Words By Anna Maria Diaz-Balart
Tokyobike popped up on our radar a little over a year ago. Almost overnight these bikes were everywhere, from the ACE hotel, to fashion week, to their massively successful collaboration with Levis in this summer’s commuter workspaces. We wanted to know what made these bikes so successful in the urban cycling market, and specifically, what they offered to female riders. Juliana Rudell di Simone, a fellow fashion industry veteran and one half of the Tokyobike brand in the Americas, gave us a tour of the shop and answered some of our questions.
For starters, the retail experience of Tokyobike is totally different than other shops, both online and in the brick and mortar shops. The retail shop is open, bikes are at floor level and easy to see, cool accessories are laid out like jewelry in a small boutique. There is no macho bro vibe, no condescending shop guy, and there’s no pressure to buy something you don’t need or even fully understand. The bikes are simple, with clean lines and on trend colors. Many of the bikes are a neutral hues and across the size range they all retain a proper sense of balance and scale. Unlike many other brands, Tokyobike will never sell you a bike in a box, so even if you buy your bike online, the price covers its assembly at a local bike shop of your choosing.
Beyond the nuanced shopping experience, Tokyobikes are unique in that almost all of their models run 650C wheels. In comparison to the full sized 700C wheels you see on road bikes, they are smaller, very durable, and highly efficient for smaller riders. From Georgena Terry’s bikes to Emma Pooley’s Olympic victories, 650C wheels have had a played a significant role in women’s specific bike design. The small wheels have also allowed the frame to retain classic proportions through their smaller sizes.
Over the summer Tokyobike has occupied a pop up space along Bowery and Spring in NYC, an intersection between two key commuting bike lanes. Juliana says many people graduate from Citi Bikes (New York’s bike sharing system) to owning their own Tokyobikes. The wheels come with quick release skewers, but almost all of the bikes end up leaving the shop with pinheads suggesting heavy commuter use. While the shop will likely close during the winter, it will open again at the beginning of spring and the online shop is open year round.
Long before most riders understand component groups or geometry, they understand that a bike is ultimately an extension of ones personal style. Its perhaps the hardest thing to articulate as a newbie in a bike shop, but getting a bike that makes you happy and feels really cool is what makes people become cyclists. Tokyobikes are great looking, even in the tiniest of sizes. Their range of sophisticated colors please even the most discerning eye and the upright rider position is perfect for beginner commuters. Additionally, the bikes are light and provide smaller riders with a bikes that feels easier to maneuver. Probably best of all, shopping for a Tokyobike can be a totally autonomous experience. Even if its your very first bike, you can pick out everything you want: your color, style and accessories, and roll away on something thats perfect for you.
Tokyobikes are now spreading like wildfire through new york fashion offices thanks to Hanako Takabatake, retail director for 3.1 Phillip Lim and one of our favorite cycling fashionistas. You can see her on her matte black Sport, always wearing some gorgeous heels, traveling between their offices and new flagship store on Great Jones. Effortlessly chic in real life, she is fashion souplesse on her bike. This year during fashion week, buyers kept asking her about her Tokyobike and how easy it was to cruise between all the shows and parties. We wouldn’t be surprised if TokyoBikes end up stealing the show during next years fashion week.