It’s not only quicker, healthier and better for the environment, but many city authorities are making it easier for them to do so. For instance, in London, Cyclescheme is a ride-to-work initiative that can save people up to 42 per cent on the price of a brand-new bicycle; in New York, 200 bike-lane miles have been built within the city; and in Sydney, the City of Sydney Cycle Strategy and Action Plan is committed to building a 200 kilometre bike network by 2016.

But none of these cities compare to, arguably, the friendliest bicycle city in the world – Copenhagen – which sees a third of its population commuting to work, school or university every day. According to VisitCopen-hagen, at present 55 per cent of all Copenhageners cycle 1.2 million kilometres daily.

It’s on these streets that you’ll no doubt see a stylish Biomega bicycle whizzing past. Biomega is a luxury bicycle manufacturer based in Copenhagen whose products are characterised by their beautiful, minimalistic style. Its philosophy, which has remained the same since it was set up in 1998 by Jens Martin Skibsted and Elias Grove Nielsen, is to create ‘urban-landscape-changing’ bicycles.

“Our goal is to create a paradigm shift in the way society imagines transportation; to compete directly with cars by constructing bikes that are so beautiful that they imbue our cities with new meaning, even as they make us healthier, happier and more connected than a car ever could,” says Skibsted, a design philosopher.

Skibsted set up Biomega without having any formal design background. At the time he was a passionate bicycle activist aspiring to get cars out of the city, but he wasn’t getting anywhere, despite advocating that bicycles are a far superior mode of transport for the commuter. “The bicycle is clearly more advantageous so my conclusion was that there must be something else that the car is doing that makes it superior, or at least perceived to be superior, by those that use it in the city,” he says.

He discovered that this “something else” is that people are able to express who they are through the cars they drive. As he explains, if someone tells you what car they drive before you actually meet them, you will immediately start to build a mental image of that person. “For instance, take four different types of 4x4s – a Hummer, a Land Rover, a Range Rover and a Toyota Land Cruiser. They are functionally almost identical 
but they reflect very different personalities,” he says.

“People here in Denmark may argue that you can express who you are through the bikes you ride because a cargo bike, for example, is very different to a fixie (fixed gear). So it might be true that there are various subcultures but that is different because it is not related to a brand and it doesn’t express who you are, it expresses what subculture you are a part of.”

As such, Skibsted co-founded Biomega with the aim of creating ‘furniture for urban locomotion’. In other words, stylish yet functional city bicycles that the owner could form an emotional connection to and that would reflect who the owners are. The first bicycle that this design-led manufacturer launched was CPH in 2000. CPH stands for Copenhagen, an ongoing trend that has seen most of its bikes having a three-letter acronym-like contraction referencing a particular city. Designed by Skibsted, CPH featured a highly functional yet sophisticated design, which has been continuously tweaked and improved upon over the years. “It’s a very sleek bike and still our best seller,” says Skibsted.

Biomega has also collaborated with renowned industrial designers, including Marc Newson, Ross Lovegrove and Karim Rashid, who have contributed innovative designs to the portfolio. Not to mention the iconic bicycles that Skibsted himself has designed, including the AMS (Amsterdam) classic city bike, the BOS (Boston) foldable ‘street machine’ and the Brooklyn urban freestyle BMX.

“For the Biomega brand I’ve tried to make instant icons. This might sound a little far-fetched, but I think you can discipline yourself to have a certain eye for the phenomenology of an object and reproducing the essence of that object in a specific design for your time and surroundings without it losing its appeal over time – contrary to being an object of fashion,” he explains.

The latest bicycle to join the Biomega family is OKO (in reference to the city of Tokyo). It has been co-designed by Skibsted, but this time in his guise as founding partner of KiBiSi, a Danish industrial design company he co-founded in 2010 with architect Bjarke Ingels and product designer Lars Larsen. The aim of this lightweight, minimalistic bicycle, that is made from both carbon fibre and aluminium, is to help fuse the Biomega brand portfolio together. “At the top end there are the monocoque structures by Marc Newson and Ross Lovegrove and then on the low end the tube frame bikes like CPH, which have been designed by KiBiSi (historically me, but now KiBiSi). By merging some of their visual qualities we are beginning to form a tight brand expression,” explains Skibsted.

The OKO is not only innovative in the way it looks but also in how it has been constructed. The two carbon fibre tooled pieces are interchangeable with any of the three sizes of aluminium frame, eliminating the need for any extra tooling. “The mudguards, the forks and lights are integrated into two carbon fibre frame moulds – one for the front and one for the rear. These are just sealed off in one package and then they are linked with a normal aluminium frame,” explains Skibsted.

The reason why it is not one big monocoque is that for every size a new monocoque needs to be created. This means that one huge mould is required for every size, which is simply too expensive for a mid-range bicycle. “By angling the two small moulds differently and then liaising them with the diamond aluminium tube frame, we can have at least three sizes comfortably for three different heights or sizes,” says Skibsted.

“I have had this experience within industry before that if you just go ahead with a total fantasy designer project and make a crazy monocoque it becomes a very niche product,” says Skibsted. “But, on the other hand, if you just do a normal diamond frame that every manufacturer is doing then you end up having this situation where the bike has no identity – it’s not distinguishable in itself or at least it’s very difficult to make it distinguishable in itself. Therefore, we have embraced two different approaches and tried to merge them, benefitting from both.”

The OKO has been fully designed and is currently in the prototyping stage with the intention of hopefully being on the market soon. Once it is on the city streets it’s almost guaranteed to be a head-turner, with its aspirational design. Why would you want to be stuck behind the wheel of a car in the daily traffic jam when you can enjoy for a far superior commute instead?

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