There is something about jumping on a pushbike that takes us back to childhood. The two-wheeled transportation is inherently fun, smile-inducing and, whether commuting to work or out for a Sunday jaunt, you can’t help but enjoy yourself.
Unless you’re battling your way through driving rain and howling winds, relegated to your rusty old pushy because your car broke down, cycling is a wonderful way to de-stress, unwind and get fit.
Although we in Byron Bay love our outdoor lifestyles and fitness-fanatical pastimes, we haven’t adopted the faithful old bike as our preferred mode of transport. Partly, this is because of over-congested, pothole-perforated, un-cyclepathed roads, and in this we could do well to look towards the Dutch, or even Melbourne, for inspiration in our council.
But a good bike is a pricey investment and, though it would reduce traffic, pollution, commute times and even, possibly, the need for a bypass, most of us are reluctant to take the step to peddle-power.
But be prepared – Yo’ Bicycles are about to change the way you see the humble bike.
Sammy Kaveney and Shaylah Griffith founded Yo’ Bicycles just a year ago, as much out of personal necessity as any grand business design.
“I’ve lived here for five years and had many bikes stolen,” explains Sammy. “I was having huge trouble finding a quality bike for a reasonable price.”
Working as a chef, Sammy grew tired, to say the least, of finishing an exhausting evening shift only to find a vacant spot where his ride home had been. Replacing his old bike with even a pre-loved rust bucket was growing more costly as the irrational inflation of supply and demand pushed even the second-hand market prices ever higher.
So Sammy took a punt. He’d been riding, and enjoying, fixed-gear bikes for some time and recognised their appeal, but also Byron’s need for a quality, affordable bike that put the ‘fun’ in functional and was pretty damn stylish.
“I was into ‘fixies’ for a little while, but found that the ones that we were interested in were so expensive, so I wanted to see if we could start making them. We found it really hard to get a good quality bike locally for under five hundred dollars, but everyone in this town needs a bike – the traffic in the summer is diabolical!”
With this concept as their guiding force, the pair researched and developed Yo’ Bicycles – a single model, unisex bike, available in a range of colours, as fast or as fun as you want them to be and all for just three hundred bucks.
When you’re in the market for a new bike, you’re faced with a bewildering array of choice – off-road or racer, style or functionality, one gear or a hundred – when all your really want is a bicycle, plain and simple. Sammy and Shaylah have avoided all this with the fixie – a one-size-fits-all bike, perfect for cruising the streets, working up a sweat, getting to work or doing impressions of that scene in E.T.
Their inspiration is multifold. Of course, there is the simple pleasure gained from pushing pedals, but Sammy and Shaylah are also driven by the numerous benefits they see in the lifestyle. Better for the environment, better for the body, dodging the permanent queue of traffic along Shirley Street – these are just a few of the substantial perks.
“Health and lifestyle is the number one growth market in the world,” Shaylah interjects, “and what better place to promote this than Byron Bay? We want to bring the fun aspect into cycling.”
“Biking in Europe is huge,” adds Sammy. “It’s a social, fun thing to do. We want to start doing Le Tour of Byron or something, where we can meet at a certain spot on a Saturday for coffee then ride out to somewhere else for lunch. We live in the most beautiful town in the world. We’ve got Watego’s that we can go have a barbecue at and then ride back over the hill…we really want to see a cycling community develop.”
The pair’s enthusiasm is infectious. The simplicity, affordability and, let’s face it, damn coolness, of their creations brings a spark of excitement and an itching to get back in the saddle. Nothing quite beats that wind-in-your-hair feeling and the inherent enjoyment pedaling your way round town, but there’s a very functional side to Yo’ Bicycles as well.
“We’d really like to get as many people as we can away from driving,” says Shaylah. “We get on a bike and go for a ride into town and it’s amazing how much it changes your attitude for the whole day and we want to extend that out to other people who may not necessarily be into biking or fitness.”
There is also a growing trend in cycling, and it has nothing to do with lycra. ‘Hipster’ may be an impertinent and clichéd term, but is very much a part of the suburban social scene. Single-geared fixies are the vehicle of choice for the macchiato-sipping fashionistas and Yo’ Bicycles are the perfect match. The duo is developing a range of accessories, including a wine rack, a six-pack sling and a ‘Beski’ – and Eski that fits neatly in the a-frame of the bike – to further enhance the cycling experience.
But Yo’ Bicycles are for everyone and the pair are quick to dismiss pigeonholes and stereotypes.
“One of the reasons we went with the fixie is that it’s not singling out any kind of person,” enthuses Shaylah. “We’re trying to open up and expand cycling to a larger demographic – older people that might not be so into biking or younger kids who are just starting out. As a female it may seem a little bit daunting starting out on a fixie because you’ve always ridden girls bikes, but getting on one and riding it has completely changed my whole perception and I’d love to be able to share that with as many people as possible.”
The bikes come ninety percent assembled and with all the tools needed to complete the very simple construction. An average frame height but with long seat stem accommodates a huge range of riders – girls, guys, tall, short, Sammy and Shaylah have carefully designed the fixie to suit as wide a variety of people as possible in the one single model. Made with resilient, treated metals, Yo’ Bicycles are also built to withstand our salt-air climates
For a couple of twenty-somethings with a bright idea, building bikes in their living room in the spare time, Sammy and Shaylah have thought of everything.
But their dream for their business extends beyond a single product, or even the several new models currently bathing in their think-tank. Sammy and Shaylah see cycling as a culture, one perfectly assimilated to the more environmental, health-conscious, outdoorsy lifestyle so prevalent in this and many coastal towns and cities.
Plans for a retail outlet and ‘bike station’ where the public can pop in, be provided tools and education and maintain their bikes are just the beginning. Sammy’s chef background has conjured notions of a Yo’ Bicycles degustation, farm-to-table cookery days, picnics and more, connecting the region’s culinary dots by bike.
The pair envisage an online community, sharing healthy recipes, photos of their customers’ Yo’ Bicycles experiences and customisations and all manner of inspiration to turn people on to the joys of peddle power.
“We’re not just another bike shop,” they share, “we want to incorporate the culture as much as the bikes.”
Three hundred dollars doesn’t buy you a bike. It buys you a lifestyle, a new perspective, health, happiness and a clear conscience that you’re not contributing to gridlock and emissions.
Yo’ Bicycles will be exhibiting at the Byron Bay Surf Festival Beach Market on Saturday, October 25th.
– This article first appeared on Common Ground Australia on Oct 14, 2014
Photos: ©SubCutanea | ©Yo’ Bicycles