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When the topic of “German technology” is brought up, the first thing that immediately comes to mind for most is probably automobiles. Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, Audi. Perhaps military equipment and tanks like the Panzer for others. Bicycles are nowhere to be seen in the picture. Wrecking your brains, you might be able to come out with brands such as Cube and Focus, and the conversation quickly flatlines.
Schindelhauer Bikes is the brainchild of Jörg Schindelhauer, a bike craftsman located in Madeburg, Germany. Looking at their bikes, the first thing that hits you hard is their minimalistic design. I recently had the good fortune of testing out the Viktor, Schindelhauer’s Red Dot Design Award-winning piece.
Looking at probably the whitest bike I’ve ever seen, the sleek, simple and fuss free design immediately makes sense. No flashy branding, no cumbersome suspension, no seat clamp and no chain. Yup, you heard right. No Chain.
When Bridgestone introduced the belt-driven bicycle in the early 80’s, it didn’t quite take off. There were several reasons for this including slipping and alignments problems that surfaced. In the many years that followed, albeit being unpopular, much developments have been made to this alternative system. Fast forward 30 years, Schindelhauer introduces its range of belt-driven beauties.
Focused on simplicity and recognising the needs of the commuters, the German bike maker gives birth to the Viktor, an aluminium singlespeed/flip-flop hub concept now made available to the public. The traditional track-inspired geometry and clean lines make for an instant hit. Upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that this bike not only looks good, but much thought has been put to incorporate the finer details of functionality in its design.
Starting at the bottom, Alexrims wheels are cleverly coloured in a special white they affectionately call Edelweiss. Similarly, the Kalloy seatpost, Tange headset, Velo saddle and Tektro brake callipers all sport the same disguise taking cue from the frame’s signature hue. What truly is a neat design is the integrated handlebar-stem construction, smooth welded to produce a seamless joint. Another integrated element is the seat clamp, which does away with the traditional ‘ring’ being exposed which would be almost obscene on this thing so pure, obviously.
The highlight however, is clearly the belt-drive, complimented with a Shimano Alfine crank. The Gates (same company that make belts for Harley-Davidsons) Carbon-Drive belt is well built and said to last for 20,000km, compared to the conventional chain, which lasts 5000km on average. That said, chains cost around $50 to replace whereas a replacement belt will set you back at $200. I know you’re doing the math in your head now, and yes, it works out to cost about the same. “So what’s the difference,” you might ask. Well here’s where it gets interesting. The belts don’t require a drop of lubrication and is virtually maintenance free. So even though it might not save you much money, it will most certainly save you the chore of maintenance and the hassle of cleaning up. Still, the reality is that the traditional chain can be found at any old bicycle shop.