// DO WHAT YOU LOVE! AND WHY COMMUNITY MATTERS
In today’s episode, we have a super bad-ass guest: Claudi stopped by at Standert Bicycles in Mitte to sit down with Benedict, who’s a very essential part of the Standert team, a total road bike & fixed gear devotee - and a real Berliner! How about that?!
Since they started out in 2012, Standert Bicycles have created an awesome Berlin brand around bicycles they want to ride themselves. Their combo of store, showroom, workshop and café works super well and has kind of become an open & chillaxed meeting place for the Berlin bicycle tribe.
Bicycles are such an essential part of our lives. Of Berlin life! We could not imagine to live in this city without our bikes. For us, it stands for freedom, independence… and Claudi actually often has her best ideas while riding a bike! Plus, it fits perfectly into the eco- & health conscious mindset of many Berliners...
Baaam! We hope you’re fully enjoying this episode...
>> Here's a short intro video to set you into the scene:
In this interview, you'll learn more about
- What is the story behind Standert Bicycles & why it is written with "-ert"
- How a bike store turned into a hub for the Berlin cycling scene
- What they do to grow a community & get people excited to ride together
- Why it is important to build and sell only the things you love
- What we need to do to help building a friendly & peaceful coexistence of cars and cyclists in Berlin
// LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW ON SOUNDCLOUD
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// OR READ IT HERE:
Hey ho Benedict, million thanks for taking your time - I know you guys are super busy, so I’m really grateful that I could grab you for a little chat!
I’m super passionate about riding bikes. In Berlin, but also everywhere I go - it just makes my life better in so many ways! So, being able to do an interview in a place where I’m surrounded by the most beautiful two wheelers, hanging on those cool brick walls - and talking to someone who’s even more passionate about bicycles - and definitely more knowledgeable than me - I’m feeling super privileged right now.
With Standert, you’ve created so much more than just a bike shop or manufacture! You’re doing a lot to promote this as a holistic “lifestyle” and are also pretty active in pushing things forward in the Berlin cycling scene… Can’t wait to extract lots of interesting stories of you and dream a bit about the future...
To kick things off, I always like to set the people out there a bit into the scene. Just in a few words or sentences: what is Standert Bicycles for you?
Well, first of all Standert Bicycles is a bicycle brand, it’s as easy as that. We developed it since a couple of years now. In addition to that we have the well-known showroom here in Berlin Mitte - which is a showroom, shop, workshop and café all in one.
At the same time it’s the hub for the cycling scene here in Berlin. A lot of messengers are hanging out here, spending their stand-by time. We have two weekly shop rides, training rides for road cyclists. Every now and then we host some events, some parties - launch parties for our bikes or just some different events, like some parties during the “Fahrradschau”**.
Of course, we have our workshop. We now mainly focus on working on our own bikes, and that’s taking quite some time - building them, customizing them. So we don’t do as much repairs as we did before. But still, of course for all our customers and, if there’s time, we can do some repairs for other people as well.
So we have the café with really good coffee. We have the shop and the showroom. We screen cycling races on our TV all the time. And we have the workshop.
And in the basement, there’s the office where Max and I are sitting and doing all the brain work...
Team Standert: founder Max & Marketing brain Benedict
That’s… wow! I mean this is SO much! There’s so much more to it than just saying “we sell bicycles”. Now, I’d be super curious to hear how the story of Standert Bicycles started? How did it all happen? What was your purpose as a team to create a place like this?
Actually, Max studied Industrial Design here in Berlin and while doing so, he rode as a cycling messenger for some time. And combining his studies and his hobby, which was cycling, all the time (he was pretty much into mountain biking back then, too), he designed his first frame he wanted to ride himself.
It was kind of a need he wanted to fill, because he was looking for this classic-looking, but modern frame and he couldn’t get it. Or it would have been super expensive. So he designed his own first frame - and then people asked him where to get it! Then the idea grew to look for a space to sell the frame.
At the same time, his now-wife Anna had the idea of ice cream popsicles, completely organic and they made them themselves. So they combined it into a space where they can have some kind of ice cream sales and bicycle sales - and it ended up in a bike shop with a café selling ice cream.
Oh my god, I never knew about the ice cream!!
Well, we’re not doing it anymore. We have other ice cream now. It’s been a lot of work! We did it in our basement with big machines, but it just caused too much work. So with the time we decided to focus on the bikes instead of the ice cream [smiles].
