Berlin is without a doubt the most unique cycling town outside Amsterdam, due to a combination of large ex soviet style roads and a general down to earth attitude to travel means only one thing. Berliners love to bike, and naturally love their bikes. Possibly the worse thing you can do here is steal someones bike, Its so personal. This has created somewhat of a special breed of bike, the ‘Berlin Bike’. Almost like a fashion statement your Berlin Bike is as important as your ironic T-Shirt and what shoes you wear!
You can ride round Berlin and pass cycle couriers riding 1970’s racers with no brakes and political slogans, family’s cycling together to the swimming pool or park and many ‘Fake Junkers’ or bikes that look like wrecks but ride like a dream.
Stickers? Logos? Brand Names are for people that care.
The very first thing you do with your ‘Berlin Bike’ is remove those stickers, perhaps its to stop thieves stealing it, or you dislike being ‘Branded’ by your make. Perhaps you bought your bike at the market and are embarrassed by its roughness? Who knows, but an unbranded bike is so much cooler!
Unser Volkswagen ist weg!
Many people agree, there are very few excuses for car ownership in Berlin, however you still have to do the shopping. So often the second thing on the ‘Berlin Bike’ check-list is a basket. Yep they make you look like somebody’s Mum but who cares. Your a Berliner, cool by just being a Berliner. For some reason in Berlin there is an unbelievingly high density of food shops so you don’t have to travel far or do a massive monthly ‘shop’, some delicious food from the local Bio-Markt in the back is all you need.
You have to change something on your Bike, personalise it. Now this is the important thing, as it will show the world what kind of Berliner that you are! For the under 30 crowd by far the most popular option is removing all the braking system off the bike and sawing down the handlebars until they resemble a weasels moustache. The less control the better. For the more sensible Berliner a simple change of tyres or wheels are better, or a more simple addition of a funky bell. A simple rule of thumb is, change only one part of your bike then leave it, anything more would look like you care.
Beware the Recycling ability of Berliners
You have your bike, and you love it. However if you have a flat tyre and can’t be bothered to repair it, then this becomes a dangerous situation! For most Berliners a bike left on the street un-repaired becomes fair game, and most likely will not be there when you return. Many Berliners only build their Berlin bikes from the abandoned remains of junk bikes on the street, and it is regarded very much as a non-crime (Although I imagine not by the Police, be warned). So to prevent your bike falling prey to this rather odd eco-system its a good idea to fix problems as quickly as possible.
Bad News For the Folders
On a somewhat less upbeat note is, all you fans of folding bikes have are going to have a hard time. Many parts of Berlin, especially in the residential areas have heavy cobblestones that make cycling a small wheel folding bike a real trauma. Not to say people don’t here, as a lot of people are fond of ex-DDR folders that are built like tanks as well as the ubiquitous Moulton’s. And don’t think you can ride on the pavement to avoid those cobblestones, you will find they extend there as well. This does however mean that the dedicated small wheel pilot can pick up a real bargain on a folding bike.
Enjoy cycling in Berlin!, and never forget there is a whole city of avid cyclists all to willing to help you and your Berlin bike keep moving. I look forward to seeing you on the cycle-path, Bis dann!
Note: This is somewhat of a response to Link