Welcome to the second in the series of ‘Interesting Interviews’. I first met Christoph when I had to give him some money to sign on for the Punk Maskara CX race. In return, he gave me a race number. His leadership of the whole event that day was legendary, as was the support of the great team around him. He’s very interesting, so read on……
Q: Why is your bike shop in Zurich, The Flamme Rouge, called ‘The Flamme Rouge’?
A: I was looking for something connected to cycling that tells a good story and I’ve been lucky up until now, that no international bike company had the bright idea to license a brand for a bike, tyre or something else, called “Flamme Rouge”.
Q: What is unique about The Flamme Rouge?
A: For some reason which I can’t explain, I ended up selling more or less only bikes designed in Minneapolis like Surly, Salsa Cyces, All City and Otso Cycles. Most of them have a steel frame as well. I stock some US made components from small producers too. I can do what I want here, and that’s why I have a lot of nice things on display like cycle caps, bike racing bags, lots of special baskets, racks, fenders, and everything I need to build cool bikes out of, which means more Fun!
Q: How many of your customers would you class as ‘interesting’, and why?
A: Most of them. Everything connected with bikes or things you can do with bikes is interesting. Poeple who love their bikes and riding their bikes, all do interesting stuff I think.
Q: How did you get into the cycling business?
A: I always cycled wherever I could, not as a sport, but for general transport. I later cycled for vacations and to commute to work (I’m an Electrician by profession). After a trip to the United States where I cycled 3000km from San Francisco to British Columbia, I started to work in a bike shop, and later as a bike messenger. Because of my friends and colleagues, I signed up for the Swiss Bike Masters Marathon Race and the Grand Raid Cristalp. Everyone I knew was afraid of the fitness preparation and deadlines to ‘be race ready’ for those races. As I didn’t want to be completely unprepared, we started in Spring with shorter Cross-country races just like pro-team would.
Q: Describe yourself in one sentence (less than 234 words because readers will die without being able to take a breath)?
A: Bikes, Bikes, Bikes. Everything I do has a connection with bikes, boring or not.
Q: Why won’t you sell me that 1990s pair of Oakley Zero 0.3 sunglasses?
Q: If you had to live on your own on a desert island, what bike would you take and why, and what music album would you take to listen to?
A: The music would be Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix. The bike really depends on the type of Island, and would be either my Spot Brand Singlespeed Crossbike from 2004, or my Moots Cyclocross bike from ’92 if it’s really steep there.
Q: How did the famous Punk Maskara Spring Classic race get its name?
A: A long time ago, five Friends started to do some unofficial Cyclocross races in Cityparks in Zurich as an addition to the Pizzacup Races which took place in Summer. The first Pizzacup race took place in 2003 and you can read all about them here https://www.pizzacup.ch/ As a hommage to these races, we call our annual Cyclocross event, Punk Maskara.
Q: How do you choose the prizes for the winners of each category of the race?
A: Intuition, luck and magic. It also depends on what the sponsors give me as a prize and on how extraordinary our athletes perform. Normally, the fastest rider gets nothing or the dumbest Prize?
Q: Who plans the amazing post-race drinks and food at the race?
A: Cécile, Sabine & Susanna.
Q: What’s your Favourite food?
A: Pasta & any Italian Food
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting up in the cycling business?
A: Don’t do it for the money
Q: Tea or coffee or beer or?
A: Coffee and beer, and more or less only Belgian beer.
Q: What’s your ‘favourist’ bike in the world, ever?
A: My Spot CX Bike (below)
Q: How many cycling related projects do you have running at the same time?
A: Too many usually
Q: I noticed that you have a pair of white leather, hand painted shoes from Greece, why, and are they SPD compatible?
A: They’re made in Athens Greece and not SPD. The designer and maker, who is a former professional cyclist, did tell me that he wanted to do some SPD Shoes though.
Q: If you could wave a magic cycling wand at Zurich, what would you point it at to make cycling better for everyone?
A: Building safe(r) bikepaths as many bikepaths here could be built better or smarter….
Q: How many bikes have you got?
A: No idea, I don’t count them and if I move them fast enough between the shop and my home, they don’t count as shop stock or my own collection. Some of my bikes are here and either still with me or sold https://www.flickr.com/photos/singlestoph/albums/1164102
Q: What was the worst accident you’ve had on a bike?
A: I crashed on my face during a ride to test our vintage road bikes in preparation for the L’Eroica 2013 race. It happened about 5km away from home and l luckily had my ‘new-school helmet’ on which protected the top half of my head, but everything below the helmet like my nose and teeth were not looking good.
Q; Where in the world have you had your most epic ride to date?
A: Most epic or most stupid? It has to be in France with fixed gear bikes on Mont Ventoux whilst riding on the route of the very first Tour de France. I also rode The Switzerland/Italy/France border area on a single-speed mountain bike. I did all of these things when I was bit younger and did not have my own bike shop.
Q: What piece of cycling kit or parts have you given away to someone and now wish you hadn’t?
A: No idea. I can’t remember anything specific, but having to move my shop a second time within 8 months made me a bit paranoid as I think that I might just have too much stuff……
Q: Have you ever won a cycle race? If yes, what was it? If no, what has been your best placing?
A: I won some singlespeed races that I organized, and once or twice the Pizzacup downhill cup top ranking (where there was a pizza party at the end of the season), and the prize was a pizza. I won the Zurich editon of the global bike messenger race and there were races all over the world on flat courses, with two or three checkpoints. The fastest woman and man worldwide won a flight to the bicycle World Championships in Japan and I was pacemaker for the fastest woman worldwide. I think I won because some faster guys missed one checkpoint. One of the riders is called Stefan Fröhlich and he rode too far at the checkpoint at the Fröhlichstrasse. Doh!
Q: What’s the best cycling product that you’ve ever owned, and do you sell it at The Flamme Rouge?
A: Zefal HPX frame pump and I think I still have the one I bought in the ‘80s
Q: Can you describe the experience I will get if I walk into The Flamme Rouge bike shop in 10 years time?
A: You will be able to buy an amazing bike frame that I made myself. I attended a framebuilding class at the UBI in Ashland Oregon in 2011. Unfortunately, I have only built 5 frames since then due to ‘too many things to do’ instead.
Q: And finally, are you really, really sure that you won’t sell me that pair of 1990s Oakley Zero 0.3 sunglasses?
A: Unfortunately for you, I need them for the Punk Maskara Race and other weird events as part of my costume. I’ve just realised that I have a sunglasses fetish.
If you’re in the Zurich area, call in to The Flamme Rouge bike shop for an ‘interesting chat’ with Christoph, and buy some cool stuff.
The current address until sometime in March is:
Sankt Jakob Strasse 54
Rue de St Jacques
Tel: 076 519 59 53
The new address from April will be:
Same phone number and email
You can read about my experience riding the Punk Maskara race here https://diaryofacyclingnobody.com/punk-maskara-iv-the-swiss-spring-classic-race/