Nele’s Cargo Bike

Last week my friend, and Lady Power polo teammate, Nele Dittmar from Halle, Germany sent me a link to an article about a cargo bike she recently designed and helped construct. And it is BEAUTIFUL. (The article is in German, but if you open it in Chrome you can translate it).

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This bike it pretty damn cool, and a totally new design. It’s neither front nor rear loading, but keeps the weight of the cargo between the two wheels. It’s built for a specific types of cargo, and meant for a city environment where storage space is limited. It’s the first cargo bike I’ve seen in a while that I feel like I could keep in a city apartment (the fact that I live on the 3rd floor and have to carry my bikes up and down 3 flights of stairs is the only thing that keeps me from buying a cargo bike – but with this bike it seems manageable).

This frame has all sorts of awesome design features: Continue reading “Nele’s Cargo Bike”

New Video of Riding in Berlin

Here is a short video from footage I took during my last few days in Berlin. I had just finished reading David Byrne’s bicycle diaries, where there is a whole chapter about Berlin.  I felt that the way he described Karl-Marx-Allee perfectly captured the atmosphere of the boulevard.

Gitti’s Wheelcovers

In February my friend Gitti had a really terrible bike accident. When I say bad, I mean bad. She broke her foot so bad that she had to get some metal implanted in her foot to reconstruct the bone.  She was out of polo for a while – and for anyone who knows her, you know how much it was killing her not to play.

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The good news is that Gitti is back, and healthy, and used her time away from polo to dream and fantasize about building up her perfect polo bike. And now the bike is built, and she is back to tearing it up on the court.

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The coolest part of her bike? She screenprinted the x-rays from her surgery onto her wheelcovers, and it looks  awesome. Check it out.

(Daniel – who was involved in the crash – signed the wheelcovers too. It adds a nice touch.)

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To Berlin Bike Polo (and really German Bike Polo in general)

Dear Berlin Bike Polo –

Now that I’ve said goodbye, I just want to say I’ll miss you all, and thanks for everything.

When I arrived off the plane in Berlin with no place to stay, you let me sleep on your floor for a week even though you’d never even met me. I wasn’t even going to stay in Berlin, but after meeting you all I couldn’t leave. Once I decided to stay in Berlin, you found me an apartment to sublet even though we had only really talked once.

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After sticking around for a while, and playing a lot of pick-up, you helped me improve my polo game. And introduced me to the greatest bike polo team that has yet to play a tournament – MBT (Ladies Army here we come).  You cheered for me, heckled me, and collectively broke half the spokes in my front wheel (at one point you broke 8 in one crash). You invited me to tournaments, and let me tag along on road trips (but maybe I should have stayed at home for the road trip with 5 bikes, 5 people, 2 dogs, and a lot of wet, smelly equipment in a small station wagon).

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And to the rest of German Bike Polo – thanks for letting me crash at your places, and pitch a tent near the court. Thanks for giving me coffee, cooking me breakfast, and giving me Peppermint Schnapps : ). And thanks for hosting the some of the best tournaments I’ve been to.

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Most of all – thanks for welcoming me into your polo community, and making it feel like home.

I’ll miss you all. See you soon.

3-2-1 Polo!

Charlotte

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Peppermint Polo – Leipzig, Germany

It’s hard to know where to begin with writing about the Peppermint Polo Tournament in Leipzig last weekend. For the most part, I’ll let the pictures tell the story. But I’ll just say that despite 27 STRAIGHT HOURS OF COLD RAIN, it was still one of the best organized and most fun tournaments I’ve been too. Leipzig Polo was really on top of things, and put in a lot of time, effort, and planning to make the tournament awesome. Even though it rained for 27 hours, and never broke 10 C (50 F) all weekend (and it’s May people. MAY), it was still a blast. I’ll be honest that the party Saturday night made it all worth it.

Thanks Petra and Nele (Team Lady Power!!) for being great teammates, and for being more than happy to not qualify for the Sunday bracket, and to instead stay dry (ish), drink beer, and try to get warm.

