GBBC-Berlin-Nachlese Made in England! - Mein Gott sie lieben uns!!!



Thanks a lot Phil - we are not worthy! - phaty

Berlin? Whats there for me. For all of you that have not already decided to head to Berlin next year for the Single Speed World Championships, here is a little taste of what a fantastic hosts the Germans are, how good they are at organising events (yet still giving the impression that it is all made up as it goes along) and finally what they are best at having a laugh.

Yes, that’s right, the Germans do have a sense of humour!

Every now and them you will hear somebody rant on a forum somewhere about “grassroots.” What is grass roots racing? Is it riding a Cruiser with drum brakes down a hill? Maybe that is too far back.. So is it riding an early Muddy Fox with Suntour gears wearing a Halfords skid lid and a pair of Axo Pony’s?? No Grass roots racing is about turning up at a vaguely pre-arranged point that you turn up to with your mates, who during the race you do your best to defeat, and afterwards you are the best of mates again.

So then what is it about? Not forgetting that we are talking about a singlespeed race here. Remember the beginning of singlespeed racing, back when the ultimate singlespeed was a hammered out Klein road frame with Continental 1.5 tyres?? Back when you needed to bodge a singlespeed together from whatever you could find, beg, scrounge or borrow.

Yes, once upon a time you built a singlespeed because you fancied a challenge, a laugh or in my case because you snapped the mech hanger of your shiney new steel bike. Nobody judged you, or accused you of following a trend, because it was not trendy.

Singlespeeding has yet to explode in the popularity stakes as it has in Great Britain and the States. It is still centralised around a core of riders who do it because they want to. Look around them and there bikes and you don’t see what you expect to with a group of UK singlespeeders. Instead of Spots, Surleys and inbreds, there are Treks, Giants and dare I say it, Cannondales. These bikes have been converted with whatever was to hand, not a singleator in sight. Bits of rear mech and chopped up cassettes, geared bikes disabled with cable ties.

Pimpy singlespeed bikes are things that the Germans have heard of. They have seen pictures of them on the internet in the back gardens and kitchens of Great Britain. Some are infamous, I was shocked to find that my bike had at least a minor celebrity status in Deutschland. As it grows in popularity, and as the couriers make some cash, I am sure we will start to see more appear over the years.

So, back to the racing. My Berlin experience started with a very early morning and a drive to Stanstead. Well not early enough, I arrive at the long stay car park (55 mins until take off) and jump on a shuttle bus, which is a surprisingly long journey. Get into the airport (40 mins until take off) which was a little too late. Seems I have missed the close of check in. So, I pay Ryanair another £40 for another flight and wait 13 hours for the next flight.

So I arrive in Berlin a little behind schedule. This is where I run into my second problem. I could just jump into a taxi, but I am lead to believe that you need to know where you want to go so you can tell the driver. Just to compound this problem I don’t speak any German and have forgotten to bring any information with me about where I am going. Darn.

What to do, well I see a bus stop, buy a ticket and get on. Listening for English voices I hear a pair of Irish guys talking, seems they are as lost as me but don’t seem too bothered. We get to a train station and I decided to take a look at a map.

Cunning plan No.1: If you stand looking at a map looking confused in a public place for long enough, somebody will ask if you need any help.

Well that was the plan, a very nice German girl did try to help, but she couldn’t speak any English and even with my infinite charm, which I am sure she understood, I could not ask the question “do you know where the Generator Hostel is please?” I stand looking at the map some more and the girl walks away. Then an English voice, and I turn around to find a couple of students, a ha! Saved, well, I ask the question and they don’t know. I decided to head for the city centre, can’t go wrong there can I.

My Modern European history was obviously lacking as although being a child of the 80’s and remember such a thing as the Berlin wall, I did not think that there may still be two main centres in Berlin, ah.

I jump on the next train that is going in vaguely the right direction. Get to the centre of the old East Berlin, Alexanderplatz. It’s raining; I am tired and even a 17lb Ferrous starts to get heavy on the shoulder after a couple of hours. What can I do, nobody knows where this place is, and I am not totally sure where I am. Last resort, I ring my mum, she will make it all better, they always do.

Cunning plan No.2: Mum will always make you feel better.

Well she did, because five minutes later, thanks to the wonders of the internet I now know where I am going, the address and even how to ask the taxi driver to take me there. Wonderbra. I get to the hostel where I find a GBBC notice board with times of rides, maps of the venues and a list of people. In the right place then. I have missed the start of the night ride so decide to just check in and call it a night.

I head up to the room to find Christian (who most of you know as Phaty of Phatlizard) and Matt (or [email protected] as his mum calls him) I the room. I am relieved and astonished at how I had finally got there.

The night is far from over. We are off to a punk club wild at heart. “How are we going to get him into a Punk club!” Phaty asks Matt seeing me in my semi smart clothing. A quick transformation from office gimp to mountain biker dress puts to rest there worries. The club is not quite what I expect and there is a live gig by a band which I can only dream to classify. I would descried them as Country Punk and western, but that does not get close to an accurate representation of this band. We chill there for a while and wait for the guys who had been on the leisurely night ride.

Alex (SSP, Single Speed Punk or Single Speed librarian) comes in, not such a leisurely ride it seems, but then what could you describe a leisurely on a fixed mountain bike with drop bars. 1am and the night is still young. Back to the hostel and into the bar. I need not tell you about what went on in the Bar between 2am and 5am, you will need to buy Outcast issue 11 to read that story. I head to bed, tiring to sleep between bursts of song from Biff (aka Biff) “Girls don’t like boys, girls like cars and money.” And a very drunk German who tells us he is a doctor.

