Since Cairo’s traffic is deadly, Ain Bicycles have taken it upon themselves to spread this initiative and start a community center for cyclists in Cairo. So, shift from four wheels to two and escape. The duo behind Ain Bicycles, Kareem Abbany and Dirk Wanrooij, started their bike making without much planning put into it other than shifting their careers to do something that they love. They’ve created a place that they aim to turn into more than a bicycle shop, but a whole cycling community. We sat down with them to dig deeper in the cycling community.
Where did the idea of Ain Bicycles come from?
Dirk: There was very little decision making, it just started
Kareem: We got to know each other through Ain. In 2010 I wanted to start doing something related to cycling. So I needed to learn about bicycle mechanics. I went to Canada for a course, and as soon as I came back by pure coincidence Dirk was looking for someone to build him a custom bicycle. I met him through one of my brother’s friends. At the time I was working on my brother’s bike, and he saw my work he had instant admiration for what I was doing.. We started off making bikes as a hobby, then word spread and there was a high demand on custom made bicycles. So we thought “why not start selling them?”
What makes Ain different than any other bicycle store?
Kareem: Two things. Firstly, we are not just selling bikes; we are actually trying to promote the cycling culture in general. If someone walks in and he is looking for a certain bike that we don’t have we recommend where he can get it from, the best brand and the best price. Secondly, we are trying to make people buy bicycles that they will consistently ride.
What did each of you guys study?
Kareem: I studied Business Administration back in 2001, and I did the whole corporate slavery thing for 10 years. Then one morning, I decided I was done with it. I couldn’t keep waking up to do something I don’t believe in.
Dirk: I studied History and Dutch Literature and then I started learning Arabic and came to Egypt. I was a journalist for Dutch media for the first 4 years of my stay here. Then everything started going downhill and I decided that I don’t want to write about this anymore. I was obviously excited about the bicycles and I started to think of ways that I can do something with that and it took over my journalism and writing.
Do you see people’s mindset can accept the existence of a cycling community in Cairo?
Kareem: You draw people’s attention to the fact that they need this. That’s what we are trying to do. We are trying to make people understand that they should leave their cars.
How is the funding going so far?
Kareem: The campaign reached about 35%. We most probably won’t be able to reach the target, but this is something we acknowledged from the very beginning. It is a new concept, so a lot of people won’t be able to wrap their heads around it. We will launch the campaign with whatever funds we get, but our only obstacle will be instead of being able to have the place self-sustained for a year, it’s going to be for 6 months. We have to start, because as soon as it is up and running, people will get the idea.
Do you think the Egyptian culture is open to women riding bikes?
Kareem: Yes, of course! Actually a lot of times I receive phone calls from girls asking whether we give riding lessons so that they can move from riding a bicycle to buying a scooter. We sell 50% of our bikes to women. I think girls usually don’t ride bicycles because they never find one that meets their needs. All they find are mountain bikes made for huge men. That’s were we come in, we can offer a girly girl a pink bike with a basket.
What is a typical conversation between you and the client?
Kareem: We will ask you very simple questions, what do you want to do with the bike? Do you want to commerce, commute, recreational? Where do you live? So we can decide if you need gears on the bike or not depending on how the elevations are where you live. The cost varies according to what materiel we will be using, because you have a saddle worth of 20 LE, 200 LE, 950 LE, and 950 Euros.