of the power of tungsten lights
    • Highly visible with LED lights at extremities
    • Self-adjusting brakes that work well in wet
    and not prone to fade
    • Reflective bodywork

    • Part of riding a bicycle is getting exercise, however distance, hills and luggage present a challenge, especially to the old and less fit
    • Electrical power assistance from standstill up hills and with large loads
    • ‘Automatic’ adaptive gearbox
    • Lightweight easily removed battery
    • Can be ridden when uncharged


    As congested traffic fumes tends to pollute more than moving vehicles, if the EU research and analysis are correct and a significant number of four wheelers can be lured on to two or three, then the consequential effect on both road safety and air quality might turn out to be quite significant.

    By Sebastian Conran

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  • The Perfect Blend


    Interview with Micki Kozuschek, founder and owner of Lezyne.

    I'm a crazy German guy who has no college education or any engineering experience, and I was never a sales person. I have learned everything by being hands on.

    Who are you, and how did you get started in the bicycle business?
    I’m 47 years old, born in Poland, then raised and educated in Germany. When I was young my mum bought me all sorts of do-it-yourself bicycle books and I read up on every bit of bicycle history. I was always fascinated with components, so I pulled my bikes apart and put them back together. I started doing the same to my buddies’ bikes; back then there was no suspension, no hydraulics, everything was extremely mechanical. I was always very hands on and analytical.
    When I was 12 I became a road cyclist, and at 15 became a triathlete, which initially brought me to the States. At the age of 18 I travelled to the US to train and race in Davis, California, where I met my wife of 23 years, Susan. I went to business school for two weeks and didn’t like it, so I decided to start my first company at the age of 21. I imported clothing and triathlon goods out of the US into Germany. After two years I decided to make bicycles, so I flew to Taiwan. During that time I started to design a lot of products like hubs, brakes, levers, cranks… all sorts of goodies.
    I emigrated to the US when I was 28, but I’m still a German citizen. I started the company Truvativ, producing millions of components for the bike market. Seven years later, in 2005, SRAM purchased Truvativ, providing SRAM with a line of cranks, bottom brackets, handlebars, stems, pedals, seat posts and chain retention systems.


    Now you had a lot of money and no job, how did you fill your time?
    I took on a large project redesigning our house in California, which took a year. Eighteen months after I sold Truvativ, I was starting to get restless and I even considered producing an independent movie (though I didn’t!). I was unhappy and didn’t know what to do. Susan and I were sitting on the plane returning from our winter holiday with the kids and she said, ‘Why don’t you start your own company again?’ I started talking to one of my marketing guys from Truvativ, Dillon, and we agreed to start a new brand.
    Because of my non-compete contract with SRAM, I chose to create a range of accessories. I went to the store and bought $2,000 of accessories, everything I could get my hands on. Most of it didn’t work; it was all plastic and none of it held its promise.
    If you have a flat tyre in the mountains and you can’t pump it up, you’re walking. I just laid it all out on the table and thought, ‘This is easy for me’. We established a new market of accessories that behaved like components. I got a new computer and started designing parts with Dillon; Dillon was designing saddlebags and hydration bags, and I was focused on mechanical products.
    I flew over to Taichung, rented a shell unit, then later designed and built a new factory that is now over 4500 sq. meters. The first two years were really tough. We have a house there because Lezyne staff from the US go over very frequently.


    And the business went on to become a success?
    After the Eurobike Trade Show in 2007, we had a world full of distributors. Now we have almost 200 people. In the US I have 25 people: electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, designers, programmers, web and marketing people. The company is set up with fibre optics between the US and Taiwan, and both factory interiors look identical – the same furniture, even the same coffee machine.
    The resources that we have allow us to work around the clock. At 5.30pm in the US there will be at least ten Skype conversations in parallel in all the different offices between countries. We have projects so big now that we have combined teams in Taiwan and America working on the same projects. We are very much one international company and we maintain very tight control on our operations.

