March 1, 2010
The Ripple Effect: Trio Bike
Having a single model suited to more than one errand makes the bike appealing for short-distance outings.
For a so-called perfect machine, the bicycle has had its share of face-lifts. The modifications start simply enough—pared-down messenger fixed-gears, plywood-and-scrap-metal cargo bikes—but when what begins as niche necessity becomes a market all its own, things get interesting. Part Bugaboo, part BMX, the TrioBike updates the three-wheeled, basket-equipped cargo bike for the yuppie crowd.
The TrioBike is a three-for-one deal: parents can cart kids to preschool in the front seat (it works for groceries too—anything up to 220 pounds), then split the bike into a disc-brake-equipped stroller and seven-speed cruiser to head to work, basket-free. The front end detaches with a pair of quick-release levers; the bike’s wheel hides in a compartment under its floor until needed. The stroller looks aggressive—imagine pushing around a motorcycle sidecar—but coupled with the bike, its sporty lines are a welcome change from the typical cargo bike’s crude boxiness. Extra design cred: the passenger seats are made at the same factory that produces Arne Jacobsen’s Swan and Egg chairs. “The idea was to make a cargo bike that looked like it was designed in 2000, not the 1950s,” says Sammy Hessburg-Eisinger, TrioBike’s managing director.
Actually, the modern cargo bike was a more recent creation, rising out of Copenhagen’s autonomous, communelike Christiania neighborhood in the 1970s (according to a recent museum exhibition in the enclave). Three-wheeled bikes with big front baskets are sometimes called Christiania bikes in Denmark, and though they’re popular all over Europe, the Danes love them best: some 25 percent of Danish families with children own cargo bikes, and even the Danish ambassador to the Czech Republic tools around Prague on one, Danish flag billowing from its basket. “It’s part of the culture,” Hessburg-Eisinger says. “Our kids grow up sitting in these bikes.”
Hessburg-Eisinger hopes the Trio-Bike, originally designed in 2005 and updated more recently, will be a Stateside missionary for Danish cargo-bike culture. No U.S. stores carry it yet, though Hessburg-Eisinger says he has been shipping 20 to 30 bikes per year across the Atlantic, “from Seattle to Chicago to New York.” The TrioBike may be a challenge in otherwise bike-friendly cities like New York and San Francisco, where riders have to lug its 84 pounds of aluminum, plastic, and foam (32 pounds without the front basket) into a three-story walk-up. But Hessburg-Eisinger is hoping it will find a larger audience. Most car journeys in the States are only a few miles. “This can replace that,” he says. “Otherwise your kids will just grow up in cars.”