His great grandfather had a bicycle shop, where his grandmother spoked wheels in the cold Dutch winters and his father ran around as a little boy. At the age of 3 Elian learned how to cycle, when 15 years old he started to work in a bike shop and now he has designed the ultimate city bike, the Minute. In short; Elian’s life is all about bicycles!
The ultimate city bike
Elian is a bike designer. He makes handcrafted bicycles; “the process of designing a bike starts with a blank paper, I talk to the customer, what does he/she want, what is their ideal cycling position, where and how will they use the bike, I take their measurements and then I start.The result is the perfect bike for that person.”
While designing these bikes, Elian realized many people were looking for a bike that would solve the typical urban biking problems many people face: “It should be a bike that they could leave in their apartment (not to get stolen on the street). Not too heavy, not too big, easy maneuverable in the busy city centre’s of Amsterdam and Utrecht and easy to park in the full bike parking’s. Also most people want to sit upright, cycle comfortably and they want to be able to carry groceries and kids on their bikes. When I kept hearing those same requests for a bike, I decided to design the Ultimate City Bike. And we just launched it: the Minute.”
Great grandfather’s bike shop
Elian’s great grandfather had a bike shop in Maarn (close to Utrecht). Elian’s father still remembers being there as a little boy: “His grandfather was a typical bike repairman. He always wore a blue overall, his hands were black of all the repair work and he was always smoking. He still remembers the smell of his workplace.” In the village of Maarn almost everyone had a Fongers bicycle. “The winters were much harsher then, so in winter people couldn’t cycle because of all the snow, in these winters there were no repairs to do. In those months my great grandparents and grandparents had another task: spoking wheels for Fongers. That is how it went in those days.”
Elian lives in Leersum, a village in the green Utrechtse Heuvelrug. His workplace is in the shed of his parents in Maurik. Every morning he cycles to work through the forest and the fields. He has a little son for whom he built a walking bike. “I get a lot of support from my family; my wife moved mountains to get the Minute launched, my 16 year old brother helps building bikes, and my father brings technical knowledge – which often comes in handy.” Even Elian’s grandmother offered help: “Let me know when I can help, I can still spoke wheels like in the old days!”
Since December passed us by so quickly we are just now getting to share some big news. US-based urban cycling mag, Momentum Magazine, featured our very own Amsterdam Cycle Chic girls in their December issue. Joni and I wrote a brief article with tips about the best cycling city in the world, including a few pointers on “how to cycle like an Amsterdammer”. In the 2-page spread they also featured photos by us — and Aude’s shot of me for last year’s Cyclist of the Month was chosen for the cover! You can still download the December issue here.
We love opportunities like this. Sharing Amsterdam’s unique and amazing – and all so normal at the same time – bike ‘culture’ with the world is one reason this blog exists. So keep on cycling chic, Amsterdam!
Hi Amsterdam Cycle Chic team,
I never had a driving license and I have never missed it because my bike brings me everywhere! Cycling is freedom.What is nicer than discovering the city by bike? I cycle a Bub by Batavus now but years ago I had a real old omafiets, and… a very sweet Jack Russell puppy. Maybe a nice picture for your blog?
We love it to receive an email like this. People sharing their bicycle stories with us. In that way we get to know our readers a bit. So thanks for sharing Louise!
After seeing Louise’s picture I went through our own photos and selected a few dogs in baskets (or crates) for you, something you see a lot in the streets of Amsterdam. And you see, big dogs, small dogs, they all love to go for a ride!
Where could this lady be going or coming from in this kind of weather? I could only guess the driving range … or she found a good deal on a couple clubs. Where is the nearest golf course or driving range?! Certainly not anywhere near the corner of Stadhouderskade and Van Woustraat!
On a Saturday afternoon at StarBikes, I met up with Pete Jordan, author of In The City of Bikes, to talk about his book, Amsterdam, and of course, cycling. In The City of Bikes is a memoir-like historical fact book telling the story of Amsterdam’s cycling history and culture. It takes you back to the 1890s, through the Nazi occupation, and to the city still filled with bikes we know today.
How long have you been in Amsterdam?
I came to Amsterdam in 2002 to take a one-semester-long urban planning course. 11 years, 8 apartments, and 4 bikes later, I’m still here. I blame the bikes.
Your book is all about the history of cycling in Amsterdam. What’s your favorite bit of history?
I found the war years (WWII) incredibly interesting. Amsterdammers showed a massive amount of resistance to the Germans. And it was something everyone could do: lolly-gag on their bikes in front of an impatient, waiting, honking German car.
What was the inspiration behind the book?
I was enthralled by all the cyclists from day I arrived in Amsterdam and I started asking around for books about it. To my surprise, I found nothing. Cycling is so normal in this city that no one has bothered to write a book about the topic!
And the best or worst thing about cycling in Amsterdam?
I’m still amazing that it keeps growing! Look at the Haarlemmerstraat, the best street in Amsterdam. You’d think all the cyclists going every which way would cause complete chaos–but in fact, it works. My least favorite is tied between the tourists and scooters. Yesterday I saw 2 tourists collide in front of the Rijksmuseum. It’s comical, but also just dangerous.