But it’s great that you still have the café in here, cause it makes the place really special.True! Back then, it was also much more of a café-restaurant flair to it, because we had more seats, we had soup and stuff - and there was just too much going on here in the front! We needed three employees just for the café. So that’s… that’s not really working.
Yeah, I see. But I think it works really well the way it is now. And why did you choose the name Standert? What does it stand for?
Actually, Standert as we write it (with “-ert” at the end), is a Berlin slang. There was a time, when really cool things that are obvious were “standert”. When you ask a friend “Do you come to a party tonight?”, he would say “standert”!
On the other side, it’s what we wanted our bikes to be - kind of a new standard of city bikes, commuters, fixed gears… With a classic look, but a modern appeal to it. We wanted to create a new standard. So the word “standert” with its second meaning in the Berlin slang was quite fitting.
This is so cool, I really didn’t know that! Are you guys from Berlin?
Yeah! We’re among the few Berliners here in Berlin...
Okay! Now I want to extract a few things about what makes this place so special. I think on your website it says something like “we’re building the bikes that we want to ride ourselves” - so, what kind of bikes are that, that you wanna ride yourself? What’s important for you?
It’s essentially about what makes Standert “standert”.
<< We’re not doing it for anybody else. We don’t have some huge companies or investors telling us what we have to do, so we choose what we want to do >>
So we have a good point of promoting our bikes - cause we love ‘em! And that’s what’s meant by “we design the bikes we want to ride ourselves”.
Standert Showrom / ©Constantin Gerlach
The Standert Cat / ©GreenMe Berlin
Standert Showrom / ©Constantin Gerlach
For example, with the city bikes, we wanted a bike with a clean look, with internal cable routing for more clean lines. We want it to be light, but we still want it to be tough and good performing in the city. That’s why we designed “Herr Standert” . And now our newest edition is coming in a couple of weeks - the “Kreissäge”. It’s a criterium racing road bike and it’s exactly what we would want. We live in flat Berlin, so we wanted a really fast bike. So we designed a specific criterium racing road bike…
Yeah, well actually for every city where it’s mostly flat. Or if you live in a hillier region, you can just put on a different chain ring and you can ride it in the hills as well…
Then, last year, we had the idea to design a cross bike, so we designed a cross bike. And that’s going to be available this cross season. It’s a process and makes it much easier for us to really feel the product and what we’re doing…
Great! You’re not just doing it because everyone else is doing it and it sells.
No! We’re not selling for the purpose of selling. Of course, we have to sell. But we want it because we love these bikes and we think others will love them too. And they do! We’re kind of hitting a sweet spot of the people with our designs and everything. So, yeah… turned out to be the right strategy to pursue.
That’s awesome. That really, really resonates with me. Do what you love and do it with lots of passion - and then it’ll work! And personally, what’s YOUR favorite bike?
That’s hard to say. Every single one for its purpose. In the city, when I’m commuting or going to a beer garden or to a lake or whatever, it’s Herr Standert of course. That’s what I’m riding in the city all the time. On the road it’s the Triebwerk and on the track it’s the Umlaufbahn - We got one to do every job !
That’s so good! I always say the trend is going to the 2nd bike (instead of the 2nd car). Or third, or fourth…
Yeah, sure! There’s a rule:
<< the right amount of bikes to own is n+1. And “n” is the current number of bikes you own, so there’s always a next bike >>
The brand new cross bike "Erdgeschoss" © Constantin Gerlach
Haha, that’s really cool… Apart from building beautiful bikes, you’re doing heaps of other things, too. You already tapped into it - for example, running some cool events for all racers and bike enthusiasts. Like training rides twice a week, right? What’s the deal behind that? Who can join and what levels of fitness do you need?
That’s actually quite a funny story. We started it some years ago as kind of a weekly alley cat* - the curier races, where you have check points and you just smash through the city on your fixed gears. But that was getting a little bit sketchy. And we developed more, from the alley cat races to the serious road cyclists. We thought we give it another try, moved it from Wednesday to Thursday and do a “Feierabendrunde” as we call it - so an afterwork ride. The cycling community here in Berlin adopted it really fast. So we now have our ride on Thursday, starting at 7pm and that’s a pretty fast ride: we go out of the city and then go at around 40km/h average…
Okay, I’m out of that…
...and then we come back to Berlin. That’s around 60km. And then we end up here at the shop again and have some beers and just talk about bikes and stuff…Who can join? Obviously pretty fit cyclists, experienced to ride in a group, in a fast-moving bunch… For everybody who’s not as fit as that, I can recommend our Saturday ride. That’s a little bit longer, but also a bit… not too relaxed, but slightly more relaxed than the one on Thursday.
