Manufacturer Douze Cycles has been offering its first line of long-tail bikes, LTs, for a few weeks. For a decade, the French brand has managed to carve out a comfortable spot for itself in the cargo bike market in France (and elsewhere in Europe); An opportunity for us to take a look at the company’s journey, through an interview with its founder, Thomas Colbiot.
Twelve cycles, the golden ratio?
Don’t try to find a mathematical reason for the brand name. There is no golden or fixed number for Néper to reach this number twelve. Moreover, it has nothing to do with cycling. And Thomas isn’t originally from Aveyron either. This category was chosen simply because he registered his company in the twelfth month of 2012. The name was found. For fun, Douze-Cycles.com first launched on 12/12/2012 at 12:12 PM. Number enthusiasts…
Before he headed a company that employed 35 people in Ladoix-Serrigny, a French town located on the Côte-d’Or (21 is it an upside down twelve, coincidence?), Thomas was an industrial designer. Its specialty: all kinds of vehicles. Through his studio, VRC Design, he designs items for the automotive industry, such as car seats for example. “I really didn’t like it‘He tells us with a smirk. He also imagined airplanes, small lamps, airbag jackets (for Helit) and even indoor furniture.
Expats in Japan
In the early 2000s, he moved to Japan to work for Yamaha. He designed musical instrument design for them (the Japanese company’s primary business, before it also cared for two-wheelers and then bicycles). “It was very interesting and ultimately enriching for the rest of my career; A musical instrument with technical limitations similar to a bicycle“.
And precisely in parallel with his activity, he began to design the chassis of various types of bicycles. In 2005, imagine a satisfied tricycle, the Curve (photos below), which remained as a prototype. In 2009, Thomas won first prize in a design competition in Copenhagen with his project MyLoop (photo above). It was about imagining a self-service bike (we talked about it in this article).
From a folding bike to a cargo bike
Then Thomas will be interested in the folding bike market. It will design a compact folding bike. Meanwhile, he returned to Europe. He settled in Liege, Belgium. He will devote himself to this project for six months, doing a market study and then building a prototype. But there is a shortage of money and competition is fierce. Brompton speaks a lot about English. French Decathlon unveils Btwin TILT (we tested it).
It was around this time – 2011 – that Thomas Coulbeaut started taking an interest in the cargo bike market. “At the time, it was a less mature and also less challenging market than the folding bike market.He admits to us. He visits players in this sector such as Urban Arrow in the Netherlands or Larry vs. Harry in Copenhagen. The now-famous Bullitt at that time is a small craft production. Thomas appreciates the Danish aircraft design, but also finds some technical flaws.
Inspired by the latter, he would imagine a two-cargo cargo bike with a different width. Frame can be separated into two parts. A common rear cycle part, and a modular front part, with different chain lengths. The rest, you know. He registered his company in December 2012 to begin marketing the first edition of the Douze biporteur.
“He didn’t expect such success. In six months, he’ll be making nearly 70 bikes”
At the time, Thomas wanted to stay on a craft project, and not mass production. By small means, he begins to introduce himself through social networks and an English-language website. But he did not expect such success. Within six months, he will make nearly 70 bikes and ship them to England, Holland and even Germany. Welding, painting, assembling … For two years, the guy did everything himself and left a few liters of sweat and many sleepless nights.
2014, a breath of fresh air in Burgundy
In 2014, Thomas wants to structure himself. Affiliates arrive to bring some fresh air (both human and financial). Then he settled in Burgundy, in Ladoix-Serrigny. Douze Factory SAS was founded on April 1, 2014 (and it’s not a fish).
Meanwhile, Thomas began working on the development of his duo. The second version comes with two major modifications: the chassis is still detachable, but this time more easily, via two quick mounting points (compared to five screws previously). Another novelty: the exit from the steering rod. Thomas designed the cable routing. The system that has since been widely copied in the world of biporters (Yuba, Carqon, Riese & Müller…).
