“Why do we have so many different pairs of shoes and just one pair of glasses?” asks Camiel, our cyclist of the month. Camiel founded Ace&Tate to democratise eyewear. The Amsterdam startup has been named one of the “TOP 100 HOT STARTUPS” by Wired Magazine. So we decided to interview Camiel about his company, cycling to work and his bike.
Cycling to work
Ace&Tate is located on the Overtoom – city centre Amsterdam. The team of around 20 people all cycle to work. “We stay in the city centre, because we want to cycle to work. My colleagues all live in or close to Amsterdam’s city centre. My commutes leads me through the Vondelpark, my favourite cycling spot. I love cutting through runners, skaters and other cyclists. The chaos is what makes Amsterdam the lively city it is.” Ace&Tate’s office is located right above Amsterdam’s first bike café.
Camiel has lived and worked in London and Dublin, in those cities he never cycled: “In Dublin I could have cycled but I lived so close to work and the city centre that I walked everywhere. In London I didn’t feel safe at all on a bike. There is a lot of work to be done in London to make it as bike friendly as here in The Netherlands.”
Camiel cycles a traditional opafiets (Dutch bike) and recently upgraded his bike with a crate on his front carrier. “I use it a lot to bring around our glasses to events or concept stores.” Besides glasses and groceries, a lady’s handbag is often to be found in Camiel’s crate: “When me and my girlfriend go out, we always take one bike. She sits on the back carrier and throws her bag in my crate.”
Ace&Tate eyewear is made by hand in Italy. They sell for: 98 euros (or 89 pounds) per frame, including prescription glasses. Camiel: “Our trick is to cut out the middlemen. That makes our glasses affordable. So you can have different frames for different outfits and occasions. Our dream is that in a few years every European thinks of Ace&Tate when thinking of eyewear.”
– More information on: aceandtate.com.
Taco grew up in the east of the Netherlands, but while visiting his aunt in Amsterdam as a child he immediately fell in love with the city. Taco loves the beauty of the city centre with its canals but most of all he likes the city’s cycling culture. That’s why he became bike entrepreneur and founded the Dutch bike company VANMOOF. VANMOOF’s mission is to create the perfect urban bike and convince people all around the world to travel by bike instead of by car.
In 2009 Taco and his brother Ties founded VANMOOF. Now, five years later, you see their bikes a lot in Amsterdam’s streets and they are sold in more than 30 countries around the world. Taco: “We want to be more than just a bike brand. We want to be a movement. A movement for change. The ’MOOF’ part in our name comes from the word movement. VAN we just added to give it some Dutch flavour. Our mission is to get more cyclists on the streets in inner cities globally. Because more than half of the world’s population lives in city centres, there is an increasingly heavy burden on traditional means of inner city transport. The bike is the solution for inner city mobility. At VANMOOF we pursue only one goal: help the ambitious city dweller worldwide move around town fast, confident and in style.”
“My love for Amsterdam started very young. I think I was only 7 years old when visited Amsterdam for the first time, to sleep over at my auntie’s place. She lived in the city centre, in a neighbourhood that was still a bit rough. But I loved it. And I still do. I love the hustle and bustle on the streets, the beauty of the canals and I like its relatively small size. It is a perfect city to go for a walk (and a bike ride of course!).”
‘City council, stand up for bikes!’
“Amsterdam is the cycling capital of the world, but we have to be careful not to lose our great cycling culture. At the moment it is not changing for the better. That is why the city council should really make a statement and stand up for bikes.” The main problems according to Taco are the lack of space for the cyclists and bike theft: “There are often too many cyclists sharing the bike lanes. The city council should give them more space by taking space from the cars. The historic city centre should be car free.”
The war against bike theft
Another problem is bike theft: “Many people in Amsterdam use cheap bikes, they are afraid a nice bike would get stolen. Because they don’t care about their bikes and because their bikes are of bad quality, many bikes are left on the streets in the bike parking spaces. If bike theft would be less, then people would buy a better bike, a bike they would care about and that they can use for many years. This would reduce of lack of bike parking space. It would also be better for the environment; no throw-away bikes, but bikes that last for many years.” That is why VANMOOF is developing GPS and GSM integrated in their bikes. “All our electric bikes already have GPS and two of our bikes that were stolen in the US were found back through the GPS. We work with Vodafone and to make ‘find my bike’ as much used as ‘find my iphone’.”
Cycling in New York and London
“I cycled in many cities all over the world. My favourite city to cycle in is New York. Not many people realise how nice it is to cycle there. But it is flat, you can cycle through the whole of Manhattan, and of course enjoy Central Park by bike.” London is the worst city Taco cycled in: “I am simply scared to death when cycling in London. The fast driving cars are not used to cyclists and the sidewalks are so high, that you have nowhere to go when you feel an unsafe situation is coming up.”
Want to know more about VANMOOF? Check out their website!
Mel traded her sunscreen for an umbrella when she moved from Sydney to Amsterdam. It was love at first sight! Mel works at Marcel Wanders, has a Dutch florist boyfriend and is now part of our team!