06:00 “Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep,” My alarm goes off. We need to be on the train at seven and my bike is still in pieces in a bag. Grab some breakfast, which was included in the eleven euros per night accommodation, and meet the guys out front.

This is where I realise there is a train station right outside the hostel and that it is a twenty minute journey to the airport. Never mind, at least I know for the journey home.

So we jump on a train and fifteen minutes later we are at the venue for today’s race. We meet a few more people in the car park on the edge of the forest, this is where we meet the riders who had driven up from Holland. Nobody knows where the start of the race is or the course. We follow a bike towing a bob trailer loaded three crates high with beer.

We get to the start line which is marked start. It is simply a line on the ground in sawdust. I have never seen this before but it makes perfect sence. Very clear, difficult for rabblers and walkers to get rid of and none of that horrible red and white tape to collect afterwards. Eco-friendly course marking.

The course is made up of the kind of trails you find in woods all around the UK. Not mega technical but fast and sweeping. A few long slogs up hill and rewarding descents, plus a few sandy patches to catch you out. The course looped back passed the start to give the few spectators and supporters something to see and double the amount to moral support for the riders. I won’t bore you with the results of the race. That is not what it is about. May have been a different story if one of us Brits had won. I was very happy with my eleventh place, considering the hours sleep I had the night before.

So we took conciliation in our mockery of the German fit****ers. Its seems it is a bad thing in German to be fit and a singlespeeder.

So it is now off to the secret challenge. We ride up to a gate. Beyond the gate is a 20m decent with what looks like a 20m climb up the other side. The challenge is to get as far up the climb as possible. “Fantastic” a chance to win back some pride for Britannia. I can get to the top, no problem. Down the decent I get as much speed as I can and climb to the top of the 20m, 1 in 4 climb, it turns to the left, I look up and find that there is another 150m of 1 in 3 climb straight up. Not only is it steep, it is rutted. I did not get to the top.

Shattered, we all head back to the train say goodbye to the Dutch and back to the hostel via the local kebab shop.

Not all of the British delegates could make it for the race on Saturday. This originally was going to be the only race but when the Germans found out that a couple of guys wanted to come over, but could not make it until Saturday night, they added another ride to the itinerary for Sunday morning.

Jim and Jam of team Sideways Cycles made it to Berlin on Saturday evening. We head into the bar at about 6. By 7 we had the bikes back out and were drag racing up and down the walkway outside the bar. That about finished me off and by 8 the bikes where put away and we where back in the bar.

We had an early night that night, we got to bed by 2am and did not need to be up before 10. Would a good nights sleep help us in the team race against the Germans? Only time would tell.

Back on the train in the morning to the venue for Sundays team race. We ride for a couple of miles, via another kebab shop. We meet with some others in a forest car park. A Trabant wheezes past us up the hill, then shortly comes back down and parks next to us, the owner walks away. This poor little plastic car was just too easy a target as a Sideways Cycles sticker was added to the back of it. I still imagine the cars elderly owner driving this mobile advert around Berlin.

The race starts at a grassy clearing. A 1km Loop starting here, up a sandy twisty singletrack climb, around the top of the hill and a singletrack decent back down to the finish via a fire road sprint. It was a simple format, England vs. Germany. Determined to get revenge for ’66 the Germans where fired up for battle. There would be no second place in this race, just a winner and a loser. 2 teams of 4 riders, each would do 3 laps each, 2 riders, one from each country head to head at any one time. The prize, glory, at cost, pride.

Alex lines up as the first rider for Great Britain, he looks nervous, physically sick at the prospect of riding on behalf of his country. But it is not nerves, it is down to one thing and one thing only, Beer! Phaty starts the race and they are off, down the fire road in a cloud of dust they are neck and neck around the first corner onto the singletrack climb. Now we must wait and see who gets back first. The Germans roll in first. Alex makes a statement that will stay with him for the rest of his life, “fixed is ****ed.”

Jim Takes the Baton, followed by myself and I pass onto Jam, our final team member. We steadly drop back behind the Germans, only getting close when one of their riders had a mechanical 5 metres from the start.

I am waiting to start my final lap. I quickly try an persuade Jam to cheat on his final lap and take a shortcut down the hill to the finish line. He declines, little did I know he had another card up his sleave.

I finish my last lap, all we can do now is wait for the end. Germany cruise in to victory, but where is Jam, he can’t be that far behind. Still no sign, but look, what is this. Jam comes flying along the fireroad at full speed wearing nothing more than his helmet and a pair of Spot arm warmers. England claim victory by default, well we invented singlespeeding, but German singlespeed racing rules don’t seem to have the nudity clause and we are assured that we will get a chance to win back the prize next year.

The trophy for the Anglo/German race was donated thanks to RastaMyke’s mechanical the day before. So now RastaMyke’s Tune crank will be mounted and engrave with the winners each year. Oh well, we will get a chance to win it back 2004 at the euros in Scotland.

That was the end of the weekends racing. We topped of the weekend with a night ride around Berlin, taking is sights like Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Sony centre. Of to a bar to finish off the night.

We spent the last of our time the following day riding back around some of these spots between stops for coffee.

It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to head back there next August for the world championships. The weekend had so much in it, that it felt much longer than it was, but still not long enough. The racing was some of the most fun that I have ever done. The atmosphere was fantastic and it was all so cheap, well after all us singlespeeders are all tight, we won’t even buy gears.

If I had not missed my flight they would have cost me just over £50, the accommodation works out around £7 a night, food is less than half the price it is in England. A bargin really. I could do this 10 times for the price of the flight to Austrailia for this years worlds. October may not have been as sunny as Australia in November but I am glad that I chose Berlin over Melbourne.

So what are you waiting for?

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