The bicycle has lived a boom in 2020: Giant, the world’s largest manufacturer, celebrated growth in all markets; in Spain it translated into a 38% rise in billing. High demand and lockdowns have meant that you have to wait weeks or months to get hold of some models. The pandemic has helped, but this cycling boom has been in the making for some time. More than half of Spaniards (50.7%) use the bike with some frequency, according to the latest Bicycle Barometer of 2019. This means of transport already appeared in the mobility plans of cities and in the collective imagination of the late twentieth century permeating fashion, urban trends and even masculinities. In the last decade, cyclists have increased by 4.5 million in Spain; men represent almost 60% of the collective. The first vehicle ever driven is usually a bike. A relationship that continues into adolescence. With the age of majority, some leave it. Others hug her. There is a whole generation that decided to alleviate the crisis of the 40s with a sublime bike of more than 3,000 euros. If in 2019 an average of 3,400 bicycles were sold a day in Spain, 2% more than the previous year, in 2020 the sector estimates that the increase will be 30%. “In performance bikes the increase in sales has been as expected. But in urban and electric it has been more powerful ”, sums up José Alix, a 23-year-old triathlete and worker for the international bike brand Specialized. A trend that has been replicated in many parts of the world.
José Alix: “You can get to the new normal by bike”
For José Alix, 23 years old, the bike is part of his memory, his profession and his leisure. “It is past, present and future,” he sums up. He has been practicing triathlon since he was a kid, he started “with 8 or 9 years old.” At 16 he became “more serious.” Currently competing in the elite category: among the 100 best in Spain. “They let us train, but the feeling is that everything is up in the air,” he explains. An uncertainty that has caused him some concern: “For an athlete, discipline is important, losing it can cause chaos.”
To avoid that mix of frustration and stress that hangs over the air, Alix tries to focus on training. He does it twice a day: there are days when he wakes up in the saddle; others that it comes out of the pool at the edge of midnight.
“I have four bikes of my own,” he recounts. “And at home there are several more, old ones,” he adds. Today you saw the competition one: a Specialized Tarmac SL7 with an S-Works frame. “The high end”, he points out, in case there is any doubt when seeing this brand new bicycle for about 8,000 euros. He works for that manufacturer in Tres Cantos, where he also reaches pedaling: “They give us a company bike. They have a fleet to encourage us to go to work in it ”.
The pandemic has devastated some of their sporting events, but at the same time it has caused an effervescent interest in bikes. “The numbers are there,” he says. “There is a boom. It has been such that a stock problem has been generated ”, he continues. He also believes that traveling in this mode of transport should not be dangerous or cause that feeling. And consider that many cities have dared and made great changes. That is why he asks for more cyclist impulse: “You get to the new normal by bike.”
Alix, used to training sportswear — his favorite is to climb the Morcuera pass, in the Guadarrama mountains — or to the more informal style to go to work, is surprised to see himself in a suit. “I don’t usually go like this, but it’s not bad at all,” he says. “Everything is for the bike.”
Alberto Montenegro: “I couldn’t imagine going to school by bike”
Alberto Montenegro, 34, had never had a bicycle in the city. That changed in December 2018, on his 32nd birthday. His friends gave him a gift that he did not expect: a Finna Velodrome model single speed (single speed), assembled in Barcelona and that costs more than 500 euros. He remembers his first tours of Madrid as “somewhat stressful”. “You have to get used to sharing space with cars,” he says. Since then, every morning he has pedaled to the Addis school, in the Villaverde neighborhood. There he works as a secondary school teacher: he teaches Geography and History, Ethical Values and Classical Culture to kids between 12 and 16 years old. “I wear clothes and change there,” he says.
During the confinement he had to stop pedaling and switch to YouTube: thus, he recorded videos for his students shelving the genealogical tree of the Greek gods or summarizing the turn of the Earth. He prefers face-to-face classes. He goes quietly to school: “We are with the windows and doors open and we have not had any outbreak since the beginning of the course.”
No one else at his institute rides a bike. Neither students nor teachers. But Montenegro has already aroused a certain curiosity: “The kids always ask me. I do 14 kilometers one way and as many back. It seems a lot to them, but at the same time they see that it is feasible. It is a way of dealing with sustainable mobility and sport ”, he explains. “Ah! Another teacher has asked me about the bike, he has told me that he is considering it ”, he adds. He describes his commutes to work as “a blast of energy.” “When they gave it to me, I felt that they were giving me something very valuable; a bicycle opens up a world of possibilities for you ”, he explains. “I couldn’t imagine riding my bike to school; now I can’t imagine doing it any other way ”.
Héctor Muñoz: “We have to rethink how we move”
Hidden in a basement of an affluent Madrid neighborhood, the 40-year-old Héctor Muñoz workshop appears full of spare parts, gears, a 3D printer … There Muñoz repairs bikes and develops his projects for upcycling. “You select an old bike, change some components and put it back in gear. It’s about turning an abandoned product into something new; a conscious initiative related to the circular economy ”, he explains about the brand he founded in 2010, Manual Art Work.
