MEXICO CITY – Reinhard Stege (1963) was born in Germany but has been living in Mexico since 1965. ,,My father is Bolivian and studied in Germany. There he met my mother and found work. That company wanted to expand to Latin America”, he explains the history. They first move to Bolivia, then six months in Brazil and when Reinhard is two years old, they settle in Mexico. ,,I was raised German, and went to a German school, so I am indeed quite German. But I grew up in Mexico and only have Mexican friends.”
,,Bratwürst with chile”, Reinhard grins at the rather silly and obvious question of what he prefers to eat, bratwürst or Mexican. But the answer is significant. The German by birth has lived in Mexico almost all his life, but he is clearly not really Mexican.
Reinhard runs since a half year his own bike store, Bikehaus, based in Satélite., a large suburb far away from the city. Previously, even since 1983, this was also a bicycle shop, but one that was almost dead.
The owner was known as 'untrustworthy', cheated, and stole from his customers. “I didn't know that when I took over. I past the place, bought something for my bike, and saw it was for sale. We got talking and afterward, I found out what a mess it was. Then I decided to completely restyle the place. New name, new decor, and focus on friendliness. On reliability.” Bikehaus is, beyond the name, wonderfully Mexican. Located between a sketchy diner and a church. Handwritten offers, silly prints, messy. Or maybe it's a typical bike shop, that's also a way of looking at it.
Reinhard has bright blue eyes and blond hair. You can see at a glance that he is originally German. He speaks flawless Spanish, of course. Better than German, he claims. When I come in he is working behind the computer, in the workshop an agile bicycle repairman is hard at work. Reinhard does the paperwork; he just knows how to fix a tire and some other basic things; the division of tasks is clear.
Of course he wants to talk, as long as there are no customers. Soon a car parks right in front of his shop. Mother and son get out and bring a bike into the store. Reinhard grins at my grin: it is forbidden to park here. “Traffic rules do exist here, but nobody obeys them. That whole prohibition sign is useless. It's not Europe here, is it?"
After ten minutes the bike is made, something with the brakes. Then he has time. “Come on with your questions,” he yells, rubbing his hands.
Reliability. The word has been out for a while. ,,Germany - and undoubtedly also the Netherlands - is so different. The German enters a shop in the belief that it is reliable. Here it is exactly the other way around: you have to do everything you can to gain trust, you cannot be trusted in principle”, he explains. How? “I always try to be nice. And clearly, but the Mexican does not like too direct.”
Reinhard gives an example. He started with a box-system. Put old parts of a bicycle in a box and showed it to customers afterward. Also advised to take pictures of the bike before the repair. “It worked, people liked that very much, and it came across as reliable.”
Maybe that's the German character. The honest trading spirit, the customer first, and no hidden tricks. Reinhard opens Bikehaus at 10 am. So not at 10:05 or 9:55. It remains open six days a week and throughout the day. Customers can rely on it.
Biking in Mexico
Cycling in Mexico is becoming increasingly popular, but there is almost no infrastructure. You cannot cycle from Satélite to Ciudad de México. ,,They have been thinking about a bicycle connection for a long time, but it's just not happening. They just don't want to do it and that's too bad because it is indeed possible,” says Reinhard. Cycling here is a sport, exercise. Certainly not a means of transportation. After all, going from A to B is almost a suicide mission, the very vulnerable cyclist never has the right of way anywhere.
The corona crisis meant more work for Reinhard. It made cycling as a sport more popular. Gyms closed, and the bicycle turned out to be an ideal replacement. “But I have to go back to work. Oh yes, by the way, make a note: I really love Mexican food, perhaps more than the average Mexican.” Suddenly the subject changes to food. Reinhard turns out to be more Mexican than it seemed at the last minute.