Tokyobikes Capture “Spirit of Karlín”

Expats.cz

“We aren’t opening a bike store, it’s a lifestyle.”

This April in Karlín will be the start of what Urbane co-owner Václav Stránský hopes will be a lifestyle movement in Prague.

“London, Berlin, everyone has a personal style,” he said. “But Prague is missing this. It’s a charming city, but there’s a lack of style.”

Stránský and his two co-owners hope to begin to rectify this by bringing the cool Tokyobikes to Prague. The classic cycles are gracing store shelves from New York to London to Melbourne. The bikes are simple, come in 19 gorgeous colors and are easily customizable.

“It’s a clean, classic design, they aren’t anything special but perfect Japanese,” he said. “You see something really nice and you like it – you can’t always explain it.”

Urbane plans to offer four Tokyobike models, and while they will have some to sell off the shelf, prefer to work with clients to help them choose and design their own bike. Delivery will take about two weeks, and after paying a deposit on your custom bike, they’ll provide you with a loaner bike until yours is ready. Stránský says the initial reaction to the bikes has been positive.

“If you don’t see it (the bike), you won’t get it,” he said. “But a lot of people see it and say wow.”

Stránský discovered the bikes on a delayed honeymoon last November in Thailand. There was a Tokyobike café near the place they were staying in Bangkok and he was intrigued. Looking to start a company where they liked what they did and had some sort of social impact, he and his partner approached the company.

“They said they weren’t actively seeking growth in the Czech Republic, but give us a business plan,” he said. “And in record time we were able to establish a relationship and now we are opening the shop.”

The Urbane business plan is simple: establish the Tokyobike brand in the Czech Republic, include other independent fashion and bike-related brands in their showroom, and create a social space where like-minded people can meet and connect.

“It’ll be about the small things that make an urban lifestyle complete,” Stránský said. “We want to make something with personality and connect it to the spirit of Karlín.”

And while many think Prague is not a bike friendly city, Stránský hopes to change that image as well.

“We don’t want to see it come, we want to make it come,” he said. Stránský is active with the city of Prague 8 in the hopes of improving bike infrastructure. He believes in general the city and politicians are pro-cycling, but they aren’t pro-active in introducing or continuing with initiatives.

“I rode my bike here, but I have nowhere to leave it, there are no bike racks,” he said. “It would be really satisfying for me if I can safely ride my bike through the city and see other people riding too.”

The development of bike sharing and bike renting is another facet Stránský would like to see improved upon; Urbane is planning to have a longer term rental service for those looking to have use of a bike for a month or so.

If all this bike talk and spring fever have got your feet itching for pedals, join Auto*Mat’s annual Bike to Work program in May. Get your colleagues together to form a team and sign up here. Organizers’ goal is to increase awareness about bicycling as a sustainable and healthy transport option. Last year, more than 5,700 people and 900 companies took part.

Why the name Urbane? As Stránský says, the word sets the tone for the direction he hopes to go.

“It’s a place for people to find their style. They can combine nice things together and create a unique style that says something about their personality.”