Twelve, Reflection Made in Taiwan
At this time he established a strong relationship with Taiwan and its bike companies with recognized experience. Design-wise, Thomas will be operating significantly in the Pacific Cycles and “Zero Section” offices. It is a research and development center for brands.
The popular IF Move, CarryMe or Birdy folding bike from Riese & Müller is coming out of the Zero Department offices (check out our February 2009 article!). At the site, Thomas supplies the components and will also find a supplier of aluminum chassis for the Douze V2 (the company with which the French company still cooperates today).
Logistics: cargo bike to decarbonize cities
2015-2016 period; We are beginning to understand the interest of the cargo bike in decarbonizing cities and in particular for last-mile delivery. This is the beginning of bicycle (or speed) logistics platforms. The Douze V2 engine proves to be an ideal vehicle for this use; Capable enough but also very agile in the city. Only, it remains an on-demand bike. This reasoning does not quite meet the needs of logisticians, who invest in fleets of freight bikes.
This is how the Douze G4 cargo bike looked in 2017 (see our testing of the Family Edition). It is still a double carrier, but this time it is mass-produced. This facilitates their manufacture and marketing (component sourcing, coating, assembly, delivery, etc.). Once again it is a success. Even today, the G4 accounts for 70% of Douze Cycles sales, just as much in the private market.
The arrival of the long-tail bike to Douz
In between all these important pioneering steps, Thomas finds time to do what he loves above all: designing bikes. It starts on the ground on a long tail bike. “To me, it’s a less interesting bike from an industrial design standpoint, but easier to produce than a cargo bike.“He admits us.
However, with the company’s operational needs monopolizing, Thomas is slow to finish developing this bike. At this time – 2019 – a wonderful opportunity will arise. Île-de-France Mobilités has just launched Veligo, its long-term electric bike rental offer. They want to enrich their offering with cargo bikes; Two carrier and a long tail. The opportunity is perfect. The biporteur would be the G4 (modified with the rear wheel drive) and the Douze would offer the model of the long-tail bike they were working on.
Douze LT, the new long-tail bike on the market
Operation Veligo will delay Douze’s arrival in the long bike segment. The Douze LT is an evolution of the long-tailed Veligo, adapted to the specific needs of the market. In December 2021, Côte-d’Orienne launched its new range of Douze LT long-tail bikes.
Based on the same aluminum frame, the Douze LT long-tail bike is available in four versions: the LT-M is a long-tail (no electric-assisted) muscle bike; The LT1 is powered by a motor in the rear wheel hub (a motor similar to the Veligo); The LT2B features a Bafang crankset engine; Finally, at the top of the range we find the LT2S, integrating the Shimano EP8 engine. We currently have LT2B on hand, testing will be published soon.
Next steps in Douz?
With the biporteur, the Douze V1, then the V2 and then the G4 and the launch of this new range of long bikes, the catalog of the Douze factory has been enriched. The cargo bike accessories galaxy has also expanded, for individuals and professionals alike. In the meantime, the company’s management was changed again. The bound has departed, and another has arrived; And not least, because it is Geoffroy Rue de Pizzo. The MEDEF chief is investing in mobility with his Notus investment fund.
What after twelve cycles? In particular, we had the opportunity to return to their partnership with the car manufacturer Toyota (see this article). You’ve already seen in our columns the brand’s futuristic cargo bike, the Douze H. This new cargo bike marks a new important step; Especially because the chassis will be manufactured in France, via the injection process of recycled aluminum.
Since 2020, Dose has already conducted an environmental design study on this new model, in partnership with Ademe (transportation, carbon footprint, etc.). We will have the opportunity together to return to this topic at length soon. But before we talk to you about eco-design, we can’t wait to give you feedback on our pedal kilometers on the Douze H. Our little finger makes us think you’re like us, impatient for feedback. Wait, we’re coming.
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