Coffee and bikes. A match made in heaven. Brothers from another mother.
In Tel Aviv, you see fixed gear maniacs racing from one third-wave roaster to the next just to get their fix, as if we were in the middle of Berlin or Brooklyn. Here, three bike-café owners on the local scene and what makes coffee and bikes just work
At first glance, bikeCafe looks like your authentic traditional bike shop. Gear flooding every corner of the store. Custom made Middleasta bikes hanging from the walls. Energy bars for your mid-ride pick-up. Even a vast selection of cycling caps. But behind the counter, a stunningly gorgeous espresso machine changes the game. For Arnon Fisher, 42, he wouldn’t have it any other way, combining two of his greatest passions.
Tell us about yourself.
I started biking when I was 5. I’m from Tivon, a small countryside town, and when I was 11, I started working at the only local bike shop. I performed simple tasks, like fixing flat tires. Biking has always been a main part of my life.
How did you get into coffee?
Well, coffee is also a main part of my life. I love coffee. I love sitting at cafes. Good coffee is the main catalyst for your entire day. If you drink lousy coffee first thing in the morning, it can ruin your day!
If you had to choose one?
It would probably be bikes. I don’t see myself without coffee, but it’s the end of the world without bikes.
What do you think about biking in Tel Aviv?
I see Tel Aviv as the perfect city for urban biking. It’s mostly flat. It’s too hot but it’s not hell. It’s the best way to move around the city very quickly and efficiently. Of course, drivers act like maniacs, but if you can’t handle them, don’t bike!
How did electric bikes change everything?
Electric bikes changed everything. But the common electric biker or scooter doesn’t live by the urban mobility way-of-life. They use it as a tool to go from point A to point B, and that’s it, they do so even without sweating. Also, they don’t see other riders, only themselves. It feels like the bike culture disappeared because it became something very individualistic, rather than a part of a bigger movement.
I’m sure it’s a huge contrast with bike culture 10 years ago.
Yes, it was dramatically different. It felt like you shared something in common, whether urban, fixed gear, single speed or road bike. Now, there’s nothing to talk about. If you have an electric bike, you don’t look at it as a bike or look at yourself as a biker. Something disappeared.
How’s the local coffee culture?
Oh, wow. Coffee became like wine over the past few years. The taste, the way it’s presented, the way coffee shops are designed. Everything became very professional and refined. Coffee shops want to provide the perfect environment and the perfect taste. For bikers, it’s the perfect combination. They love coffee, and need their fix in the morning while they’re fixing their bikes.
What do people ask you that annoys you most?
With coffee, sometimes I feel like the Seinfeld soup-Nazi. People ask for very hot coffee, which is a big no-no. Coffee is supposed to be boiled at 70 degrees. I hate that request.
Your dream bike?
Wow. My dream bike...I have modest dreams. I would go with an old school 70's or 80's Italian-frame road bike, but in mint condition.
What’s the essence of the shop?
bikeCafe, 18 HaRakevet St, bikecafe.co.il
In one of the hippest alleyways in Tel Aviv sits Ran Ladin, 28, at his shop Outback. Inside, vintage second hand frames hang from the exposed wood ceiling, matching the vintage wood speakers blasting indie music, all accompanied by various handmade sketches made by Ron’s girlfriend; Ron, part artsy, part hipster, all chill and born to bike, relishes in the middle of it.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m from Tel Aviv, and started riding when I was really, really young. We had a few cheap bikes and would build ramps in the dirt, doing jumps and stuff. I’ve worked at bike shops since I was 14. I got into BMX around that age, and rode for about 10 years, after that I fixed gears. Now I’m into bike packing. I also rode skateboards for a few years, and been surfing my whole life.
How’d you get into coffee?
Actually, I didn’t always drink coffee. I used to have maybe one cup a week. But it really started about five years ago. I was in Jerusalem studying photography at Bezalel. A fellow student there had a really cool home coffee maker, one of the first Italian made machines which last forever. When I returned from drinking at his place, I immediately searched online and picked up a used one. Then, last year I took a road trip from LA to Seattle. We visited a lot of bike shops. Each had good vibes, and small coffee bars with a bit of food. I understood this was the direction bike shops were going. At one shop in Seattle, while my girlfriend was getting a tattoo, I sat for about seven hours, just drinking Tecate and talking with the owners. It was super fun just to hang in the shop. So when we opened, I told my partners that I wanted Outback to be a cool place to hang, with coffee and beer, where people could relax while waiting for their bike.
