Alex is a German expat from Hamburg who has been living and working in Amsterdam for a decade. In 2015, he founded The Coffee Vine, a blog turned monthly subscription box for caffeine addicts to try new varieties of beans each month. Today, he’s sharing a bit about his life on two wheels, so pour yourself a cup of joe and keep reading to learn more.
Welcome, Alex! We’re excited to have you in our Cycle Chic Spotlight series, let’s get started. How did you end up in Amsterdam?
I came here rather unexpectedly, at first Amsterdam wasn’t my radar at all. I was living in Hamburg and recruited at a large FMCG company. Funny enough, I didn’t really enjoy Amsterdam after two rather disappointing holidays here but ten years later, I am still live in Amsterdam and loving it here more than ever!
How cycle friendly is your hometown compared to Amsterdam?
Hamburg is a really big city and despite having an excellent public transport system, many people still prefer to drive. Over the past few years cycling in Hamburg has become a lot more popular and safe. Now, there are bike sharing programs and the city has implemented a lot more bike lanes. That’s a great change to witness.
Tell us an eye opening experience about cycling in Amsterdam.
Living in Amsterdam definitely changed my view on cycling. It has become a way of life for me now rather than a necessity. In the beginning, I was a bit weary of cycling in the city center because the Dutch can be really aggressive but it’s funny how quickly you assimilate. Now, I sometimes catch myself cursing at tourists too.
A few years ago I used to work out in Amstelveen so, I had a scooter. Obviously, it was a lot faster and less exhausting but I was the only person in my circle of friends with one. Now I sold it and became regular cyclist again, I realized how much I actually hate scooters in the bicycle lanes!
What is a typical day in Amsterdam like for you?
I usually get up at 7:30, cycle to my gym, then back home to get ready before I settle into work – either from home or at my workshop which I also bike to. I love my neighborhood, De Baarsjes. It’s a vibrant my neighborhood close to so many parks. I’ve got Sloterplas, Rembrantpark and Vondelpark all within a 10 minute cycle from my house. My work is very close to my house and it’s not very scenic. When I go from Oud West to De Pijp I love going through Vondelpark and soaking up the greenery. Running my own business, I don’t really have a set work schedule, which is really nice because I can grab my bike and pop out for lunch with friends or go to other meetings. It’s great to get fresh air and cycle around the city.
What’s something special about your bicycle?
My bike is actually just a simple Cortina ladies bike. I don’t like the bar across the middle that men’s bikes always have so this one works better for me. I don’t have any flashy details or accessories but of course, I do have a cup holder on the front for my cup of coffee on the go!
Now and again, I need to take a coffee box to a customer or a partner. I hold it in my hand when cycling and I feel like I can show it off a little bit! We feature different artists on the sleeve from time to time, I am really proud of our custom branding.
What inspired you to launch The Coffee Vine?
I began drinking coffee during trips to the U.S. with my dad. He always loved getting big lattes from Starbucks and sprinkling cinnamon on top and that sort of got me into it. Over the years, I developed a more refined taste for coffee and a real interest in specialty coffee. Then, I realized an opportunity to combine that love for coffee with my passion for writing. The Coffeevine started out as a blog about the best coffee bars in Amsterdam and further. Through my blog, I met a lot of key people in the coffee industry so, when I launched my coffee subscription I was able to cash in on my strong relationships with the best roasters. This really helped because they already knew me and trusted me. When I left my last job, I launched our coffee subscription in 2015 and that’s what I still do today. It’s exciting to work with something I am really passionate for!
Thanks for sharing your story with us Alex, happy cycling!
Meet Awura, a 29 year Amsterdam local and law student turned creative entrepreneur. She joins us on International Women’s Day to share more about life on two wheels and the inspiration that led her to found the Creative Women Collective.
What is a day on two wheels like for you?
I cycle everywhere so, the morning starts with me jumping on my bike heading to the gym, the market or making my way to the office for a meeting. At lunch, I love getting outside for some fresh air. After a little break, I either head back to the office or my next meeting. It’s easy to do errands on my way back home because I have a basket on the front of my bike. I like to grab something fresh to make a delicious dinner at home.
What’s your take on cycling here in Amsterdam?
In Amsterdam we can do so much by bike I cycle every day for work and leisure. Overall, I love it but cycling can be hectic during rush hour traffic and I’ll be honest, sometimes that brings out a bit of my aggressive side (sorry, tourists!)