    The exquisite design and intelligently engineered products reflect your German origins, do you agree?
    Although I have lived in the States for many years, a big part of me is still German. I think in that way, very linear, which is the way we were educated back then. We analysed everything in great detail and that set the pace for me. Having said that, going to the States at such a young age allowed me to have entrepreneurial freedom.


    How are the territories split?
    Europe is the largest market for us; it’s very diversified and split into so many different countries. Each distributor works within its own territory, which makes it a lot simpler.
    This accounts for 50 percent of our business.
    In the US we have many distributors competing in the same space. All markets are growing, including Asia Pacific, which is now over 20 percent of our business, and we are making some real headway in China.

    Which products do you like the most?
    I love the original products that I personally built; they mean a lot to me because they address some of the inherent issues. I love our pumps as they blow a lot of air; they are minimal in size and work really well. I also love our tyre levers because they don’t break. We produce over half a million alloy, pressure and road drives a year. I really like our Mini, Power and Super lights. They are completely machined out of aluminium, run for a very long time and give off infinite light.


    What’s new?
    I am very excited about the GPS computers we are working on; there are going to be some very cool and sensible solutions. We have our core mechanical products, like pumps and that’s where my heart is, but there are so many electronic products that don’t keep their promise. As much as we continue our core mechanical development, we now have electronic development. Whether I like it or not, the world is becoming more electronic, but there are still a lot of mechanical aspects to these products. Next year will see the GPS products that really challenge us as a company and we are investing into our business to ensure we keep moving us
    forward with the times.

  • L'année du Pannier

    (c) gretel ensignia,, 07783620234 Catherine Ellis 04.07.14

    A Q&A with Hill & Ellis founder Catherine Ellis, who discusses the inspiration behind her beautiful leather pannier bags, aimed at cyclists seeking stylishness and practicality…

    Interview GAVIN STOKER

    Hill & Ellis launched in 2012 amid London Olympics’ fever, when the public’s recognition of cycling as an exciting sport – not just a means of commuting – was highest.

    “The cycling successes of Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Lizzie Armitstead and Laura Trott created a wave of excitement, and many people hit their bikes that summer because of it,” Catherine Ellis recalls. “Though 2012 wasn’t the reason I set up the business, as I had already been bitten by the cycling bug and had realised that stylish bags were lacking, maybe subconsciously there was a connection.”

    You dreamed up Hill & Ellis because you couldn’t find a stylish pannier bag to carry a laptop, notebook and heels together. How compatible are biking and busy lives?
    They’re wonderfully compatible. Cycling saves me a lot of time and money, and it’s so reliable. When I leave home I know exactly what time I will arrive at my destination, give or take a couple of red lights. It also allows me to exercise in what would otherwise be wasted time, and it’s a great way to relax as I often start my journey full of stress.


    Which products have proved your most popular?
    The Bradley, the first of my British-crafted bike bags, in bold yellow leather with grey detailing, is extremely popular. It’s been featured in the Evening Standard, ShortList, Urban Cyclist and even OK! Magazine. I fell in love with it when I saw the finished product, so it’s very exciting my customers have fallen in love with it too.

    Where do you take inspiration from when it comes to the design?
    My recent collection was inspired by my favourite colours: a bold canary yellow, an Oxford Blue, a minty Cambridge Blue, plus a bright pillar box red. My next range is inspired by nature and uses natural fibre fabrics for an ‘earthier’ look and feel. The practicalities of the bag come from my experience as a cyclist; I developed reversible reflective material as I knew it was crucial for the bag to have high visibility without cheapening the look. The waterproof jacket felt necessary for those rainy rides, and the hook systems were developed as a marriage of discretion and function.


    What is Hill & Ellis’ unique selling point?
    The products are designed to look and work as stylishly crafted bags; they just happen to attach to your bike. So many panniers work beautifully on the bike but not as bags for anything else, so my panniers are designed to fix that.

