Never not Cycling

«If it doesn’t have two wheels, then you don’t care.» Mama Elda once told little Nicola. Indeed, the two wheels are drive, desire and passion for Nicola. They accompany him from the first neighborhood rounds on the BMX to the development of the first Toolbike, which combines the best of city, cargo and e-bikes. We sat down with him to learn more about his passion for cycling and how MONoPOLE came to be.

The story begins back in the 80s in Muri, close to Bern, where Nicola grew up. His 7th birthday will change his life forever: he receives a BMX as a present. From that day on, nothing will ever be the same. He immediately gets hooked by the freedom and independence he experiences when riding the bicycle and starts spending any free minute on the saddle. 

«Going out and playing with the bike, the most important was the sensation of riding, not really to travel to places. Experiencing the flow, the speed, the playfulness of the tool. This was all that mattered for me», Nicola remembers. As the years pass by, he progresses and starts to collect different kinds of bicycles, different kinds of skills, and, consequently, different kinds of injuries. And this doesn’t really amuse his surgeon father.

In the 90s, Nicola discovers mountain biking. This opens up new horizons for him and deepens his love story with cycling. At this time, this sport is still a niche activity in Switzerland. Nicola begins to compete nationally and reaches an almost professional level. This is also when he starts to share this passion truly with others, and meets some of the most influential people for him, who will follow him over the years and are today also contributing to the MONoPOLE’s adventure.

«Feeling the flow, the speed, the playfulness of the tool. This was all that mattered for me.»
Nicola, creator of MONoPOLE

Hands on the handlebars and in the toolbox

Next to cycling, another passion follows Nicola over the years: invention and manual labor. In Muri, he spends a lot of time at Bruno’s, an Italian mechanic who owns a workshop and repairs different types of bikes and motorcycles. The young Nicola is quite fascinated by him. «I remember his blue overall, full of grease, and I was captivated by his energy and presence. When I was making my rounds with the BMX, I would always stop at Bruno’s and admire his manual skill and his interactions with the customers.»

But Nicola would never bring a bike to Bruno for repair. «I could spend hours fixing, improving and inventing stuff for my bike. Since we rode our mountain bikes year-round and all day and night through the woods, we had to get creative with the lighting system, for example. At the time, the offer of powerful lighting for bikes was quite limited in Switzerland, or it was too expensive to buy», he recalls. Being a creator of new bicycle tools was also a premise for what would become his major life project.

With a trick to the dream job

How do such grand passions that guide you through your early years shape your identity and the path to follow? With inventing, designing and building so strong in his heart, Nicola decides to take the architecture route. And to keep the pedals rolling during the studies, he dreams of becoming a bike messenger. After dozens of unsuccessful applications to the Bicycle Courier in Bern, he sneaks into the Cycle Messenger World Championship in Zurich in 1999 by impersonating a courier and wins the competition. The Velokurier Bern have then no choice but to give him the job! 

After completing his degree, Nicola begins his career in the field. He soon realizes that this is not the life he wants, he is lacking the flexibility and concreteness to see the results of his work. He starts working as a freelance product designer and continues the messenger duties to ensure a steady income. 

This period is an era of absolute freedom. Combining his passion for cycling with his passion for design, being able to focus entirely on conceptualizing, creating, building, and seeing the results of his ideas makes him truly fulfilled. But freedom also comes at a cost, this lifestyle isn’t the easiest, especially when it means spending ten hours a day on the bike regardless of the weather for less than minimum wage. After seven years of this life, Nicola decides it is time to take the next step and reimagine himself. He also wants to grow and get out of what has become his comfort zone. 

Staying close to his lifelong passion is an absolute necessity in that next step. Nicola has the chance to join FREITAG to manage the bike messenger product range. In doing so, he gains a range of new skills and perspectives, particularly regarding the connection between products and users. Shortly afterward, he is appointed Product Development Lead at FREITAG. It is during these years that the idea of creating the ultimate bicycle for cities emerges and begins to materialize. Fascinated by urban mobility and being immersed in Zurich also plays a major role in inspiring him. Bags, bikes - the connection to urban logistics is natural.

Creating a new kind of bicycle that inspires change

«I believe bikes have the potential to be objects that people will identify with and be proud to own. In my opinion, few city bikes can create such a strong connection. We want to be pioneers and change the way people see and use bicycles, that it contributes to creating more livable cities in the future.» That’s how Nicola sums up what he is trying to accomplish with MONoPOLE.

Not being able to find the right bike for his daily use in the city leads Nicola to design his own. In the process, the aspect that matters the most to him is the sensation he would experience riding the bike. «The bike is an object that fascinates me because it’s one of the few tools that touches the body at five different points: both hands, both feet and the bottom. It almost becomes an extension of oneself. I hope people who ride MONoPOLE will sense this feeling of symbiosis, too.»

After investing private savings and countless hours of his free time into this personal venture, Nicola receives a major boost, as FREITAG integrates the project into the innovation incubator. With the support of Daniel Freitag, a valuable mentor and business partner, the venture is then transformed into its own legal entity, Toolbike AG. Thus, Nicola is working in his dream job, offering his vision and values to improve the daily flow of people in cities and inspire change to live differently.