Cycling can be a relaxing experience too. When the weather is nice, I love cycling around the city in the early evening with my friends. We always bump into the most interesting people – young and old- along the canals of Amsterdam, have a chat and learn something new. Cycling opens the city up to us!
Aside from the quintessential scenery, why did you chose the Bloemgracht as the the location of our shoot?
This area is great source of inspiration, the logical reason being that my workspace is located here but I also experiences a really impacting internship during my time working in entertainment law. Every time I ride my bike along this canal, I take a trip down memory lane. This reflection on the past, makes me super grateful for the life I am living today. That includes my current work space at Ide Fix where I am often working on new plans for the Creative Women Collective.
Tell us more about the Creative Women Collective…
Based on the idea that we are stronger together, the philosophy is to create your own opportunities by growing your network and knowledge. I wanted to create a network that will help motivate women to share their strengths and challenges with each other. The Creative Women Collective is a network of ambitious, energetic women from different creative industries – from food to fashion, media and the arts. The aim is to motivate dreamers to get off the couch and keep professional entrepreneurs hungry for growth no matter how well their businesses are already going. We launched in September 2016 with our first event and it’s been amazing to see how many women are excited to join us!
What inspired you to launch the Creative Women Collective?
I started the Creative Women Collective after three years of practicing law and prosecuting for creative individuals and companies. I was ready for a change and began CWC because I was inspired by the women in my life, especially my amazing mother who is also an entrepreneur. My best girlfriends we are also an inspiration, I see them as epitome of collective strength and creative power. Without them CWC would not be here today!
You were born on International Women’s Day (March 8). Tell us more about why that’ s significant to you.
My birthday wasn’t a coincidence but is a part of my purpose in life. I discovered the desire to start CWC through my experiences and when I tapped into this desire, everything started to make sense, like a puzzle on it’s way to completion. Even my birthday was a piece to that puzzle.
Due to the changes in the political climate, recently a lot of women marches have taken place around the globe. Women – but also young girls and men – collectively stood together to let their voices be heard in favor of women’s rights. Although the circumstances which have caused these marches are unfortunate, these marches have sparked hope and promise for the future. On international Women’s Day a lot of amazing events are organized to put a spotlight on women, in order to stimulate female empowerment and to address female inequality.
The past couple of years, this day has become more and more important in The Netherlands and around the world, and I am glad to see it!
How does it feel to be a part of a group that supports and inspires hard working boss ladies?
The first word which comes to my mind is fulfillment. This experience is fulfilling in ways I could not have predicted. The energy during our events is full of inspiration, purpose and determination. The collaborations which roll out of our events are the icing on the cake, and the continued support afterwards amongst our women is the cherry on top!
What advice would you give to other women who want to follow their passions but aren’t sure where to start?
Start with self-reflection: why do you do what you do? The “why” is important because it is the foundation of your business. The foundation these women will need to fall back on in times of struggle, or during times of lack of inspiration.
Also, surround yourself with entrepreneurs and inspiring people. These people have knowledge and experience to share. They have been there and can help you get started or be there for you when you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.That’s exactly what the Creative Women Collective events are made to do.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Awura! Happy cycling and Happy Birthday!
Wishing you all a very happy start to 2017! We have an exciting line up of Amsterdammers to share with you in our Cyclist of the Month series. So, let’s get to it!
Jen is a 26-year-old Scottish lass who has loved living – and cycling – in the Netherlands for the past five years. When she isn’t out and about searching for that perfect vintage skirt, you can find her managing the team at Amsterdam’s legendary and delicious Greenwoods English Tearoom.
Welcome, Jen! We’re excited to kick off 2017 with you as our January Cyclist of the Month! To get started, tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up in Amsterdam.
Wow, I can’t believe that I’ve actually been in the Netherlands for five years! After finishing my childcare studies, I wanted to do a bit of traveling so, my adventure in the Netherlands actually began in The Hague where I spent a year as an Au Pair. That year, my favourite bike adventure was to cycle to the beach during summer. It was so surreal to spot all the families with the kids stacked on their bikes. Learning to balance with kids on the bike was a big step for me, it was at that point that I felt integrated. After a year back at home, I hopped on a plane because Amsterdam was calling! Luckily, I found a job quickly in a quaint tearoom called Greenwoods. Then and there that I knew that I’d stick around for a little longer than expected!
