We are big fans of cycling duo Luisa and Lars. Since they first bought Standert bikes in 2018, they've participated in our rides in Berlin and Mallorca, as well as races across Germany with Team Standert. This year, they welcomed a little addition to the family. We stopped by their Prenzlauer Berg flat to talk about their adventures in cycling, both together and separately, as well as the newest adventure of parenthood.
If you could both start by introducing yourself.
Luisa: I'm Luisa. I'm an architect. I also ride and race bikes. I've been racing with Team Standert for the past year, and this year had an extended off-season because I became a mother! Our daughter Leni was born this May.
Lars: I'm Lars. I ride bikes but I don't necessarily race them (laughs). I'm the founder and CTO of a small Silicon Valley and Berlin based company, where I mostly work on software development. I founded the company five years ago with two friends. Luisa and I lived in San Francisco together for two years before we came to Berlin. I used to go back four or five times a year for work. Thanks to Covid, there has been less pressure to travel that much, which I realise I enjoy very much.
And because you're not racing bikes, you're probably production assistant to Luisa fairly often when she's racing?
Lars: Oh yeah, I'm the chauffeur, I'm the chef, I'm the support person, mental support, I hand out bottles–whatever is needed (laughs). I help apply chain lube, do basic mechanics, check tire pressure—all these kind of things.
Luisa: He knows much more about bike mechanics than I do. My attitude is, "It's a bike, can I ride it?" (laughs).
Lars: I really like supporting Luisa at the side of the track. I enjoy seeing her having a good and tough time.
Luisa: He was actually the one who encouraged me to start riding bikes...
Was that in San Francisco?
Luisa Yeah, we started riding bikes together in San Francisco. At first, we didn't have road bikes, we rode regular commuter bikes. We would do these little 40km loops to the ocean. When we moved to Berlin, Lars got his old road bike again, so I also got a cheap one to try as well. I liked it! My next bike was the Standert Triebwerk. It was a birthday present from Lars.
Lars: I think Maxe and Peter (Standert staff) actually helped me in the very old shop on Invalidenstrasse.
Luisa: And Lars was Tom's very first customer!
Lars: The first bike he sold was the white Triebwerk to me at Invalidenstrasse.
That's a nice piece of trivia, I love that. What was the road bike you'd had previously?
Lars: I grew up in a time where people like Jan Ullrich were my heroes. I must have gotten my first bike with drop bars when I was eight years old. I'm originally from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Jan Ullrich is from Rostock, about 100km away. There wasn't much going on in the area, but there was this athlete from the same area riding the Tour de France, which made you feel connected to him somehow. So, I was into cycling from a young age. In university I got this alloy bike with nice Dura-Ace components. I'd go to training camps in Austria and through amazing mountain passes there. I stepped away when I started consulting, but then returned to riding later.
What does a typical week look like for you both?
Luisa: We are still trying to find a routine now that Leni is here. I started cycling again on the trainer about two weeks after she was born. Two weeks later, I went outside on the bike for the first time. Now, we're trying to balance time with Lars' work so he can go on longer rides, and I can go on shorter rides while I'm nursing. I try to go in the morning while Lars has work calls and looks after Leni, and then he goes in the evening when his work allows it, with longer rides on Sunday.
When in the pregnancy did you stop riding?
Luisa: I stopped riding two weeks before she was born, but for two or three months before that I was only using the indoor trainer as I was also worried about the traffic outside. The sessions obviously became shorter before the birth. I'm a lot less fit than I used to be, but I didn't take the longest break so I'm already feeling that my fitness is coming back.
You're able to fit some hours of riding in again now? Luisa: For me, riding my bike for two hours in the morning gives me so much energy. Motherhood is hard: you're never alone. There's always a baby next to you, and she always wants something, which is her total right (laughs) but of course it's exhausting. So, when I get out and can be by myself and exercise it's very good for my mental health. I come back so much more refreshed and often already missing her. I'm really glad we can manage to make that possible between us.
It's a wonderful kind of meditation.
Luisa: Yeah, it's easy to let go because you can't look at your phone or be worried. You just ride your loop, and when you're back you're back.
Lars: I enjoy every moment of it, it's very much a kind of therapy. I know that I couldn't do my work or be as relaxed as a father without riding. I would struggle way more often. Carving out that time is so important because it helps with all that other stuff throughout the day.
Luisa: For me, cycling has really changed how I feel about work in general. I studied Architecture. In university, people expect you to put all your time into your studies. I think most architecture students would agree that professors make you suffer at university to prepare you for the work environment. Cycling, in that sense, has changed how I feel about that. I was a workaholic during university and when I started working as an architect. But, I've since realised that my free time is as important as my work life. Cycling made me appreciate that there are more important things in life than just work. The firm I work for also understands the value of family and your lifestyle outside of work.
Lars: I would argue a normal perspective.
Luisa: Definitely, and because cycling is time consuming so you have to make the time for it if you want to do it.
Especially at a level where you're not just riding bikes, but training, racing, and also traveling together and structuring a lot of your free time around the possibility of cycling. What bikes do you both ride?
Luisa: I ride the Kreissäge RS, the colorway is Fluo Forest.
Lars: Wow, you remember the name of the color (laughs). That's the architect speaking.
Luisa: It's a race bike, I love it. For off-road rides and bike-packing I ride the Erdgeschoss.
