Why do hipsters like fixed-gear bikes

New opening: old steel racing bikes, fixies and singlespeeds at "Stahl und Wolle" in Oberau

A shiny red "Moser", a classy "Pinarello", a camouflage-colored "Titan": Anyone who has a taste for beautiful steel frame racing bikes will rave about a visit to Freiburg's latest racing bike shop, "Stahl und Wolle Berlin". Why the owners became victims of Berlin's gentrification - and are not hipsters:

It was 10 years ago that only a few people in Berlin talked about fixies, single speeds and old steel racing bikes. The topic of retro bikes was something for nerds, for real enthusiasts. Back then, in 2005, Stefan Lokau from Freiburg and friend Birgit Eppler from Villingen opened a bike shop in Berlin. He, Stefan, sold old racing bikes: steel. You, Birgit, sold the matching, self-designed T-shirts, each one unique: wool. The shop was located directly on the Oberbaumbrücke, which connects Kreuzberg with Friedrichshain. The Watergate was a stone's throw away, and Berghain was a fixie sprint away. The rents were cheap, there were only two other retro bike shops in Berlin: the Keirin and the Cicli Bicicletta - all three were cult shops.

10 years later, in autumn 2015, Stefan and Birgit have to close "Stahl und Wolle Berlin". The Oberbaumbrücke is no longer a place for those who know the scene, "it is the Ballermann", says Stefan. Tourists come from all over the world, but they are less and less likely to buy racing bikes at Oberbaumbrücke. They want to drink.

A Späti replaced the "steel and wool", its owner offered Stefan's landlord 100% more rent, who threw him out. Instead of racing bikes, alcohol is now sold at Oberbaumbrücke. Stefan was still looking for a new location in Berlin for a few weeks. He found nothing good. When he came back to his home town of Freiburg over Christmas, he discovered the empty shop next to the Ganter brewery. A plus-size fashion house had just moved out, and Stefan signed the inexpensive lease. Since then, "Stahl und Wolle Berlin" has opened in Freiburg. His mission has remained the same: He wants to buy old racing bikes and restore them in style, but also to be the starting point for repairing the bikes.

Stefan did his Abitur in Staufen and then lived in Freiburg. He was enrolled in oriental studies for 7 years and never went to university. That's what he worked for: as a waiter, as a heater reader, as a freelance landscape gardener, as a bicycle screwdriver. He organized parties and enjoyed being out and about himself. "At that time you could only crash in Freiburg, even if you didn't like the music you went there. There was nothing else." Today it's different: "There's Teng, BeatBarButzemann, Wheit Rabbit, they're all great stores," he says.

He loves racing himself, especially here in the Black Forest: "It's a lot nicer here than in Berlin," he says. Whenever he can, he gets on his racing bike, one with a steel frame, of course. Then he cycles on the flat, up mountains - all around Freiburg.

On the other hand, he doesn't like the Internet at all. "I never had the Internet in Berlin. For 10 years I placed all orders via catalog. Now it's getting harder and harder, dealers only laugh when I want the catalog." But in the meantime he has still bought an Internet connection: because he was looking for an apartment.

Because when they arrived in Freiburg, Stefan and Birgit have not really got it: Because they cannot find a suitable apartment, they have to commute. Only one of them is ever in Freiburg, the partner in the old Kreuzberg apartment. That should change as soon as possible. "If someone knows something ...", says Stefan.

Outside, in front of the large glass front of the bicycle shop, cars race out of the Freiburg tunnel, the cyclists rush past a little closer - inside, however, jazz music is playing from small boxes. "When my wife is here, only techno plays. Very minimalist, she likes that," says Stefan. However, he himself loves jazz. During his time before Berlin, he played in a jazz-rock band in Freiburg, and six times at the ZMF.

Old racing bike jerseys hang on the ceiling, accessories on the walls. In the middle of the room there is a large clothes rack with Birgit's self-designed T-shirts hanging on it. A small, fully loaded sales counter is hidden in a corner, leaning against it is a beautiful old Pinarello in deep red. In front of the glass front, however, are the shop's treasures: the steel frame wheels.

Ganter brews his beer right next door, behind the shop you are directly on the Dreisam, opposite the Wiehre begins. You notice that especially, says Stefan. "It's funny: teachers and professors keep coming back from Wiehre and giving tips on how to run the business better." After ten rough years in Berlin, Stefan first has to get used to it again in cozy Freiburg.

A wine-red "Moser" with glossy lacquer, a Swiss "Titan" in camouflage colors, a dark blue "Gazelle", a beautiful "Neri", a blue-yellow "Olmo", a royal blue "Gios Torino". The wheels in the steel and wool are all eye candy. What connects them: the steel frame, the original equipment, the frame circuitry, the elaborate detailed work that Stefan put into it. They are priced between 350 and 2000 euros. That would seem like a lot to some, says Stefan. However, it is based on the sales prices that are traded in specialist magazines. "Of course I can't keep up with Ebay, you get advice here - and spare parts!"

And the specially assembled dream racing bike: If you bring a steel frame, Stefan will assemble your favorite bike - with the parts you want. For example, he is currently working on a gray Peugeot that a 25-year-old would like to have. It is well within the target group of the business, says Stefan. Especially people between the ages of 20 and 45 sought his help.

The bikes are also lined up in front of the shop. Passers-by keep stopping, especially a hispteresque, shiny blue fixie arouses interest. It's not Stefan's favorite bike: "We weren't a hipster shop in Berlin and we don't want to be here either. You can get a colorful single speed with blue tires from us, but I like it much more classic." Stefan's favorite bike is such a "classic": A Neri in a great shade of red, with white handlebar tape and chrome-plated rims and pinions. It became known from an advertisement in which two Italians are having breakfast and the dream bike is next door. Now it is lined up in the original equipment between the sales bikes, but Stefan would not sell his crush bike. "I would be sad about it forever!" He says.

Just as he is sad about every bike sold. "If I tweak a wheel, fix it, make it beautiful, then I get very attached to the bike. Selling it always hurts me a lot."

Fixie sprockets, silver retro pedals, wheels, small LED lights, seat posts in all imaginable sizes, colorful single-speed chains, handlebar tape, cork grips, tires in all colors, a pink cup holder, 36-hole racing rims, yellow, green, blue, red saddles: the accessories hang on the walls of the shop. If the customer needs one that is not in stock, Stefan can of course also order one.

Birgit, Stefan's friend and business partner, designed the shirts. They come from the English fashion brand Continental. Birgit then photographs interesting bike motifs and makes shirt flockings out of them. Each shirt is unique, the cotton is organic and the shirt is fairly traded. Continetal also selects its customers. "We can be proud that we belong to the customer base," says Stefan.

Transferring a Berlin store to Freiburg is dangerous, says Stefan. "The people of Freiburg don't like it when something bears the title Berlin. That's why we're going to remove" Berlin "from the name." He doesn't really know why the word Berlin is a red rag for Freiburg residents. One could be proud of the city in Freiburg, which "lies in the most beautiful part of Germany." Complexes of inferiority or the like are completely out of place compared to Berlin, "the cities differ far too much to be compared! And besides, a lot of good things came to Berlin from Freiburg: the green movement and solar energy, for example!"

And the steel and wool bike shop. But he's here again now.

Steel and wool
Schwarzwaldstrasse 59
79117 Freiburg
Tel: 0761/61254700

Monday to Friday
10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
2 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.


10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Keywords: steel and wool Berlin, steel and wool, fixies, Berlin Freiburg, bicycles, bikes, bicycles, bike shops, bike shops in Freiburg, bike repairs, bike repairs in Freiburg, frames