Urban Tales

BICICLI Cycling Concept Store

In this portrait, Schindelhauer presents its long-time premium dealer Bicicli and introduces the special concept.

Martha Marisa Wanat studied Economics, Culture and Political Science and at the age of 31 is already managing partner and co-founder of the boutique bike shop Bicicli in Berlin. The bicycle is not only her preferred means of transportation both personally and professionally, Martha also remains committed to topics such as the traffic transition, the future of mobility or urban and neighborhood development. But for her, it's just as important that women in the bicycle industry finally get the recognition they deserve.

How it all began

We’ve been around since the end of 2016 – initially in the first year exclusively in the B2B. With Schindelhauer, we've set up the first fleet. It was 112 bicycles and we were very impressed. We didn't have a case of that size that quickly – that came later. But that was a huge surcharge for the co-working space provider “Design Offices”. They were totally impressed by Alu Pur. It was of course clear which bike we were offering. Only Schindelhauer was considered for this.

For us, there were even more topics from the start – the future of work, the future of cities, living, health, climate protection as well as social justice and democracy. Because the bicycle is a very democratic means of transport. It's all related. We saw that very closely and our goal was to bring it to a level that we like – women-friendly and ready for the board. That people who would actually like to drive an SUV also drive an e-bike or a chic Schindelhauer.

It wasn't until the end of 2017 that we opened our “Bicicli” store. Bicicli means "bicycles" in Italian. One actually only knows “bicicletta”, but “bicicli” also exists. Part of the name comes from the fact that my partner worked as a teenager in a bike shop called “Cicli”. He really wanted to have “Cicli” in the name and we discussed whether it was good or not. It took us a long time to find our name, which honestly nobody can pronounce. We noticed that quickly – and continue to now. But somehow it should also be a made-up word. We wanted a value, a desirability, just like the bike is for us. Something that makes us mobile in everyday life, but can also do really great tours. We're also private cyclists. I come more from everyday life, Stephan, my partner and co-founder of Bicicli, has had a lot to do with racing bikes, participated in racing bike marathons – and I did too at some point, by the way. It has to do with this passion for the product.

We wanted to show a certain high quality with the name or our brand: good craftsmanship, aesthetics and beautiful design. At the beginning, we started with very clean bikes that had neither mudguards nor luggage racks. But over time, we realized that we also had to offer fully equipped bicycles. Bikes were added later that can be used to go on a bike tour or take your children to daycare. We want to address a relatively broad target group with very high-quality products. The bikes are flexible and agile and can be designed very individually. Since there are so many manufacturers, it's difficult as a layman to keep track of the bicycle brands. In the automotive sector, it's relatively clear, everyone knows a little bit about it, but it's not the case with bicycles. So we thought: "We have to create awareness of good quality."

More than just a bike shop

In addition to our bike shop, we have three other areas. The first is our mobility advice service „MOND“. This is the area that deals with district development, companies and their mobility. The question is, how can we make quarters, cities, and neighborhoods more sustainable and mobile? For this, we’re in contact with many large employers and new neighborhoods. We want to plan mobility before people work or live there. That means a company does a mobility data analysis with us or a survey among employees about their needs. So we know exactly what's needed, possibly a fleet of bicycles. That's the approach of our second division, „Bicicli Cycling Solutions“, where we offer bicycle fleets and company bike programs – in a total package with insurance, leasing or financing, but also maintenance with workshop service. A fleet can, for example, consist of both cargo bikes and folding bikes, because it might be faster by train.

The third area is the “Bicicli Concept Store” retail concept. This is essential to show that we are there and that for us the bike consists of more than just two wheels – beautiful design and good craftsmanship. The sensuality of the bike is also reflected in our interior design: warm wood, moss on the wall, a café feel, living room atmosphere and a bit of a gallery. We would like the bikes to get more attention.

This model arose out of a political interest. We wanted a business model and a store concept that reflects this zeitgeist and the big questions our society has about consumption, environmental protection and urban development. For example, my partner is also on the advisory team of the German Bundestag. As a professor and scientist, he deals with urban health and mobility, among other things. In turn, I'm active in the “Corporate Responsibility Network” of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where I address sustainable management. In addition, I'm involved in the context of the TU Berlin at Stadtmanufaktur Berlin, a real laboratory for transdisciplinary projects relating to urban challenges. This is very important for us to keep in touch with people and to say: "Yes, we're a bike shop, but not only, rather we are also a political company that advocates for the mobility transition."