Lars: I also ride the Erdgeschoss in a different colorway I don't remember the name of...
Luisa: Mine is Bubblegum and yours is...
Lars: Right (laughs). I recently bought a Triebwerk Disc. It replaced my white Triebwerk which I'd had for roughly four years and 45,000km. It was time for a new bike.
Exactly. Swap it out, get the upgrade.
I wanted to ask about memorable experiences cycling, both together and separately?
Luisa: For me, the craziest thing was going to the German nationals last summer. I did the time trial and the road race. It was such a crazy feeling to be surrounded by professional cyclists. The entire feeling and atmosphere at that calibre of event, and the organization was really exciting. It was also my first time trial ever...
At the German nationals!
Luisa: Exactly (laughs). It was so overwhelming, and I had so many new impressions from that time to take in.
Luisa: That experience at German nationals was mind blowing for me. As for a memorable experience together, we did a one-day trip from Berlin to Münster, which is right across the country.
Lars: It's exactly 500km.
That was a day trip?
Luisa: We did it in one go, yeah. This was the first time I reached my mental limit. At some point, we were cycling in the dark, we had ridden over 400km. We were so close and yet so far. I felt like I had to give up. Everything hurt and I didn't want to do it anymore. Sometimes you reach your physical limit where you can't push anymore, but I always thought, “You can always keep moving. Maybe not fast, but you can at least push forward.” That was the first time where I thought I couldn't keep moving. Of course, I still could because we made it in the end, but there was a moment where I doubted it. Lars is better with long distances. I'm good at them but he's crazy...
Lars: The races you do here in Berlin and Brandenburg are rather short. I'm not good at short distances and high tempo like you are, I prefer long distances.My most memorable bike ride was probably the one I did with a friend recently from Brunswick to the Baltic Sea and back. It was supposed to be a 620km ride, but for some stupid reason the ferry schedule changed and it became 690km, which took us 29 hours to finish.
Lars: Next year I want to do the Paris-Brest-Paris with the same friend.
Luisa: Paris-Brest-Paris is the most well-known Brevet. Brevets are rides that start at 200km. You ride them in one go. How long is Paris-Brest-Paris?
Lars: 1,200km, with about 12,000m of elevation.
That's the huge distinction of what you both do differently with cycling right? You're more about pushing the endurance limit, while Luisa pushes the speed limit.
Luisa: Exactly. For me, the 500km was a once in a lifetime. I don't have to do it again.
Whereas Lars says "Double it!"
Lars: (laughs). No, no. The day after the 690km, I was so convinced I will never do anything like this ever again, and definitely not the Paris-Brest-Paris Brevet.
Luisa: He also did it two weeks after Leni was born, so he was super sleep deprived. The friend he went with just had a baby as well.
Lars: We'd basically had no sleep (laughs). But our favorite ride together, I'm not sure?
Luisa: I think the trip to California we did just before Covid in early 2020. We were staying with friends in the Bay Area and did day trips. I think what made the rides there special was that, when we used to live there, we would start with super small bike trips. When we came back, we were so much fitter and had road bikes and could do so many amazing tours in the area.
Lars: And it's hilly there, which is so much more fun when you're fit. It's such a densely populated area with San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. But you have this area between the populated areas and the coast with tonnes of nature.
That was another thing I wanted to ask. How do you manage to keep cycling interesting in Berlin, with the city and flat terrain? It seems to me you just travel? You go every year to Mallorca, right?
Luisa: Yeah, we just go on vacations (laughs).
Lars: I think you make a goal and use the cycling in Berlin to achieve that goal. Be it a long-distance ride in France, or a race in Iceland, or just being fit for having fun in Mallorca. Without a goal it would be tricky.
Luisa: That's true. Remember the first winter we set out to ride regularly no matter the weather? We had a trip planned to Mallorca in December, and we needed to be fit for that trip or else we wouldn’t enjoy the cycling there. That was the first time we were dedicated, even in low temperatures. Of course, with racing I also have a goal and structure the winter around my goals for racing season.
Maybe you can talk a little about Team Standert and your part on the team?
Luisa: I joined the team as its first female rider last year. After that first season, we talked about recruiting a few more women to the team. Now, we're six strong female riders. Most of us already knew each other. This season we did a really great job. One of us, Angelina Bosse, actually won the State Championship in Berlin. I'm kind of sad that I can't participate at the moment as much as I want to. It's a great challenge right now for me though, as they're at their peak and I have to try to keep up with them. It's such a good vibe, they're all such nice people and we get along so well. Nobody is a diva: everyone is really invested and motivated. The first season was very successful in my opinion. I think also the guys on Team Standert have accepted us *(laughs). *This year was about seeing how it went really, and then next year we'll have different training goals going further. It would be great to have some younger additions, too.
Do the two of you have any cycling plans together?
Luisa: We're planning on spending four months together in Mallorca to have the best training conditions while we have the baby, and escape the winter. We also always wanted to do a supported tour across Canada or New Zealand. Something where we have a route and, ideally, a family member who would ride along with a camper with luggage and the baby.
Lars: We've crossed Canada by car before.
Luisa: Exactly, and we thought it would be so special to do by bike, especially the West coast. For now, Berlin and Mallorca. Between those two and Leni, we have a good amount to look forward to.