    How important is it to be seen as a British brand?
    I want Hill & Ellis to be a great British brand. All the bags are designed in the UK and I have just launched a new range, which is all made in Britain. Ideally I want my production to stay in the UK now, and I love the idea of the bags having the smallest carbon footprint possible.


    Is there a clear division between the types of pannier bags men and women go for?
    I thought there would be, but I’m finding that both sexes are equally attracted to most of the range. I think women like a traditionally ‘masculine’ geometric style and men have bought all the bags in the range, with the exception of the Dorothy. I do listen to what customers ask for, and try and incorporate requests into new designs to make sure I am catering for everyone.

    What have been the biggest highlights so far for Hill & Ellis, and where are your goals taking you next?
    Having Jon Snow from Channel 4 News fall in love with one of my favourite bags: the Duke. I saw it on the news the other night when he got off his bike to go into the BBC for an interview. As far as where goals are taking me… obviously New York, Milan and Paris!

  • Down in the Hood


    US made rain capes for people in liveable cities.

    Where did the idea for Cleverhood come from?
    Founder Susan Mocarski was inspired during a family trip to Copenhagen. They were planning to use bikes, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Many people were using umbrellas on their bikes, but the Mocarski family opted for plastic covers. Back in Providence, Rhode Island, there was more rain and three dogs to walk. Handling an umbrella with three dogs on leads is as a difficult as riding a bike with one. With a background in art and design, Susan decided to come up with her own cape idea and Cleverhood was born.

    Ramsay de Give for Cleverhood Ramsay de Give for Cleverhood

    Why did the company decide to create the Cleverhood for bikers?
    The beauty of the Cleverhood is that it’s not specifically for bikers. The Cleverhood is designed as a smart fashion alternative for people in cities who use a bike to get around.


    What elements does the Cleverhood have that specifically benefits bikers?
    The Cleverhood forms a cover over your body when you’re riding a bike. It has elastic thumb loops that keep it secure in the front and Velcro trim tabs for the sides. All Cleverhoods have reflective properties. The hood is designed to fit under a bike helmet, and to optimise peripheral vision. There are magnet clasps on the armholes that snap shut automatically. Cleverhoods are designed for both style and performance.
    They have to work in tough weather for people on bikes without looking like bike apparel.
    We carefully select fabrics that are waterproof and stylishly distinctive and through a lot of research we’ve been able to find wonderfully skilled workers to make the Hoods.


    What kind of response have you received from the biking community?
    A tremendously positive one. Forbes listed Cleverhood in its ‘Best Holiday Gifts for Cyclists’ list in December. Our news coverage includes Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Vice and Vogue. We’ve been reviewed by some of the best bloggers from all over the world.

  • Foffa

    Dani02 Dani Foffa

    This is the ‘One’.

    Dani Foffa, supplier of classic style single speed and geared bikes, shares his passion for his products and describes their perfect suitability for the urban environment…




    Pursuing our passions is something each of us craves, and Dani Foffa’s story is more inspirational than most. In 2007 he swapped a job in the city for one restoring classic bikes in his bedroom, graduating to opening a shop in 2009.

    His classic-styled, entry-level, single-speed cycles are currently flying out of Velorution’s doors, priced at a very affordable £359.99. Weighing 10.9kgs, the bikes are constructed from a lightweight steel frame set and feature a gear set that allows for low effort cruising around town, as well as the ability to get up gradual hills without any problem.


    “We switched to our own-brand bikes because it was getting harder to get hold of vintage bikes to restore,” Dani recalls. “And it made sense for us to order containers of our frames from Taiwan and the Far East.

    For five years we had the shop where we used to do custom builds, and the bikes started at £550. But after building nearly 5,000 bikes we had a rough idea of what people wanted, and we wanted to make our bikes a bit more affordable, so we decided to close down the shop and launch a range of pre-built bikes based on the aesthetic designs that we used to do so well
    in the past.”


