Editors note: This is the first post by one of two new Go Means Go contributors. They are Northwest kids living in Europe and embarking on a bike trip. You’ll be able to find their ramblings here on GMG. Part diary, part travelogue, with writings from the road- we’re happy to have Ben and Chase onboard. Ride on, you crazy diamonds.
A bicycle can get you where you want to go, but like many 20-somethings, we don’t always know where we’re going. It is times like those when it is sometimes good to let your bike take the lead. We, along with hordes of others, let our bikes guide the way and this time all roads led to Berlin for the Berliner Fahrradschau (Berlin Bicycle Show).
We consciously chose to do no prior research or investigation of the show and its vendors so that Berlin itself could show us what its bike culture, fashion, and ambition is. With no expectations, we rolled up to the venue, and it did not disappoint.
The venue itself, STATION-Berlin, was amazing. Winding our way through the line, we entered through 10’ (ahem, 3m) wooden doors into yawning, brick laid halls which felt more like the gateway of a cathedral than an entrance to a trade-show. The setting was appropriate, however, because inside we discovered a massive congregation, though in this case they were celebrating all things bicycle. Cavernous corridors, previously used for the postal freight depot, were filled with not just standard trade show booths but trials courses, a mini-velodrome, a pump track, a flat-land BMX area, a downhill MTB course, an indoor crit course, and a full size bike polo court lined with empty beer crates. In addition, a cyclocross course weaved through the entirety of the building and out into a “junkyard”. Sprinkled throughout were various food and beer options, natürlich, the most important of which was the Berlin specialty: currywurst.
The trade-show felt more like a big living room party than an actual show. The boutique-ey italian inspired booths were outfitted with sofas, armchairs, coffee tables, and espresso machines. Another booth had roller sprint contests going consistently both days. Regardless, everyone had a beer in one hand and a camera in the other, and all conversation revolved around bikes.
The gem of the show was the handmade area as it is always fascinating to see what smaller companies are doing. They take bigger chances, make prettier products, and obviously have the quality and unique craftsmanship of handmade design. The company that stood out the most was Ozon Bicycle Berlin. Ozon makes bamboo bikes which are stronger, lighter, and more shock absorbent than steel. To add to this, the tubing is made from sustainable resources and is supplied locally in Berlin. Knowing this, however, it was interesting to observe that the most common assumption from people stopping by their booth was that their bikes were just painted metal. Nope! Ozon also provides an interesting option for building your bike. You can either pay a bit more to have them build you a custom frame, or you can attend one of their workshops and make your own handbuilt frame in just a few days for a seriously reasonable price.
The Berliner Fahrradshau exemplified what the bicycle has become since its invention over a century ago – not just it’s technical and mechanical development, but its conceptual metamorphoses from a mere means of transportation to a part of life. In “the States” riding a bicycle can sometimes feel like a one-man PSA campaign, spreading awareness that bikes do in fact exist, are cool, and can actually be used on a daily basis other than just exercise. In the EU, almost everyone has a bike and and they typically use it often. The Berliner Fahrradshau took the bike a step further. More than just a trade-show, it was a festival celebrating the assimilation of the bicycle into all facets of life.
Yes, riding a bicycle will get and keep you in shape. Yes, a bicycle is a more-than-viable means of transportation. But the bicycle has become more than just something you use to get around or keep healthy. It has become a culture and community generator. Having firmly established roots in Europe, it’s no surprise that the concept of the bicycle extends beyond any one category. It is an object around which people gather – not just to move bodies, but to make memories, forge friendships, and create communities. It is itself a source of energy and inspiration, and as long as the wheels keep spinning, the people and communities around bicycles will keep growing, transforming, and pedaling into new territories, escaping the void.
We put together a list of other companies that peaked our interest and that you may be interested in. Check ‘em, out!
Big Forest Frameworks – http://bigforestframeworks.com/ is making beautiful handbuilt steel frames in Potsdam. He also offers workshops to build your own custom bike.
Bike Punk Berlin – http://www.bike-punk.com/ is one of the shops in Berlin dedicated to the fixed scene
Blind Chic – http://blind-chic.com/ makes some pretty rad gear all handmade in a former brewery turned art collective in Budapest.
Cicli Berlinetta – http://cicli-berlinetta.de/ A pretty rad bike shop in Berlin with custom frames as well some vintage steeds, cloting, and componentry.
Exzentriker – http://ex-zentriker.de/ Eccentric bottom brackets for standard bottom bracket shells, and headsets.
Felvarrom – http://felvarrom.com/ Tired of boring plastic trophies? This Hungarian trio creates unique, handmade cycling apparel and trophies from “upcycled” bicycle parts.
Goldsprint – http://www.goldsprint.de/ Focused on the fixed gear and mesenger scene in Berlin, Goldsprint has a store front as well as an online store.
Hotel Fiets Bel – http://hotelfietsbel.golaun.ch/home/ These guys from Amsterdam build these bells by hand in their spare time. They’re pretty impressive and quite unique. Probably one of the most fun booths at the show.
PEdAL Ed – http://www.pedaled.com/ Made in Italy, PEdal Ed supplies high quality cycle specific clothing that you’d love to wear.
Rad Race – http://www.rad-race.com/ These guys are making “unsanctioned” racing their passion and they’re doing it well.
Steel Vintage Bikes – http://www.steel-vintage.com/ If this needs a description, we can’t be friends anymore.