It’s no simple task for a bike brand to stand out in cycle-centric Copenhagen. With deep roots in cycling and Scandinavian design principles, Viva Bikes rises above the rest with painstaking attention to details and unique designs to create an elegantly modern ride with a vintage flair.
Founded by Lars Andersen, a former cyclist on the Danish National Team, Viva’s mission is to be the most innovative and trendsetting brand within urban bicycles. Although they are a relatively small company, Viva leads the way with innovation by custom developing most of the main components on each bike.
We tracked down Andersen in Thailand to ask him about the journey that led him to found Viva bikes, what influences their bike designs and what’s coming down the pipeline.
World Champion ship 1982 in Italy. Lars Andersen goes head to head with Bjarne Riis, winner of Tour de France 1996.
As a former professional cyclist, what attracted you to the commuter bike scene and prompted you to create Viva?
After my cycling career, I started my own bicycle shop in Denmark and in just a few years, I had grown to own ten shops. We started creating our own urban style bikes and I realized I was passionate about the process and style of bike. I sold the shops and started Viva. As a former cyclist on the Danish National Team, I still had a deep connection for steel framed bikes and created the Viva line to represent a combination of modern and vintage styles.
What bike do you ride and what are your go-to commuting essentials?
I’m currently in Thailand, close to one of our factories, so I don’t commute by bike much here. I do still ride a lot of kilometers on my stainless steel Viva racing bike. When I’m riding my racing bike I normally wear Rapha or Assos clothing. I’m moving to Spain in a month and will get a Viva Bellissimo for my daily commuter. It’s the perfect culmination of comfort, driveability and technology.
You personally developed most of the components, including fenders, chain guards, saddles, grips and cargo carriers. For a small company this can be a huge investment. Why did you choose this route?
I wanted Viva to be different. In collaboration with Danish designer Henrik Norby, we based each design on what we would want on our personal bicycles. I love paying attention to all of the little details. My favorite detail is the Viva chain cover customized to be a one-piece alloy cover with a special matte anodized surface.
However, you are right, the investment has been huge but the money and hours researching and designing these custom components is worth it. We have plenty of competitors who only use standard parts, and our custom components are what set us apart.
Viva has done several collaborations with companies including Norman Copenhagen, Gant and Jack and Jones. Can you talk about how these collaborations came to fruition and if you plan on doing any more?
The companies reach out to us. They like the details that they see with Viva Bikes and how it resonates with their brands. Plus, we are flexible and can easily service their needs and use our expertise to build off of their ideas.
Currently, we’re working with Anders Hermansen, a danish designer, who comes from Bang & Olufsen. The brand we’re creating will showcase 20” and 24” wheels on a special and unique frame design. I like the challenge of keeping the bike’s aesthetics beautiful while making the bike function how we want.
How has Viva Bikes evolved since launching in 2006? What’s next?
Viva is still a small innovative company, growing and expanding every year. For our next step, we are coming out with three all new models in 2017, including a women’s model with an alloy frame.
The electric bike market is growing fast, so in 2018 we are adding electric bikes to the Viva line. E-Bikes allow people the ability to transport themselves over longer distances without using much power. Viva will continue to use the modern and vintage styling which you don't see on other e-bikes. Our system is designed for convenience, and charges itself while you ride. Plus, you’ll get a nicely designed bike without all of the heavy equipment typical of e-bikes.
The Danish are known for embracing a bike centric lifestyle. How is it different in Denmark than other countries and what makes this possible?
In the 1960s, cars were threatening to displace bicycles in the main Danish cities. But the oil crisis, the environmental movement and a couple of controversial road projects reversed the trend.
Now Denmark is world famous for its biking culture with Copenhagen leading the way. Every morning at around 7am Copenhagen comes to life. Men in business suits and women fashionably dressed commute by bike to work and parents take their children to school on cargo bikes. It’s biking heaven with over 390 kilometres of designated bike lanes.The Danes are known for their love of cycling and now cities all around the world are looking for ways to duplicate this phenomenon.