Photo by Jason Harrell
Where can you go to fix your frame yourself? Or what do you do if you can't ride at all? We've got tips and trips to get you cycling savvy this summer during our week of bicycling in Berlin. Don't forget about part one and part two.
ADULTS ON TRAINING WHEELS
You’ve finally taken all your friends’ advice and gotten a bike, but you’re hiding a dirty secret: you haven’t been on two wheels since you were 12. Luckily, there is a safe, judgment-free way to get bicycle savvy.
Schools like RADFAHRSCHULE in Steglitz or George Wanjala’s BERLIN UNCOVERED offer lessons for riders at every level. Wolfang Lukowiak, the owner of Radfahrschule, conducts three main types of group lessons for adults, starting with six sessions (€119) for the insecure rider, up to 18 (€319) for the total beginner.
There’s no such thing as ‘lost causes’, he says, remembering one man who brought his wife, hopeless she’d ever be able to ride a bike, “But after 17 lessons, she finally clicked and took off.”
In fact, 90 percent of his students are women, but if you make a joke about female drivers, Lukowiak will tell you that women are just more safety-conscious and less afraid to admit when they need help.
Radfahrschule’s lessons are primarily in German, but you can also book a private lesson in English for a little bit more money – or call George Wanjala from Uncovered Berlin. Originally from Kenya, Wanjala has been living in Berlin for 20 years and running bike tours with Berlin on Bike since 2004.
He’ll meet you in the park for a little pre-lesson counseling session, where he’ll listen to all your road-related doubts and insecurities. Then it’s time to take to the streets at a non-threatening pace. Wanjala will keep tabs on you like a mother hen, making sure you don’t do anything stupid or potentially dangerous.
After 30 to 40 minutes in traffic, you’ll head back to the park to talk about what you learned and book a follow-up lesson to ensure that all the technical stuff sinks in. You might even get so cocky you start biking with your phone in your hand, hit a kerb and go flying. Wear a helmet!
Here are some more tips to help cycle like a pro:
The Berliner Fahrradmarkt – or simply FLICKEN (“repair”) – is a monthly meet-up to buy, sell and repair second-hand bikes. Between 3000-4000 people visit the market each month on the spacious grounds near Kunstquartier Bethanien in Kreuzberg. Here you can sell your old bike (€5) or learn to repair it yourself with the assistance of experienced bike mechanics – for a donation. You'll also meet cyclists from refugee groups accepting old bike donations to racer stylists showing off their steeds. Don't be surprised to see the police there: they like to show a presence to prevent the sale of stolen bikes.
Waldemarstr. 57, Kreuzberg, every last Saturday 9-17 (next date: June 27)
The Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club (ADFC) is a national bicycle lobby group based in Berlin with 450 different branches throughout Germany. This is where you’ll get maps, tours, apps, books, basic bicycle accessories and a lot of good advice, including info about cycling rules, regulations and political developments (not all of it is in English, however). Become a member (€46/ year; €29 if under age 27) and you’ll get access to their bike workshop in Mitte, personal liability insurance, discounts on bike books and tours and free legal advice if you get fined.
www.adfc.de, Brunnenstr. 28, Mitte, Mon-Fri 12-20, Sat 10-16
RIDE THE MOTORWAY
Organised by ADFC, the Berlin STERNFAHRT has drawn up to 250,000 participants in the last few years – the biggest bike demonstration in the world. On 19 different routes (including the Autobahn!), riders make their way into the centre of the city to arrive at the Umwelt (Environment) Festival at the Brandenburg Gate by 2pm. This may be your only chance to cycle on a six-lane highway. It's a big thrill.
Sunday, June 14
An international bike movement originating in San Francisco in 1992, CRITICAL MASS is a twice-monthly protest-celebration-cycling party through Berlin’s streets. Just rock up with your bike and join in for a day or night ride where you can literally take up the whole street and, for once, outnumber the cars.
Brandenburg Gate, every first Sunday at 14:00; Heinrichplatz, every last Friday at 20:00