The location of this stunning picture of the Biomega OKO could not be more appropriate. This internal balcony is part of the newly opened AARhus apartment complex on the waterfront in Aarhus, Denmark’s second biggest city. AARhus is the brainchild of Bjarke Ingels, founder of architecture firm BIG but also one member of KiBiSi, the design partnership responsible for the design of the iconic OKO e-bike.
Bjarke Ingels is famous, internationally, for stunning buildings - notably the LEGO House in Jutland and 8 House in Copenhagen. And the decision to choose this architectural masterpiece came easily: we needed a backdrop as well-designed, striking and Danish as the bike itself.
International photographer, Michael Berg and our marketing team, found the perfect balcony within minutes of arriving on-site. However, it took hours of detective work to find out who owned the adjacent apartment to ask for permission.
What began as a stormy, overcast day led to much more favourable conditions by midday. The building features so much glass, it acts as a giant mirror, reflecting the drama of a summer sky. The result was certainly worth all the effort, with the OKO capturing the eye amongst a sea of blue-grey panels.
Perhaps it is no surprise that there were two OKO bikes parked in the residents’ car park. If you live in a place like this, the OKO is the only method of transport that fits perfectly into this urban lifestyle.
Modesty is a value embedded in the Danish national psyche so it is not a country that is boastful about anything. Least of all design. But, as any international visitor or resident will note, design is as much a part of Denmark as hot and cold running water. When you live in Denmark, you take good design for granted.
In some countries, there are so-called ‘designer products’. It is as if well-designed products are an optional, premium choice. But in Denmark, we have an expectation that everything looks good and performs well.
Danish designers have a reputation for re-imagining existing products, rather than inventing new ones. Chairs, lighting and hi-fi were not invented in Denmark but were, arguably, perfected here. All of these were everyday products to be found in most homes. Danish design made them special, uplifting, better.
There are a number of Danish cycling brands, notably cargo bikes, which are a Danish spin on an original German design. But the majority of Danish cycles are inconspicuous and unremarkable. They could have been designed anywhere. So you could argue that a Danish redesign of the bike was long overdue.
When Biomega was formed in 1998, however, its intention was not simply to be a better designed bike. We were conceived to reinvent the bike as a solution to the looming problem of urban transport gridlock.
Way before the climate change movement had taken hold and decades before an earth-shattering global pandemic, our founders could see that an increasing urban population would lead to increased car usage, which was unsustainable.
But, to get people out of cars and making urban journeys on two wheels, a ‘nicer bike’ was not going to be good enough. The bike, perhaps, had to learn from the car and how it was largely a means of self-expression, not simply transport.
This is why we engaged brilliant designers from outside the cycle industry for some of its original, non-electric bikes. Their fresh eyes immediately saw the way the world’s most efficient man-made machine had become over complicated and adorned. So they created a series of two-wheeled machines, so unified and simple in form that their silhouettes were recognizable without the need for a frame full of decals and logos. And, instead of buying in components off the shelf, Biomega engineers designed their own, including saddles, pedals and even wheel nuts.
This almost forensic level of detail and focus is a feature of many successful pieces of Danish design. Because we are surrounded by great design – we are compelled to create it.