    Since this February 2014, the business model has changed completely from running a workshop and serving customers to being reliant on re-sellers such as Velorution. “They’re long-time supporters of ours, and have been fans ever since we used to do the custom builds,” Dani says. Foffa Bikes now operates from a distribution centre outside of London. “Our overheads are a lot less, while the quality of our bikes has remained the same. We’ve been able to pass on the savings to our customers and offer our bikes at more affordable prices. That has led to a massive amount of interest, so that’s why it feels like a completely new business to us.”


    At the same time Dani says his typical customer hasn’t changed, usually men aged 18 to 40, “who want a nice lightweight commuter option made of decent components. What we’ve found quite interesting is that people are choosing our bikes as very much an extension of their personality. They might even choose different bikes for different stages of their life. I used to ride a bright yellow one and now I’ve changed to two black ones. My bikes these days are very ‘boring’ yet very practical and very comfortable – and I guess that sums me up really.”


    Dani adds that racing green, pale light blue and black single-speed bikes have proven to be the most popular with customers. “We don’t go for the candy colours, because I grew up in Italy and I’m very picky about what I think is a good design. The bikes are again based on the custom builds that we did in the past. I think single speed brings a lot of purity into cycling, and it’s ideal for commuting in a place that doesn’t have too many hills. It’s a pleasurable bike to ride. You don’t have to think about whether to change gears, or if the gears are too high or too low; there are less things to go wrong and it’s just lighter as well, so it makes sense. For us it really is about giving our customers good-quality bikes at affordable prices.”

  • Bike for Life


    Jay from Velorution talks us through the advantages offered by Van Nicholas bikes, including how their titanium construction beats aluminium and carbon fibre…

    Van Nicholas represents great value for money; yes, there are other companies offering titanium, but these guys are offering a premium product at a nicer price. The passion that has gone into their construction is evident throughout and extends to how the tubes
    are welded.

    “You can buy a frame that was welded in the US and immediately you pay a premium for it, whereas Van Nicholas use an excellent boutique welding company based in China – the saving is passed on to the customer. Chinese manufacture might bring with it certain connotations, but in fact they have some of the most skilled welders in the business. It’s notoriously hard to weld these tube sets and they have proven to be better quality that those produced in the States or the UK. It’s about quality, rather than where it’s made.

    “The industrial yet refined design of the Van Nicholas bike frames is very slick, complete with cool graphics and a timeless design. With an acclaimed heritage, the company makes bikes for all disciplines. Displaying clear faith in its product, Van Nicholas also offers something no one else does: a lifetime guarantee on all its frames, plus a discount on a new frame if you damage it yourself, which is a very cool ‘extra’.”

    The titanium advantage
    “Titanium is a premium material that possesses the best all-round qualities; if you compare it to aluminium, it’s just as light if not lighter. It’s not as stiff as aluminium, meaning it’s going to give you a much nicer ride. Steel tubes are great – they’re nice, flexible and comfortable – but you have to spend a lot to match the performance of titanium. Plus, steel rusts and corrodes over time. The alternative of carbon is very lightweight but very rigid, and not as compliant as titanium. Titanium has all the good qualities of the other tube sets wrapped up in the one package.

    “Any customer has only to enjoy a ride on a titanium bike to discover just why titanium is better than carbon. Buying a titanium bike is like making a long-term investment and buying a piece of art. While carbon is a lot easier to work with for mass production, it can’t maintain the same structural integrity for the same amount of time.”

    Astraeus Astraeus

    The Astraeus is the most high-end frame Van Nicholas offers. It has a different top tube, a different head tube and a different back end, yet the frame has a real stiffness. It has a tapered head tube, which is thicker at the bottom section than it is at the top. It also has a bigger interface between the frame and the fork that gives you a much stiffer front end. So, for example, when cornering, where you’re powering out of the saddle, the front end of the bike feels stiff and this allows you to lay the power down on the bike a little better. The frame starts off around the £2,000 mark, though building the complete bike could cost you between £6,000-£8,000 very easily.

