The urban bike magazine

A Bike That’s Like a Shiny Flash – Two Brothers and Their Buddy Bike

Brothers Mike and Frank from Berlin restored a side-by-side tandem from the 1980s and take to their bike twice a month on their men’s night out.

SaskiaBellem
Saskia Bellem was born in Heidelberg and studied ethnology, romance studies, media sciences and sustainable developement coordination in Germany and Sweden. After her stay abroad in England, Sweden, Namibia and Romania she moved to Vienna in 2007 where she is working as a freelance journalist, translator and PR-referendee. She speaks 7 languages and likes to bake bread and to cycle. When she is not cycling she likes walking around, listening to audiobooks or doing pilates.
Image © BuddyBike.de

Instead of a chest of drawers in his bedroom, Mike has a bike. A canary yellow tandem, where the two people sit side by side rather than one behind the other. Mike and Frank bought the bike for €130 five years ago and set about the task of fully restoring it. Only a small number of “buddy bikes”, or side-by-side tandems, were produced based on a patent from 1977 by amateur craftsman Bob Barrett from USA, as the manufacturer went bankrupt soon after. As such, this is a rare original item from the 1980s, and it is not kept just anywhere, but in the safest place in the house – Mike’s bedroom. His girlfriend has now come to terms with having to shuffle past this yellow monstrosity to the bathroom every morning.

Mike und Frank Grottke mit ihrem Buddy bike (c) privat

Image © Saskia Bellem

Clear Distribution of Roles on the Bike

Mike and Frank take the bike out once or twice a month. As it is only the cyclist on the right who controls the steering, braking and gears, the cyclist on the left takes on the role of a passenger. This requires a certain level of trust, as Mike explains. “Frank is actually happy to hand over the responsibility. This way, he can relax and admire all the young girls. And help himself to something to drink from our beer crate in the front while cycling.”

Cycling brings the family closer

Their men’s day out really only gets going when they’re on their bike. Of course, they could also sit together in a bar, but Mike explains that this mix of taking a tour around Berlin, soaking up the city and chatting to one another along the way cannot be topped. Mike has particularly come to appreciate the communication aspect of tandem cycling. He sometimes also cycles with his girlfriend. But he most enjoys cycling with his brother.

“I’ve been cycling with Frank since the very beginning. It was our idea, our project together. It brought us closer together as brothers. We always start off with the same route going past the Brandenburg Gate, then we cycle on somewhere, chat, go with the flow. We can’t do any racing, of course, as we’re like a wall unit with a lot of air resistance.”

Man_and_woman_on_a_Malvern_Star_abreast_tandem_bicycle,_c._1930s,_by_Sam_Hood

Tandem as an Icebreaker

Even in Berlin, a city that has absolutely everything, the brothers cause somewhat of a stir on their bike. Mike therefore likens the tandem to a “shiny, new Ferrari”, as people always look twice in amazement. One bike, but two people, side by side? It looks like a normal bicycle on first glance, but when people look again, they see that this is something unusual.

“Whenever we’re stopped anywhere, people often approach us. After the initial astonishment, a lot of people laugh, which we’re always happy to see. It makes us really happy that this piece of steel brings people together.”

The buddy bike is more than just a mode of transport for the two working brothers who are now in their forties. It has been regarded as a prized family possession for a long time now. One of a small number of items that will never be sold or given away in their family. Items that do not belong to any one family member, but rather to the entire family. It has a high sentimental value to them. And precious items should be protected. In Mike’s bedroom, for example.

See the following website for information regarding the history of the buddy bike http://buddybike.com/

Image © BuddyBike.de, © Saskia Bellem & © Wikipedia

SaskiaBellem
Saskia Bellem was born in Heidelberg and studied ethnology, romance studies, media sciences and sustainable developement coordination in Germany and Sweden. After her stay abroad in England, Sweden, Namibia and Romania she moved to Vienna in 2007 where she is working as a freelance journalist, translator and PR-referendee. She speaks 7 languages and likes to bake bread and to cycle. When she is not cycling she likes walking around, listening to audiobooks or doing pilates.

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