Any other plans with the book? A sequel? A photo exhibit?
The Dutch version of the book, De Fietsrepubliek, has an excellent photo section unlike the English version. I’m planning to extend the gallery into a book on its own. Now the website is also up and running, and I also offer private tours based on the book. And I’m working on a guide book for cycling tourists that will be out next year.
What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
A while ago, I started collecting all these loose, often broken bike parts from all over the city. In no time at all, I had almost every piece I needed for a whole bike. I wanted to put all the pieces together, but then I realized: a bike made from broken parts is just a broken bike. So I threw them all away.
For more information about Pete Jordan, his tours, and In The City of Bikes, head to www.cityofbikes.com
Before your baby is big enough to travel in a baby-seat on the front of your bike, take him out this way and keep on cycling!
Imagine: you are with two people, you have one bike, and you want to go to a friend’s birthday party. What would you do? You could of course leave the bike and go walking, go by car or take a tram. But you can also be inspired by these Amsterdammers and go together on one bike.
We show you five different ways to share a bike (also called doubling). No special seats or cargo bikes needed!
Sitting on the back carrier is the most common way to cycle together. Men normally sit with one leg at each side
This is the version that women like best.
A very popular way amongst Amsterdams youth. (Don’t try this with a heavy person).
For a good view. Like this son on the back of his fathers bike.
Not a very clear picture. They went too fast and I don’t see this way very often. We actually do not know why you would do this. Maybe when the person cycling doesn’t smell too good, or you prefer looking at the streets instead of looking at a back?
There are a lot of other ways to cycle together on one bike (sit on the crossbar, on the handlebars, or on the saddle). Take a look at more pics in this Cycle Chic Republic post.
Now, after being inspired by these cyclists from Amsterdam would you take a bike together?
You probably already noticed it on our blog, but to have a crate on the front of your bike is really trendy in Amsterdam! Hardly any cute baskets in the streets just cool and sturdy crates, in different colours, sometimes branded or full of stickers. What do you think of this trend?
Over the long weekend, I headed to Spain for some much-needed R&R. I found some super chic folks using Barcelona’s Bicing bike-share system. Then over in San Sebastian, great weather allowed for some smiling riders. What a fantastic city with cycle paths that rival Amsterdam’s for sure!
Please meet Vitor, a Portuguese bike fanatic who owns and runs Recycled Bicycles here in Amsterdam. He grew up in Lisbon and has been BMX riding since he could pedal a bike. I meet him at his workshop on Spuistraat one rainy day to chat about his shop and his passion for bikes.
How did you end up here in Amsterdam?
I came here for a visit in the early 90s and loved the cycling culture. In ’96 a friend of mine was living here, so I crashed at his place for a month and really got to know the city. I moved here shortly after.
When did you start up Recycled Bicycles?
In around 2002, I was sick of the menial jobs I was doing at the time, tired of working for someone else too. Since I’m a BMX rider I’ve always been around bikes–I love fixing up my own bike and I was already helping out friends too. So I started up the shop to build bikes in 2003. We’ll be celebrating 10 years next month!
Where do get all the parts of the bikes?
When I opened the shop, I built all the bikes from abandoned parts on the streets.But one day, the police came knocking on my door and told me I couldn’t use the abandoned parts from the street or in the trash–that it’s illegal to go through the trash and take home parts of bikes. So now I have to buy the bikes from the Gemeente, like everyone else. I wish they had a better system for the small businesses like mine; I’m competing with so many larger businesses that have much more money.
What is the bike culture like in Lisbon?
Different from Amsterdam, but growing every day. There are many more people on bikes now–not just for exercise, they are going from A to B. One day we’ll see some fietspad in Lisbon…
Do you have other hobbies besides BMX and building bikes?
I also play bike polo. It’s a tight-knit sport right now, just a small group of us here in Amsterdam play, but it’s gaining momentum. I also want to get more into long-distance riding. I did a ride from Paris to Lisbon, and it was an epic journey. I want to do it again, but on a fixed gear bike this time.
Thank you Vitor! Keep on building those bikes.
Now there’s a chic cyclist-in-training!
But really, Amsterdam, who’s ready for spring?! I know I am.
I’m always super impressed by what Amsterdammers carry while peddling a human-powered machine. Weaving through cars, alongside trams, riding with one (or no hands!), talking on their phones, listening to music–and schlepping all kinds of stuff with them at the same time, too. In the past few months we’ve seen people on their bikes carrying planks of wood, sleds, Christmas trees, and of course their babies. And despite the terrible weather, they all make it look so easy breezy.
There are all types of baskets out there. You’ve got the classic crate in wood or plastic. The Albert Heijn winkelmandje is always a nice one to see (how do you steal a shopping basket?!). There’s the removable baskets, too. I’ve seen some nice vintage wire baskets. And the huge wicker baskets that have a handy lid, those are fantastic.