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
The fact that you can cycle everywhere here is incredible and in my opinion, extremely luxurious! Coming from ‘the gateway to the Highlands’ in Scotland, my memories of cycling at home include beautiful scenery but, boy, oh boy, is it hilly! Those big, rolling hills makes cycling tricky.Holland is flat which is the obvious factor for easy cycling but Amsterdam is something else…
The historic scenery and canals really make it so special for me. Cycling everyday along the Keizersgracht on my way to work is so stunning that sometimes, I have to pinch myself! That’s why cycling in this city is so amazing!
Tell us more about your experience cycling in Amsterdam. Do you remember your first day(s) cycling here?
Oh yes, I can remember my first day cycling in Amsterdam as clear as mud (excuse the pun)… because I landed in it! Yes, that’s right. My first bicycle journey included me getting trapped in the tram tracks and face planting into the ground, on a cold winters day none the less.
Yikes! I think we’ve all been there at some point. Do you have any advice for newbies? My piece of advice to all new cyclists in Amsterdam: Watch those tram tracks! Once that lesson is learned, it becomes pretty straight forward. Also, get yourself a beautiful, big bell (which I don’t have at the moment, oops) to help avoid becoming passive aggressive at other cyclists. Last but not least, learn how to fix your chain. It’s the most important skill in my book because there is nothing worse than racing to work when you’re already late and then the chain flies off! Everything else can either be fixed by professionals at one the hundreds of bike stores everywhere.
How to you stay stylish – on a bike – during the cold winter months?
One of the greatest things about Amsterdam cyclists is that everybody remains extremely stylish, even while biking. You’ll even see girls wearing ball gowns and five-inch stiletto heels while cycling. Every girl in town knows how to survive with the hair band trick to gathering her dress, and avoid that pesky dress-stuck-in-the-chain problem. Actually, that happened to me once. I was wearing my friend’s lovely chiffon dress and it got stuck to the bike until, eventually, I had to cut my way free. That’s a night I will never forget!
My style is all about clothes, I’m not much of an accessories girl but scarves are crucial for wintertime. The scarf I’m wearing here is one of my favourite winter accessories! A good friend brought it to me from scarf from South Africa. It’s real Mohair and so cosy. I wear a lot of red and I’m never seen without my lipstick so, the colours of the scarf are very me.
As for clogs, the Dutch have done it right! I love my clogs and they are so practical that I can wear them during summer and winter. This red skirt is another favourite of mine, I love how it shimmers when I move or bike.
I like to think that I have my own style. I follow fashion closely and take different trends here and there and tend to recreate it in my own way. I’m a bargain hunter and a very quick shopper. I love digging through vintage stores and the IJ Hallen flea market too.
Your backpack is adorable! Where’s it from?
My backpack is my absolute favourite thing in the whole world! I was able to choose the fabric outside and inside, it’s wonderfully handy to use when cycling. This backpack was designed for me by my incredibly talented friend Olga who is a designer and seamstress who now lives in Australia.
Tell us about your typical day on two wheels. Do you have any special routes or routines when you’re cycling?
My favourite street has to be the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, the chosen location of our photoshoot. I love the stunning view leading up to the grand Rijksmuseum and all the little shops and galleries along the way. My love for that charming little street grown over the years since most days I’m cycling along Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, on my way to Greenwoods which is nearby along the Keizersgracht.
Tell us what you love (and loathe) about cycling in Amsterdam…
One of my favourite aspects of cycling here is the freedom that a bike can give you. The city is your oyster, day or night! Another is the time becuase you arrive at your destination in half the time compared to public transport. I also love that cycling is such good excercise too!
My least favourite aspect about cycling… wet seats. And that sometimes you can’t wear your favourite little dress because you might end up flashing the lovely people of Amsterdam, ha! Of course, finding out your bike was stolen is for sure the absolute worst thing that can happen but I suppose it’s a right of passage around here too.
So, have you experienced many stolen bikes during your time here in Amsterdam? What’s the story of your current bike?
This is by far my favourite bike that I’ve had! I bought it from a dear friend who moved to London. I promised to take good care of it and I’m sure that he will be very happy to see his dear old friend again in these photos. You try not to get too attached to your bike in Amsterdam because they are so easily stolen but its hard when you have a really good one.I think that I’ve had about 7 bikes in my 4 years in Amsterdam. That’s actually not too bad!
Thanks again Jen for sharing your life on two wheels with us! Tot ziens!
