MAGAZIN x Erik Spiekermann x Urwahn

The furniture retailer MAGAZIN stands for attitude, idea and concept. In addition to home furnishings, the store also carries on-the-go products and professes its great affinity for bicycles. In cooperation with the high-calibre designer and typographer Erik Spiekermann as well as the e-bike manufacturer Urwahn, MAGAZIN has developed a remarkable e-bike with a creative twist as part of the concept.

You can't quite help but think: »Riding an e-bike is cheating!« The bicycle is, after all, a transportation device that resorts to human strength. And what's more, it shows what humans are capable of: not only with regard to physical performance, but also in technical terms, the bicycle reconciles physics with the art of engineering. This principle has undergone countless updates over the past 150 years: brakes, gears and frames have improved, but the basic concept has remained the same. The e-bike builds on that as well, reinforcing the simple idea of cycling with electric propulsion.

Paradigm shift on the bike path

The massive e-bike boom pleases Sebastian Meinecke, Managing and Marketing Director at Urwahn Bikes. Since its founding in 2013, his Magdeburg-based manufacture has been one of Germany's leading innovators for e-bikes. »We have set out to turn inner-city mobility inside out,« says Meinecke. He credits e-bikes with a new status, as they are no longer just a means of transport for those with limited physical strength. In Meinecke's opinion, the mobility revolution has prompted a paradigm shift: the e-bike is now being taken seriously as it substantially expands the operating range of a conventional bicycle.

His brainchild, the »Platzhirsch« model, blends this new thinking with disruptive approaches to design and functionality. For its fabrication, he applied the 3D printing technology, thus allowing for a discontinuity with the classic bicycle shape, the so-called diamond frame. By breaking the traditional, static principle, the manufacturer abandons the classic seat tube while ensuring the saddle to become much more dynamic and comfortable – comparable to a free swing. Urwahn prints with steel and builds with this material on the tradition of bicycle construction. The battery is integrated into the frame, thus concealed from immediate view. Production is also facilitated by the availability of relatively inexpensive, powerful lithium-ion batteries – another factor that spurred the e-bike boom.

The signature of the boss himself

Designer Erik Spiekermann, a passionate racing cyclist who delights in talking about his tours through the Dolomites and the benefits of a single-speed bike, hadn’t really bothered much with this. His heart beats for Italian racing bike classics, whose brightly coloured designs often come from the bosses themselves. Spiekermann finds them tacky but admires their historical origins, and so he agrees to lend the »Platzhirsch« his own signature. »Refining a frame is a fascinating challenge for a designer because you barely have any surface to work with!«

To visualise the syntax of a design

Instead of letting the form follow the function, the form literally is to explain the function: »I have a principle with these kinds of stories: I want to visualise the syntax of a design, the measurements, the numbers,« says Spiekermann, adding that with a bicycle, this approach yields a double sense, as the proportions of the frame are essential. So he decided to write on the tubes to explain the basic principle of the »Platzhirsch«. For Meinecke, this was the perfect fit: »We come from a technical background, we are innovation trailblazers. Erik added a very nice attitude to it that brings the modern construct of our bike back down to earth.« The colours provide new interpretive spaces: bright traffic orange as a tribute to urban infrastructure and its workers, pebble grey to reflect the urban habitat. It may be self-conscious not to choose green as the colour of the mobility revolution, but the »Platzhirsch« has appeared precisely to challenge the status quo.

On 18 May 2022 at 7:30 pm, MAGAZIN product developers will share insights into the genesis of MAGAZIN products created in cooperation with designers – true to the motto: »There is no such word as 'can't'«.

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Text: MAGAZIN; Editor Sonja Pham and Katrin Engelmann for the mcbw Online MAGAZINE.