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When in Berlin... Brompton World Championships 2016

Angelina Russo #BWC016 Brompton cycling and design urban cycling

As a cyclist you could visit Berlin to participate in the 10,000 strong Velothon; where you could choose one of two distances, 60 or 120km. While cycling you would pass Berlin's cultural and architectural highlights including Brandenburger Gate, Potsdamer Platz, Tempelhof Airport, Eastside-Gallery, Governmental District and Siegessäule.

But, if you wanted to a decidedly more eccentric bike race, there would be no other choice but the Brompton World Championships.

The Brompton folding bike is a design and engineering wonder. Designed in 1975 by Andrew Ritchie in his flat in South Kensington opposite the Brompton Oratory, the bike began its first production run in London in 1981. Today Brompton is the UK's largest bike manufacturer (45,000 per annum) and maintains its factories just outside of London. 

The Brompton's genius is the complexity and soundness of the fold. So well designed is the mechanism that afficionados even compete to fold and unfold the bike. Once down, it can easily be carried onto trains and buses - making it the perfect commuter bike.

I bought my 6 speed orange Brompton at NYCE Wheels in New York as a present to myself after I finished my studies. On purchase I took it to Central Park for lunch and then to the waterfront to see the Statue of Liberty. These are the types of things that Brompton owners do... 

My Brompton in NYC

On this trip though I didn't have my beloved Brompton with me so I hired one in Berlin especially for the Brompton World Championships (BWC). The BWC season consists of 9 events in 9 cities across 3 continents and I was delighted to find that the Berlin event coincided with my trip.

The 14km race took place on Strasse 17 Jun just outside the Tempelgarten - an enormous urban park in the centre of Berlin. 161 participants lined up in costumes ranging from Bumble Bees to full paisley bespoke suits;

Brompton Riders 2 Photo Alex ForrestPhoto Alex Forrest

the underlying principle of the race being that no lycra is allowed and the style should be in keeping with the stylishness of the British Brompton.

Brompton Riders 1 Photo Alex ForrestPhoto Alex Forrest

At the start all bikes are folded and lined up where they are checked to ensure that there is no funny business in the folding.

At the start line BWCBerlin2016. Photo Alex ForrestPhoto Alex Forrest

When the race starts, participants run to the bike, unfold it and then begin cycling, thus the mantra - run, unfold, cycle. Don't let the costumes fool you though. These cyclists are very fast with the first of 134 men (Klais, Michael) finishing in 22.30mins and the first of 27 women (Heid, Nadine) in 26:40. 

The BWC frontrunners Photo Alex ForrestPhoto Alex Forrest

Not everyone is in it for speed though!

Recumbent Brompton Photo Alex ForrestPhoto Alex Forrest

The race was a genuine hoot with a sense of joy and fun that I have not witnessed in a bike race before. The Final took place in in London on 30th July and it looked like a joyous occasion! I can't recommend this iconic bike race more highly and I hope to participate in one again soon.

Photo Alex Forrest
I was so happy after the race that I through this prototype 100% wool top into the washing machine.... Time to make a new one in Australian superwash merino!

At the start line of BWC Berlin 2016 Photo Alex ForrestPhoto Alex Forrest

Berlin has two retailers where you can hire a Brompton.
I hired my brand new 3 speed Brompton from Kultrad in Mitte. The shop is very central and is well set up. The owner, Winnie was very kind when, in my excitement, I cracked the mudguard while folding the bike. (I did replace it when I returned the bike)

In inimitable Brompton style, I met the team from the second Brompton retailer The Urban Mobility Store as I was lining up to start the race. While I didn't visit the shop, I feel confident that Wil and the team would be very accommodating to travelling cyclists.

My favourite Brompton retailer in Australia is Cheeky Transport in Sydney and I am about to introduce myself to St Kilda Cycles in Melbourne

If you only ever ride one bike in Berlin, make it a Brompton!!

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