Claus Hjelm is the co-owner of the bicycle shop Recycles. Claus and his partner Mikkel are specialized in customizing bicycles for their customers and plan on expanding their shop with a design room and a café to enable to sit and have a relaxed and inspiration talk with customers to get to know their needs and wishes.
When and how did you start to find interest in bicycles?
I have had interest in bicycles since I was a small kid. I biked alone to school when I was 8 and some years later I got my first tools and started to build my own bikes.
How did you get the idea to Recycles?
I actually joined my friend’s business. He established Recycles in a small workshop around 50 square meters in Amager. So Recycles wasn’t my idea. My friend just asked me to enter the business with him and didn’t have reasons not to. At that time I have worked in theatres for 20 years being kind all-round both acting, instructing, creating sound design and light setting.
What is your ambition with Recycles?
Recycles stands out from ordinary bike shops because we build the bicycle with our customers in order to their needs and wishes. My ambition is to give our customers a big experience in the process of customizing and building the bicycle and furthermore provide them with a long-lasting quality bicycle. We are very close to expanding the shop with a café, which enables us to sit down with a good cup of coffee and talk to our customers about their wishes for their new bike. I would also like to arrange that they can take part in the process of building their own bike. And I dream of a separate design room to optimize the experience with focus on materials and styles.
Can you tell about the process of creating one bicycle?
First of all, we make sure that the frame is made of steel and originates from before 1990. Frames from this period are built in hand and very well constructed. There is no chance that you will be able to find a new frame of this quality. We buy most of our frames in France, where they definitely know how to construct quality frames.
Can you share a fun story about a customer?
I had a fun episode with the Danish professional cyclist, Matti Breschel, who passed by the shop and felt in love in a bicycle from 1922, which wasn’t for sale. Anyway he ended up buying it. He wanted to bring it to his hometown Lucca in Italy, where he would use this old Danish bicycle to drive down to the local coffee shop for his morning espressos. I think it’s nice to picture him driving the narrow and cobbled streets on a Danish bicycle from 1922.
We have many funny encounters with our customers. Another example could be tourists who come to rent bikes. They are all looking so much forward to see Copenhagen by bike and try to bike around in a city so well-suited for cycling, that they can’t hide their joy and excitement.
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I live on Vesterbro and have lived here for almost 20 years. Before that I lived in the city centre, where I was also born and raised. I have never left Copenhagen.
How does your place of living affect your work?
It gives me an extraordinary social anchorage since I meet people I know all the time. Vesterbro is like a city in a city. I feel like I go to work in my village, which gives me a great sense of unity and it makes me even keener on giving something back to the community, which I hope our workshop and future café will be able to. For the fun of it we arrange a yearly cycling race Copenhagen Classico, where participants have to bicycle on old bikes all dressed up in the style of their bicycle. It has been really fun to ride the streets of Copenhagen escorted by the sport organization of the police meanwhile girls on roller skates roll in front of us to block traffic from the sideways. On top of this we have stops with champagne and espresso on the 25 km route through the city.
Can you share a special everyday moment?
I don’t have a routine or something special I do. But I think I experience lots of special moments everyday, where I get to talk to a lot different people and often get to know customers quite well.
What’s great about Copenhagen and your neighborhood Vesterbro?
Copenhagen is a metropolis, but in comparison with other big cities in Europe it’s still a small city. I love coming back to Copenhagen after a travel. When I exit the airplane in the airport I always think to myself, that the smell of Copenhagen is really lovely.
What do you do when not working?
Beside from spending time with my family, I play music. I play the drums in different bands playing funk music.
Describe your ideal day…
My ideal days are those, where I am able to hand over new completed bicycles to our customers. It really makes my day to see the joy in their eyes, when I hand over their new bicycle. Sometimes I even get a hug.
What are you most passionate about?
I like to have a lot of things going on at the same time, but as bicycle designer and musician I get to live out most of my passions.
Who do you admire?
My wife. We have been together for almost 30 years now and she has been standing by my side through everything.