interview :: tokyobike

Katie | September 18, 2012

selection of cycling paraphernalia arranged neatly

In the midst of London Design Festival preparations, tokyobike‘s Neil Davis was kind enough to find  time to talk me about why design matters, slowing down and enjoying your city, and just how, when and why cycling became so damn cool…

So, just how, when and why did cycling become so damn cool?!

For our cool Dutch and Danish neighbours it’s nothing new. In Tokyo too it’s a way of life with the ubiquitous mamachari. I think, London, usually ahead of the game, was just a bit slow to catch onto the joys of the bicycle.

three close ups of a bicyle

You say on your website: “More about slow than fast, tokyobike is as much about discovering your city and enjoying the ride as it is about the destination.” Can you tell me a bit more about what that means?

It sounds better in Japanese! I think the sentiment comes from the idea of taking things more slowly and noticing more of what’s around you… enjoying your city and using your bike as a means to do that.


Can you tell me a bit about the design of the bikes, the choice of colours, the aesthetic…?

They were conceived as the perfect city bike. There were of course lots of city bikes already but little details make tokyobike, like the small compact frames that were light to ride.

The colour of the frames is very considered too and an important part of tokyobike. The introduction of a new colour is a long process. A frame colour may look good on its own but when assembled as a bike it can change and even if the complete bike looks good it might not fit with the other colours in the range.

a row of tokyobikes in blue, yellow, red and white

Why is design important?

It makes life better. There are so many factors influencing design from form and function to sustainability and accessability. The bicycle has them all in spades and is without doubt up there with the greatest designs ever. Largely unchanged in over 100 years the modern bicycle transformed life in towns and cities, bringing mobility to the masses and changing society for the better.

interior of tokyobike shop

Who buys your bikes?

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.

Why are you at a design show like designjunction rather than a cycling show?

Design events are exciting, fun and cultural and it relates back to the earlier question about the concept of tokyobike. The bike is not the end in itself but more a means to enjoy your city. So it makes sense to show the bike in this context.

interior of tokyobike shop

What are you most proud of?

Proud maybe isnt the right word, but it’s good to see how much people love their bikes and how they can make peoples lives better. It can instantly make your city feel smaller and turn a daily commute into a pleasure.

What advice would you give to a would-be bicycle designer?

The same advice as any designer – to focus on the people that will use your design at all times.

close up of yellow and white tokyobikes

What are you most looking forward to about London Design Festival this year?

I’m just excited about the fact that its bigger than ever this year and events like designjunction are strengthening what is becoming a major event on the design calendar.

What’s your top tip for an LDF first timer?

Take a tokyobike tour, of course!

And finally, what’s your favourite colour?!


people cycling through London on tokyobikes

tokyobike can be found at designjunction Wednesday 19th – Sunday 23rd September, from where tokyobike tours leave daily at 10am. The tours take in mystery design destinations each day, last for three hours, and finish at the show for a light lunch at the Transport for London Canteen pop-up restaurant.

Further reading for the especially geeky:

Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

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