The future of mobility

We want to take a holistic approach to mobility. Which tools do the individual groups need, how and where do they park their bikes, which insurance might they still need? There’s no point in bringing ten bikes into a company and saying: “Have fun with them!”, but rather also looking to see where the bikes are. Most people want to banish them into the underground car park. Of course, that's not possible. As a cyclist, you know that you would like to have your bike next to your desk. You have to establish a new cycling culture in companies and city districts, and you don't just need the bike, but also services. Service so that the fleet is always ready for use or insurance that covers everything. And that's why we also call ourselves the “Society for Urban Mobility” – because we see the subject of “bicycles” as a mission for a sustainable mobility transition.

Many associate bicycles with taking a quick trip to the train station or taking it out of the cellar once a year when the sun is shining. We want to present bicycles as a means of transport that really has a place. Especially for our cities. You think about how to move, how to dress, what to eat. For some, that means a completely different lifestyle. You clear your head, think about other things and become more creative as a result.

And it's precisely this transformation process that can also happen with a company. “Society for urban mobility” means that we accompany this transformation of people, but also companies and cities, and offer part of the solution. We want to make this transformation clear through bikes. That cities can be completely different, much healthier, much quieter and much more livable if you go for sustainable mobility, such as by bike. And in companies too, of course. A new culture of mobility must emerge.

"We need a mix of mobility."

In the future, we will need a mix of mobility, because people have different needs and therefore you have to offer everything in one place: bicycles, cars, scooters, etc. One of them may have to transport something and needs an e-cargo bike and the other has to get to an appointment quickly with a normal bike. Or in connection with the train journey, if you really have to go to the other end of Berlin and cycle the last mile. But I also believe that the car is very important in this mobility mix. There are things that we or some companies, such as craftsmanship businesses, can only do with cars or vans. Some craft companies already do a lot with cargo bikes, as do the logisticians, but I think we need a mix.

City centers, on the other hand, are another topic. Cars will not disappear from the cities, but from the city centers. Pedestrian zones and public spaces are very important. And I believe that this resuscitation is very much needed. We need space to meet, to set up playgrounds, meeting areas, cafes, outdoor events, etc. to accomplish. I think that has more priority in public space than somehow parking a car there. And the cities are headed in this direction, too. Paris is a very good example of this: the “15-minute city” is a very important topic there. There should be different centers in which you really have everything within 15 minutes on foot. Work, shopping, doctors, childcare ... In addition, Paris wants to convert 60 hectares of parking space into green spaces – for people, the neighborhood and playgrounds. I think it would be great if you could both have coffee and work in one place – and that it is not just a cafe, but also a space that connects.

There are also various options for doing this in Berlin. We don't need to drive all private individuals into the city center just to make the city center full and unhealthy. We have to prevent climate change and one possibility is to think about the car a little bit differently and to say: “Okay, it's great for certain functions and we also need it, like for old people, ambulance transport, etc." In addition, our inner cities would suddenly be very quiet. Noise pollution is a huge issue for example.

Our store

Our store area is a total of 220 square meters with a workshop. We have ten employees and 50% of them are women. Jenny, our workshop manager, has been there from the beginning. We wanted this high quota of women from the beginning and have always managed it over the past few years. Our team is also very diverse, independent, and agile and of course that’s a huge help in this very difficult time (COVID-19). We have very strong characters who can make decisions on their own. We have people with 20 years of experience in retail, but also those who restore old bicycles in their free time or who previously had their own bicycle shop. In the consulting and fleet area, we have another team, which partly consists of freelancers, whom we include on a project-specific basis.

Salon for urban mobility

The “Salon for Urban Mobility” is a series of events who which we invite small manufacturers such as Schindelhauer to present their brand. The manufacturers tell a bit about the history of the company, how the bikes are made and people can ask questions afterwards. The audience is quite diverse – from politically active people who are in the bicycle lobby or in the Changing Cities movement, to members from the Senate, to normal cyclists. In other formats, we talk about cycling trips, for example. We invite people who have already done really big tours, across one or more continents, but also people who report on a great tour through the Spreewald. There are themed evenings that deal with the Mobility Act or the subject of "Housing and Mobility". People like to come back again and again, this creates a community that is also personally networked.

