The most bizarre encounters sometimes take place on Munich’s cycle paths. There’s this high-wheeler who suddenly turns the corner in the middle of the old town – as if it were the year 1923. Or this two-wheeler with the structure on the luggage rack, which takes up an entire track width. A board with two spec boxes is installed on it. It is a homemade cargo bike that is probably suitable for all kinds of transport. But who are the people for whom the bike is more than an everyday means of transport? Munich residents who are particularly strong in the saddle tell why they pedal.
Women jumping over hills
“I’m on the bus on the way up,” says Bine Herzog when she calls the SZ. Above, that’s on a mountain in Spain. Herzog is taking a three-month sabbatical. She visits friends, acquaintances and also summits and hilly landscapes all over Europe in the camper van she has converted herself called “Pablo”. There she is on the road with her bike, because Bine Herzog is a mountain biker. She makes descents, sprints across country or jumps over obstacles – sometimes even in the middle of the city. On Instagram 56,600 users follow the Munich native. There are many women among them, because under the “Girls Shred” brand, Herzog organizes joint dirt park events, mechanic courses and technical training mainly for women.
“In 2019 I rode the Isar trails pretty much alone. In my circle of friends, nobody rode a bike,” she says. Then she started asking mountain bike groups on social media if someone would take her with them. It then became a weekly event, “because I realized that there are many people in Munich who don’t have anyone to ride their bikes with”. She makes new contacts on the trips and goes to a mountain bike park for the first time. “Then it was over anyway, after that I rode my bike every day,” she says.
Finding other female mountain bikers was still difficult, which is why Herzog decided to organize a “Girls Ride” at the Serfaus Bicycle Park in Austria. That was three years ago. In the meantime, around 100 women register within a few hours as soon as the date for the next women’s outing is set. The next events are planned for July on the pump track in Pocking, the dirt park in Oberwiesenfeld and in the bike park in Austria. “For me it is a matter close to my heart to strengthen the women’s community: community over competition. Everyone should come with their bike, have fun and dare something,” she says.
A bike for the celebration day
Disco is no longer indoors, parties are under the pergola – or in the park, on the Isar, in public places. Wherever Manuel da Coll goes with his Dubtrain. The drummer of the brass band labrass banda developed an event bike during the pandemic, which he often uses to get around the city himself – but which can also be rented by private individuals.
“I thought that with the system, every kiosk operator could potentially become an organizer,” says da Coll. He wanted to set the hurdles as low as possible so that culture could be taken anywhere without major financial risks. The Dubtrain-One, as the music system is called, is not a locomotive in the traditional sense, but an electric traction engine. It consists of a music system that has been installed on a bicycle trailer. The device weighs around 420 kilos, including the amplifier, power supply and driver. Da Coll often brings the trailer to its destination himself with an e-tricycle. There, 200 to 300 people can then be exposed to sound. Based on the Jamaican model, the rechargeable batteries can run the sound system at maximum volume for seven hours.
“Actually you need a technician for a music system, but the bicycle system is easy to set up and not that difficult to use,” says the musician. Except it’s uphill. His chain broke once on the Olympiaberg last year. “But there was a bicycle repair service downstairs that was also open on Sundays. I was lucky there,” he says.
In mid-July, the Discoradl will be in front of the Pinakothek at the Art Festival, and it will also fill the city center with beats and basses at Christopher Street Day in June.
The rolling women’s group after work
Jessica Holst has just returned from a strenuous bike ride. The 29-year-old had actually wanted to take part in the “Steppenwolf” with a friend of hers, a cycling event 750 kilometers through the Berlin hinterland to Usedom and back. “Because of an announced rail strike, we had to cancel the event,” she says. Instead of taking the train by bike, she then took a ten-hour night trip from Berlin to Munich in order to be able to get back to work in time. “Shortly after we arrived in Munich, we found out that the strike had been called off,” she says. In any case, it was a challenging experience with many sandy stretches and a bit too thin wheel covers. “I don’t know if we would have made it all the way through,” she says.
However, this experience did not cloud her passion for road cycling. On the contrary: “Next time I would prepare better,” she says. Three years ago, the developer started spending more time in the saddle. “When I moved to Munich, the racing bike was supposed to be the replacement for my car so that I could get around the city quickly,” she says. In everyday life, however, she now rides a different bike, the racing bike “is far too good” and is mainly used for sport.
Holst, who doesn’t like to travel alone, searched for like-minded people through the “Munich Mountain Girls”, an online community for mountain-loving women. “I was expecting ten or twelve others, within a very short time our Rad-Whatsapp group has grown to 200 members,” she says. Since then she has been involved in the female Munich bike community. “We organize regular group rides for women with some other women and the 3Mills café.” It is particularly important to her that a colorful bicycle community is created in Munich, in which “every age, every body shape and every bike is welcome”. Every level is allowed, there should be no pressure to perform on their trips. “It doesn’t matter how many watts someone pedaled or what speed they rode — or when they started cycling,” she says. As soon as the weather improves again, there will be a women’s ride every Thursday.
Making bicycle technology understandable for laypeople
It started quite early with the love for two-wheelers, says Felix Kuffner. Growing up in the district of Fürstenfeldbruck, the 31-year-old was particularly enthusiastic about BMX bikes in his youth. “I raced and became German champion in 2008,” he says. But then he decided against going into professional sports, continued with school and later studied sociology. Today he runs a YouTube channel called “Felix tests bikes” with around 27,200 subscribers. There he specialized primarily in gravel bikes – bikes that are suitable both for cycling on asphalt and off-road for off-road riding.
In seven to twenty-minute videos called “Shoot under palm trees”, “Gravel bikes under 2000 euros” or “Avoid these 7 mistakes”, Kuffner explains to his users (mostly male) the technical features of the models of different bicycle brands. “I noticed early on that the bike industry was having trouble growing with the new media,” says the Youtuber, who used to work in the marketing department of an e-bike manufacturer. With his channel, he wants to bring gravel bikes closer to beginners. “How many chainrings do I need in the front, what kind of steering angle do I need – all quite humorless topics that I explain in an understandable and approachable way,” he says. As a rule, he gets bicycles or equipment from the manufacturers, the videos are paid for. However, Kuffner makes his main income through partner links, where every bicycle sold is linked to a brokerage commission. “I make that clear in the videos. I think that’s transparent and fair,” he says.
In addition to his own video tours, Kuffner organizes gravel bike trips. He prefers to be out and about in the south of Munich. “Before, as a BMX rider, cycling was always associated with a drive to some trail. Today I’m happy when I can simply cycle the area and discover new paths.”