Thursday 28 February 2013

Review: The Bisou from Tokyo Bikes

The Bisou, basking in the sun

Where do you turn to when you've had your Pashley stolen? Although I did love my pastel blue Poppy, it didn't feel right to replace it with the exact same model. Perhaps this was a chance to step out from my traditional frame and try something new.. enter the Bisou from Tokyobikes.

Having passed the very trendy Tokyobike shop many times on my way to Cyclechic HQ, I thought I would pop in and and say hello. The shop is located on Tabernacle Street, Shoreditch and can be spotted by the row of eye-catching coloured bikes lined up outside. The staff are friendly and welcoming with just the right amount of Hoxton cool and there is plenty of  fresh, complimentary coffee circulating. I chat to Neil, the manager and the chap responsible for bringing the bikes over from Japan. He spotted them at a design show, fell in love with them and worked with Tokyo bike to set up a UK store.

The bikes as you may have guessed were designed specifically for cycling in Tokyo but their qualities are just as suited to London, the company philosophy is inviting  "the bikes are designed to be light to ride with an emphasis on comfort over speed. As much about the journey as the destination, we want you to forget about the bike and simply enjoy the ride"

What appealed to me initially about the Bisou was its simple streamlined shape combined with a subtle vintage twist. Although it's not the type of bike I usually ride when I took it for spin round the block, I really enjoyed the power and started to get somewhat attached.

Needless to say 2 weeks later the lovely Brown Bisou left the shop and came home with me and we are getting along famously. Here's a few things I like about it:

Its small and light which results in a nippy, agile and comfortable ride. The wheels are slightly smaller than most bikes and it really makes a difference for certain maneuvers. It's also great for the inevitable stopping and starting of city cycling, making hill starts and setting off at the lights much easier than the more heavy utility bikes I am used to.

The other major plus point of it being light and small is that I can bring it in my flat and it fits perfectly in my hall way. No other bike I have owned has fitted quite so snugly and has been so easy to get in and out. This was the reason my Pashley was stolen because it just wasn't practical to bring indoors.

The riding position is great as the handlebars are sit up and beg, to a certain extent but you don't feel like you are on permanent 'Miss Marple' mode. The saddle is on quick release so its easy to adjust if you want to be more lent over for a speedier ride. Its a bike for both pootling and picking up pace.

The frame is step-through, not curved like more traditional bikes but there is ample space to hop on and off with ease. The saddle is comfy and a gorgeous tan colour, another slightly vintage touch. There is also a handy kick stand and a rather smart alloy chain ring guard.

The bike has 7 gears (derallieur) and it's very easy to change gear with the grip shifter on the handlebar. I tend to stay in gears 4-6. I don't have many hills around me but it would be a great little bike for more hilly areas, where you needed to utilize the lower gears.

Its a calming bike to ride and as my New Years resolution this year was more speed less haste its suiting me down to the ground. It doesn't come with a rack or basket but they can be easily fitted. Tokyo bikes recommend the Wire Wald market basket for the front and Wald rear rack, both  complement the chrome mudguards. I did try it with a child seat on the back but it didn't feel entirely stable. It would probably be OK with a smaller child but as my daughter is nearly 4 the weight was causing the seat to bounce and touch the top of the rear mudguard.

What I really like about the Tokyobike is the cleverly thought out combination of components that make it a highly functional bike for city use. It borrows characteristics from a few different bike types to form an innovative modern bike that caters for the urban market. it also understand the market demand for style and has both elegance and retro charm. The price (£490) may be a bit higher than some city bikes but the overall design justifies the price.

Both the men's and ladies' bikes come in an array of sublime colours, I went for the brown as it was the perfect match for my helmet and new winter boots but I was equally smitten with the saffron and red. One slight worry is that the frame has chipped in a few places but Neil assures me top up paint is available from the store so the inevitable wear and tear can be repaired.

The Bisou has taken me slightly outside of my bicycle comfort zone but the outcome is entirely refreshing and I'm finding that I am cycling more, despite the freezing weather.

On a mission to do some nice little rides this spring (but with the dilemma that I often work from home and don't have that far to cycle) I have devised a plan to cycle to a different London library each week and adopt it as my office... just my laptop my Bisou and me I have a feeling we are going to have a splendid time.
Bisou and Pashley out on the road together with Lady velo and myself

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Lauren Laverne Talks Cycling Style

Just in case you missed it, Lauren Laverne's style column on what to wear when on your bike... featuring our Bobbin Cape and Sawako Croc helmet amongst a whole host of goodies.
I've always been a fan of Lauren Laverne and am so glad she cycles and gets how cool it is. Go Lauren, hope to see you in the bike lane one of these days.