Why did you move to Amsterdam?
“It kinda all started with the bikes. That fateful day in May when I stepped out at Schiphol and placed my feet on the ground it was love. There and then. Wheels, blonde-coloured locks and the sounds of bells whizzed by me as I walked along busy Leidseplein, transfixed by the beautiful ornate shapes of the buildings that surrounded me…the winding canals and the verdant tufts of grass in every park – a sight living in the often drought-stricken Sydney that you’d sometimes take for granted.
60 minutes later, I decided to stay. So I quit my job, cancelled my return ticket home, survived on tuna and cookies and started accumulating my new wardrobe at Ij Hallen each month looking forward to my new life (in killer 50 cents pumps). Sometimes you just know.”
What do you do in your daily life?
“I spend my time working as a project manager at Marcel Wanders, being surround by inspiring design all day, Learning Dutch (ik ben Nederlands aan het leren), travelling, crafting, shooting and of course my favourite pastime, cycling around town and exploring”
What is your bike like?
It is a classic Amsterdam ‘Oma Fiets’ (Granny Bike). I bought it as a present to myself for landing my first job. I attached a vintage wooden crate from the flower markets and hand-tied loads of flowers (naturally). I often catch tourists sitting on her taking pictures! Flowers and bikes. Born to be together.
Why do you want to be a blogger at Amsterdam Cycle Chic?
“I shoot as much as I can – capturing how amazing this city is. As a foreigner I see things in such a fresh and optimistic light – the snow, the rain, the mode of daily transport, the people, the bars, the language and the truly unique way of living here.
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!”
Andy knows what it is to follow your heart. She used to be an investment banker for one of the Netherlands’ biggest banks, but she stopped that promising career to follow her heart and she became a musician. Andy is a happy, positive, 30 year old Dutch singer songwriter. She sings about love, love in relationships but also love for a city. And Andy… she is in love with Amsterdam.
Andy loves Amsterdam
Nine years ago Andy moved to Amsterdam and she fell in love with the city. “Amsterdam is beautiful, the atmosphere is good and there are so many different people. The fact that there are more bikes than people makes the city even cooler. Everyone cycles! Cycling makes people more social then when everyone sits in their own car. I also love the trams in the city. Sometimes I just hop into a tram and let it take me to its final destination. In those 9 years I got to know all the tram routes!”
‘City love’ is the name of the record Andy is working on. She is in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to finance it. With as little as 10 euros people can fund it: “Crowdfunding the money to release my second record is a logical choice for me. Music is social. It is my way to communicate. I make music for people. To move them, to inspire them, or to make them happy. So if I make music for ‘the crowd’ why not involve them in the process of producing my record?” The campaign is going well. In only two weeks Andy funded nearly 60% of her project. The record ‘City love’ is about Andy’s love for Amsterdam and about love between people. “Love is nice, it is horrible, it is disastrous… sometimes love makes you act like a complete idiot. That is what makes love fascinating.”
Andy is not only in love with her city, but also with her bike. She bought her racing bike 6 years ago on Marktplaats (the Dutch eBay). “I bought it because I wanted to see if I liked to go racing. But the bike wasn’t good enough for long cycles so I kept it as a city bike. I have many bikes that got stolen in Amsterdam so I am very careful with this one. I used to carry it up three stairs to my apartment, so that I didn’t have to leave it on the street. Luckily I now have a shared garden with a little storage box where I can put it.”
Look at Andy: No side wheels!
Andy has one very clear memory of when she was 4 and learned to cycle. “It was the last day I would cycle with side wheels. I knew that this would be a ‘Kodak’ moment, so that morning I put on my best dress and cycled with a big smile, and my cute little pink basket to my father taking the picture.”
Like most Dutch Andy doesn’t have a ‘cycling’ style, she just cycles with what she is wearing that day. Almost always Andy wears All Stars: “I wear All Stars since I was 9 years old and they really became part of my identity. I wouldn’t go on stage without my All Stars. People would just be so surprised to see me wearing something else.” We also loved Andy’s ring: “That ring used to be my grandma’s. That makes it extra special. My grandma was a tiny lady. She was always very sweet, friendly and quiet. But she was a tough cookie: she had 9 kids and a bakery and her husband passed away quite young. So she worked incredibly hard! Also she was a talented violin player. When I look at the ring I think about the hard work she did and that she didn’t have a chance to make music her life. I then feel so lucky that I do have the chance. That is why I decided to go for it. To follow my heart…”
- Want to help Andy to make her dream come true? Fund her crowdfunding campaign!
- Andy is planning a world tour. Do you know a nice venue where she could play? Email her! firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Aude; Text: Joni
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
Constructing your own bicycle out of old parts? That’s something Niels Gomperts loves to do, as his two striking, circus-like bicycles illustrate. Actually, Niels is a selfmade handyman who can fix and construct almost anything. And with artists’ blood flowing through his veins, all his creations have an artistic touch.