He is also part of the collective maker (extension of the technology-based DIY philosophy). “I relate to my environment solving their problems,” he continues, “either with the bikes, or with printing.” He has just collaborated in the assembly of the exhibition Gray matter, a selection of pieces by artists who have taken a radical step in the search for new materials such as an algae fabric or a 100% vegetable bioplastic chair. “I have always had a great environmental sensitivity. I think human beings have looked the other way for too long ”, he reflects. “As a society we have to rethink how we consume, the waste we generate or how we move.”
He has almost a dozen of his own bicycles: a fairly modified Schindelhauer, a Redline Chopper (limited edition of which there are only 1,500 in the world) or the English Raleigh Chopper with which he appears in the photograph (valued at around 1,200 euros). “It’s from the late seventies. It was the coolest bike an English child could have at that time. It is radically intervened with that look golden which is a nod to Quadrophenia”He says, referring to the film based on the album by The Who.
Fernando García García: “We have an intimate relationship with our streets”
Fernando García García, 49, is fed up with his street. This marketing and advertising expert, who works for Paradores, lives in the center of Madrid, near the Plaza de España. As soon as you leave your portal you will find “cars, cars and more cars.” “With the pandemic, we have realized that it is necessary to change things. But inertia is not easy to break. I proposed that people be interested in something that touches them in an intimate and daily way: the street they pass every day ”.
Thus, a movement began that demands the pedestrianization of theirs. Some Saturdays, with his neighbors, García cuts the road to claim public space. In the second call, two other avenues in his district had already joined. “We will reach six in the next one and from various neighborhoods,” adds García, whose initiative, Revuelta Vecinal Madrid, is inspired by other citizen movements such as Revolta Veïnal and Revuelta Escolar, both of which emerged in Barcelona and which claim to prioritize people over cars in the design of cities
He believes that mobility policies in many cities in Spain are “cochistas”. Especially in the capital: “Even here, the bike is the most competitive means of transport. The problem is that the City Council does not invest in safe lanes ”. García pedales on an electric folding, a 1,369-euro Monty EF39 that he has had since January 2020. “It takes me 12 minutes to get to work. Less than by subway, taxi or car ”. He chose it to be foldable because he has nowhere to leave it. Electric, for a practical matter: “I’m in a hurry and it’s uphill. In addition, it is more comfortable when I have meetings and I am more arranged ”. He does not define himself as an activist: “Calling for improvements in public space or a reduction in noise, pollution or the space dedicated to cars in cities seems to me more common sense than a fight.”
Fernando Arias: “By bike there are more opportunities to talk to people”
Australia, Cuba, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) … In his 65 years of life, Fernando Arias – “They often call me Nano”, he points out – has never stopped traveling: “There are many amazing places, but I am in tune with the desert: with Algeria and with the Sahara. I like to look into the void and not see anything ”. “Maybe it’s because I lived there,” he adds, speaking almost to himself. Born in Sidi Ifni, capital until 1960 of the old Spanish colony in North Africa, he lived in Villa Cisneros, now Dajla, until 1973. “It was two years before the delivery [del territorio a Marruecos]”, remember.
Then he moved with his parents and his 10 siblings to Madrid, to the Batán neighborhood. There he returned five years ago, after retiring. Before long, he got a folding bike. “A friend sold it to me. He had it in the storage room and he didn’t use it. It was new ”. Since then, he has practiced a particular form of bicycle touring: he loads his bike in the trunk, drives to his destination and then pedals: “It’s a pleasure. You park and you forget. The bike is part of the journey ”. This is how he has visited Ribadesella, Isla Cristina, La Manga, Pontevedra, Valverde de la Vera …
“When you go by bike, people assume that you are part of the place; you have more opportunities to interact and talk, “says Arias, who has two children:” The youngest and the oldest. ” More than a year has passed since his last getaway, when he went to visit the giant geode of Pulpí, in Almería. “They found her in the local mine. Luckily, they hit it from the side and it opened like an egg, without breaking. The result: 8 or 12 meters of shiny gypsum crystals ”, he explains. “It is the largest visitable geode in the world. There are larger ones, in Mexico for example, but you cannot access them ”, he points out.
He really wants the pandemic to pass: “Above all, to keep traveling; my body asks for it ”. Meanwhile, he pedales through the Casa de Campo, has a drink at the El Pastor inn – “A reference in the neighborhood” -, makes careful miniatures or dreams of an electric bike (in the image, with a Peugeot Et01 D10 that costs 3,199 euros ). “It is the next step; The little help that the electricity gives you is noticeable and in the city it comes in handy. More with age! ”.
Photography assistant Edwin Orozco. Thanks to Calmera Ciclismo.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.