Starting this year, guests of The Dylan can explore the city on Roetz bikes. These are not your ordinary two-wheelers but bicycles with a story and mission. We spoke with Willem-Jan Otten, Operations Manager at Roetz, about everything that makes the world a better place.
We’ve heard different inspiring stories about Roetz. Could you summarize what Roetz is about?
We produce handcrafted designer bicycles by reusing the core parts of discarded ones. We do that with a team of men and woman returning to the job market. By combining those two approaches, we try to contribute to a more social and circular economy.
How did it all start?
One of our founders, Tiemen ter Hoeven, used to be a consultant. While working on a project for one of the German car manufacturers, he discovered that the car producer used the principles of remanufacturing. He was inspired by the approach: the process is green and makes a manufacturer less vulnerable to the fluctuations of commodity prices. Tiemen matched this solution with the problem of the Dutch bicycle waste and initiated Roetz.
So, how do you produce a Roetz bike exactly?
The process follows a sequence of 5 steps:
We purchase bikes that in general have no economic value at all.
- Dismantling and check
We dismantle the front fork and frame and sort all other parts that may be re-used in a new lifecycle. We then screen on cracks or corrosion, with this process we can save up to 40% of the raw material to be used for new bikes. For fleet bikes like the OV-Fiets we can reach up to 70%, due to the large number of identical parts.
- Lacquer removal and check
Once we have removed different layers of lacquer from the front fork and frame we check the quality of the material again to make sure we only use quality products.
- Protective coating
We apply a strong multi layered powder coating that protects the material and provides a fresh new look.
All other parts are new and installed on the remanufactured front fork and frame. The bike is now ready to ride the world for years.
And where do the bikes come from exactly?
Well, I could give you one of those romantic stories of beautiful bikes getting fished from the canal. Haha. But that’s not the reality. In fact, the city council traces left bikes on the streets and takes them to an auction. Some vendors then buy the masterpieces, which is fine because that’s also circular. But we buy real wrecks that nobody wants.
Why would you say is the circular economy important?
It is the only way to create a long-lasting system. We simply cannot keep producing waste. On top of that, it forces manufacturers to produce quality because the product will return to them in the end. In that sense, our current solution at Roetz is only suboptimal: we fix what it is broken but do not prevent it from happening. In other words: we reuse waste but cannot avoid its production.
So, would that be your next step?
Exactly. The real solution is to design a bicycle that lasts forever. Producing such a bike is too expensive for the standard consumer market. But if we know that we get the bike back, we can invest in solutions that make the bike last forever.
Where does your staff come from?
From all over the place, ranging from ex-convicts to unemployed men and women. It’s just wonderful to see how these people grow and flourish over time. We once had a guy who started off with a lack of motivation and energy. But before we could even expect a disaster, he really started to like his job. It’s great to see that he is now a key figure at a production line in a big bicycle factory.
And did you get him up to that level?
We give heaps of training and work in such a structured manner, that our staff makes progress over time. They begin at the very start of the assembly line, which means they will always have a coach next to them. Once they move up the assembly line, they will also get someone on their other side to which they should provide training. This system is progressive: once you move further, your coach and trainee will also progress.
Are these the stories that keep you going?
Yes, for the social part definitely. But I also want to leave a better world for the next generations. A few years ago, I started looking for a job with a focus on sustainability. I could have never imagined that I could combine this with the social dimension.
Why do you think your bikes fit The Dylan?
Our bikes have that typical vintage look and none of them are the same. That reflects the classic appearance of the Dylan, with its surprisingly different rooms and spaces. It is just that both The Dylan and Roetz heavily rely on the stories of their products.
What do you like about The Dylan?
I’ve only been for a drink once but loved the hotel from the moment I entered. I was impressed by the tranquility that hides behind the façade. I could only describe it as a peaceful vibe: one that no one expects upon entering from the busy city centre.