When a bud from LA suddenly says: ‘Hey I’m in Berlin tomorrow can we go adventure?’ Hell yes.
Edgar came through Berlin after Red Hook Crit on his way back to the USA and we did some riding. It was basically an opportunity to share my favourite things I’ve done in the last year, all at once in five days. It was rad.
Within 30 minutes of landing in the city his bike was built up and we were out. We did a midnight ride around a bunch of Berlin city bits. He shouted that he was so stoked to be riding in Belgium. I like riding with people who clearly love riding bikes and it really shows – when you can see it in their riding and they just look happy and so at home. Even when we’re two countries over from where they think they are.
It is awesome to share your city and remember totally why you love it and have those moments of kind of first wide-eyed-wonder at everything all over again. Berlin is like an extreme social experiment and the evidence is everywhere.
Then we ate chips that night and talked about where to go exploring in the morning. Edgar was basically down for whatever and looked excited at the idea of a ‘big adventure’. Which was rad and got me thinking about what rides I’ve really loved since living in Berlin – and what would work for someone coming from Red Hook Crit Milan riding level and me, who wasn’t. Four of my favourite rides in Germany have been to Potsdam, Beelitz, Dessau and Dresden. Each is excellent for different reasons. This combined them all.
We headed out for 95 miles through Brandenburg to explore moss and trees and abandoned things on a very German bike ride in Brandenburg (the surrounding Berlin, mostly filled with trees and cyclists #LostInBrandenburg). Here’s the route we went.
The route started by Tempelhofer Feld’s abandoned airport fighting all the wind, out through the forest to palaces in Potsdam. Potsdam is all about a quaint suburb feel with a bunch of old palaces casually lurking around in a park, a banging coffee shop, quaint Dutch quarter with red brick buildings, cobbles – and you go down by the Grunewald forest on the way there.
Sanssouci, the giant symmetrical yellow palace with an amazing tiered garden up to it and quizzical purple statues
We stopped to clamber around abandoned buildings in Beelitz Heilstätten – the old soviet hospital from 1902, now deserted. You can climb up inside the buildings and inside, navigating broken staircases, fallen trees and holes is fun in bike shoes. Ever-happy I have mountain bike shoes which make life a bit more idiot-proof.
We had a picnic in the middle of a bike lane in the middle of the countryside in the middle of nowhere. And we stopped by some moss for Edgar to shout IT’S SO BOUNCY and have a lie down and a special LA-person moment.
Then we raced the clock and sped through the final 50 miles to get the train at Dessau with a mix of hard, excellent and zen riding times, bombing it through the dark with music blasting out, lights dying and wind. It was a ride of shit-sharing and taking turns in avoiding bonking. We made the train with three minutes to spare.
Accidental product placement on fire
Then we got the train to Dresden to go peer around the bombed city with history everywhere. I really like Dresden. Dresden is like being bombarded by history without any effort. It is beautiful and strange and odd and easy. It makes for a rad day out. We mostly spent it drinking coffee in some kind of coffee shop cake crawl.
Back in Berlin, trying to show Berlin’s biggest hill to someone from LA was always going to be tricky. There’s a lot of ‘Is that it?’ Similarly, I look forward to meeting the other side of that and gasping ‘where is the end?’ when I experience LA riding.
We rode out to Teufelsberg, Berlin’s manmade hill from war rubble with spy stations on the top, and squelched around the muddy forests at the top. Coming back into Berlin from Teufelsberg in the west, we looped through as many places on the tourist list as we could think of. Berlin is full of history and whilst Berlin is small, it’s all also quite spaced out. Tourism is easily best by bike, zipping from one place to the other. One of my favourite relics to ride by is one of the only Cold War Watchtowers that used to guard the wall by Potsdamer Platz, for some real contrast to seeing Checkpoint Charlie. Then we swung by the wall for a last time, of course.
Trackstanding infront of Brandenburg Gate: “No, keep doing it. I haven’t taken the photo. Do it some more. Keep going.”
Berlin Wall. Excuses to share why you love where you live rock.
Last look at the Berlin Wall and we’re out.
I have never heard the word ‘Gnarly’ used so much in such a short time. It was a dope week. 191 miles of excellence winding around Berlin and Germany. Thanks internet for rad bike friends.