The ads below are both for an innovative new type of bicycle, the high-end “townie”. These are bikes that are designed for everyday use by people wearing normal clothes, but unlike traditional city bikes, these townies use high-quality parts and materials, and are elegantly and stylishly designed.

When I first started seeing ads for these bikes, I thought they were uniquely American. Europe has a long tradition of everyday cycling, but they also have a long tradition of well-crafted (if somewhat dowdy) city bikes. I figured that it must be an American thing to make bikes combining style, performance, and ease. Boy was I wrong.


The ad on the left is from the US magazine Bicycling, and it is for a US company called Electra. Stylish, slick, and targeted at people who like nice bikes but who also dont want to get all geared up just to go to the store or to meet a friend for brunch.

The ad on the right, from the UK Magazine Cycling Plus, is for… BMW? Yes, BMW makes bicycles. Hot.

Still, the Electra is more radical and untraditional, with a laid-back position and a chopper-style sweep to the whole design. The BMW looks basically like a extremely stylish mountain bike.

BMW, however, seems to be working on some long-term ideas that look pretty interesting:



10 responses to “USA vs UK Cycling”

  1. yo dude,

    do you know a good bike shop in our area? i need to get tuned up. I’ve been off my bike for way to long.

    And what the… what is with the design of that bmw bike? what is it solving?

  2. Well the first thought that jumped out at me when I read your posting is…:

    Why would anyone in Europe want an expensive bicycle when bike theft is so high? (Think Amsterdam where you have to spray paint your bicycle sick colors just to try to keep it from getting stolen – (the neon ug colors mean thieves will pass yours up for another one without unique markings)).

    I feel like I would rather buy a 100 USD bike and then replace it everytime it is stolen rather than a 1000-2000 USD bike and then it gets stolen and then i got nothing. ya dig?



  3. Interesting industrial design:

    “what is it solving?…” and even better yet, how does that thing steer?!?

  4. Great points about the BMW creature.

    Year after year we see tons of new designs for bicycle frames and parts, some simple and clever, some outrageous and wacky. You can even see lots of rich people riding around on some of these designs, showing off their outlandish $8,000 carbon fiber monocoque bikes that don’t look very different from the crazy BMW model above.

    If you look at what real bike racers ride, however, you’ll see that they haven’t changed very much from what cyclists rode 50 years ago. Materials have changed, some geometry has changed, and gearing is now indexed. But outside of that, nothing radical has happened to the road bike.

    What I like about the bike design world is that there is both a robust layer of experimentation in bike design and a layer of stark realism in the form of professional bike racing, where riders cannot afford to use an unproven technology. This dynamic keeps form and function in a lovely state of harmony.

  5. The bottom picture is a hoax that has been floating around on the net for quite some time, purportedly one of a new line coming out from the bike manufacturer Specialized. Google Specialized Venom for a half-dozen or so pictures of different models conceived by a design student.

  6. If you want to see a real UK urban bike that definitely solves a problem look here
    And mine has done big mileage over big hills (the Cevennes) with full camping gear as well as getting around town, parking in a corner of my office and perfectly complementing train travel.
    It has transformed my life – I never have a reason not to cycle, whether it’s to the local shops or a 100 mile business trip.

  7. Ariel Poli Avatar
    Ariel Poli

    I can´t believe what it is this bike. Its apperance is really fantastic. I love Mountain bike. I ride my bike across the moutain and farm, here, in Argentina.
    Well, I wish I had a bike like this one sometime in my life, ja ja ja.

  8. moche afreu sa l conard

  9. shum mir

  10. ja prta kuh po na thit se jeni ma tre mirret