SEVERAL OF the competitors in the Beijing Olympics, even if they didn't win medals, made a lot of money through the endorsement of numerous products used by athletes. Back at home, Rosen & Meents, believed to be Israel's largest chain of specialists in bicycles, windsurfing equipment and inline skates, is sponsoring an extreme bicycle race as part of the Gilboa Festival on August 26-28. In addition, they will sponsor 12k and 25k highly-challenging bicycle races aimed at promoting Jewish-Arab coexistence. The company has 14 branches in the country, including a newly-opened store in Eilat. ISRAELI BUSINESSMAN Isaac Katan, who migrated to the US some twenty years ago and founded a flourishing real-estate development company, is one of many people who are interested in investing in sources of alternative energy. Katan is funding research by the Volcani Institute to the tune of NIS 33 million to develop agricultural plants from which bio-diesel can be produced. Katan signed a contract for the research, giving him sole marketing rights for Volcani's developments, in the presence of Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, who has been a strong supporter of bio-diesel research. Alternative Power, a company owned by Katan, has signed an agreement with an Indian company to grow bio-diesel plants over an area of one million dunams. Prof. Yedidiya Gafni, who heads the alternative energy project, noted that although Israel could not be an exporter of alternative energy because of the country's land limitations, it could certainly be in the forefront of exporting the technology required for alternative energy. Katan was confident that the Volcani Institute's research would bring about a revolution in bio-diesel. Katan entered the real estate market at the beginning of the 1990s, working initially as a sales agent and then buying up neglected residences at a low price, renovating them and selling them at a profit. From there he entered into ever larger multi-million dollar projects in both Florida and New York. IT TOOK years for environmentalists to convince the public of the need to dispense with plastic bags. Now that Israelis have caught on to the idea, a variety of companies have begun marketing bags made of string, canvas and cotton. Eco-Chic bags are proving that what goes around comes around. The little string bag which many years ago was carried by almost every woman in her purse in case there was something she wanted to buy when she went out, disappeared for a long time, and now it's back in different shapes and colors. EcoChic is producing them in long- and short-handled varieties, selling at NIS 2530. The eco-friendly bags are easy to carry around, and, though they look fragile, can easily hold up to five kilograms of goods. Golbary has decided to join the new trend and is packaging its merchandise in shopping bags made from high-quality recycled fibers. The Golbary bags sport a fashionable design and will last for several uses. Crazy Line has been using attractive non-plastic bags in its signature colors of fuchsia pink and black for some time, but only on its larger items. Small items are still packed into plastic. Amica, too, has joined the trend with large silver-colored super lightweight shoulder bags with a black floral monogram that look as if they're intended for aerospace travel. THE LATEST fashion trend to hit Israel is the Helmetdress, currently available only from a stand on the second floor of Building A at Dizengoff Center. Already a hit in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Milan and Tokyo, the Helmetdress comes in flexible, elasticized fabric and can easily fit over motorcycle and bicycle helmets to give them a new panache. Created by well known European and Japanese designers, the collection offers a wide choice of prints and colors. Each item is priced at NIS 140, which seems a little steep given that skirts, tops and dresses elsewhere in Dizengoff Center can be purchased for less. THE POPULAR and well-known Aroma chain of espresso bars has invested NIS 10 million in the opening of four new branches. Despite the fact that there are already several Aroma branches in Jerusalem, the revamping of the capital's Mahane Yehuda market, which now has numerous coffee shops and restaurants, demanded that Aroma be represented there as well. Customers were literally waiting on the doorstep for Aroma to open for business. The other three new branches are located in Zichron Yaacov, Modi'in and Or Yehuda. WHEREAS SUPERMODELS once ruled the roost as presenters - particularly in the fashion industry, survivors of reality shows are now taking their places. Case in point is Lia Gil, who was a successful reality-show survivor. The attractive Gil, at age 33, is starting a modeling career, and has been chose by Discreet to be their presenter. Although she's a little old compared to most models who usually enter the game in their adolescent years, this too is part of a new trend, as fashion companies gradually come to realize that while the world may belong to the young, it's the older generation that controls the money.