Jonathan is an Amsterdam based designer from the UK with a passion for all things retro. He loves working with his hands to make his creative visions come to life – whether it’s designing shoes for international fashion brands, reconstructing vintage furniture or working on his collection of vintage bicycles.
Welcome, Jonathan! We’re glad to have you as our December cyclist of the month! To get started, tell us a bit more about how you ended up in Amsterdam.
I’m originally from the UK, more precisely from where Hobbits live. Yes, that’s right. Lord of the Rings was actually written in my hometown. After visiting Amsterdam for a long weekend, I fell in love with the city! One month later, I found myself moving over. That was about two years ago… and here we are now, enjoying a crisp, cool day in the lovely Nine Streets neighborhood.
As an expat, what was your first reaction to the Dutch cyclists here in Amsterdam?
At first, it was all so unique and quite startling!Now, cycling has become a major part of my day-to-day routine here in Amsterdam. The Dutch are known as the kings of cycling but it was a totally new concept for me after living in London for 10 years. Unfortunately, in London there’s a lack of forward thinking towards cyclists which makes it quite unsafe.
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
Now that I have adapted to life-on-bike, I absolutely love it! Cycling around the Jordan with friends is one of my favorite areas because of course, the scenery is lovely. Plus, it is more peaceful and less crowded than the rest of the city center. Riding my bike has become a bigger part of my life. Cycling in Amsterdam really inspired me to start buying vintage bikes and do them up, which is now one of my favorite hobbies.
How did you get into collecting vintage bikes?
I love the hands on process of fixing up vintage bikes. Plus, of course the bike loving vibe of Amsterdam is an inspiration. A few years ago, I bought a bike black, vintage Peugeot. It was from 1975 in like-new condition, just beautiful! Once I got my first vintage bike there was no looking back, I was in love! Now, I’m a vintage bike enthusiast. At one point, I did have seven vintage bikes so, perhaps you could call me a “collectomaniac”? At the moment I am down to only three, including the Carlton pictured here.
My other prized bike is a 1982 Peugeot Centennial Edition PH12, this was one of the first bike to consider aerodynamics, it has only been ridden twice since 1982! At the moment, it’s hanging on the wall of my apartment. My third bike is a Peugeot that my dad bought brand new in 1975, when he was 13.
What’s the story behind the unique, vintage Carlton that you’re riding around the Nine Streets today?
The one pictured here is a Carlton criterium custom which I built myself after bringing it over from the UK.The bike was owned by a family friend who bought it new. He was a long distance rider so, I have had it the bike has undergone some changes and I still want to change it further and make it into a single speed.
This is the first bike I built myself and added a Basil bell and Brooks seat. I’m very proud of it!
Carlton is up there as one of my favourite brands. My dream is to one day I have a Bianchi Pista too, they’re absolutely beautiful. So far, I have yet to find one the is in good enough condition… Hopefully some day!
What’s your favorite aspect about cycling in Amsterdam?
My favorite aspects of cycling in Amsterdam are the people you run into along the way. When biking around town, I often spot a friend cycling by and we wave or shout, ‘Hello!’ You often see the most random scenes pop up out of the blue. It’s fun to capture a quick snapshot of wacky moments on my phone and share them with friends for a laugh. I get so much enjoyment from riding my bike everyday in this wonderful city. Thank you, Amsterdam!
And a big thanks to you Jonathan for joining us here at Amsterdam Cycle Chic! You can follow along with his vintage bike adventures via Instagram. ‘Til next time…
Interview & photos by Lily.
Amsterdam summer is in full swing and this month, we caught up with local resident Gertjan. He’s a freelance advertising creative who loves taking his black Veloretti bike for a spin through Vondelpark.
The Dutch are known worldwide for their love of bikes. As a Dutchie, did you also grow up cycling around town?
For sure! I grew up in a small town in the south of Holland and like many Dutch people, I learned to bike from quite a young age. It was more out of convenience, cycling was the only way to get from point A to point B in that town.
Tell me more about your experience cycling in Amsterdam.
Cycling in Amsterdam can be tricky because people are constantly on the go! During my morning commute everyone is heading fast in different directions and ringing their bells… You can really feel the rush of energy! Everyone here rides bikes but does everyone know how to cycle properly? Well, that’s a different story…
What’s the story behind your lovely zwarte fiets?
Before getting this trusty black stallion, I had a bike that was clinging on to life until it finally broke down on my way to a party. Afterwards, I received this bike as a gift.
