Coffee, tick. Bikes, tick. Memorabilia-lined walls, tick.
In Berlin slang a couple of years ago, people said “Standert” to mean ‘standard’ and ‘obvious’. When Max started designing bikes, the idea of opening a Berlin bike cafes that designed their own bikes too, was just that. It remains one of a handful of bike cafes in the city. Benedict, who now helps run the small but mighty Berliner-run cafe/brand/team/hub/multifaceted creature talked to me about the whole deal.
How was Standert born?
Max opened it in 2012. For a brand it’s pretty new but for a retailer, not really. Max founded it as he was studying industrial design here in Berlin and at the same time he was a bike messenger and designed his own frame. Then he thought “okay, how about a place to sell it?”
With Anna together, his wife – they had the idea of putting together bikes and some ice popsicles they’d developed. So the idea came. There weren’t really cycling cafes back in those days – Look Mum No Hands [in London] already existed – but that was it more or less. It was a pretty new idea, completely new to Berlin. Well, there was Keirin. Mo had his shop opened before us [in 2004] but it’s not quite the same.
We have our own brand. We have a really dedicated cafe part and a shop part, and a showroom. In that way, I think we’re different.
Photos by: Constantin Gerlach
Who’s Standert for? What’s the vibe?
We’re kind of a cycling hub for cyclists in Berlin. We have our shop rides every week on Thursday and on Saturdays. In the summer we have 20-30 riders lining up for the rides and meeting here. We’ll come back and drink a coffee or a beer here afterwards. We have the messengers coming here and it’s really cool. It’s gone from just being some cyclists in Berlin, to knowing everyone. The kids are coming here on their fixies, the older cyclists are coming here and getting their power meters on their Colnagos. It’s like a melting pot of cycling.
Benedict and Max. Photo by: Constantin Gerlach
When Max designed the frames, did he start making them too?
He’s designing them all, doing the geometry, the colours and colour schemes, the model itself and what is it supposed to do, what is it supposed to be.
Then we have frame builders for us doing the jobs – we don’t have the frame building skills and we want them to be perfect, so we don’t try to do it ourselves! So that’s why we design them here, they get built somewhere else and then we assemble them here and all the finishing is done here. They’re painted in Germany. Only the building part is not happening here. We’re trying to keep it as local as possible.
We have our cyclocross frame on the wall. That’s made in Italy but because of that it’s a completely different price point – when it’s a new model and we have like 100 of them, it’s not possible to do it in Berlin or in Germany or in Italy. It’s simply impossible and nobody is really doing it, except the frame builders themselves but they make around 10 bikes a year and they cost £8000 – so that’s okay for them but not working for us.
What kind of rides do you do each week on Thursday and Saturday?
Road bike training rides. So on Thursdays it’s really fast. It’s callled ‘Feierabendrunde’. We met at 7pm here then we have three different routes, we switch them every week so everyone knows the routes but it’s not getting boring. Then we get out of town, then we’ll hammer it for an hour or so, then we’ll head back. It’s pretty fast but it’s fun because everyone is getting really exhausted and everyone’s having a good go and can show what they have. [Read this before attending]
During the winter, this Thursday ride becomes a group Zwift ride, which have just started.
Then everyone’s really desperate for a coffee and a beer. I see how it goes.
Hah, yeah. Then on Saturday it’s also road bike training but it’s a bit more of a conversational pace – a bit more of a social ride. A little bit longer, with a steady pace, so everyone can join in. But you’ve gotta be fit. It’s a training ride, just not in race mode.
And you had your first pop-up this summer.
Then we had our pop-up. It was the first popup we’ve done. It was a whole week – not a day or whatever! We had this idea to get a little bit of our storage clear – classic pop up move! – but we didn’t just want to do a sale sale, so we built up the bikes to go. We built the bikes up and then dropped the prices of course. So you could ride your bike home directly from it.
