Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Berlin Story

Ändern Sie Ihr Leben. Mit dem Fahrrad! (our beloved blog's name in Deutsch!)
This was sent to CYLRAB via electronic correspondence. It comes from (almost) across the globe and where bikes and gray skies are commonly simimlar to our San Francisco days here. Thank you Jonathan, for sending you beautiful photographs, captions with a nice story – and sharing these with us all!! /♥xo.meligrosa



Beriiners love their bikes.

Well, Berliners sometimes love their bikes.

I'm a California native, San Diego is my hometown, and San Francisco is my home, but I have been living abroad in Berlin Germany for the past year. I have always been attracted to Europe, feeling very comfortable within the cities that hold so much history and casual living, which is probably one reason I consider San Francisco my home. There are many parallels. Growing up in San Diego, I was never one to ride a bike. My father was a cyclist when I was a toddler, and would often drag me to the velodrome as kid to watch the practices. I couldn't stand it, and found guys riding in a counter clockwise circle to be insanely boring. Bikes were never an interest, or desire growing up, even though there was plenty of contact with the sport.

Easy to see where you should be riding.

That changed the day before I moved to San Francisco. I sold my car the night before, and had plans to buy a road bike off my friend. I didn't know a thing about bikes, but knew that was how I was to get around from now on. I didn't bother with shifting, and had to take it to the bike shop just to get a flat fixed. Of course, being embarrassed of not knowing how to change a flat, I learned how to work on the bike and would take apart various parts to try and see how they worked. What started as a simple way to get to and from class became how I traveled everywhere in the city. Exploring on the weekends and breaks at midnight to wake myself up for a few more hours of work. Riding became a lot more frequent.

Some places Berliners get a more room than the cars.
And usually have great bike paths off the main road.

Cruising down Brunnenstrasse. The only obstacle are the cobblestones streets,
but what's European riding without a little pavé?

With a landmark like the TV Tower, it is very hard to get lost.

Then I learned about a track bike that was on being sold on commission at the Freewheel Hayes location for an old messenger. I picked that up, and slowly rebuilt the whole thing. Then did the same with another track bike, and then another. I got involved with some bike projects in SF, and rode the bike nonstop. Every day, every night, it was track bikes 24/7. And as the riding got more quicker, gears bigger and rides longer, the transfer back to gears came in the form of a steel road bike. Taking that bike places I had never ridden in the Bay Area, I knew I had been living on the tip of an iceberg, and I had just caught a glimpse of the rest. Soon, it was cycling 24/7. Not just track bikes, but anything (mainly road) that I could watch, study and learn from. Bike Nerdology 101. I can't get enough.

Berlin by bike is the only way to do it, and you will love it.

Waiting near Mauerpark. (Probably to head across the street to the best Cafe in town)

I owe much of the past 4 years of my life to the bicycle. I have met most of my closest friends because of riding a bike. It has taken me to Japan twice, Austin to ride with an idol, the chance to ride the Tour of California, and a tour on the West Coast and one from Berlin to Milan to watch the Pros end their season. And besides the opportunities to has brought me, it has been the one constant thing in my life that always makes me happy. I can not help but forget the rest of the world and smile when riding a bike. It is something I know I will not give up for a long time to come.

Too many bikes for normal locking up, if you actually want to lock to something. Trees at Mauerpark do the trick.

Berlin itself has a great cycling culture since it is like many European cities and so ingrained in the lifestyle and city planning. Bike lanes everywhere, aware drivers, and the luxury of it being lock optional (at times). Much like cars in the US, the bike is barely a thought and just how everyone commutes, shops, and transports their kids. Mtn. bikes are hugely popular, road bikes not so much, there is an Olympic velodrome and there are so many cruisers around I think they outnumber the population 2 to 1. For me personally, the only thing missing is some mountains to climb.

Change your life, ride a bike.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for that insight, really a lovely story to read. And interesting to see pictures about Berlin. I haven't really been there myself (only travelled through), but I will go to Germany this weekend and hopefully write about cycling in Dresden and Leipzig soon ;-).

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  2. What a fantastic story and cool pictures! It's so interesting to read how different people got started with their bike love. I am so green with envy over the cycling infrastructure there.

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  3. I like Berlin. Cyclists there seem to have a more romantic attitude towards their bicycles than those in Vienna, where I live for parts of the year. Speaking of Germany and bikes, have a look at Retrovelo - a masterpiece!

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  4. Thank you for the glimpse into another corner of our world.

    Jack

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  5. Every time I read cycling stories from other places, I want to go ride there, right now! Thanks for putting Germany on my list of places to drag my bike to!

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