You live and work in the city center. What is a typical day on two wheels like for you?
I moved here four years ago and cycling in Amsterdam definitely took some getting used to. Streets are very narrow and bridges can be a challenge but it’s worth the view! Cycling from work to meetings is a fun way to have a breather. I always try to leave a bit earlier and pace myself. That way, I arrive fresh instead of sweaty, looking like I just finished the Tour de France.
Do you have a favorite route pass by?
Maybe it’s a bit cheesy, but I love going through the Rijksmuseum tunnel! There are always musicians playing good tunes and people buzzing about. I’m so glad they reopened it!
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
The scenery and the socializing! Amsterdam is a beautiful city and perfect to be enjoyed by bike. Amsterdam is also a very a small city so, I often run into friends along the way! On the down side… finding a spot to park and tram tracks can be tricky with your wheels. There is always someone on the look out for a new bike, so be sure to lock it up well!
Thanks Gertjan, tot ziens!
Interview & photos by Lily.
With grey skies looming over Amsterdam, my mind easily drifts back to sun soaked Barcelona where I recently spent a weekend sipping sangria at the beach, eating tapas and of course, exploring the unique culture and architecture on offer. While not traditionally associated with urban cycling, the popularity and infrastructure for bicycles was evident everywhere in this Spanish city.
In the last decade, Barcelona has seen a significant jump in riders with the city’s recent investment in new infrastructure such as bike lanes and traffic lights. Accustomed to Amsterdam’s bicycle-friendly layout, I was happy to notice all the chic people on bikes – and riding on some nice bike paths.
From fixies to mountain bikes and even Dutch cargo bikes, cyclists filled the busy boulevards, city squares, parks and quiet streets. Here’s a peak at the eclectic mix of cycle chic-sters in Barcelona…
As a daily cyclist myself, I was keen to try out Barcelona’s bike share program Bicing. While deemed as shared public transport and highly popular, it’s only available for locals with an annual subscription. So, instead of taking a spin on two wheels, I instead had the pleasure of snapping photos of cyclists as they whizzed by. I spotted plenty cyclists of all ages commuting along the city center’s tens of kilometers of cycling paths.
Looking for more? Check out the Barcelona Cycle Chic blog!
After visiting Amsterdam a few times as a tourist, I came back in 2009 to work as an au pair for a year. That’s when I first learned how to ride a bakfiets! Through the ups and downs, something kept pulling me back to Amsterdam…many adventures and one master’s degree later, I’m still here, cycling around the city on the same yellow bike.
What’s the story behind your colorful bike?
I love that the Dutch cycle as part of their every-day routine and suspected it would become a passion of mine too. So, I figured that a sturdy Dutch bike would be a smart investment and a fun souvenir of my time in Amsterdam. It was winter time when I first arrived and the bright yellow reminded me of the sunshine I desperately missed back home in Orlando.
So far, I’ve encountered plenty of adventures with my trusty omafiets but funny enough, she never made it back to Florida permanently and neither did I! At first, I added various colorful, flowery accessories but everything was stolen over time. Now I keep it simple with a colorful bell, flowery panniers and of course, a huge lock.
How do you find living in Amsterdam?
I absolutely love Amsterdam! My expat chapter became longer than expected but now that I’ve completed my master’s degree, finished Dutch integration and launched my freelance creative business, it’s really feeling more like home.
Name three things you love and one thing you loathe about cycling in Amsterdam:
- The convenience! Getting around the city center is faster by bike and fortunately, safe too.
- The scenery! Nothing beats cruising along the historic canals on a quiet evening or passing over the Amstel with a warm breeze in my hair.
- The weather! Let’s be honest, it’s never fun to get pummeled by hail, blown over by wind or caught up in a surprise rainstorm (Confession: I eventually gave in and purchased that typical HEMA rain suit out of necessity).
Why did you want to join the Amsterdam Cycle Chic team?
Amsterdam is a utopia for everyday cycling and while living here, I’ve adapted to doing as much as I can by bike. Growing up, I loved riding my bike but unfortunately, Florida doesn’t have the safe, organized cycling culture that we’re so lucky to enjoy here in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Cycle Chic showcases the city’s bike friendly initiative offering a view of how convenient and fabulous everyday biking can be! I hope other cities are able to learn from Amsterdam and offer both safety and scenery for everyday cyclists in the future. Plus, I’m often snapping photos around the city to share on Instagram and my travel blog so, joining the ACC team is a perfect fit.