What would be the speed?
Ah, we always have around 30-32km/h average. Going with that group is doable for most of our people. And we always communicate the rules first, so everybody knows where maybe they can do a shortcut or how they can go home or go back or whatever.
Amazing! I feel that you are super engaged about building a community, bringing together like-minded people, who share the same passion and who share the thing that they love most. I guess that’s what’s resonating with me and the values of GreenMe Berlin so much: do what you love, enjoy yourself, share happy moments with others - and that way, you can really change things and encourage others to follow. Is that about right, would you agree on that?
Yeah, I think so! Building a community is really important I guess. In our case with the cyclists, there are a lot of people kind of enjoying cycling, but they are doing it all alone, all the time - and it’s not as enjoyable as with a group where you can push each other. You can just get advice from other, give others advices, you can develop your cycling… It’s very important to just get out of your solo routine and get into a group. And we really feel that’s working quite well with our group rides. You see people joining in and then coming back every week because they just love it to break out of their routine of going the same route to work every day, but alone. They really enjoy to do it in company.
That makes total sense. And I’m sure it also encourages more people… I mean of course it’s already cyclists who come. But then, building a community like this... I would say that it probably draws even more people, it gets more awareness. If there’s a group of cyclists, and more and more cyclists are visible in the city…
Sure! People see that big groups - sometimes in the summer we’re 25-30 people riding. And people see it and think “that looks like fun, I wanna try it”. It’s the same thing like with these social jogging groups running through the city. People see “ah, yeah, I kind of like jogging, but maybe in a group it’s even more fun”... Well, not for me, but...
Yeah, it’s the same thing. And especially for people coming to us and buying bikes - it’s kind of the best way to right away engage them and not let them on their own… give them a bike and say “here you go, good luck”. They are very happy about the opportunity to stay in touch with the people building the bikes, getting advice, maybe getting tips on certain positions on the bikes
This is so interesting! It’s such a great approach... And why do you think that places like Standert, or concepts like you’re going for - not just being a place to sell, but being a holistic thing and building a community - fit in so well with Berlin at the moment?
I think Berlin is one big melting pot of different communities. It’s not the ‘solo man’ city I would say. Of course, you got those too. But
<< I think people who are coming to Berlin are really looking for something they are missing in other cities - and that’s like-minded people >>
Team Standert "Feierabendrunde" (top) & Standert at Eurobike (bottom two) © Constantin Gerlach
Maybe being as crazy, or as creative or as stubborn as other people, so they can relate to them. No matter if you wanna go partying, if you’re creative, if you’re an architect or anything, you can always find a community in Berlin for that purpose.
And there’s no difference with people doing sports. So I don’t see why there should be a difference… erm, personally, I wouldn’t go to a place - especially for something like a bicycle - where it’s just about going there, buying and then never seeing them again. I think it comes naturally - but a lot of people don’t know that cycling is a true team sport! So doing it alone does the job sometimes when you’re training. But it gets boring.
Yeah. Although, sometimes, when I’m going on a tour with my bike - not for training purposes, I’m not a racer - but when I’m cycling through the city, it just opens my eyes to so many things and gives me the time to think about certain things. But then of course I also love to share it with others.
Yes, you want to share it!
<< Doing beautiful stuff is good, but doing it with others is even better >>
Exactly! If you have big rides like the Critical Mass or similar, that’s just awesome! Being in this huge group of people and you really see all the cyclists of Berlin coming together…
Yes, especially for a thing like cycling, where you have differences between motorists and cyclists, so that some people are not really confident to get on their bikes in the city. But when they see that it’s super normal to other people, they think “well, if that woman goes cycling and does it every day, I can do it, too. I can get my groceries, or I can go to work. If that guy over there is cycling everyday, I can do it too!”. It’s kind of leading an example.
And in our groups we also kind of educate the cyclists on how to behave. During our group rides, there’s no way that anyone is crossing red lights or anything like that. Cause that’s not the way it should be. I have to be the cyclist that I want to have as motorist!
So, if I’d be driving a car… I can feel why motorists are mad at cyclists when they’re always crossing red lights or they’re just popping up on the streets without any signs. That’s why you just have to behave as if you were in a car: stop behind the other cars at the red light, indicate where you’re going. That’s also what we are doing with the groups - not as teachers, but it naturally happens when we’re leading a group and everybody stops, they’re not going.