The widespread use of the bike basket, to me, is yet another reminder of how utilitarian the bicycle is for Dutch society, and really for any society. It’s not only a means of transportation; it’s a way of life. It’s so ingrained into daily life that of course (!) we use our bike to get groceries, purchase planks of wood, take our kids sledding, buy Christmas trees, and for anything else we have planned for the day. In fact, it makes no sense to do it any other way.
Do you have a great photo of a bike basket, with something crazy in it? Post it to our Facebook page, we’d love to see it!
Why not make gorgeous bicycles out of old cars? Lola Madrid, a Spanish creative agency, decided to design their version of the perfect bike, and for materials, they are using parts from a junkyard.
“Bicycled is not only a new type of bike, it is also a return to the roots of biking. It’s a handmade bike created specially by bicycle shop owners. Those fantastic creatures that are about to become extinct.”
Each Bicycled Bike is unique: “Because every Bicycled is made out of real car parts, there won’t be two of a kind. That’s the key to a product designed to use as much car waste as it can.”
Watch here the video of the construction process:
It’s a smart way to use materials that would otherwise be rusting outside, and a great way to imagine the future…
Beware of the ultimate art of keeping balanced on your fancy bike: riding a slippery and snow-layered surface, steering your bike with one hand, while carrying wooden planks on your shoulder (probably to build a sauna at home, or something: man is it cold these days in Amsterdam!!)
Last weekend I took a ride through Amsterdam with Dr. Steven Fleming, an academic, theorist, and urban planning philosopher with a knack for cycling. His recent book Cycle Space, like his blog and twitter feed, closely inspects the relationship between architecture and cycling. He was in town for the (wildly successful) Rotterdam Urban Bike Night, hosted by the NAI.
We had a great ride from the Station to Java Eiland, to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, then around Oost, and wound up on Utrechtsestraat–at my favorite herring stand. The whole time we talked about bikes and the future of cities.
My favorite quote from him went something like this, and say it with a really thick Australian accent: “Cycling here is like a hand-me-down blanket from your Oma–it’s ancient, but you love it and you can never get rid of it!”
We often hear it is good to do activities TWOgether as a couple. So why not cycle on a tandem? So romantic… Do you think they are listening to the same music?!
It is now a year ago that I (Aude) travelled through Asia with my husband for more than 4 months! At the time, I was already taking pictures of bicycles for the blog of our friend Philip: Dutch in Dublin.
BIKASIA is a compilation of images showing that bikes are very popular all over Asia: from India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia to China! But the best thing is that they are all cycling chic!
There’s a new bag in town. A bag designed to lift the weight (of your grocery-filled) bag from your shoulders onto your bike. The bag is made from recycled material by Demano in Barcelona and the Cycle Chic team decided to take it for a testcycle. The test didn’t just last for a day; it is now a permanent accessory on one of our bicycles.
This colourful bag is made of second hand material and may remind you of Freitag bags. We were impressed by it since it’s a cool counterpart to the much used bicycle crate. You can easily clip it onto your bike’s handlebars (after installing a clip-on system) and even lock it so the bag won’t get ripped from your bike. The sizes vary, but the Tibidabo bag we used can easily fit your gym-necessities, picnic goods, your laptop and other daily stuff.
A big advantage is that, compared to a bike crate or basket, you never have a problem manoeuvring your bike into a bicycle rack as, obviously, the bag follows you everywhere. Another advantage is that it resists the rain, which, in a rainy city is Amsterdam, is very important!
But there’s also (as always) a small disadvantage: when using it as a handbag, the shape is kind of strange; the round metal bracing makes it rather big and round (kind of like carrying a basket as a handbag). With the smaller bags you might not encounter this problem. Besides this small remark, Cycle Chic thinks this bag would definitely be a great addition to Amsterdam’s cycling culture.
It’s a project based on the combination of environmental awareness and design, using several recycled materials. It started with the purpose of using discarded advertising material – PVC, polyester – from banners promoting exhibitions, festivals and cultural events.
All Demano bags are one of a kind. The pictures are only a reference. The design of each bag depends on what banner has been used in its making, so you can choose if you prefer them to be more colourful or else to have more solid colours. Anyway, depending on stock, you could ask for a whole collection of bags made from the same banner.
Order your Demano bag at Citybici
First I got the mother cycling by with her 2 kids (she is holding one against her chest). And few bikes later, appeared the daddy, carrying all the necessary for a day at the park…What a cool bohemian style!
This weekend our friend Áron from Hungarian Cycle Chic visited the Netherlands. He made this cool video of rush hour in Amsterdam’s city centre. Check out all the people chatting, making phone calls and rushing to work. You can also clearly see how popular the bicycle crate is in the Netherlands. The Mr Visserplein, where the video was shot, isn’t what you call the most beautiful spot in Amsterdam, but for Áron it was ‘Heaven’….
Through a window of a house on a canal we shot pictures of these typical Amsterdam scenes. It was one of the first sunny and warm days of the year. Cyclists looked so small from high above.
This man on his fancy green Dutch bike probably regrets forgetting his gloves on this cold winter day in Amsterdam.