An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The World's Greatest Fixie Rider, Unveiled: Ines Brunn! The PFN Interview

A couple of months ago, we discovered an amazing video of a woman doing mad tricks on a fixie. We instantly dubbed her the world's greatest fixie rider, and pledged to you, Constant Reader, that we would find out who she was, where she lived, and what type of beverage you could buy her if you ever met her in a bar.

Today, we can report back that we our mission was successful in every way. Her name is Ines Brunn, she lives in Beijing, China, and she may be the only German we've ever met who can't stand beer.

You have been called "the world's greatest 'fixie' bike rider." (Actually,
that was us who called you that!) How do you respond to that?

Very difficult to answer. As I am German (and Germans do not admit they are good, only when they really, really are the best in the world) and I have been living in China for almost 3 years (the country where modesty is highly valued. Nowadays if a Chinese says my English is good, I automatically answer: “No it is not, it is very bad”) I have problems answering that.

I do not have a track bike yet, so all my tricks are done on a fixed gear bike with a 1 to 1 gear ratio, that means I need my pedals to do a full turn so that the back wheel does a full turn. I think all the tricks I do on 1 wheel are more easy than trying to do them on a track bike style fixie.

I am now looking for a track style bike so that I can use it to ride around Beijing and do tricks on it. If I am able to master all my tricks on that style of bike, then I would accept to be called the worlds greatest “fixie’ bike rider.

How old are you now, and when did you start riding a bike?

Now I am 31. Not sure how I old I was when I started riding a bike, I was too small to remember. But I only started doing tricks on a bike at the age of 13.

What was your first bike?

I have no idea what my first bike was. My first trick bike (a fixed gear bike with gear ratio of 1 to 1, so nothing for riding fast) was made by a small company in Germany called Walter. My next two trick bikes were from a bigger German company called Langenberg. But all my frames were broken so often so (yes the frame braking at various points where the tubes meet) that I asked a guy I met to build an extra stable frame for me. His small company is called Norwid and that is my best trick bike.

How did you get started doing tricks?

I used to do gymnastics. At the age of 13 I stopped gymnastics and was looking for some new sport. A friend said I should come with her to a unicycling place. I was very reluctant, because from what she was telling about it sounded really boring. I did go and as expected they were only riding unicycles in circles (which is very boring). Then a lady came and started doing tricks on a bike. I immediately said “That is my new sport”. I started right away and love it till today.

And you probably got the moral: “Sometimes you have to just do things that you expect to be a waste of time to find the right thing.”

Were you an elite gymnast?

Well, I am not sure what you call an “elite gymnast.” But, yes I have been doing competitive gymnastics since around 6 or 7 years old. In Germany I was on the state team of Bavaria but only once qualified for a national level competition. At the age of 13 I decided to change to a different sport and by pure chance found the trick biking. I still continued gymnastics till the age of 28 on a voluntary level with small fun competitions now and then. In China I thought it would be easy to find a place to continue gymnastics, but I was proven wrong. Only places I found were for children, not for old women like me!

What kinds of competitions have you been in?

Artistic bicycling is a sport where you need to do tricks according to a book, you can choose up to 28 tricks and you have to show them within 6 minutes and do them exactly as they are described in the book. This is a German sport which also some other European nations do. I have not seen any Americans do it. In artistic bicycling I was competing up to National level up to the age of 28. I was a member of the German National team for about 10 years. I did a huge amount of competitions.

What brand of bike do you ride? Is it a custom bike? What type of wheels,
hubs, fork, handlebars, gearing, etc?

I now ride a Norwid bike. I had problems with the bikes before so I asked a guy to custom make one. He makes street race bikes and tandems, but never built a fixed gear bike before. I bought the wheels, the handlebar, the pedals and pedal hub and the chain from Langenberg, the saddle from Walter. I told Norwid to make the most stable frame so that it does not break at the points where the bars meet together. And I requested bigger bars for more stability. I cannot remember where he got the fork from, as I needed a straight-blade fork with no rake. The wheels are 24 inches and the front wheel can handlebar spin freely (well it is quite tight, but it can spin). The frame geometry is similar to my other trick bikes. That bike was built in 2000.
But with me in China, I have only my Langenberg bike. It was built in 1994 but I bought it second hand in 1998.

Do you do other types of cycling -- road-biking, BMX, mountain biking?

Here in Beijing I use a "normal“ bike to get to work every day, except for the seldom times when I use in-line skates. I have a secondhand bike I bought for about US$10. It is falling apart, but the repair in China costs about 20 cents (US) so no need to buy a new bike. I never possessed a mountain bike, but in Germany I did do a few mountain bike rides with friends, me using my normal bike. I also rode 8 days through the alps (also on my normal bike). I definitely am a bike enthusiast, but not a nerd (yet). I am looking forward to having a track bike.

We hear you enjoy wine. What are your favorite varietal grapes, vintages, vintners, and wine regions? Do you like a full-bodied red, say, or a citrusy white? You seem like maybe a Prosecco kind of person!