    Zephyr Zephyr

    The Zephyr is simply a bike for riding all day. Its geometry is a lot more ‘relaxed’. It has a slightly longer head tube, which means the front end of the bike is going to sit higher than most other ranges. The top tube is a little bit shorter, so it gives a more relaxed ride. This is ideal for someone who wants a bike not for touring, but rather riding in comfort all day, knocking out the miles on the road and the occasional sportive. A complete bike starts around £2,400 depending on the specification.

    Aquilo Aquilo

    This is one of my favourite bikes, an out-of-the-box race bike. It has internal cable routing and still maintains a 1.5-tapered system plus a good degree of stiffness. The back end is a little bit more compliant than the Astraeus while not being as aggressive, but nonetheless maintains most of its features apart from its squared-off top tube. The frame starts off at £1,200, with complete bikes from £2,500, building up to £6,000 to £8,000 depending on specification.

    Chinook Ventus VR copy Chinook

    One of the results of choosing titanium is that you get a very comfortable riding frame. This is a bike that you can ride and race all day. The Chinook uses a 1.8-inch head tube so, technically, in the front end it’s not as stiff as the Astreuas or the Aquilo frame. It also uses a conventional 1.8-inch headset. The fork isn’t as wide at the bottom, so you lose a bit of rigidity. The cable routing is external and, while for me it’s not as aesthetically pleasing, this is a great frame at a great price, offering some great geometry. It’s a little more aggressive than the Zephyr. The wider and stiffer back-end with a 3D dropout is the same on all the models except the Ventus. Frames start at £1,100, with complete bikes starting at £2,200 and the final price depending on specification.

    Ventus VR black copy

    The Ventus is the entry-level model in the range in terms of price. It has a Shimano 105 with a Tiagra mix or a SRAM apex build. It’s one of our best-selling Van Nicholas bikes because it represents great value for money when pitted against other titanium bikes on the market. It also appeals to ladies, as the sizing starts at 48 for petite ladies. The Ventus has a laser-engraved dropout that is a little bit thinner, offering flexibility in the back end. Someone who is racing on the bike may not appreciate this and I would advise stepping up to a Chinook. Frames start at £970, with complete bikes from £1,599.

    Pioneer 29 Pioneer

    This is a heavy-duty touring bike. It uses a 26-inch wheel as apposed to a 700c wheel. The reason is the 26-inch wheel is technically stronger. It runs a slightly wider tyre, which offers comfort and strength when carrying heavy loads. The bike also boasts a heavy duty down tube while still maintaining a lightweight frame. It has full-length mudguards and a full rack system on both the back and the front. It has a Shimano or SRAM system, and is also available in a Rohloff build, which is an internal gear hub system.

    Amazon Amazon

    The Amazon runs an integrated headset and a larger 700c wheel than the Pioneer. This offers a sportier ride running up to a 38ml tyre. It has V brakes as opposed to caliper-style brakes and has a sloping top tube a more compact frame in terms of its build. The Amazon is also available in a ladies’ build with the sloping top tube. Like the Pioneer, the Amazon is available with a derailleur system or Rohloff internal hub. The frame is £1,100, with a complete build for the derailleur system starting at around £2,300. If you opt for the Rohloff hub, then prices start at around £3,400.

    Yukon Yukon

    The Yukon is the lighter-weight brother of the Amazon. It runs a Gates Carbon Drive belt with a Rohloff internal gear hub. A smaller 28-30c tyre offers a sportier ride. This is a slightly lighter bike at the back end, which means it may not hold up to the abuse of the Amazon and the Pioneer. Yet it can be fitted with drop handlebars and a high-end Dura Ace or Ultegra system to create a nice lightweight road bike that is capable of taking mudguards and rear pannier racks.

    “There are two types of Van Nicholas customer: one who has read about the bikes online or heard about them and thinks it sounds too good to be true, so comes into the store to check them out first hand; then there is someone who is simply looking for something completely different. We point them in the direction of the Van Nicholas range, put them on the bikes for a test ride and they do the reasoning themselves, because 9 times out of 10 they love it.

    A Van Nicholas bike is a bike for life.”

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