Bespoked Travel Diary Pt1: Berlin and Dresden

A couple of weeks ago Josh and I hopped on a plane to do our first site visit at the Dresden Flughafen venue for this year’s show.  It would have been a missed opportunity not to stop in Berlin on the way to visit some of our favorite German builders at Kolektif, and to see Radrace in the flesh, having seen the incredible FPV drone footage from last year. That footage must have been some of the best coverage of any sporting event from last year. Wow! Well done Radrace! The show was compact and vibey. After a quick loop, we hid away in the framebuilders corner for the weekend where we had a great time chatting to builders ahead of this year’s Bespoked in Dresden.

Highlights from Berlin included chats with Berlin builder Konstantin Drust as we peddled through cold damp Berlin nights on our Bromptons (no longer allowed on BA hand luggage, which we found out the hard way!). I don’t know if it was unloading our burgeoning bags onto Konstatin’s Omnium or just being led around an unfamiliar city at night, but it felt pretty magical, and was the perfect start to our trip. After we ditched our luggage, we visited the Fern Bicycles/Gramm Tourpacking workshop. Nestled away in an industrial estate, there’s no way in hell we’d have found it without Konstantin’s guidance. We climbed the stairs of an industrial building, wallowing in the charm of moderate dilapidation until we reached the door that the music was coming from. After a number of polite attempts, Josh, who’s an expert at house parties, employed a special way of signaling our arrival to the workshop’s inhabitants that granted us access after just 20 short minutes. The smokey workshop, filled with all the builders in town, was only one of a number of incredible bike businesses that populated the entire factory floor. We had great fun chatting and poking around discovering new makers in new sections and seeing what they make and how they filled the space.

The following day, we headed to Radrace, a crit race in a go-kart track, a 20-minute ride further out of town than the show. Radrace felt like the main event, with packed stands filled with fans, racers and party people. Part of why the atmosphere was so great was just not being in the UK. That sounds like fairly ambiguous reasoning, but for me at least that means people walking across the track between races, everyone having access to any part of the circuit, and the venue being open for partying till three in the morning. None of which is even remotely possible for an organized event in the UK. The resultant crowd was a great mix of enthusiasts and people just out for a good time, not cycling fans at all, just fans of a good time. Our Berlin culture smash and grab wouldn’t have been complete without being rejected from Berghain, which meant more relaxed Bromptoning about town, which felt like what the nights were mostly about, although we did pop into a different techno club for a quick dance before the sun came up!

On Sunday evening we hitched a ride to Dresden with Cristoph from Sour and Roman from Qvist, ahead of our site visit the next morning. The venue is the top floor of a relatively small airport, that has only between 15 and 20 flights per day, nestled in near the roof of what was once an aircraft hanger. In spite of being a working airport, we’ll have significantly better access and greater freedom within the exhibition hall than we were afforded at the velodrome. The building itself has fantastic light, with windows on three sides overlooking the airfield, which during the exhibition will be augmented with our purpose built daylight balanced soft light on the exhibitors booths, as well as a super well designed lighting system of diffused mirrors on the venue’s ceiling. The exhibition space, although sitting above a very normal airport, is seductively industrial while feeling clean and minimal. It’s a short ride by bike or by tram to what was described to us as the industry and techno club quarter, where factory tours, drinks and junkyard cyclocross will be hosted on Saturday evening after the show, as well as being only a short ride from the Neustadt district where we’ve planned the Schwalbe afterparty for press and exhibitors on Friday night!

Having spent a couple of days cycling around, visiting people, we’re super excited for Dresden to be the first town to host Bespoked in Germany. While on the surface it looks a lot like any German town, it’s better equipped for us to put on an excellent show that’s worth traveling to. It’s a cheap town to stay in and eat out, it’s super easy to travel there using planes, trains, bicycles, trams, or cars, and it sits within plenty of amazing riding for rideouts. All of which means it’s a fantastic town to engage with, but the part that excites us the most is the incredible local community of builders, small independent manufacturers, designers and makers.

Visiting the venue was a pragmatic step necessary to be able to visualize how we can improve on last year’s show by exhibiting in a venue that’s actually willing to work with us on delivering a great show. Visiting Dresden makes me really excited about working with a really fun and interesting group of people, engaging new audiences and making the first steps towards our part in building a solid culture of independent makers in central Europe which I hope will open up new discourse in the UK too.

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