I visited a pioneering cycle culture cafe in Berlin owned by two lads, Mortimer and Gary. I managed to interview Mortimer while he was selling both coffee and bikes.
The speciality in this shop is that it crosses nicely the boundaries of a shop, cafe and an art gallery, a new service concept they invented two years ago. The idea came to their mind because they wanted to show the whole world around cycling, art, design and because they wanted to hang out with people for who cycling is not just sport or as a mean of transportation.
The interior design in the shop is creative and rich, and even though their main business is to sell classic looking bikes and accessories they have made and imported, the thing for the visitor can be the inspiring atmosphere itself. There are cycling posters and cycle paintings hanging on the walls, pennants, cycle illustrations, postcards, magazine covers, cycling cartoons, championship clothes, toys, old packages, bike signs and various historical, famous and rare bikes from the owner’s collections all around. There are also mountain racing and Tour de France videos looping in television screens for the customers and also the outer walls of the store are painted with bike-themed graffiti murals, made by Melbourne-based artist Makatron. And there is a story behind every item.
In the exhibition space they have now a big collection of bicycle stamps. Earlier they have exhibited couple of time cycling photography and different rare bikes.
There is an international feeling in this store. Mortimer is a former bike messenger, and he has worked and lived all around the world, in New York, Washington DC, Toronto, London, Budapest and Tokyo so he has a wide knowledge of the cycling culture happening right now. He told me that there are about 200 messengers working in a city and there is also a real urban messenger culture, a crew around couriers. There are also specialized courier photographers, like japanese toy dog.
Mortimer has fallen a deep love with Japan and japanese culture, which he has brought to the shop name too. He got fascinated about japanese Keirin race the first time he saw it, because it wasn’t just smooth cycling but rough and angry sport, which is still very popular in Japan, especially with older gamblers. Keirin actually compares most closely with horse or greyhound racing in the West. He has close relationship to Japan and have got as a gift an original champion track bike from japanese Keirin society.
I asked about Berlin cycling culture and Mortimer told me that: “Berlin is an active city with at least one bicycle event in every second week and during the summertime even more. But the cycling culture itself isn’t so visible, because everybody cycle, in a same way as in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, especially compared to Tokyo, where cycling is fashionable. In Germany the fanciest bikes are found from Münich. There are also happenings in the front of the shop too, sometimes a fellow Rie visits to sell coffee with her bike cafe or cycle clowns are performing there.”
Last question to Mortimer: “The Future? Let me see. I wanna spread the exhibition to all of the walls, frame (cycling) art and collections all over the place. And yes, food providing is definitely the next thing, i’m gonna choose local and tasty food”, Mortimer laughs. “And own cycling team (for velodromes) would be perfect too, a pity it costs around 30000e.”
You can find Keirin cycle culture cafe from the nice corners of Kreutzberg, in Oberbaumstraße 5, near Schlesisches Tor. They are also keeping a blog about bike culture. Check it out! http://www.keirinberlin.de/