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.
This young man is pretty styled out with his red hot wheels, red bicycle chain and even red lock! If you look carefully, you can see he is carrying a Vans shopping bag. This reminds me of the cool guy I photographed a few months ago. As you can see below, he wore red Vans and was cycling on a white fixies.
So, Fixies and Vans seem to be the perfect match, right?
The advantage of the ever populair fixies is that it allows you to cross town, while keeping style and speed to a maximum.
Add to this a scenery of typical Amsterdam canals and you are once more convinced of the fact that Amsterdam cycles chic!
Else spotted this guy in one of Amsterdam’s metro stations. With the orange wheels it was actually hard to miss him! You see these trendy fixed gear or racing style bikes more and more often in the streets of Amsterdam.
Fixed Gear bicycles (a.k.a. fixies) are getting more and more popular. They’re already part of the daily streetscape of Amsterdam and gaining ground in the rest of the world. For those who’ve not yet heard about this type of bike: Fixed Gear bicycles have no freewheel, meaning –as the name kind of reveals- that you cannot change gear. Also, the bike is brakeless. When it’s moving, the pedals will be in motion as well…
Why do people ride those bikes, you might wonder. A legitimate question. Especially in the crowded streets of Amsterdam it can actually be a life threatening way of transportation. Fixed gears are originally designed for track cycling in a velodrome. Without breaks and gears, the bike is low-weight and therefore it’s easy to accelerate and maintain high speed. From the tracks it has found its way to bike messengers, who also use their Fixed Gear in the famous alleycat races. Because of its appealing and sporty look, Fixed Gear has become the transport of choice of fashionable hipsters nowadays, even despite their lack of brakes.
Border City Bikes
Designer Josha Roymans is smartly responding to the spreading Fixed Gear movement and has started Border City Bikes, a brand new brand for custom bicycle parts. He has designed a wooden handlebar, handmade (and therefore unique) of ecological Dutch wood from gardeners and foresting. This environmentally friendly bar comes in three types: one made of yew, one made of oak and one made of robinia. All of them are finished with ecological oil. Before the release on December 1st at Bike shop Pristine Fixed Gear they were already selling like hot cakes.
Want one? Check www.bordercitybikes.com.
While strolling along the Amsterdam canals it becomes clear: bikes, and fixies in particular, are no longer only a matter of transportation. Bikes, rather than cars, have grown out to be the urban status symbol. In the city, it’s all about bikes now.