Last we heard from People People, we took a look at their 'invisible' speaker; the Stockholm-based design studio has since come out with several modern, minimal variations in highly competitive product categories, including headphones and a pocket watch. Their latest project is an update to yet another widely-used but largely undifferentiated product, the bicycle, and once again, People People strip the product to its essence and proceed to improve it with just a few signature details.
Taking inspiration from the iconic Kronan city bike—a workhorse despite its weight—the "Spiran" is "the sleeker and younger sibling of Kronan that moved into the city," and its name is a reference to that of its beloved predecessor: "Kronan is Swedish for 'Crown,' and Spiran means 'Scepter.'" Besides its clean lines and slim form factor, we were impressed with the integrated lock (sketch below; GIF after the jump); the premium materials and belt drive are also intended to maximize its utility with minimal maintenance.
We had the chance to talk to designer / People People co-founder Per Brickstad about the "Spiran":
To what degree is the Spiran is a successor to the Kronan, and to what degree is it a departure?
Per Brickstad: Kronan is based on old Swedish military bikes. Its sturdy, simple, rugged, reliable functionality has gone straight into the Swedish customers' hearts since it was introduced back in the 90's. The values listed above would probably in themselves be enough for a successful product, but I'm as a designer very fascinated by the way Kronan as a brand was so easily accepted as an obvious, unobtrusive instant design classic. People actually think it's a 120 year old brand rather than 20 years. In the same way Spiran takes inspiration from old Swedish postal bikes, and old porteur bikes in general, combined with inspiration from the more recent fixed-gear city messenger. These bikes were all made to transport things through a city, and are therefore the obvious inspiration for a modern city version of Kronan.
The renderings offer some nice eye candy, but I couldn't help but notice the lack of brakes and road-style horizontal drop-outs (as opposed to fork ends). What are you still working on?
Actually we haven't made the final decisions on brake configuration. I am personally in favor of coaster brakes which will make the bike even more stripped down, but in case of regulations or other demands we have designed a solution for hand brakes as well.
Also the fork ends needs to be verified in manufacturing. I had the thought of simplifying the rear fork ends based on: 1. If we were to assemble the belt drive by opening the frame in the front by the crank we could keep it more simple in the back. 2. Horizontal fork ends have often a greater risk of becoming loose so I want to use a vertical one.
The integrated lock is quite clever indeed—how did you arrive at this solution? Did you experiment with other contact points on the bike?
The front basket was to me the obvious place for the lock solution already from the beginning. Its wide range was what made the "lamp post use case" possible, and that makes all the difference. I have attached a few early, never seen by anyone, sketches from my notebook that I actually did somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean in a plane seat. They are not very beautiful as design sketches goes, but the concept was pretty much there at that point.
As you note, the main criteria for a bicycle for the current generation of urban cyclists are not only practical—lightweight, low-maintenance, clean aesthetic—but also speak to a certain 'cool factor,' which you have clearly considered with this minimal bike. Who is the target market for this bicycle? What is the potential for production, and is price a factor?
Target market is primarily younger urban cyclists, age between 25–45. Bikes are more and more becoming a "design object," something to be proud of beyond just practical reasons, which also can justify a price tag beyond a grand (as yet TBD for Spiran). We see this manifested in many new companies coming up with new bike designs in various ways.
Of course, we want to be part of this movement, but we also wanted to make sure we build something long-lasting, something with integrity, perhaps even something timeless. Therefore we are currently in dialogue with a few different brands with that kind of heritage. In my opinion, the success of this bike design will rely on both brand authenticity and build quality.