Let’s save the world² – Twice and for all

We can change the world. Day in, day out, with every idea we have and every decision we make. Some steps are easy, obvious and self-evident. Others take a bit more thought.

Stories and visuals that never age: shot in 2010, this image appeared in the very first issue of DOWNTOWN.

The idea of starting an urban lifestyle and eBike magazine started brewing over a decade ago. In 2011, DOWNTOWN launched and our lives changed: we jetted around the world, hunting down stories everywhere, from Barcelona to Shanghai, and setting trends that are as relevant as ever today. The visual side of our storytelling resonated with the bike industry – it was new, fresh, and different. We got our fair share of compliments and even inspired some imitators. As a business model, it worked but what would have been the biggest success in our eyes, reaching and inspiring a new audience, was weirdly absent. Back then, eBikes were still finding their footing and people didn’t think they were cool. Sweeping acceptance wasn’t necessarily forthcoming. We conceded that the time wasn’t right. When things aren’t ripe, it’s best not to pick them too early, but we held out, knowing that one day soon, society would be ready.

Perspectives and insight: every story, every trip and every product we test is a new experience, bringing new understanding. Over 10 years, we’ve put the pedal to the metal, put down the watts, ridden gnarly lines, cleared huge gaps on our enduro bikes and flown up the hills with E-assistance. Along the way, we’ve travelled the world, discovered new cultures, had fun and worked hard, all while broadening our horizons.

In the interim we took to the roads and trails of this world with the aim to unsettle and disrupt, wielding a strong vision for how the world’s best hobbies could look. We founded ENDURO, E-MOUNTAINBIKE and GRAN FONDO magazines, created progressive, future-forward think tanks, started the Design & Innovation Award and became the catalyst to help advance the industry. Who could have expected the initial investment of € 6,000 from grandma Schmitt to stretch this far? No one, except founders Max-Philip and Robin Schmitt.

Eyewitness: grandma Schmitt’s bank statement, plundered for the seed money to start up 41 Publishing.

If not now, when?

Relaunching DOWNTOWN is our next, logical step. Over the years, we haven’t just established our vision for road riding, mountain biking and eMTBing, but have also seen how they form an integral part of our everyday life and lifestyle.

That’s why we’ve decided to create another magazine. One that questions everything, is filled with inspiration for a new type of living and relays all and any information needed to achieve it. No hate, no excuses, no moral high ground – expect a lighthearted look at having lust for life.

Our time asks for change through progress. It asks for courage, clarity and orientation. They say that the world belongs to those who go out and grab it. So, let’s do that together. Let’s make our boldest dreams come true. Our balancing act between idealism and realism won’t be crushed by taboos or borders. It’s fueled by a hunger for understanding, because that’s the only way to change the world. If we can manage to make everyone understand a little bit more, to become a bit more aware, then that’s the first step. DOWNTOWN is an invitation to join us in questioning the status quo. Sure, questions can be uncomfortable, probing, and unsettling. But they can also be simple and straightforward, as long as we don’t settle for the easy answers.

Well acquainted? DOWNTOWN editor-in-chief Ben got intimate with a Tesla Model X a few years ago. To truly understand E-mobility, you need to live with it and deal with it on a daily basis. Only then can you learn what’s real and what’s just hype.

The principle of DOWNTOWN is the same as it was originally: let’s save the world. While the spirit of optimism is stronger than ever before, the promises for the future look as sustainable as they do hypocritical. In the current greenwashing frenzy, brand new eco accreditations tack blue labels and green points onto anything that isn’t nailed down. The mobility of the future is reduced to a rational and functional topic: prohibiting and moralising is higher on the political agenda than fostering change through motivation and inspiration. For us, it’s different. We combine hard facts with emotion: adventure, experience and fun as integral parts of your everyday life.

