24 February 2008

Bikes We Like: Retrovelo Balloon Racer

Technically speaking this should be the inaugural post in an newly started "Bikes That Make Us Giggle and Blush Like Schoolboys in Love" category.

We had heard of the Balloon Bikes from Retrovelo before but hadn't really explored the rumours. Until recently. Oh my.

It's one thing to fall head over heels for a bike but it's quite another to discover an urge to party with the people behind the product. Can't say we've experienced THAT sensation before.

It's the bikes, sure, but it's their whole approach to marketing their product. The whole 'joie de vivre' feeling of their website and catalogue. Playful, tongue-in-cheek, retro kitsch. These are clearly people who love making their bikes and aren't afraid to have a laugh [and buy us beer].

The good people at German bikemaker Retrovelo are quite clear about what they do and why they do it. They adhere to the 'form follows function' mantra of Northern European design while maintaining the emotional attachment to retro style. Aesthetic expression, they say, creates things of special quality and individual beauty. Not content to merely imitate historical forms, they choose to push the form to modern limits.

On their website they state that their style is inspired by the playful designs of the 50's and the irresistibly rebellious designs of the 60's and 70's. A certain naïve design period which mirrored society's dreamy visions of the future. As they say themselves, 'now, more than ever, humans want to see memories, desires and dreams fulfilled'. And they produce simple bikes that wave happily back in time to the period between the 1930's and 1950's.

While the balloon tyre is not a new invention - it was developed back in the 1920's - Retrovelo's frames beg for fat tyres and it is a match made in heaven. Their bikes look... well, bouncy. Playful. Cheeky. A refreshing and much-needed antidote to the burgeoning luxury bike market. We believe that more Retrovelos on the bike lanes of Copenhagen would create a party mood. A temptation to wink and flirt at the cyclist next to you at the light.

Their models are all given simple names like Fritz, Paul, Klaus, Max, Klara, Pauli, Maxi - which is so refreshing. The colours are somehow unique and deliciously cool.

All said, Retrovelo is a bike we like. Often imitated, rarely matched.

Retrovelo's website
[in German, but the catalogue has an English version.]
Retrovelo is available at Velorution in London and Clevercycles in Portland, USA.

Here's an interview with the two chaps behind Retrovelo, from Dirtmag . Interviewed at Interbike '07. How ironic is that... a retrodesign bike for urban commuting interviewed by a mountain bike magazine...:-)