Interview: Jens Martin Skibsted on 'The Boston'

Posted on June 20, 2007 Under Design

A week or so ago, the Josh Spear team fell hard for the Boston Bike by Puma and Biomega. The Boston, also dubbed “The Puma Bike,” (same bike, different branding) racked up scores of points for its clean design, its in-house bike lock (that breaks the whole bike if ever broken into; take that, you bandits!) its 8-speed adaptability, and, its foldable frame- a useful trait that promises to make switches from bus to pedal-power that much easier. In fact, we loved this portable and pollution-free solution to getting around town so much that we just about fell over when we got the chance to ask Jens Martin Skibsted, one of the main brains behind the Boston, a few in-depth questions about urban mobility, the driving force behind the new bike. So, lucky readers, read on; the concept of urban mobility, when applied to the bike as we currently know it, is a huge idea with even bigger implications for the future…. What are some things you found most creatively exciting in the process of working on the Boston/Puma Bike?

Jens Martin Skibsted: Just to clarify; The bike is called “The Puma Bike” or “Boston” depending on whether respectively Puma or Biomega markets it. The term urban mobility is a word that has been used by Vexed Generation, Puma & Biomega to depict this field we were working within: Mobility in the cities.

It is a fascinating area where otherwise disrupted disciplines meet: City planners, product designers, service designers, architects, common transportation politics etc. The field is fresh because it came by a host of mega trends merging: Urbanization to a degree where most people now live in cities, environmentalism, globalization are the main tendencies that together have created a market or common space larger that any nation. Urban Mobility is also a sub brand within Puma that deals with this new trend and its segments. Skibsted Ideation has been the main external design partner for the Urban Mobility sub-brand, designing mainly the Biomega co-branded pieces.

To me the greatest parts of the cooperation have been to be involved with highly competent & creative people like e.g. Antonio Bertone & Mihara Yashuhiro. I love to be part of pioneering new business areas & to create something from a fresh. This has been a great opportunity to do so. Another interesting thing is that I have found there to be a general pattern for urban mobility: an inherent bipolarity: Moving from hot to cold / fast to slow: Heated environment to Aircon / Immobility to Mobility… Which objects and ideas provided the inspiration for the bike’s design?

JMS: The main idea was to get the folding function in the mix & still having a cool & simple object. Most folding bikes are kind of dorky. The inspiration to counter balance that came from BMX & Downhill bikes & American bad boy pop culture. Also there are a few bikes – like the Pedersen that use cables instead of tubes where only pull forces are needed. The shape I took as a point of departure was a half octagon. The idea of the bike as a laudable means of transportation is slowing gaining popularity as concerns about the environment increase. While most other bikes are still first and foremost considered a piece of sporting equipment, the Urban Mobility seems to position itself as a direct alternative to a car. From your perspective as designer, does this new segment hold a lot of opportunity for growth, or is the market still quite narrow for this kind of bike?

JMS: This is just one specific type of bike – so it is hard for me to judge how this one in particular can catch peoples aspirations & needs. However in general city bikes & comparable light non-emission urban means of transport are the future. No doubt in my mind. The cities are being clogged up for a fact & this is the worlds biggest market for a fact. As I mentioned there are a host mega-trend that are quite clear & these are not highly speculative. Another trend that I haven’t mentioned is that in megapoles there is also the fear of common transportation becoming a target for terrorist attack which in London together with the tolls have driven even more people towards the bikes. To me the cars have one great advantage is that they can communicate who you perceive yourself to be: Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Escalade, Volkswagen Beetle, Hummer etc. are all mainly expressions of culture. When this language catches on massively in bicycle culture you will start seeing a shift.

Thanks so much for your time, Jens, we can’t wait until these start taking up some more room on the streets!