What form of biking are you into?
Right now, bike packing [off-road cycling that combines mountain biking with longdistance backpacking] and touring. I started with a good friend of mine, Yuval. We’ve ridden BMX together since we were 14.
How’s the bike packing scene here?
It’s mostly old guys, to be honest. I felt that when I opened my shop it would be more popular, providing a way for people to leave the city and get into nature. But it feels like people don’t really wanna do it. On Instagram and in shops worldwide you see that bikepacking is what’s in. Israel’s always a bit late, though. I guess it’ll take a few years, but hopefully it’ll happen one day.
Do you think it’s a money thing?
No. You can do it cheap. You could get a bikepacking bike for NIS 3,000 if you wanted. And with some people spending over NIS 8,000 on a fixed gear, with that sum you could get a crazy bikepacking setup! Fixed gear is over, anyways.
What’s the essence of Outback?
Outback, 5 Simtat Beit HaBad St and look out for their pop up events and movie screenings.
A newcomer to the scene, Cyco is a sleek cafe on the surface, while underneath a high end bike shop and custom bike builder. Its owners, Idan Maor, 36, and Hagai Millo, 44, are industry veterans who set out to create a super cool spot which not only provides topnotch coffee, but serves as a meeting place and event center for bike enthusiasts. For them - two passionate life-long cyclists – they realized a simple truth: biking has a special power to connect people.
Tell us about yourselves:
Idan: I’ve been a rider for about 12 years. I started with building myself a fixed gear, and after two months a friend told me to build him one, and then his girlfriend wanted the same thing. Then a friend of a friend heard about me, and that’s how it all started.
Hagai: I came into the bike world a bit differently: from commuting. That’s how I started when I was 16, and that’s basically most of my riding till today. When I was younger, I would ride other styles, but I’m too old to break an arm.
What form of biking are you into?
Hagai: Still commuting! Listen: today, biking has developed into so many different styles. It’s not just mountain biking or road cycling. You have a lot of in-between. Like gravel, touring, endurance, etc. That’s the beauty: I can commute on my cyclocross, riding more elegantly and carefully, and can also commute on my single speed 26’’ mountainbike, where I won’t be so friendly. It’s a different way to ride the same area.
Isn’t this just bike companies trying to sell us new products?
Hagai: Well, not exactly. The technology really allows you to do things that were once impossible. During the 80’s, a steel frame couldn’t take you offroad. Everything was heavy. Even looking at 90’s mountain bikes is a laugh. It’s like comparing a 60s Cadillac to a modern Porsche. There’s no connection, even though they’re both cars. When I started riding, freeriding was in fashion, with things like rock jumping. Once 29’’ wheels became popular, people started riding cross-country and trail. No one wanted to break arms anymore. As technology develops, you can offer more riding styles. Even electric bikes: people in their 50s and 60s with physical issues can still enjoy themselves. So sure, its consumerism -
everything is - but bike consumerism brings you better results than TVs and cars.
I wish I had room for all these different bikes.
Idan: My wife told me that I opened a shop in order to store my bikes!
Thoughts on biking in Tel Aviv?
It’s a matter of infrastructure. I was in Portland, Oregon, and there are no problems there. It’s organized and people know what to do. Here, I saw the development of the entire bike scene. 25 years ago, there was no issue. No one rode bikes for transportation, or at all for that matter. It was just a few crazies. The boom came with electric bikes. And, as usual, local authorities didn’t catch up, and there’s little to no infrastructure, and what there is built is al ha panim. For example, you need a solution at the intersections. All bike trails end before the junction, and there, what are the rules? What am I as a biker supposed to do?! The whole issue gives me a stomach ache. It’s so Mediterranean, in so many ways.
Ok, let’s end on an easier question: what’s your dream bike?
Hagai: don’t get me started, it’s not a short answer!
Cyco, 24 Montefiore St, keep an eye out for their events: weekly Tuesday night beer rides, Friday night concerts, and on October 24th a three day desert trip