Glass falls for the ultimate commuter bike – the Foffa Prima
I have just purchased bicycle insurance. Not, perhaps, the most glamorous statement with which to start my love-letter to Foffa, but given that I have never insured a thing in my life, quite telling of the high value which I place on this object. For she is a thing of beauty: bright red with a metallic blue chain, light as a feather and a joy to ride. She suits me to a tee and the thought of her being taken from my side fills me with dread.
And so, with my bicycle, Foffa have achieved their goal – to create truly unique bikes for their equally unique customers. “We all dress differently, we all talk differently, we’re all individuals – why don’t we create a bike brand that actually listens to what customers want?” this was the question posed by Tyson Sadlo, co-owner of Foffa, when he met his business partner Dani Foffa.
Sadlo was, in his own words, “just a fat bastard who wanted to be fit”. His hectic lifestyle as a photographer allowed little time for exercise and, having spotted London couriers sprinting around town, he decided to do a little research into the particular bikes that they were riding. But when he eventually found some specialist courier bike stockists, he was met by a cliquey and snobbish response.
“I went into the shop dressed pretty conservatively and the guy serving was just rude. I just wasn’t enough of a hipster”. Unperturbed, Sadlo went to visit a man that one of his assistants had found on Gumtree – Dani Foffa was selling reconditioned vintage bikes from his one-bedroom ex-council flat. When Sadlo first went to visit him, he had about 30 bikes in the house – in the bathroom, in the tub, in the kitchen, the hallway – “at first I asked him if they were stolen” he laughs.
And so Foffa was born – practical, easy-to-ride bikes which are designed for the individual. And whilst the ultra-lightweight frame and simple detailing make these commuting bikes very desirable, it is this last feat – that of individuality – which is the real beauty in the brand. On his hunt for the perfect bike, Sadlo had spotted a gap in the market – bespoke bicycles which are reasonably priced and good quality. Foffa fills this void.
An elegantly designed, minimalist website serves as a design-tool, where customers can “build” their ultimate bike – either at home or in the store – choosing everything from the colour of the frame to the width and colour of the tires. Foffa don’t insist on you buying an entire bike either. If you want to fit your new Foffa with a well-loved and worn-in saddle, they will happily do so and drop the price of the saddle from the whole.
Sadlo’s “other job” – as a fashion, celebrity and luxury lifestyle photographer – has certainly had a bearing on Foffa’s branding. His understanding of style is evident from the moment that you walk into the store – a railway arch near Tower Bridge which also serves as the company’s development workshop. Everything in the shop screams cool - from the Apple computers to the chilled out staff, each of whom ride their own bespoke Foffa.
Meanwhile, the joyous array of bikes on display has a sweet-shop effect, immediately sending the customer’s mind wondering into what particular combination they will walk away with. This slick atmosphere is achieved, however, without the pretention and condescension of their east London contemporaries.
Recently, Foffa have gone a step further with their bespoke ideal, developing a line of durable stickers which can brand or decorate a bike. Their new Bespoke Plus service also allows customers to choose and suggest exactly what they would like in a bike. Foffa’s team will then do their best to make these suggestions a reality. This has resulted in, amongst other things, a copper-plated bike, a chrome bike and a “stripped” bike – pared back to its frame with no paint at all.
As well as carrying out these custom designs, the boys in the shop are also working on various new ideas for next year’s range of components, as well as a touring bike for those who want to take Foffa out of the city. With these trials and tests going on in the background, the shop has the quality of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – minus the Oompa-Lumpas! The choice, it seems, is endless – your imagination, the limit. by Emilie Lemons www.foffabikes.com