Vasili Zygouris has always been one to shrug off criticism.
“When I was 12, I told my family I wanted to be a mountain bike rider and they started laughing,” he says. “They didn’t know what mountain biking was.”
Zygouris did though and he was obsessed. Growing up in Greece, he would spend hours sifting through bike magazines, admiring the glossy frames printed on the page. He thought he wanted to race them, but really it was the designs that caught his eye.
“It stuck in my mind that this is what I wanted to do in the future,” he says. “I think the passion started from back then.”
Now in his late thirties, Zygouris is dedicating his time to his dream. He lost his job as an exhibition designer in 2020, and has since spent his days creating futuristic concept bikes from his home in Sydney, Australia.
His designs, posted to over 55,000 followers on his Instagram page (opens in new tab), come with bold features, including extra-thick forks, integrated headlights and frames with no down tube. While most of the comments Zygouris receives online are positive, some are quick to mock his ideas.
“First of all, the negative feedback, most of the time I don’t really care about it," he says.
“Sometimes people cannot accept something different. They like traditional geometry. This is what they want to see, this is what works in their minds. For me, I just go with the flow.”
One of his more recent frame designs, inspired by an Alfa Romeo car, sparked particular debate for its lack of brake levers.
“I think the confusion with people is when they see drop bars without levers and then they see disc brakes, they think it’s a track bike, but it’s not. I think in the future, we’re not going to have levers, we’re going to have touch buttons or a different system. Think about how we moved away from cables and now we have wireless gears. You don’t know what it’s going to be next.”
His Alfa Romeo concept design is also notable for having lights fitted into the handlebars, something Zygouris feels will become commonplace in the future.
“Why do we need to have external lights that you have to adjust and attach?” he asks. “We talk about aerodynamics, but if you attach a headlight underneath the handlebars, all those aerodynamics are gone.”
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Aerodynamics, it turns out, is the operative word. Four years ago, Zygouris started track cycling to help him learn more about how bikes interact with airflow. “I wanted to understand aerodynamics, bike position, the effect on performance of the skinsuit, the helmet… everything.”
With a master's degree in industrial design and his newfound track knowledge, Zygouris returned to his studio to draw up his ideas. “I thought it would be good to design products and incorporate the things that I feel will make them contemporary, futuristic bikes.”
His most outlandish concept, perhaps, is a metallic silver Koenigsegg. On first look, the frame bears an instant resemblance to Chris Boardman’s Lotus 108, but comes with a front disc wheel, pierced with five giant holes.
“I always liked cars,” he says. “I always liked the engineering behind them, and some specific cars inspired me to design.
“[With the Koenigsegg design] I wanted to bring the concept of the car wheel to the bike. So what I did was I created these holes, and I was like ‘ok, if you have these holes, you’re going to ruin all the aerodynamics.’ So I added acrylic panels covering both sides of the wheel.”
So far, only one of Zygouris’s designs has seen the light of day: the Cobrarace. He made five of these custom road bikes in total, selling four at 45,000AUD (£25,000) a piece, and keeping one for himself.
“It’s not UCI approved,” he says. “But it’s fully functional and it’s very fast.”
Zygouris’s main focus, however, is on aesthetics. For the Cobrarace’s finish, he added 24-carat gold leaf and wrapped the frame in 10 layers of shiny, clear coat. Each bike, he explains, takes him up to a month to make and build.
Now, the designer’s ambition is to offer his ideas to some of the world’s biggest bike brands. “I think it’s my time,” Zygouris says. "I've been waiting for this for so many years.
“What I can bring to the table is a different approach. I can offer a different signature design to the whole of the bicycle industry."
Perhaps one day, he hopes, children will see his frames in magazines and be inspired to do the same.
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Tom is one of Cycling Weekly's news and features writers. In 2020, he started The TT Podcast, covering both the men's and women's pelotons and featuring a number of British riders.
An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides.
He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.
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