Yep, I agree. There has to be a better balance between the two. We kind of really started into that topic I wanted to ask next quite a bit now. But generally: How do you see the situation in Berlin at the moment? Are we a bicycle city?
Well, not if you see it from a city perspective. The people take what they want. So as the cycling community is growing and growing and there are more and more commuters, it’s naturally forced to be a cycling city. But there’s still a long way to go...
Compared to other cities, we’re quite good with the infrastructure and everything, so that’s not the worst. The worst is the relationship of motorists and cyclists, and the lack of acceptance that cyclists are traffic too. It’s not that cyclists are supposed to be on the pedestrian walk. They are on the street. And sure, they are a bit slower than cars, but then you just have to wait. You cannot pass them as closely as they often do. What if that would be a car that’s going slowly - you’re not going to hit the traffic that’s coming up, do you? You’re just waiting…
But that’s not how motorists think. Or most of them - I’m not saying everybody. We’re on a good way and motorists have to accept cyclists, because they’re becoming more and more. And just to say this: there are a lot of motorists I see who are really adapted and they really get used to it and ride fair and take care of cyclists. But still, there are some idiots not realizing that what they do is just risking lives!
<< When you’re riding close to another car, you get a scratch. But if you’re riding very close to a cyclist, you might kill them… That’s a big difference! >>
You’re totally right. I think it’s impressive how it changes in the different parts of the city. You can really feel, in areas where you have a lot of cyclists, obviously it’s getting better and better. If someone visits me from another city, they always say “oh wow, it’s really easy to ride here”. But then, if you’re moving in areas where there’s not that many cyclists, you can feel it…
Yes, there’s definitely motorist-dedicated areas, like for example, the Ku’Damm in Charlottenburg. That’s where all the guys with the big cars and they don’t see why cyclists should be on the street… There’s the bus lane and it’s for busses, for taxis and for cyclists. But they kind of claim it, so they don’t see why cyclists are there too. The same thing happens in Neukölln, there’s also a really strong motorist culture. But in parts like Dahlem, where the university is, it’s totally clear that there are tons of cyclists because of all the students. Or here in Mitte, there are tons of cyclists and everybody’s respecting them. So it depends what people are used to.
True. And how is the vibe in the community? There are quite a few future visions and plans - also brought forward by the cycling scene. What’s the one that you’d be most passionate about to get through?
I think it’s pretty good what the “Volksentscheid Fahrrad”** is doing. They’re introducing a referendum for cycling in general and want to get a political voice for cyclists, to move forward things with the infrastructure etc. - pretty good what they’re doing, good lobby work. We’ll see how far they come.
I also heard about this cycling path they want to build underneath the U1…
Oh yeah, that would be a good project, because that’s especially a route that a lot of commuters are using, but also a lot of these ‘inattentive motorists’ - maybe we can call them like that... Having a committed cycling path there would be really good, just to get people to work by bike safely.I think in general, the easiest thing would just be to ban all the …
All the cars 😉 ?
Haha, no no. You need them. But you can ban the blue cycling sign that tells you that you have to use the cycling path. You should ban that! That’s a law and you actually have to stick to that (I never do, but you have to)...
I didn’t actually even know that!
Well, every bike path that has the blue sign means you have to use the cycle path, no matter what this cycle path looks like. And that’s the problem. Because sometimes, when we go on our road bike, we can’t use it. We’re going about 25km/h and it’s often a small brick cycling path on a side walk - and you just can’t use it!
It should be free to every cyclist to use the cycling path or not, that’s the first thing. Most of the bike paths - even though it was a nice idea in the 70’s when they were built - now they’re just too dangerous. You’re placed between parking cars and pedestrians, with dogs, with kids, with people just opening their doors, getting out of their car, loading up their car… And roots coming up from the ground, so it’s just…
And even worse: if you’re going there and motorists turn right, they can’t see you, because there’s other parking cars - and they just can’t see you… it’s not at all to blame on the motorists, they just can’t see you! If you’d be right in front of them on the street, they’d see you, they’re not going to run you over. But if you’re not on the street, they might run you over…It’s the same thing when you’re riding in the dark without lights - it’s not the motorists’ fault if they run you over, because they can’t see you! Don’t make it too hard for them...
You’re totally right. Now I’d like to know: what makes you feel really passionate and excited about being part of - I guess you could call it a movement? About the chance of pushing things forward…
Actually, it’s already that. Being part of it. And being someone who’s contributing to it, as we do for example, with our rides, with our events or whatever. It’s a good feeling to see it grow and to see it develop…
Yeah. In this city, I always have the feeling that there’s such a spirit of making things happen… By building communities, by bringing people together - you have the feeling that you can really change something. That’s something that really excited me about being in Berlin….
