With arms full of ink, friendly blue eyes and an enviable full beard, André Langer (33) greets his customers at Electra Bikes like old friends. The shop oozes the laid-back vibe that brought about the Electra brand in Southern California in 1993. 25 years later, we meet bike-expert André — hard at work at the only Electra store on this side of the Atlantic.
“For me, it’s two wheels or nothing,” André tells us over a cup of freshly brewed coffee in front of the store.
André bought his first motocross bike at the age of 13 and immediately took it apart. Since then, André has been wrenching on anything from fixed gear and race bikes to motorbikes — even airplanes. “Every bike I get my hands on has to come apart. I want to see how it works, look at all the parts, and put it back together,” he explains.
“My hobby can get a bit problematic. One time, I invited a girl back to my place and she left because my bed was completely covered in bike parts!”
Wrenching on airplanes
An airplane mechanic by trade, André started his career in Hamburg at Airbus. But the job wasn’t as creative as he had hoped: “One morning, I got off the Finkenwerder ferry on my way to work. I looked back and saw this never-ending stream of people behind me, heads hanging low, about to start another 8-hour shift. That’s when I decided to quit.”
It didn’t take long for André to settle into his new job as a bike mechanic right after the Electra Store opened in April 2016.
Judging by the bouts of laughter rising up from the workshop, life at Electra is good. It’s not uncommon for customers to hang around for a couple of hours, sipping shots of espresso from the vintage coffee machine, enjoying freshly baked cookies or even a cold beer.
“I love the atmosphere here,” André tells us with the smile of someone who has made their hobby into a living. “We have a full kitchen and a great sound system, so we often have dinners and even parties. Of our two fridges one is always reserved for beer.”
Biking is about freedom
“Biking is about freedom,” says André. “If you’re hunched over on your racing bike, you might look cool, but we can all see you’re not comfortable.” Pointing at a classic Townie, he continues: “But if you sit up straight, you can look around, slow down, and really enjoy the ride.”
At Electra, that laid-back attitude means that biking is about much more than transportation — it’s a way of life.
While Hamburg may not have the beach promenades of California, the relaxed approach to biking seems to have caught on effortlessly along the Elbe river banks. “People from Hamburg like their freedom, and there are so many nice places to go for a ride,” says André.
“ Nothing beats a summer night cruising around Blankenese, Wilhelmsburg or the Alster with some friends, beer in hand, as the sun goes down.”
Text by Irene Broer, editor at Gute Leute Magazine
Photos by Medici-Robles Photography