Photo by: Constantin Gerlach
We teamed up with Six Day Berlin. Six Day is one of the most iconic track bike leagues. In London, in Ghent in the Netherlands, and other locations. Basically it’s six days of racing on the track and it’s in winter hours and it’s a series. And they have a relaunch. Six Day (used to be) really popular but now it’s just popular for drinking beer and not so much racing. They wanted to switch it back to the sport again. For the younger crowd. Now it’s a 50 age-ish event where someone might be cycling around in a circle but [spectators] wouldn’t really care. They want to change that. I’m pretty confident they will do. So, we’re helping them to relaunch.
We also teamed up with Bullit Whisky, and Volksentscheid [when the citizens sign a petition towards something they want to change in a city]. There was a Volkensheid Fahrrad about bicycle infrastructure and they were hugely successful with it – like they needed 20,000 signatures for the first step and they got 100,000. We also had David Trimble and Red Hook Crit showing a video of the Brooklyn Red Hook Crit which they screened with a Q&A. And we had Rückenwind, which is a charity that repairs old bikes that have been donated for refugees. They built bikes for refugees.
You have the Standert racing team. How did that come about?
Actually we just formed as friends cycling together. Then the cycling turned into training, getting better and getting faster, and being interested in racing. The team started in the formation as we are now at the end of 2014. That was when it actually started. Before that, we were cycling together and then some started racing, and then others. Then we thought “why not have team kits and look the same?” and then “let’s do an Instagram channel” and then suddenly we had sponsors an everything. Then we were racing at a pretty high level. It was a pretty organic growth.
Photo by: Constantin Gerlach
We’re all still friends, no strangers we brought in for results. That’s the spirit of the team. It’s fun. You always have someone to travel to a race with or to talk tactics with. It’s pretty cool.
We have different interests as a team. We have some being interested in fixed gear races. Like Eike [Haumann], he’s super strong. He’s from a running background. He’s riding fixed now for a couple of years and super competitive. Has a really aggressive riding style. Always attacking. Always at the front. This year he was racing the Dutch Crit Cup – the Vast VerzetBokaal it’s a pretty cool race each year in Holland – the series is pretty nice to race and the people are all really kind. That’s pretty important to him – and was part of the Red Hook selection. He should have been in the final in Brooklyn but he had a crash out in the qualifying. But he was really good.
We had the road bike team focusing on road bike races and criteriums.
For the winter we have four or five guys riding a pretty strong cyclocross season. I like those bike events like Fixed 42 championship and Red Hook. We have the road bike series here – it’s like a stage race but stretched throughout the year. It’s called MOL Cup. It starts at the end of April and the last one is in October. I think it is 11 races.
There are some independent races which are important and fun to race. Next year we will have – as it looks now – a new sponsor, and with them we’ll go to new formats too. Some bigger races. We’ll see.
That sounds like an intense schedule.
You’ve got peaks and it goes down again. You have your highs and your lows. It’s pretty intense though.
We went to Rostock tomorrow to race the One Way Fixed Bahnevent. It’s an open track, a concrete track and racing there. On Sunday we’re racing here in Berlin. In Teltow there’s a fixed criterium. That was fun.
What’s the format?
The started it last year and it was quite successful. The format was quite fun because the [typical] German criterium racing is where you have the points for laps and then the one with the most points wins, but this is a mixed up criterium race where the winner is the one who finishes first, but you get prizes for different laps. It’s cool to have it competitive over the whole race but finishing with a full sprint, too.
It’s really cool because you have action all the time because you’re always giving points away like very third lap or every fifth lap, not just waiting for the final sprint.
Because that first half hour doesn’t really pick up until the final straight, normally.
Exactly. In Germany from elite level they often race like that but in America or Britain a criterium is just for the finish. It’s a really fun new format.
How popular are crits in Germany?
