The Eurobike bicycle fair in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is not just Europe’s biggest bike show, but is the biggest fair for the cycling industry in the world. Manufacturers, salespeople and cycling enthusiasts from around the globe gather at the Bodensee in south Germany. While the Taiwanese handed out traditional straw hats to visitors, the fair remained solidly rooted in the region. The proximity to the Alps and the altogether loveliness of the landscape can be felt by the overwhelming presence of the mountain biking, trekking and tourism industry at the fair. And yet there is inspiration to be found for the urban cyclist as well. Which of the ideas presented at the Eurobike can make the everyday commuter’s life easier?
It’s the little things that will determine the big picture of the future of urban mobility. Take, for instance, the bike helmet: What do you do with it when you’re not wearing it? Overade, a company from France, came up with a brilliant idea: Just fold it. Plixi, the foldable bike helmet, takes up 33% of a normal helmet’s size and can be fitted easily into a bag. It’s just as safe as a non-foldable helmet.
Looking good is important when you cycle in a city as opposed to a lonely mountain. There’s people looking, after all. Still there are practical aspects to consider: What if you went shopping and have groceries to carry? Dutch company Basil took functionality and lifestyle aspects of bicycle baskets very seriously and developed, among others, the bottle basket. This stylish basket will hold all of your goods so you don't have to.
Locks are either heavy and look like the chains Mad Max is wearing in “Fury Road,“ or they are unsafe. At least, that’s how it used to be. Now there’s Litelock, a bicycle lock that’s reliable and could also be used as a very stylish belt. The company from Britain won several awards for design and security.
German company Ortlieb specialized in building waterproof bags. Beautifully designed, the Velocity backpack can also be customized: Bag users can upload a picture that the company prints on their personal Velocity backpack. Looking good in the city is also about expressing yourself – that’s why your COBI can be personalized using the style kits.
Some experts believe that the future of urban mobility lies in flexibility. Commuters should be able to use trains, cars and bikes for the same route and easily combine different means of transportation. Of course there are still a lot of obstacles in the way of this vision for the future: Normal bikes are just too large to just carry up and down the steps of a train station full of busy people. The flexible urban mobility of the future requires either bikes that are foldable - like the very popular folding bike by Brompton - or very small. In this regard Winora accomplished something that can only be described as a miracle: The tiny radius plain does not look ridiculous at all. In fact, it looks awesome. And it’s an e-bike. And it can be folded, at least a little.
There is one life situation in which even the most determined bicycle lover abandons his bike and buys a car instead: Pregnancy. Families with small children still struggle with life by bike, both for reasons of safety and practical aspects. Baby transportation by bike is a problem that bike builders have tried to solve for decades. Again, it could be the little things that turn the tide in that respect: Like the windshield in front of the stylish dutch baby seats by Hamax that protect the baby from the slipstream when mama’s going extra fast. Or like the spring suspension on the front wheel that Riese & Müller installed in their Packster e-cargo bike, in order to treat the little ones to a smoother ride.
But this transportation bike is not only interesting for families. “Most of our customers interested in Packster are businesses,“ says Tobias Spindler, Riese & Müller’s press relations officer. “This e-cargo bike can go just as fast as a car in urban areas. We believe e-cargo has a big future in the cycling industry.“ Immanuel Seeger, Head of Marketing at GO SwissDrive, agrees with him: “Many businesses realize now that e-bikes are cheaper and more efficient in the city than cars.“ His company has been building engines for e-bikes since 2011 and is working on cargo bikes for customers like Deutsche Post. Their Twin-Power-System features two engines and two batteries for the extra load.
The future of urban biking mobility will of course not be determined by gadgets alone. While product ideas might have a big impact in the long run, the whole urban environment needs to shift towards a more bike-friendly world. This is not a task for bike builders, but for politics. The Eurobike fair, although aimed at the industry, recognized that and gave an award to a political initiative. The Volksentscheid Fahrrad campaign from Berlin collected a hundred thousand signatures in three weeks and thus forced the administration to deal with issues concerning bikers in their city. The cycling referendum gathered support of the people, but also the media and many cycling-related companies. “This is a campaign designed to increase awareness of the bicycle as a means of transport, without relying solely on eco-activists.” One signature at a time, life by bike continues to spread.