From a name hatched over a few beers among friends (and later given more meaning as ‘World Toward Fixies’), design-centric bike brand wtf has grown into a serious operation in the past two years. Founded by three Shanghai-based Malaysians with backgrounds in creative industries, wtf have now taken over the former premises of hairdressers Daz at Jiashan Market
(who have moved just around the corner), moving their original Zhenning Lu store to the site and adding a small F&B operation on the side.
A bike shop-cum-bar and café was always the initial plan, co-founder Joe Wong tells us, but the eating and drinking side of the concept was put on hold in the brand’s early stages as the partners felt they lacked the right expertise. In the intervening period, the team have built a reputation for good value, fully customisable fixed gear bikes and now, having found a prime spot and drafted in Matteo Ferraboschi formerly of the adjacent Café Sambal, wtf are ready to realise their plans to the full.
With a bar spanning the width of the space at the back, wtf’s single room is split down the middle with a handful of tables to one side and an array of brightly coloured frames, rims, saddles and other bike parts opposite. A row of off-the-peg bikes sits beside the entranceway, while the main bike shop part of the operation features a wall where assistants swap in various parts around a central frame to give an idea of what they’ll ultimately build for you.
The technical geekery that tends to come with the territory for fixie fanatics can be intimidating for those looking at buying such a bike, but Wong says that wtf is led more by aesthetics. ‘We’re design-focused more than tech-focused,’ he says. ‘We update our colours seasonally and we want every bike to be an extension of the customer’s personality.’ There is enough technical know-how here to discuss the specifics if needed, but most bike building consultations at wtf begin with the question, ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ instead.
It’s a personalised model that means after two years of producing bikes, wtf estimate that no more than ten have been identical. The basic frames, made in southern China, include steel and aluminium numbers in sports and retro styles, as well as what wtf claim is the only purpose-designed female fixie frame in the country. Add-ons include saddles from premium British brand Brooks, but the majority of parts are produced in China and aren’t branded, enabling wtf to keep costs relatively low. Customised models start from around 3,000RMB.
The bar and café side of the operation features a modest menu of craft beers (from 35RMB for a Brooklyn Lager), wines (from 45RMB a glass) and non-alcoholic drinks from 20RMB. Pastries and snacks will be added to the menu soon.
This ties neatly into the social aspect of wtf’s operation, which the founders say is central to what they do, and manifests in regular Sunday morning rides leaving at 9.30am from the store. But if you can’t make it out of bed that early, wtf’s new space makes for a great place to kick back with a beer and ogle the sleek frames regardless.
By Jake Newby