Anecdote from a customer

The Swiss ambassador was a customer in our workshop. She told us that, for safety reasons, she had not been allowed into the Ministry of Transport on two occasions because she wasn’t driving a car with a pennant (ambassador flags). For them, as for us, it was totally incomprehensible why cars, but not bicycles, are allowed to enter the Ministry of Transport (!). She then tweeted the incident and was let into the ministry on her bike the third time. Since then, access to the Ministry of Transport has been allowed by bike.

Women and the bicycle industry

I myself have years of experience in various bike shops. What bothered me the most was when the seller speaks to the man and not to the actual buyer. Women, like everyone else, want to be taken seriously. You just have to find out a little bit about your questions and needs. At the beginning you should, for example, ask whether they are more interested in the gearshift or braking system or whether an assessment of the quality is required. There are women who are very tech-savvy. You just have to and should just show women a few more alternatives and make it clear whether the respective product is of high quality or inferior quality and what it can be used for in different situations.

Women are usually very practical and pragmatic. This cliché that women always want a beautiful bike is not true. Above all, it's men who first look at the design and then at the rest. Women want to know exactly is whether there's a luggage rack, what can I use this or that for, what bags are there for it, etc.? Because women have different mobility behavior than men. This is called „trip chaining“ and describes the different stations on your way in everyday life. For example, they may have to take the children to daycare in the morning, then to work themselves, then back to daycare, then drive the children to the respective leisure activities, then to their own sports and finally home or go shopping. Bicycles have to be totally practicable, be able to withstand a lot, have the appropriate bags, etc. But there are of course exceptions. However, what all women have in common is security. Both for themselves and for their children, but also for their bikes. Because women often ask: "What if the bike gets stolen?" They want to be safe and not have to worry.

Women are definitely a huge target group that the bicycle industry does not yet see as such. Fortunately, that's changing right now. I believe that a lot of sales have been lost in the last 30 years because women have not received proper or serious advice. Women now have a completely different income because more and more of them also work and earn their own money. Many couples in Berlin live without children and they simply have a lot of money to spare. These women need the right advice.

One last important point is that women want to look dignified on a bike. It's not about looking beautiful, it has to have a certain dignity. That's why we decided on such a store with different products so that this safety vest situation does not occur where you already feel uncomfortable. With the design and products of the store, we especially want to appeal to women, which means we also wanted something feminine. Good service was very important to us from the start. Service and really good advice. The same applies today. We want to pick people up because most of them actually know what they want. You just have to find out together.

The product portfolio

On the one hand, it's important that the product in question is of very high quality and that the quality is right, also for the price. We always look at the price-performance ratio. It's very important to us that manufacturers have bicycles that are stable over time. Also in design. There are a couple of manufacturers who have been using the same models for years because it's a good bike. Seasonal colors, changes and paint work totally devalue the bike. We don't want to wage discount wars. The margins are so small that a small shop just can’t afford it. That’s why it’s helpful to recognize stability in the manufacturer's portfolio. Of course, we also make sure that the service works. How quickly do we get spare parts, who is our specific contact person and how is the feedback going. Transparency plays a major role in the relationship with the manufacturer. Schindelhauer is our benchmark here.

We always have an overview of what the current situation is like. Especially with the new system: The dealers know when the bikes are coming and how delayed they are, because we are constantly getting updates. The clientele is usually very impatient. We also had a couple of manufacturers that things didn't work out with. We always have to decide whether to continue with them or not. It's part of a good business relationship that we can trust one another and keep one another informed.

Schindelhauer & Bicicli

We’ve been selling Schindelhauer bicycles since day one. We started our first fleet with Schindelhauer. For us, many different things contribute to a Schindelhauer bike. It’s aesthetic, has good components, and is durability because it has the carbon drive right from the start (which has always been the sales argument), it's fun to ride and it conveys a certain lifestyle. Such a pure aluminum simply reflects a certain value, the design is right, the frame is totally unique, it’s perhaps the purest thing we had back then. It was only in the last few years that other brands have relied on this minimalism. But Schindelhauer was the first bike for us that we saw it that way: minimalist, restrained design with matching components. Incidentally, we rarely see the customers who have bought a Schindelhauer again. That's a very small fraction that comes back at some point, but only because a new tire is needed or because the brakes have to be retightened.

Products introduced