“No two bikes are the same.” This is the motto of Vangelis Kakargias, who manufactures handmade bicycles in his hometown of Karditsa, in Central Greece.
The 31-year old has always liked to do things with his hands, and has experimented with all sorts of handicrafts over the years. Together with his father, he once even constructed a two-seater plane that could actually fly.
A Greek biker’s paradise
Karditsa, where Vangelis lives, is probably the most bicycle-friendly city in Greece. Over the last decade, local authorities, taking advantage of the town’s position in a flat plain, developed a fully-fledged network of bicycle lanes and a bike-sharing scheme, and have promoted cycling as a way of life for people of all ages. Today, cycling and walking are the main modes of transport in the town of 60,000.
A lot of ancient bicycles are still in use in Karditsa. In 2011, Vangelis started revamping these old bikes and then moved on to creating his own, unique models in his home’s garage, which he has transformed into a workshop. That’s is how his brand, Curba Handmade Bicycles, came into existence.
Each bike can take from two weeks to three months to create. “The design of each new bike starts in my head and the details come to me as I go along,” Vangelis says. Of course he finds a lot of information and inspiratiation on the internet. And while Vangelis initially designed his bikes with paper and pencil, nowadays he employs special design software.
Materials are expensive, and Vangelis says that a new bicycle frame can cost upwards of 350 euros. The frame then has to be painted and equipped with all the necessary components, like brakes, a saddle, and, of course, wheels. The final price depends on each bicycle’s customised features.
Although Vangelis would like to turn his passion into his main source of income, for the time being he lives off the money he makes in his job as a DJ. Crafting bikes remains a hobby. “In these times of crisis, a handcrafted bike is a luxury item most Greeks cannot afford,” he says, adding: “Most people would rather spend 100 euros on a bicycle that they will change after a few months than buy a handmade one.”
Another reason the bikes remain a hobby is that setting up a business in Greece is expensive, especially for a young entrepreneur. Irrespective of their income, freelance professionals have to pay tax from their very first euro, plus a flat-rate annual occupation fee, plus social insurance fees of 210 euros a month. All this turns many young people away from setting up their own business, as they cannot cope with the expenses.
Vangelis hasn’t set up a company yet, but keeps his dream alive by making one bike at a time. “I want to live from this. I will pursue my dream. But for the time being, I create these bikes for myself,” he says. “I finish a bike, and then I may sell it, and that gives me the money to buy materials for the next one.”
Most of the bikes Vangelis has created have been bought by friends, and friends of friends, who also help him in other ways. For example, his website was created by a friend in exchange for a bike.
Vangelis insists that no two bikes should be the same. “This is my principle. It wouldn’t be nice if someone bought a bicycle and then saw an identical one on the street,” he says.
The most special bicycle made?
Vangelis is quick to respond with his Penny Farthing design. It is a replica of the historical 1820 bicycle. Manufacture lasted 3 months, since there were no design specs to follow, only some pictures.
Source: GBTimes, LifO