Pelago Bicycles biking its way to the world
What do a trip around the world, cyclocross and a work commute have in common? Answer: They can all be done on a Finnish-made Pelago bicycle.
The goal of the Finnish company, founded in 2009, is to design beautiful bicycles that appeal to bikers in Helsinki and Barcelona alike. Pelago is currently riding a tailwind: some 40 per cent of the company’s present sales are in export markets.
Greetings from the waste skip
It all started from a shared interest – or interests. Timo Hyppönen and his brother, Mikko Hyppönen, were both studying graphic design and were both active bikers. Their passion for biking led them to scour waste skips and recycling centres to rescue “bike carcasses”, as they put it.
Their goal was to build bicycles according to their own personal style and as cheaply as possible, since they couldn’t find what they needed in the market.
“The only bikes available were those sold in supermarkets and expensive performance bikes,” says Hyppönen, the founder of the company.
They set out to build the kind of bicycles that they wanted to ride. The bikes needed to embody beautiful form, and they had to be durable and suitable for a wide range of purposes. In inner city areas, for example, cobblestone streets are a challenge for the bicycle commuter.
“We wanted to do a basic bicycle really well,” Hyppönen sums up.
Efforts to build new bikes from old parts were, however, short-lived: it was too costly and labour-intensive. It was back to the drawing board for the brothers. After a brief search, they found a suitable partner in Belgium with whom they shared a common vision.
Finding a bicycle store and engaging in bike selling came about almost by accident.
“We needed a place to show our first bikes, and a commercial space just happened to be available next to the office. Our intention was only to open up a showroom, but it eventually became our shop. We didn’t have any sales staff or even customers. We sold directly to consumers. It was neither our goal nor our intention to open up a store – it just happened,” recounts Hyppönen.
Everyday heroes out in the world
Pelago bikes have grown from the first prototypes assembled in the office to an international bicycle brand with operations managed out of Jätkäsaari in Helsinki.
In 2013, Pelago had a pop-up store in Berlin for a few months. The company was also recognised in the Ispo Brandnew startup competition for the sporting goods industry, winning the Urban Award in 2012. The Pelago bike was praised for its timeless design intended for everyday use.
The most popular Pelago bikes can be spotted in everyday city use: according to Hyppönen, the classic Brooklyn and Bristol bikes are the biggest sellers.
In addition to classic, everyday bikes, Pelago offers a range of lightweight, active bikes suitable for longer rides, as well as advanced technical bikes in a higher price range for competitive cycling. For this Finnish bicycle manufacturer, being able to use the bicycle in wintertime is also very important: the Sibbo road bicycle, for example, has led to victory in a local cyclocross competition.
Pelago bicycles are nowadays largely manufactured in Taiwan, which has an established reputation as a bicycle manufacturing nation, but they are designed and tested in Finland.
Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the UK are currently the countries with the most Pelago fans. Pelago has close to 100 distributors in Europe, Finland included.
What, then, is the big draw of Pelago abroad?
According to Hyppönen, different cases can be made for each competitor:
“Compared to some, we are more youthful and have more street credibility; compared to others, we might be less sporty.”
The “Finnishness” of the bikes is also worth mentioning. There’s a certain exotic element to owning a Finnish bicycle.
Firmitas Utilitas Venustas
Hyppönen believes the best way to achieve visibility among the average consumer, both in Finland and abroad, is simple:
“The bike can be seen on the streets and people are interested in it.”
Pelago’s logo bears the company’s Latin motto: solid, useful, beautiful. When Hyppönen speaks, his genuine passion for cycling shines through. In his opinion, it is important that the bike distributors sense the genuineness and passion in what the company does.
Pelago Bicycles have, among other things, supported two young men in their trip around the world by offering them bicycles.
“Whereas cars have been the traditional status symbol, maybe bicycles can be too. It says something about people’s values,” Hyppönen sums up.
Text: Karolina Miller
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