For bicyclists, Athens is an unaccommodating city with narrow streets, sidewalks, and aggressive drivers. Yet bike riding has become increasingly popular in Athens, assumedly due to both economic reasons and environmental conscientiousness.
In an effort to develop a bicycle adaptable to Athens city life, Mechanical Engineers Stathis Stasinopoulos and Stathis Makris, Creative Director Nikos Pechlivanidis, and Art Director Xenia Spyrou came up with the Folding Project: a bicycle lightweight yet powerful enough to rival the aggression of the city.
“I needed a bike that would satisfy my personal needs of commuting easily back and forth from work in the city,” says Stasinopoulos about the Folding Project. Stasinopoulos, the founder of Folding Project and manufacturing company Velo Lab, is a passionate cyclist. The company’s bicycle is manufactured in Greece and sold internationally for serious bicyclists that regularly travel long distances, designed in a “cross frame” pattern.
Stasinopoulos says, “It combines the behavior of a Road Bike with the attitude of a City Bike.” It weighs less than 12 kilograms, yet maintains the standards of top riding quality and comfort. The 26 inch wheels and geometric design contributes to the bike’s agility and speed on the road. Folding only takes a mere 5 seconds and the bike can be rolled when folded, rather than carried. The company asserts that the majority of other folding bikes are heavier, take much longer to fold, and ride much less smoothly.
The team decided to design the bike with flat surfaces in order to have a more unique look. Stasinopoulos explains, “Flat surfaces add a ‘Bauhaus’ feeling to the bike’s appearance, enhancing the aspects of simplicity and functionality.”
The flat surface also functions as a blank canvas for custom art to be painted onto the surface. The potential to personalize ones bike is another feature that appeals to contemporary urban bicyclists. Stasinopoulos says that the company can design graphics themselves, but are sometimes given a description by the buyer with specific themes or references that they are interested in. The buyer also has the option of ordering a blank bicycle for him or herself to design.
The Folding Project participated in Athens’ 3rd and 4th Bike Festival, which promotes alternative and sustainable transportation methods to citizens. The Athens Bike Festival is the largest cycling show in all of the Balkans. The Folding Projects “Pedaling Monsters” custom artwork model received adulatory feedback in 2012. It was featured at the festival’s “Art Bike Exhibition.” Stasinopoulos says, “Visitors just couldn’t believe that this was a handmade Greek bike and everybody was amazed not only about the unique design and the quality of the frame, but also about the artwork.” A sales manager of one of the world’s biggest folding bicycle companies asked to take some close-up photos of the bicycle. These were the initial signs of success to come.
“Visitors just couldn’t believe that this was a handmade Greek bike and everybody was amazed not only about the unique design and the quality of the frame, but also about the artwork.”
After the overwhelming support and interest during this event, Stasinopoulos founded the start-up manufacturing company Velo Lab.
The effort to open and run a small business was challenge due to frustrating Greek bureaucratic red tape. Stasinopoulos describes the process as an odyssey. Stasinopoulos says, “It takes a lot of courage, nerves of steel, and loads of patience to deal with it all. The Greek bureaucracy has been and will always be a huge obstacle for this project!” He adds that the paperwork and required signatures are never ending, even for the simplest request.
Nevertheless, the following year in 2013, Velo Lab was an established company at the Athens Bike Festival with its own booth. In the same year, Folding Project entered the Eurobike IF Awards competition in Germany.
Velo Lab, the design and manufacturing company of Folding Project, states in their Company Overview: “FP’s innovation combines racing bicycle geometry, comfort riding position, urban bicycle agility, and at the same time offers the ability to fold in 3”, in a practical way where it can be easily rolled or stored.”
The company has also participated in the 23rd International Bicycle Trade Fair from August 27-30th this summer in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Velo Lab launched the e-FP, which is Folding Project’s electric bicycle featuring a powerful direct drive hub motor that has a range of up to 100 kilometers. The weight is less than 18 kilos and includes a strong battery located inside the bike’s very frame. The team was able to meet with high profile suppliers and traders during the show, only increasing the chances of the company’s expansion, visibility, and profit potential. The Folding Project was also nominated this year for the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Awards.
The Folding Project team states in their blog that their bicycles are “Proudly handmade in Greece.” The bikes are exclusively designed and manufactured in Greece, using only Greek aluminum. Stasinopoulos says there is an obviously emotional root to that decision, but also a practical one. The team wants to maintain control to ensure that the quality of the bike is always up to the best standards that they originally established. Thus, they want to closely monitor all stages of production locally.
Folding Projects’ main challenge continues to be time and money. Each member of the team has separate day jobs, yet they invest a large percentage of their daily life and income to the FP Bike. Folding Project is hoping for an investor, because the financing of the project is very difficult due to the current economic situation in Greece. While buyers of the bike are divided equally between Greeks and people abroad, more companies abroad have indicated interest in potential financial collaborations.
Stasinopoulos says, “We feel successful mainly for the fact that we keep trying to make the bike even better, to push it further, by constantly testing and integrating new materials and technologies.”
“Our friends keep saying to us, ‘Guys, just go for it! Don’t give up!’ “The Folding Project team has every intention of taking this advice.
To make an order for a standard or personalized Folding Project bike, contact Stasinopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VIDEO: The Hellenic Entrepreneurship Awards profiles the exceptional qualities of the Folding Project bicycle. (In Greek)