Frédéric Mertens came to The Bicycle Academy with a plan. His ambition was to help liberate commuters from the mental stresses and physical strains associated with travel to work. We created a customised 10 day bicycle building course that helped Frédéric to realise his ambitions and create a prototype folding bicycle frame. This frame was the starting point for his company Ahooga Bikes.
In this article Frédéric tells us all about his ideas and the experience he had at The Bicycle Academy.
"Every day we get up, we go out and we are immediately faced with the challenge of mobility within a busy society. If we want to begin each day positively then we need to find ways to introduce serenity and happiness into our commutes. The need for mobility demands so much time and space in our life. Traditionally cars have been the predominant symbol of mobility but nowadays they represent many negative ideas and experiences.
In an increasingly environmentally conscious society many people are starting to understand that they can make a positive impact by selecting smarter and greener transportation alternatives, whilst also enjoying a positive impact on their own health and wellbeing.
Cycling to work can be a demotivating prospect in a hilly landscape, such as in my home city of Brussels. For this reason electric bikes are becoming ever more popular. Unfortunately electric bikes are typically very heavy and require electric assistance in almost all circumstances, even on flat roads. Young riders want hyperlight electric bikes because they prefer dynamic bikes, elderly people need hyperlight electric bikes because they simply cannot handle heavy bikes.
Most commuters travel into cities from the outskirts, some travel over 50 miles each way every day. Clearly this is too far to travel by bicycle alone, for some the answer is multimodal commuting with a folding bicycle. Sadly folding bikes can be poor performers with certain design drawbacks: heavy weight, hinge in the middle of the main frame, absence of the indispensable triangle shaped frame.
I needed to design an electric, hyperlight, dynamic handling, folding bicycle.
The problem was that I didn’t know anything about bicycle design and I knew even less about bicycle frame building. I was also totally lacking in confidence, had two left hands, and I had never seriously done any manual work. After searching the Internet and comparing all the different options in Europe and in the US, I selected The Bicycle Academy to help me with these issues… and I’m glad I did!
To my delight I found that Frome is a charming and fascinating small town, full of alternative businesses located in a beautiful region. The workshop is cozy and located in an old mill, furnished with taste and simplicity, equipped with all necessary machinery and tools. The knowledge, the skills, the creativity, the kindness and the patience of the members of the team are seriously impressive.
I am now three years on from completing my frame building course. Thanks to the training from The Bicycle Academy my team of 10 employees helps to contribute to a culture of happier mobility within Brussels. Currently there are 3000 electric, hyperlight, dynamic folding bicycles made by Ahooga bikes smoothly riding all over Europe and even a few in regions as far away as New-Zealand.
During European Mobility Week we were very proud to release our latest modular bike that was designed and developed partly thanks to my the additional TIG welding masterclass that I did at The Bicycle Academy earlier this year. Thanks again to Andrew and his colleagues for changing my life!"
Head over to ahooga.bike to find out more about the Ahooga Folding Hybrid Bike.
Words by Frédéric Mertens.