How steel solves the paradox of our lives (at least a bit)

Christopher Lewis | Samstag Rad

“Our lives are paradoxical: Sitting in front of a computer all day is very easy, nonetheless haven’t we ever dealt with so many things that we do not fully understand, or, do not understand at all. For example the way our computer really works. Over the course of the last decades, many things started to get “technologized” and often over-complex. While it is obvious that computers are a very complex thing, there are other products that have risen in complexity with no need at all – such as the bicycle.

The best bicycle frames were built up until the eighties: steel frames, hand-crafted. Nowadays, frames are usually made from aluminium. It is meant to be more lightweight. But what happens is that aluminium frames have to be thicker than steel frames, because they are not as robust. Hence their weight advantage is lost. Also, aluminium is completely rigid and inflexible. Steel on the contrary, while being extremely stable, is also a very flexible material. It reacts to forces by twisting and winding within, and by that almost works like a natural suspension. That’s why a steel frame is much healthier for the rider’s spine than an aluminium frame and doesn’t need expensive and heavy suspension. From an aesthetes point of view, things haven’t gotten any better either. But I admit that’s a rather subjective point.

The same goes for the other parts – breaks, gears, chains – once they were of great quality and their simple mechanic construction was fairly easy to understand for everybody with little more than a handyman’s intuition. Modern bikes however tend to be highly complicated. Some parts are nearly impossible to repair for normal people – such as hydraulic breaks or modern gear systems. And, what’s even worse, the quality constantly decreases. Department stores now sell bikes for 200 Euros. A bike for 200 Euro is built to be thrown away after a year. Once it breaks, no bike store will be able to repair it.

At Samstag Rad, we collect old steel frames from the eighties and before, and we up-cycle them to produce fully functional vintage bicycles. Handmade, simple and beautiful. Easy to understand and repair for most of us. And when we get up from our laptops and climb our bikes, we know we are on our way back towards a little more simplicity.”

Chris manufactures vintage bicycles in his workshop Samstag Rad. Custom-made and upcycled from old-timer frames. Samstag Rad also offers workshops for teams and companies to build their own bikes together.

Our series ‪#‎humansofimpacthub‬ regularly features people from the Impact Hub Munich environment and their personal stories. If you want to get in touch with any of them, visit the Impact Hub or drop us a note.