Inside the development of the Opossum

The Opossum is the flagship product in the Tubike collection. With new updates coming to the product, Tubike product developer and founder of the Opossum, Ilaria Berio, talks about how her design and concept of the Opossum came around

How did you get the idea for the Opossum?
At the time, I was a mother of two very young children and I would cycle my child to kindergarten and back every day. Living in Torino, it has very varied weather, much like the UK, so cycling for 30 minutes in the cold morning with a young child had some issues. I tried so many things to keep my child warm, and in the end, I had to settle for a ski suit.

As you can imagine with a strong-willed child, getting her in and out of a ski suit four times a day proved to be a real struggle, plus I had to remember to bring it with me every time I travelled, and I remember thinking ‘there has got to be another way’ – which led me to think about making the ski suit a more permanent feature on the bike itself.

How did you get from an idea to a physical product?
My child became ill because of the cold morning ride into kindergarten. So I went to the doctor and he advised me against cycling, so I changed doctors.

I decided to search if the product existed elsewhere, I looked online in the whole of northern Europe but couldn’t see anything. The only alternative was a cargo bike, and this wasn’t suitable for the thin roads and busy streets of Italy. There were plenty of children’s rain suits available, but the cold was the real issue.

Eventually, I decided to make my own. I cut up an old trolley seat and sewed on some arms of the ski jacket for the legs to slip into, and my daughter loved it! She was even falling asleep on the way to school cuddling her stuffed animal.

Soon after, everyone was asking me where they could get one of these seat covers; people at school, other cyclists, even when I was at stop signs! The best part was that I didn’t have to fight with my daughter anymore, instead, I just left this attached to the bike.

After this, I decided to start a detailed design project and patent, and I sided with a factory that specialised in mountain equipment in order to get the right protection from the cold weather. The product gained more and more traction, and then started to win prizes and notably went on to win the New Product Competition – Cosmo Bike Award.

Where did the inspiration for the name come from?
From the very beginning, I struggled to describe it properly. It is similar to how the Kangaroo puts a joey in its pouch to keep it safe and warm, but originally, the Opossum was only fitted to the back of my bike. I heard somewhere that the Opossum carries its children around on its back, and I thought, that’s exactly like me!

Everything started with the Opossum. When the CEO of Tucano Urbano, Diego Sgorbati, found out about the product, he invited me to meet him and wanted me to join his team. There were strong similarities between my product and the Termoscud leg cover that was so successful for Tucano already.

From this meeting, Tubike was born. The Opossum was improved further with Tubike – it made it fully waterproof and it made the pricing more democratic – and we went on to develop into a fantastic team with some very inventive products that make life easier on the bike. Tucano Urbano is a brand that encourages us to be as creative as possible, and even the strangest of ideas can become viable. There is a strong will to find real solutions to real problems that cyclists come across every day.

For 2020, the Opossum has been updated. It is available in blue and will replace the previous grey colour. Now developed into a whole line of Opossum products, parents can now purchase Opossum Front, Opossum Summer and Garibaldina Opossum.

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