A year ago I decided to upgrade my bicycle, I was using a very heavy and old one, nicely donated by one of my ex-flatmates. It was about time to have something nicer. I browsed online, and for my budget (not a lot) I decided that the best was a hybrid, fun to drive, but versatile enough to use it in London or one day in the countryside.
I found out that only one company was producing in Europe, and it was Orbea, the brand from the Basque Country that I knew from my childhood. The Orbea bikes, together with BH (Beistegui Hermanos) and Cia (GAC), were the bicycles that everyone had when I was little. I can’t recall if I had one myself, but I am sure my brother or my friends did. They were everywhere. So when I realised that I could have a fancy Orbea now I didn’t hesitate. Then I started to look thoroughly into the bikes, and the company’s history and I saw that lettering, then I had absolutely no doubts. That was my bike!
Orbea started as a foundry: selling guns. The Basque Country and Catalonia were leading the Spanish Industrial Revolution during the 19th century and early 20th, so it made sense (see for instance the Vizcaya Transporter Bridge, built in 1893). Happily for everyone, by the 1930s they forgot about guns, baby strolls or any other item, and they focused only on bikes. That is when that poster came out, signed by Anibal Tejada. The company has a museum/archive in the same town where they have been producing bikes, Eibar, that might be worth visiting.
The company became a cooperative, and after a lot of ups and downs, they are back to produce in their local place. It’s probably the only European bike company with a large production that still has factories in Europe.
Although the company has been able to rebrand itself and find a place within the bicycle industry, the evolution of the logotype is not as interesting as it could be.
I published this short text a year ago on my Facebook page, but it made sense to post it here. I also want to rescue one the comments on that FB post:
‘I love that you not only got a bike, but you researched the company history, including the history their logo and lettering. Anybody can get a bike, but you got a history that you could ride. Wonderful’ RM
And yes, the yellow bicycle is my bicycle.
All the pictures and most of the history belongs to the Orbea’s website.
For those interesting in bicycles and in Orbea, there is a 6 min video, commemorating the 175 anniversary of the company.