On the corner of Tabernacle St in Shoreditch, where it meets Old St, just down from what is now known as Silicon Roundabout, there is a cycle shop with a zen-like air of peace and tranquility called tokyobike. It’s easy to spot from the casually precise row of coloured bikes lined up outside.
Tokyobike was founded in 2002 by Ichiro Kanai in Yanaka in Tokyo. He says his bikes are designed for Tokyo’s urban environment in the way that mountain bikes are designed for mountains. They’re light and practical 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,‘ says their website.
The frames are made from chromoly steel (lighter than carbon steel, harder than aluminium, cheaper than titanium, more flexible than carbon fibre) and weigh around 10 kilos (22 pounds). They have straight, compact handlebars which give more control -important in a city environment – and slightly smaller (650mm) and thinner wheels than standard road bikes, giving speedier acceleration and quicker changes of direction. And they’re seriously stylish, with a great range of colours.
Tokyobike have shops in Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Berlin, Copenhagen, Eindhoven and now London. It’s an unusual kind of bike shop. Not only is it spotlessly clean and bright with rows of cycles arranged like works of art and carefully-chosen accessories for the cyclist, it also sells an eclectic range of ‘lifestyle products’. So you can buy cycling ponchos, helmets and carrier racks:
But also traditional Japanese brooms:
And an interesting selection of pottery:
Including this tea roaster (hojiki) which can also be used for roasting nuts and seeds:
Cherry bark tea caddies from Kakunodate made using traditional methods dating back to the eighteenth century:
And some pottery from my old favourite, Mashiko.
I liked the shop’s air of calm competence and Japanese-style emphasis on treating the customer as king. One customer was assured that trial rides of bikes were no problem; another was loaned a bicycle pump; they lend you a courtesy bike while your tokyobike is in for service or repair and they also offer regular maintenance classes. Oh, and there’s a coffee machine too.
Should you buy their bikes? I’m no expert, but reviews on the net (mainly from Australia where they’ve been open longer) seem pretty favourable.
If you want to take a look at the bikes for yourself, and perhaps pick up some pottery I recommend a trip to the shop. Just don’t go on a Sunday or Monday because they’re closed then. They have a very cool website with details of all the bikes.