Most of us all have had that time in our lives, when we reflect on our career and wonder what the hell we’re doing there—or more importantly, if we’re even happy doing it. However, not everyone has the courage to admit when the answer is no, much less to do something about it. When our latest Urban Beardsman, Stefan J Hertel experienced this point in his life, he decided to go on a trip that would change his life forever. He quit the job in Minnesota that was adding more misery than pleasure, left his girlfriend, and embarked on a dirt biking road trip with his buddies to do a little soul searching. During a pit stop in Austin in route to the Guatemalan mountains, he met his future business partner Alan Stulberg, a fellow rider and moto-enthusiast. After returning from three months on the road back to the real world, Hertel decided to go to grad school and get his masters degree in mechanical engineering. He also kept in contact with Stulberg; progressively bouncing ideas off one another to open a bike shop. They discussed the intricacies on how they wanted to fill a niche in the motorcycle world, leaving their mark on both vintage and modern cycles. In 2010 Hertel moved to Austin, Texas and opened a unique shop with Stulberg known today as Revival Cycles.
Revival Cycles is staffed with a team of professionals extremely passionate about their craft—each bringing their own secret weapon to the table. Collectively, they restore everything from turn of the century antiques, to building and reengineering modern bikes that run on today’s technology. Not only does Revival fill the void between old and new, but also has a main differentiator setting them apart; they serve as a cultural center for motorcyclists. Hertel shares, “We wanted the shop to be a place for people to hang out and build a community of bike enthusiasts for all ages. Though, it can be hard to balance that while still getting things done at the shop. So for now, we mainly host events outside shop hours and have more plans underway for community involvement.”
Revival may have to start slow with their community expansion plans, but they are definitely not flying under the radar. Revival caught Jay Leno’s attention and the guys have been invited out twice to hang in Jay Leno’s Garage. “We got to admire his collection, and brought over a few bikes he was interested in featuring on his site. It was great to get his recognition and witness him enjoy a test drive. Though, it also makes you nervous in thinking, even though the bike’s been tested, checked, and rechecked, I really hope we tightened all the bolts on that one,” laughs Hertel.
The wait list for a custom bike at Revival Cycles is definitely on the rise, which means Hertel’s free time can be sparse. “Depending on the scope of the project we can complete a full build in four weeks. If it’s really involved, it could take anywhere from six months to year,” he says. “My time is spent almost exclusively for the shop, and virtually everyone on the team is similar. A lot of us have come from corporate backgrounds and realized it wasn’t for us. We didn’t leave the corporate world to dodge work—we just want to work on what we believe in.”
Hertel’s passion for authenticity in his work translates into his own personal style.“ I put some thought into staying well dressed without overcomplicated it. I tend to gravitate towards things that are timeless and classic. As a rule of thumb, I ask if I can imagine Steve McQueen wearing it, and if the answer is yes, then it works for me,” he reveals.
There’s no denying when observing Hertel’s style, there’s a massive beard to compliment the look. Aside from treating it with the occasional wash followed by a dab of beard oil, he explains it serves practicality over style. “I’m an engineer so I’m pragmatic. The idea of spending five minutes a day shaving, you add that up that’s about a half hour a week, or an hour a month—next thing you know that’s thirty hours a year I could be using to build bikes or on my business.” Hertel also admits he enjoys breaking the stereotypes some may have with a beard his size. “I like it when people categorize me without getting to know me and I change their view. It makes it very easy for someone to underestimate you, and in my opinion that’s an advantage.”
Regardless of the length of the beard, Hertel encourages everyone to try, but to also be the best at what they do. “If you got a beard, it sets you apart as being different and makes people remember you. If you’re talented at what you do, people might remember that—but if you’re talented AND bearded, they’ll remember you as the badass to get the job done.”
The ebb and flow of beards and bikes go back for generations, but often with negative stigmas attached. Hertel’s stance on the matter is simple and admits, “I can’t claim to be an expert on biker culture, but I do think the whole outlaw stereotype sometimes still exists. My interest is in motorcyclists more than bikers—the individuals and going on rides with other people. My buddies and I have a lot of fun going on rides and camping, or just kicking tires and bench racing. It’s a great way to share a camaraderie with others.”
As Revival continues to expand their shop and community, they hope to open another location in Austin within the year. But for now, they want to engage the public about their passion for producing quality motorcycles paired with top-notch service. Changing perspectives on what a modern engineer may look like, and not to judge a motorcyclist by his beard, Hertel and the crew at Revival are an inspiration on how to do what you love, while staying true to your authentic self.