To make matters worse, some of the current resentments are as persistent as they are outdated. “Cargo bikes to replace cars!” “Electric cars will solve all the world’s problems!” “Step-throughs are for grannies!” “Cycling is hard work!” Bring it on, we say. Throw your worst prejudices at us, we’ll clear them up for you. We aren’t only interested in bikes – that would be far too insular. In fact, let’s forget products entirely and look at a new way of being: being livable, honest with yourself and others, with care, awareness, and sustainability.

But, sure, you’ll find a multitude of bikes in this issue. That’s how it is. The new generation of bikes, most notably cargo and SUV eBikes, offer the biggest fun factor, raking in status points quicker than a 911 Porsche. Inside this issue you’ll find out why, and you’ll see why we still bought the Porsche. Insisting that there’s no alternative isn’t an option for us. Instead of radicalising or moralising a choice, we love selecting exactly the right tool for the job.

What else? We chatted with individuals who are making an impact with a new consciousness. From childcare specialist Paulina to CEO Sandra Wolf, the kung fu master Taner to vintage fashion entrepreneur Chrisi, there’s a lot we can learn when it comes to making space for new ideas, breaking through preconceptions and focusing on the essentials. The biggest takeaway from DOWNTOWN? Self-awareness. There’s no map for our new world – you have to pick the route yourself. We won’t spoon-feed you the right choices with our test reviews but we’ll lay it all out on a platter so that you have the tools to make the right decision. So, what are we waiting for? The time is now.

If not here, where?

It won’t surprise you to read that our original relaunch plan for DOWNTOWN looked a little different: transcontinental flights, the hottest stories from global hotspots, featuring New York, Sydney, Tokyo and Berlin. But it wasn’t to be and we realised that DOWNTOWN doesn’t need heaving global metropolises to thrive. The world is interconnected and everything is now possible, everywhere. Most of the articles in this issue were written here, on our doorstep, within a 20 kilometre radius of Leonberg and its 48,000 residents. But don’t be alarmed: there’s more international flair than you can shake a hat at. There are no superficial explorations of foreign destinations – these articles unlock a new dimension into the seemingly mundane, discovering big ideas and real people with real struggles, needs, challenges and dreams. This is what sets DOWNTOWN apart.

And you know what, this local focus is likely to continue into the future. Not because of the pandemic, but because suburbs are bursting with stories. Instead of getting glossy-eyed at the big cities, look around at opportunities closer to home. Regardless of whether we’re talking about Leonberg or Los Angeles, DOWNTOWN is for you. In the city or on its fringes, international or local, the lifestyle we envisage doesn’t have boundaries or borders. Why go far afield? DOWNTOWN isn’t a place, it’s a way of life. And the centre is wherever we are.

If not us, who?

We have made it our aim to transform cities and our lives into something more livable. We want to clear up misconceptions and spread excitement and inspiration instead. We want to present you with solutions and alternatives, but without recriminations. You have a central role in this. The shift won’t be as easy as buying a gym membership (but never going) or starting a SlimFast diet (but cheating). It’ll take a bit of work to understand what our generation needs as humans, re-imagining infrastructure and creating a favourable climate for change.

Before we begin, we have a request: let us understand you better by completing our reader survey. Tell us about your habits, how you move and what moves you. You will help shape not only DOWNTOWN, but our cities as a whole. It sounds like a lofty goal (and admittedly, it is) but it’s the sort of bold statement that we need in order to achieve progress. And now that you’ve seen what we achieved with grandma Schmitt’s € 6,000 investment, you should have some faith in us.

Cargo bikes and persian rugs – a new approach to life for DOWNTOWN founder Robin Schmitt that you can read about in the #Vanlife on two wheels story in this issue.

Right now, change is on the agenda. The opportunity to create more livable cities has never been so close. The bike industry has a big role to play, much bigger than any one of us can actually grasp at the moment. The innovation from brands and the interest in cargo bikes, eBikes and new mobility solutions have never been so prevalent. Let’s join together, be better than yesterday and have discussions about how to make our lives more diverse, more effective, and more enjoyable. If not us, who?