Last summer, on a ride down the Bowery, a row of bicycles parked on the sidewalk at the corner for Prince Street caught my eye. They were simple frames in eye-catching colors neatly lined up next to a wooden bench in front of a plate-glass storefront. The sign above the door read: Tokyobike.
It turned out that this gallery-like shop was a pop-up, the first foray into the U.S. of this independent bicycle company, which is based in the Yanaka suburb of Tokyo. Like the temporary Rapha Cycle Club that occupied a nearby space in the summer of 2010 before establishing a permanent outpost in the Meatpacking District in 2013, Tokyobike now has taken up permanent residence here.
Tokyobike is no ordinary bike shop. In the spare, white interior with wood floors, well-designed city bicycles and accessories share space with beautiful objects and consumables for daily living, mostly of Japanese origin. This placement of the bicycle into a lifestyle context is an extension of the Tokyobike philosophy of “Tokyo slow,” which emphasizes comfort over speed, journey over destination.
“It’s about allowing yourself to enjoy your city surroundings, about riding at a pace that you can enjoy and go out of your way and explore,” says Dean Di Simone, who owns the shop with his wife Juliana Rudell Di Simone. He became involved with Tokyobike after seeking to buy one of their bicycles, first in London and later in Japan, and learning that the maker was seeking a U.S. partner.
So think of shopping at Tokyobike as an exploration. You can test ride the bikes lined up outside the shop in the nearby Nolita bike lanes. They come in step-through, sport, single-speed and mini (with 20-inch wheels) versions, starting at $695. All are constructed of light, chromoly steel in distinctive matte or glossy hues. There’s a well equipped workshop here, but it remains out of sight behind closed doors. Browse the shelving and you’ll discover Postalco notebooks and portfolios sharing space with Crane bicycle bells, below a display of Binchotan activated charcoal skin care products. City-sturdy bike locks by Kryptonite repose next to equally hefty copies of the magazine Kinfolk. A roomy canvas tote by Superior Labor sits alongside a Gamoh bike rack.
Also on display is the Tokyobike + New Balance C-Series collection, one of several creative collaborations with which the company has been engaged. It comprises limited edition Tokyobike Classic Sport 8-speed bicycles in matte navy (above) and matte mustard and New Balance C-series 600 sneakers in mustard, navy and grey (below). The shoes were created for urban cycling with bootie-style construction that makes them easy to slip on and off, a tongue design that keeps laces tucked safely away from moving parts and reflective details for pedaling at night.
The shop is situated in a burgeoning contemporary arts district, with the New Museum visible across Bowery through the shop’s front window. Taking its cue from the surroundings, Tokyobike is devoting some wall space to the display of art. Up now are prints that interpret the Tokyobike cycling philosophy by the Brooklyn-based creative studio Franklyn. In one poster-size work, ropy, spiraling type, white against saturated blue, reads “Taking it easyyyyyyyy…”
Tokyobike New York, 1 Prince Street (at Bowery), Manhattan, 212-925-8200, or log 0n to www.tokyobikenyc.com