It’s a typical work day. The alarm goes off, you do your normal morning routine, sip on a warm, caffeinated beverage and head out the door. You jump on your bike, breath in the fresh air, and set off for work. “It’s just our way of life,” says Jörg Schindelhauer, the namesake and one of the founders of Schindelhauer Bicycles, based in Berlin. “We live in a city and the best way to get around is by bike.”
Schindelhauer Bicycles, known today for making high-end commuter bikes, powered by belt drives instead of chains, was almost an automotive engineering company instead. A crew of newly graduated mechanical engineering, product design and economics students, including JörgSchindelhauer, Stephan Zehren, Manuel Holstein and Martin Schellhase were eager to start their own thing. They threw in the towel on their automotive product development company after Jörg’s belt drive experiment produced a bicycle they all wanted to get their hands on. “We come from more of a technical background than a biking background, but we all had a passion for everyday riding and fixed geared bikes.”
Schindelhauer Bicycles became the first bicycle manufacturer to exclusively use belt drives.
With his automotive background, Jörg had been thinking about potential new applications of belt drives. The bicycle seemed to be the ideal candidate. Typical bike chains require continuous maintenance and need to stay well lubricated. Using a belt drive that needs no lubrication to transfer energy from the pedals to the wheels was a low maintenance solution that hadn’t been done on a commercial level. “I couldn’t find a perfect belt drive system that would suit the requirements of a bike. Most of the belt drives out there were made for industrial or automotive purposes. Then Gates came out with a carbon fiber reinforced belt and it was perfect.” Schindelhauer Bicycles became the first bicycle manufacturer to exclusively use belt drives. Gates Carbon Drive and Schindelhauer became great partners, bouncing ideas off each other and perfecting belt drives for bikes.
Belt drives are not the only things that make Schindelhauer Bicycles unique. Their focus on high-end urban and commuter bikes has led them to develop most of their own parts. “The majority of parts you can buy off the shelf don’t work for us,” Jörg explains. “They are developed for road bikes or mountain bikes, but we need something high-end for city bikes and there’s not much out there.” For an example, cheap plastic pedals won’t work for a high-end commuter bike, so Schindelhauer designed their own. All of these custom parts give Schindelhauer’s polished and classy look a modern edge.
Right out of the gate, Schindelhauer was getting noticed for these differentiations. Awards like Designer’s Open Jury Award, the Red Dot Award and the Bike Expo award were won in the company’s infancy. Schindelhauer was also approached by Graham Hill forhis Life Edited project. Hill purchased two tiny apartments in NYC to demonstrate how you can do more with less space and less stuff. Hill called on Schindelhauer to create a bike that would fit into this efficient space, but still wasn’t a typical folding bike. Schindelhauer came out with the Thin Bike which incorporates a folding mechanism in the pedals and handlebars that can be folded quickly and easily. They liked the bike so much that they incorporated it into their line.
Schindelhauer also likes to use the term system integration. While other companies will add things to the frame, Schindelhauer incorporates features directly into the frame so it’s one solid piece instead of a pile of different parts. The integration doesn’t stop there, Schindelhauer is also planning to offer COBI, the first smart connected biking system, on the Jacob model, a sporty fixed gear bike. COBI lets riders integrate their smartphone into their bike, providing navigation, a lighting system, the ability to answer phone calls, listen to music, check the weather and much more. With COBI, the Jacob becomes the ultimate commuting machine. “I was still quite new in Berlin when I saw COBI for the first time. I had to go all over the city for appointments and could have really used this smart system” says Jörg. “And now since I’m training for a race I’m really looking forward to trying out the COBI functions for updating Strava, tracking my heart rate, cadence and more.”
"With COBI, the Jacob becomes the ultimate commuting machine."
So what’s next for Schindelhauer? They are currently exploring the possibility of expanding into e-bikes and cargo bikes. These additions might not be right around the corner but with both of these movements gaining momentum, Schindelhauer see’s the opportunity to really make an impact in the future of urban mobility and transportation. And maybe more importantly, where are they riding next? When asked where the perfect ride was, Jörg Schindelhauer answered, “Riding a Schindelhauer single-speed through the forest, no matter where in the world, on slight soft ground at 15 °C temp with my team members.” Sounds perfect.
Photos courtesy of Shindelhauer