Yes, I enjoy wine a lot. My taste of wine changes over time. I used to love the full-bodied red with strong barrique taste. Then I started to fall for the wines from Piemonte (a region in Northern Italy). They have great Barolo and Barbaresco wines that I think are outstanding. Lately I suddenly prefer to drink a white wine. E.g. a good Riesling from Germany (yes there are some really good ones) or an Arneis from Piemonte. Sure in a bar it maybe best to go for a standard Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Unfortunately, wine in China is not so easy. They do import foreign wines, but you have to pay for it. And the bottle might have not been treated well on the journey. China is doing better and acquiring knowledge of how to make good wines. But still till you get the bottle in your restaurant in Beijing it might have been kept in a standing position (which makes the cork dry out and then let air in which then makes the wine turn bad), or it might just have been transported in a truck across china with no cooling (so same: dry cork = even the best wine turns bad).

Do you like beer at all?

No. There are two things I cannot drink: Beer and bubbly mineral water with gas. Both of them are what a typical Germans drink the whole day.

They still drink beer all day? Awesome! How much training do you do today, and how much did you do when you were learning? Do you regularly develop new tricks?

Well nowadays due to lack of an appropriate place and less time, I hardly find time. Especially with rain as that prevents me from being able to train outdoors. When I was really doing this intensely, I used to train about three times from Monday to Friday about two hours each and then almost every weekend did some intense training or went to competitions. Now with all my business travel it is much harder to keep on training. I do not really learn many more amazing tricks nowadays.
But I want to have a track bike and transfer all my tricks to that bike and learn the skidding, that seems to be very cool.

What's the worst crash you've ever had?

That is hard to say. There are different levels of “worst.” From the handstand it is never nice to fall, as you always fall head first and have no mechanism to try to get away from the bike. I crashed from my handstand once on a German Championship which made me only get 10th place. I also fell off stages, the worst was doing a headstand. I fortunately did not break anything. I had a bad crash while trying a full front handlebar spin with me standing on top. After that I never was able to manage the full turn, only 180 degrees. The last crash was this May, just 8 days before I was to fly to New York City for the Bicycle Film Festival. I broke my big toe because I fell into the spokes while trying my saddle stand on grass. But thank god I am in China. I went to my Chinese therapist and said I have to be able to walk and do tricks on a bike by next week and he massaged my toe. And I was able to perform in NYC.

Do people ever say you should wear a helmet, to set a good example to
children? What do you say to them?

In Germany I did not do much in the streets. Here in China nobody has a helmet and they would also wonder why you are wearing such a strange thing if I were to wear one.

You live in Hamburg. Do you eat hamburgers or wear a Homburg hat? (Ha ha,
that's a joke.)

I used to live in Hamburg. That was when I was working for the particle accelerator doing physics research. Now I live in Beijing, China. That is one of the best places to be right now. The Olympics are coming up and everybody is excited. I am a candidate for carrying the Olympics torch. If you want to support me, please vote for me at this website.

What's your day job, and how do you make it work with your cycling?

I work for an American company called JDSU as the Business Development manager for Asia-Pacific. We are a leading company providing test equipment for the telecommunication industry. I am based out of Beijing so that I am closer to our customers. For business, I have to travel to all countries in Asia and also to Australia and New Zealand. My business travel has become slightly less, in 2005 and 2006 I was on the road about three quarters of my time. Therefore it is hard to keep up with a sport where I need equipment, like a bike.

Bicycling seems to be growing hugely in Europe and the USA. Cyclists
everywhere are saying it's good for the planet and good for the person. What
do you think about that?

I am a convinced bicyclist. I used bikes as much as possible in Germany. The only car I ever bought in my whole life was a Ford camping van that I used for 3.5 years until I left to go to China. Here I do not have a car and do not want a car. I am much faster on bike.

If you think of Beijing as the capitol of bikes, unfortunately that is a myth. Today Beijing has cars over cars. (Since 2004 the official number of daily new cars on the roads of Beijing is 1000, that is 1 million new cars on the roads in 3 years!) Rush hour is like 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours long in the evening. A complete catastrophe. And: The Chinese love it! They think I am the one who is crazy. Me being a western foreigner having enough money to buy something other than a bicycle is cycling around the city every day. They all do not understand why I do not buy a car. They spend a lot of time in traffic jams. After over two years of me trying to explain to the Chinese why I love my bike they finally accept that I rather ride on a bike for 25 min than stand in traffic jams for 45 min just to get to the office. But they think it still makes no sense that I have a regular bike, they all say I must have enough money to at least buy an electric bike where I would not have to pedal.

The concept of "environmentally friendly" and just "enjoying riding" is too far away for them. They just want to taste luxury. I hope in the next 10 years they will start to understand.

What do you tell children who tell you they want to be just like you? Talent
or hard work?

I tell them they have to work out and have endurance to keep on doing it over long time. You cannot learn tricks from one day to the next, or at least not the difficult ones.

All photos (C) copyright Ines Brunn, used with kind permission.


decay said...

Ouch! I love this woman... can you hook me up? China's not that far...

Anonymous said...

Pinchie, you're so reserved. You left out the one question we all wanted to know...

Has Ines ever done any nude photos? And where can we fans find them? Surely Playboy, or Penthouse or maybe German Playboy or Puritan or Swedish Erotica or something like that for God's sake!!!

With her beauty and talent it's inevitable that some enterprising editor or photog would approach her with an amazing offer.

You can't have her Decay you perv! I get her!

Thanks for the great interview Ines (and you too Pinchie!)

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