Standert x Bulleit © Constantin Gerlach
Standert at Eurobike / © Constantin Gerlach
Now my 4 "standard" questions (haha): Looking back on those last years since founding and running Standert: what was your biggest learning? Your biggest ‘aha-’moment?
Oooh, we’re learning everyday [laughing] It’s like with every young company. There are workflow learnings,
<< there are things you learn to plan - there’s things you didn’t even know you have to plan that you learn to plan >>
Timings… I think it’s the same like in almost every up and coming company. You grow, you have to deal with it. You have more responsibilities, you have higher quantities to produce. It’s growing, but you’re growing with it and… you’re actually learning fast. I think we’re learning fast. And we’re learning every day. Some mistakes you make twice or three times, but then, at one point… [laughs] you know, at one point you don’t make them anymore.
That’s a good way of dealing with it. There will be things that go wrong and things that may fail…Yeah sure. Of course, there are some things that should not go wrong, because then it’s not good… But yeah, that’s why we do it with so much passion. We eliminate the high risks because we’re not speculating.
Awesome. We’re slowly coming towards the end. I have a few things that I ask all my interview guests. First thing is: If you could change one thing in Berlin within the next 24 hours - what would it be?
Hmm… maybe turn the inner cities - so everything that’s within the S-Bahn circle - turn it into 30km/h zones. I don’t think they need to go faster in the city… Yeah, maybe something like that. OR I would strictly limit every car sharing car to 50km/h, because they are the most reckless drivers in total. It’s not their car, it’s not their gasoline, so they don’t care. They just take off at the traffic lights with spinning wheelsOh sh***, yeah. I never thought about that…They should be limited. 50km/h is enough to get anywhere.
Right. And - what question should I have asked you but didn’t?
Hahaha, that’s a hard one… Ah, you could have asked me if there is some kind of bike leasing - and yes, there is 😉 You know that you can lease cars of course, but at our place you can lease bikes. It’s an arrangement with your boss. You can just lease it and he keeps a percentage of your wage and gives you the bike. So you don’t have to come here and buy a bike for about 1,000/ 1,200 euros. You just get the bike, your boss is paying it to the bank and you get it for around 40 euros a month....
This is awesome!! That’s such a good thing! It just encourages more people to cycle to work as well, right?
That’s what we’re trying to do. It even encourages people not to think about every penny that they want to (or can) spend on their bike. Because it’s not as painful when you divide it into rates instead of putting it all on the counter at once.
Great! I also think a lot of companies have a certain budget for employee health & well-being, I remember that…
Yes, we have customers from really big companies, who are really encouraging their employees to do it. Because it’s very good for their health - and fit people don’t get sick as much…
And they work better, they’re more motivated…
Yeah. And for the company it’s good, because they don’t have to raise the wages as much. They can give them a bike as incentive and everybody is happy...
I would have been totally happy if my old employer would have done that! Okay, to wrap it all up: If there was one thing you could pass on to the GreenMe Berlin community - what would it be?
Ah, just go out there and ride your bike...
Don’t let anybody take your space in traffic. You have to take it, nobody will give it to you. Don’t let motorists push you to the far right side -
<< just ride as comfortable as you feel - and pretty much: enjoy it! >>
Team Standert, © Constantin Gerlach
Oh yeah! What an encouraging line to finish… Benedict, I can’t say how much I appreciated chatting to you! Thanks so much for all these insights and exciting things you said. Really, you guys are such a big asset to this city - please keep up the energy & keep bringing people together, keep building all these beautiful bikes that just make the streets of Berlin sooo much nicer - I’m sure you influence the lives of so many people out there for the better…
So, people out there - embrace this, check out Standert Bicycles and meet this amazing crowd here NOW.
It’s always a good time for a bike, so make sure to pop by at Standert's store, even if it’s just for a quick coffee and a round of “awwwe” looking at their bikes. They’re super easy going and always up for a chat. Hop on your bikes (or the metro if you have to) and come over!
As always, you can find all the details about Standert Bicycles below the interview, and of course, you can find them on our MAP. And if you’re not in yet, sign up for the GreenMe Berlin newsletter and you’ll not only get notified when the next inspiring interview is ready. You’ll also get to download a Best of Guide to some of my favorite places (hint: Standert is in there, too)
>> Thanks SO much for listening, hope you have a beautiful day - and remember to keep it green !