There’s a lot of racing going on but it’s not as popular as – for now – the cycling sport is kind of updated. It’s kind of a little bit outdated and feels like all the old guys are still organising it. It’s not that attractive, so we try to get some young blood in it.
You could say that about London.
With London it was a big change for the Olympics. The cycling changed everything. Innovation at least. We don’t have that unfortunately. it’s a long way to go still but it’s fun. We see the development already getting a little bit cooler and a little bit more modern.
”You can ride through the terminal there, and go through the autobahn on the bike. No cars. That’s amazing.”
Outside of Berlin, where do you ride?
We’re always going outside of Berlin. We don’t do inner city riding. We always look for the shortest way out. Then we’re always in Brandenburg. We have our typical playgrounds. In the north we’re going to Summt and a lot of smaller little towns we’re riding through. We have our – how do you call them, city limit sprints? – when you have the beginning of a new town and there’s a city sign coming up and you sprint to it. So the most important is the Berlin sign. So in training it gets a bit competitive. So the last 300 metres you go all out. It’s fun. It’s good training.
In the south west, that’s the original Berlin road cycling training ground. That’s the Havelchaussee. You should check that out. It’s the only road with some elevation here.
It goes through through the woods and down to the lakes?
Yep, along the Havel. Directly to Wansee. Then you can make it even longer if you want to go to Pfaueninsel it’s called. That’s also a pretty cool turn. Some really nice routes you can make around here – you’ve just got to know them.
Pretty cool is to get out to the BER (Berlin Brandenburg Airport). The abandoned – or the ‘not yet ready’ airport, Schönefeld.
Isn’t that an actual airport?
Ah, yes it is but the international part of it is like a … huge Berlin catastrophe project. It’s not getting ready. It was supposed to be open in like 2012 I think and since that it’s only swallowing money. I think they’re about three billion over the plan. So, no one knows when it’s going to be finished because some ventilation is wrong or … just planning errors. So it’s not used apart from some offices that have been paying rent. But you can use the autobahn there. You can ride through the terminal there, and go through the autobahn on the bike. No cars. That’s amazing. Head down through Ostkrone – in the west they have a long long straight along the Havel called the Krone – and they have something pretty similar in the east so they just call it Ostkrone. That’s going out of Berlin and from then on you can go to Schönefeld pretty closely.
That sounds cool. Cycling to weird places is the best.
Then you should go to Tuefelsburg! You can go up to the so-called Artenburg, where the plateau is, where you can stand and see Berlin and all the people with their kites and everything. Then you can go up a road to the American radar station. That’s pretty steep. You can go up there and in there. I dunno, it’s like three euros and you can get a tour there. You should do that.
I have! I went up the back road last time I was here on a really heavy rental bike. There was someone with a mountain bike riding the hill and it was really impressive. The view is amazing. Maybe I’ll take a different bike with me next time…
What kind of bike do you ride?
Gotcha. That’s the one I see all over the Standert Instagram.
We love it. It rides super awesome. The whole team rides it.[If you like strange rides] you should try Critical Mass in Berlin. They started it about four years ago. I was here. It was like 20-30 cyclists, most messengers drunk and riding through the streets, pretending to be aware of any rights. Now it’s like 2-3000 cyclists per months. It shuts down the city. In the beginning it was just the drunk messengers and now it’s families and older people and some politicians. As cycling is growing in Berlin, that’s growing, too.
”Germany is the land of the car”
Does Critical Mass have the same opposition here as, say in London, when it takes place?
In Germany it’s really really hard for cyclists and cycling. Germany is the land of the car. You really really notice it. They’re so happy to get anything for cycling through any political debate – the automobile lobby is that powerful. They can shut down the whole city for a formula E race but you can’t shut down like one block for a bike ride, saying “no, bike rides are too dangerous.” You can shut down the road in front of the Brandenburger Tor for like five weeks for the public viewing for the Eurocup. It’s hard, but I think we’re getting in the right direction. People know it’s getting more and more important.