Oh and I won a prize (I am wearing the t-shirt as we speak… I mean as I write) for travelling the furthest distance to the tournament.  40,000 km and counting! I knew this whole fellowship thing would pay off sometime… : )

Oh look. A nice polo day, on a nice court, with NO RAIN.
Oh look. A nice polo day, on a nice court, with NO RAIN.
And there was a half-time roller-hockey game!
And there was a half-time roller-hockey game!
And the tournament might as well have been in Poland, because every other person there was from Warsaw or Krakow.
The tournament might as well have been in Poland, because every other person there was from Warsaw or Krakow.
And then the rain started. And it never stopped.
And then the rain started. And it never stopped.
So people had to do this after every game all weekend.
So people had to do this after every game all weekend.
But it was all cool because on Saturday night we had a big party - knife fights included.
But it was all cool because on Saturday night we had a big party – knife fights included.
including the BEST DJ OF ALL TIME. Srsly this DJ was amazing. Just check out his bike-DJ set-up, and his telephone instead of headphones. Baller 9000.
The party included the BEST DJ OF ALL TIME. Srsly this DJ was amazing. Just check out his bike-DJ set-up, and his telephone instead of headphones. Baller 9000.
When we woke up the next morning, it was still raining.
When we woke up the next morning, it was still raining.
Some of us had our weekly Sunday religious experience, of gathering around a heat lamp, and praising its warmth.
Some of us had our weekly Sunday religious experience, of gathering around a heat lamp, and praising its warmth.
Other people had more creative approaches to the rain.
Other people had more creative approaches to the rain.

Step 1. Put your small tent inside the larger tent.

Step 2. Since all your clothes are already soaking wet, cover your jhorts in plastic bags, and then duck tape it all together.

Step 3. Stand inside and watch the bracket and live streams of the Midwest Qualifiers, where it looks warm and dry. Collectively complain about how much North America sucks for having nice weather at a polo tournament.

Give out a trophy containing 20 small bottles of liquor.
Give out a trophy containing 20 small bottles of liquor.

Thanks Leipzig for a great weekend!

Bike Polo and Germany

Know what’s awesome about Germany? Polo courts that look like this:

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And yes, the court pictured above in Giessen is exceptionally great – perfect size, good boards, and a smooth court surface that grips – but the point is that most cities (from big ones like Berlin, to small university cities like Giessen) in Germany have really awesome courts for polo. It might be related to the popularity of hockey/roller hockey, but that’s besides the point (also if hockey was the reason than Minnesota and Wisconsin should have the best courts in the States).

best seat in the house.
best seat in the house.

I think one of the major differences about polo courts in Germany  is that it isn’t just about the court, it’s about the whole infrastructure around the court. Most courts have a small building with bathrooms, a kitchen, storage area for goals, oftentimes lights AND if you’re lucky, it might also have a sound system. During tournaments you can normally camp next to the court, or nearby. All in all, it means that tournaments are super awesome, and pretty easy to organize considering that most things you need are already at the court.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly who owns the courts. I think most courts, especially the ones that are embedded within larger sports facilities, are owned by communal sports clubs. For example, in Heidelberg the polo club pays a small fee each year to use the court. But, after the first year or two of paying this fee, they officially become part of the organization of the facility, and then can allot money from the budget for bike polo to buy goals, balls, mallets, etc. Other courts are probably owned by city governments and roller hockey clubs. Imagine having a polo court (and a small house) that was nicely maintained by a city parks department in the states… yeeeeaaaaaa right. I think all this is related to Germans paying taxes to their city and federal governments (crazy concept), and in turn the city and government has money to provide public infrastructure solely for the use of bike polo… I mean they have money to build facilities the whole public can use for a variety of purposes. I know this rant is really meant for another place – but I’m just putting that idea out there.