His beautiful home in the heart of Amsterdam, which seems to be an ongoing creative construction site, represents his bohemian lifestyle. In front of his house, his two bicycles are parked on a bridge.
Cycling all the way to Poland Niels and his friends made a pit stop in Berlin, where they visited a friend with a very colourful collection of bicycles. Returning home Niels couldn’t wait to get started on his own. For both bicycles he used old bicycle-parts, and for the steering wheel of the ‘low-rider’ he ‘borrowed’ his grandmothers walking frame. Nice touch!
Though he doesn’t ride them daily, he does take them out to cruise through the Vondelpark – sometimes accompanied by a sound installation – or go to a cafe. Of course he fell of a number of times, but hey, that’s the best way to learn. Now he can handle just about any moving vehicle.
Niels isn’t just a skilled handyman, he is also an actor and appears on Dutch television and in several movies. He acted in the movies Lena and Shocking Blue, but he is probably best known for his role in Penoza, a fantastic television show about a Dutch mafia family. So Niels is definitely a talented and remarkable individual. If you keep an eye out, you might see him cruising around town with his head in the clouds.
Born in Afganistan in the 80’s, Massy and his family moved to the Netherlands more than 20 years ago. As a child he discovered the Dutch culture, he learned to cycle straight away and felt in love with this way of moving around. He likes the feeling of being independent on his bike, to be free to go everywhere and to breathe the fresh air.. He never went back to Afghanistan but he is pretty sure the bicycle is not as popular as it is here !
Massy is living in Utrecht. A few months ago, a friend inspired him to start a new business. His friend was selling ice creams on his delivery bike.
He couldn’t stop thinking this idea was very good and would be much appreciated by all the Amsterdammers !
So he just started with one of his mates a new company on wheels : bikeexpress.nl (site still under construction)
They have 2 ice cream delivery bikes, one is mostly cycling in Amsterdam North, while the other one goes around Amsterdam East. They offer our most beloved flavors : vanilla (in pole position !) strawberry and chocolate, or pistache, or lemon, etc
Massy loves selling ice creams. The reason is very simple: he is happy to make people smile. It is related to what makes him happy in life : « to help people in every way I can help ». He is already doing so since a long time as he has worked many years for Amnesty International and other NGOs. He also initiated this nice project ofoundation.nl. Massy’s dream is « to have a positive influence in the development of the human kind ».
I was happy to meet Massy and to taste his delicious ice creams while enjoying the Oosterpark with my little baby.
Let’s see what he will offer us in the winter : broodjes, soup ?
“I never plan to take pictures, I just bring my camera everywhere and then funny situations happen or special people pass in front of me and I take pictures. To be honest, I am quite a lazy photographer.” Amsterdam Cycle Chic is talking with Julie Hrudova a Czech born photographer living and working in Amsterdam. Julie made an Amsterdam Street Diary with her photos that in a few months will be exposed in the Amsterdam Central Library (OBA). “I like to photograph people, animals and kids. I focus on details; on expressions on faces, on reflections and shadows.”
Cycling in Amsterdam
Julie was born in Prague. When she was 10 years old she moved with her parents to Broek in Waterland a picturesque village north of Amsterdam. She remembers her first visit to Amsterdam: “I was overwhelmed by all the cyclists and when a few years later I started cycling in the city I found it quite difficult. There are certain unwritten rules; you can’t definitely go too slow and you have to indicate very well when you want to cross a street.” Now Julie loves to cycle and she cycles every day: “It is a moment to relax, to reflect on my day. I do not like to cycle along the canals, I prefer to take long straight streets. Then I don’t have to think and I can go fast.”
When Julie visits her family and friends in Prague she also takes pictures: “Dutch and Czech people have very different expressions on their faces. I think that Dutch people enjoy life and relaxing a bit more on their boats, in cafes and terraces, whereas Czechs are often exhausted due to tighter work schedules and pressure. I like to observe these differences. Further on, it is fascinating to see Prague transforming from a grey city of decayed buildings I used to live in into a popular tourist destination of shiny cars, billboards and luxury shops. When I’m there it always strikes me how much it has changed.”
Amsterdam Street Dairy
“The Amsterdam Street Diary is a photo diary of Amsterdam. The pictures tell a story, about Amsterdam, the people and the change of seasons. I think, being Czech, I still look at the city as an outsider, so I notice details of typical Amsterdam life that Amsterdam born people probably won’t see.” One of Julie’s favourite areas in Amsterdam for photography is the Red Light District: “It is fascinating to see the contrasts in that area; the beautiful old houses and canals, the raw and sad atmosphere and the combination of people born and raised in Amsterdam with the sightseeing tourists.”
Julie’s Amsterdam Street Dairy will be exhibited in the OBA in September for three months. On Amsterdam Cycle Chic we will post a few of the cycling pictures of her diary.
Our friends from the Cycling with… blog went for a cycle with Julie. Check out the great result!
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.