Spinning wheels

By Meghan Siroky

November 2010- For the Amsterdam-based Vanmoof company, it's all about aluminum. Vanmoof manufactures innovative bicycles made primarily of aluminum. Its mission: to make the perfect commuter tool. The company relies on simple designs to create sleek models so riders can tool around town with pride. All Vanmoof bike models are made of aluminum, says Niels Bark, head of marketing. "This is one of the main characteristics of Vanmoof," he says.

Applause for aluminum

The company's highly acclaimed model, the Vanmoof No. 5, features solar LED lights, a frame-integrated lock and a built-in seat clamp. This year, the bicycle won an Aluminium Award for industrial design and engineering. According to the website, the award is an initiative of the Dutch Aluminium Centre in cooperation with the European Aluminum Association, Gesamtverband der Aluminiumindustrie and Aluminium International Trade Fair & Conference. The model also snagged a Dutch Design Award for best consumer product, says Bark. Vanmoof No. 5 garnered an additional honor in 2010 with a Bike Expo BrandNew Awardin the urban design category.

"The Vanmoof No. 5 is a wireless smart bike with a fully integrated steel chain lock, solar LEDs with USB ports and a built-in seat clamp. Simplicity is key, referring to our mission. We stripped the bike from whims that can only break or cause frustration and added innovation and style. No fiddling around with locks, dynamos or lights. Everything is wireless or built-in. It's minimalism to an extreme," Bark says.

Functional style
The bike's rust-free frame is 560 millimeters and its saddle is made of springless leather. Its body consists of 6061 series powder-coated aluminum, according to a press release. Bark says the designers chose aluminum with good reason.

"An important reason is weight. A lower weight makes the bicycle more comfortable, especially in cities with height differences. Secondly, when using aluminum, you need slightly larger tubes to achieve necessary stiffness," he says. "These bigger tubes at the same time provide a good place to add functionalities, like lights and a chain lock. So the choice for this material was motivated by our search for the optimal functionality of the city bike." Aluminum accomplishes the design goal of "creating a bike which is affordable, stylish, fast and durable," he says.

Bark also attributes the bike's success to its lock, which is part of the bike's frame. "The patented lock system was designed in partnership with prestigious German lock specialist, Abus. Vanmoof No. 5 has been awarded several prizes, including the prestigious Eurobike and BikeExpo awards," Bark says.

Bark assures the lock is easy to use. "It works very, very easy. The Vanmoof No. 5 has cylinder lock housing that has been ingeniously incorporated into its frame. The 8-millimeter hardened-steel chain can be partially extracted to wrap around a solid object or through its own front wheel before insertion back into its frame," he says. Bark also notes the bike is secure, because the lock is capable of withstanding 2,200 pounds.

The company is running a marketing campaign centered around the lock. "The 'Show Me Your Lock' contest is about locking any current Vanmoof model to something peculiar. With groups of riders from all corners of the globe uploading and discussing photos at great length, we wanted to provoke their enthusiasm and creativity even more," says Bark.

Customers appreciate all features of the Vanmoof No. 5, including the benefits of the aluminum material. "We can only make the perfect commuter tool if we listen to our customers. Vanmoof keeps its ears to the street. We motivate both customers and noncustomers to provide input on a frequent basis," Bark says. "It's not the CEO that decides our product portfolio. It is our customer." MM









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