Anyways. Since arriving in Germany I’ve played polo in 5 cities (Berlin, Hannover, Leipzig, Heidelberg  Giessen), and I’ve played 31 out of the last 56 days. And most of my time that I’m not spending playing polo, I’m probably thinking about it. Which is to say that the last two months have been a blast. This last weekend I went to Giessen where I played with a guy Martin from Dortmund and a rotating third player. We came in fifth of 12 teams, which was both very surprising and pretty cool (our original goal was top 20). This coming weekend I’m headed to Leipzig for Peppermint Polo, and I have high expectations that this might be the most fun tournament yet.

Anyways. Here are some pictures from Giessen. Check em out.

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Dock 11 Alley-cat and Opening Party

This last weekend was the Dock 11 store opening alley-cat race and party. It was a super laid-back alley-cat, and I had a blast rolling around Berlin with two of the raddest, coolest, bike polo ladies I know – Käete and Gitti.  Our race started after we finished our beers and Käete finally said ‘ok, one more cigarette and then we’ll go,’ 20 minutes after the race had already started.  We were riding with a larger group of people, who were all determined to have fun and not take things too seriously.

This alley-cat was one of my favorite kinds because every stop involved doing some sort of task, and you got points for arriving at the stop (10 points), and points for how well you did the task, totally arbitrarily judged up to 40 points (although I received 300 points at one stop…). I think these kinds of alley-cats are far superior to the plain-old-stamp-your-manifest-and-go sort. Personal preference.

Anyways. I remembered to take photos at most stops, and so here is a visual storybook of the race.

First, we went to ‘get stoned’ by smashing a concrete block in half.

Then we rode to a small park where there are still parts of the Berlin wall, and we had to use the half a block from the first stop to ‘rebuild the wall.’ Tounge-n-cheek political stop: check.

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Next we went to a small BMX track where there was a table with 9 pictures of cats. Volunteers then handed you 9 names of types of house cats and you had to correctly identify the cat species. I failed at this task (I wish I could blame this on German, but I can’t) and did not correctly identify a single cat. But at least I remembered not to label the dog, which would have put me at -20 points.

BEST STOP – next we went to an outdoor bar where you had to listen to a song, try to remember the lyrics, and then do air guitar and sing the song in front of everyone. I got a laidback reggae song where the chorus was ‘oh man, oh man, kill all the whiteman.’

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After our 30 seconds of fame (and another beer), we rode to what was probably the most technically difficult bike polo stop I’ve ever been too.

Step 1: Pick the mallet up off the ground, on your bike. I play polo, and I’m still not good at this.

Step 2: Ride up and over a long piece of wood (sort of like a see-saw).

Step 3: Shoot a goal into a small cardboard box.

 After the polo stop, we had to go to bar and pick up a hamburger bun to bring to the party. Apparently we were also supposed to look at the staff and then guess how much they collectively weighed at the end. That got lost in translation for me.

Next, we had a short photo shoot with long-exposure photos.  I’m excited to see how those turn out.

At the second to last stop we had to create a bracelet for ourselves out of bicycle chain. I had seen other people at stops with chains on who had forgotten to clean the chain first and were covered in grease, and so I felt pretty smart for remembering to do that first.

Lastly we were charged with the task of arriving at the final stop/party with a blue ice cream cone in hand. I had no idea about this because I couldn’t read the manifest, and had been blindly following Kaete and Gitti the whole time. So all of a sudden we stop at an ice cream place, and I just figured that people wanted to take an ice cream break, which I was totally down with, but then I was confused as to why we were packing up the ice cream and taking it away. Then when we were only a few blocks from the finish, and it had started to rain, Kaete takes out the ice cream, puts it in cones, and we all rode to the finish with ice cream cones in our hands like torches. We failed to find blue ice cream, but purple was close enough to earn us a special prize at the end.

Then I stopped taking pictures, ate a hamburger, drank some beers, and hung out at a really fun party. Thanks Dock 11 for organizing a great race and party!

Oh. And along the way there was a beautiful sunset over a river in Berlin.