On the east side of Berlin, in an old factory building there is a space lovingly called ‘WERKSTATT’ with three amazing companies doing interesting things on the German cycling scene. We went to meet Fern, Gramm and Meerglass and find out more.
For the past few years Podia has been attending the Berlin Fahrradschau, where a certain corner of the show is dedicated to a group of locals who have been producing ever more interesting and beautiful work.
In 2017 we were blown away by the Gramm x Fern showbike; a custom steel frame with matching Gramm tourpacking bags. The same year Meerglass picked up the Campagnolo Best in Show Prize for a stunning steel road bike with a twist.
At the 2018 show we began speaking with Kristin from Gramm about a project we had in mind, she invited us to go and see their workshop and it was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
The three young companies share a workshop space in the former offices of a slaughterhouse. Luckily that was some years ago and the buildings have been taken over by artists, start-ups and modern apartments.
The cycling world is changing rapidly. The popularity of road cycling has been morphing for a few years towards gravel and adventure. Riders are strapping on bikepacking bags and going out for multi-day adventures. But cycle touring has been around for a long time and Kristin is a veteran.
Since 2013 she has been making custom touring bags under the name Gramm. These are bags which bridge a gap between traditional touring and bikepacking bags. Bike luggage that stands up to the rigours of rough terrain riding; they are made using the many years of knowledge that Kristin has on the subject.
For those entering the world of custom bicycles that are capable of multiple disciplines like road, gravel, touring; it is a natural step to have a set of bags that can match the bike. Not only do the colours match; but also the exact diameters of the frame as well as the contents you want to place inside.
Fern began life like many other great companies; born out of the desire to create something better. Two friends and fellow design students Flo and Phillip were brought together through their love of cycle touring, but neither were satisfied with the bikes that were on offer.
Their friendship was cemented after touring together along the Baltic coast; through Poland, Kaliningrad, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland before making their way back to Berlin. The trip started the seed of a bike that would later become their signature frame ‘Chacha’ – a light and fast tourer that doesn’t sacrifice strength.
The prototype Cacha bikes would take them on another journey together through Eastern Europe; starting in Kraków and heading to Istanbul via Ukraine and Georgia.
With a number of frames now built by Fern; it is safe to say they are somewhat experts in the field of modern touring bikes.
Roughly translating into sea glass; the name Meerglass came from a trip to the Danish seaside when a piece of glass washed up onto the beach. The sea had smoothed and glossed it; nature had taken something and made it beautiful. This interaction was to form the basis of Thomas Becker’s approach to frame building and nobody can deny that his bikes are anything but beautiful.
Adopting a more traditional aesthetic than his workshop buddies at Fern; Becker creates bikes that are more akin to traditional randonneurbikes except with all the modernisations that one would expect.
If you happen to find yourself in Berlin during Spring be sure to visit the Berliner Fahrradschau and you can see what Gramm, Fern and Meerglass have created!