CANYON ZCC eSports team Doing it Right(-er-ish)

I was semi-watching the GCN Show while doing my regular late-night lying on the floor stretching and mobilising work the other night. They were talking about the new Canyon ZCC eSports Development Squad. Not really my thing ’cos all the equipment for indoor training runs to thousands of euros, plus I need to be outside in the weather. But they cut to the application page and were scrolling down when I saw this:

  • Gender:
    • Male
    • Female
    • Other

And yes, I sat up and stopped the video and took a screenshot and had thoughts and feelings.

Canyon is a German bicycle brand that sponsors a number of teams and coincidentally, my fave rider, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. I’m not sure of their exact involvement in Canyon ZCC, whether they just sponsor, or whether they’re deeply involved in day-to-day organisation, but that little ‘Other’ with its additional field to write in what you want is a big deal.

The last years living in Berlin, I’ve done freelance money work in design / development for many agencies, organisations, companies, and so on. I have a pretty good familiarity with how things get done. This wouldn’t be some random person setting up the form who just stuck in that third option ’cos they felt like it. Something like this would be a discussion, one of those very German discussions, up and down the ‘flat hierarchy’ in meetings, everyone giving opinions, and someone(s) in the room very explicitly advocating for this and laying out the reasons why and planning for how things would proceed if one of the Dev Squad was non-binary or trans or intersex or ‘other’.

It’s a big deal and not something that happened accidentally. (Maybe it is, kinda doubt it and flexing my multiple experience here.)

I’ve written about this in cycling before, specifically in the Rapha Women’s 100 last year, and more broadly writing and talking about trans, intersex, and non-binary people, BIPOC, and ‘non-standard bodies’: fat, adaptive / dis- / differently abled, neurodiverse, in cycling and sports and dance. More recently, connecting the cycling industry with policing (thanks especially to Cyclista Zine) and its involvement in regimes like Merida and Bahrain.

Having this option is a very political choice, especially in the last few years when trans women and trans feminine people — as well as cis woman who don’t fit white cishet normative criteria, and trans men and mascs — are being attacked on multiple fronts from access to bathrooms to whether we can compete in sport to fundamentally if we should exist at all.

Contra that, there’s some frankly fascist attitudes towards what constitutes acceptable bodies in cycling, both as a professional sport and as a consumer lifestyle. And there’s a weird sliding between using acceptable and compliant trans and non-binary bodies (and using this word rather than talking about people and selfhoods) as both a progressive signifier and as a beard in making politics and governments palatable.

In the ’80s, South Africa was blacklisted from sport, and tours like Springboks to Aotearoa to play the All Blacks were met with riots and razors in the playing fields. Now, Israel Start-Up Nation is a regular on the start line and it’s all ‘keep politics out of sport’ and no one mentions Palestine.

So, how’s a trans or non-binary or ‘other’ person going to negotiate that? And yes, I’m putting this on these athletes as well as the organisation itself, rather than the cis athletes, specifically because our visibility too often necessitates a compromise, a sectioning off of who we are in order to participate.

I don’t even have answers to this anymore. It’s legitimate to want to bomb down mountains on a bike or thrash through mud and snow in winter for all the reasons it’s fun. And competition is part of that. It’s not possible for that fun to pretend it’s not part of a global crisis going back hundreds of years. And then, sometimes we have to silently participate in these systems just to survive.

Every athlete that ticks the ‘Other’ box and writes in their truth is doing something radical and putting their own existence on the line. I want to see them thrive doing what they love, and be exemplary for young ones who need to see themselves and their own possibilities. I want to see them have space to effect actual deep change. I’m not sure the cycling industry is anywhere near ready for that.

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Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado’s New Kit

Feels a bit weird to be celebrating something as superficially frivolous as new cycling kit at the moment. But it’s not.

Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado has been my favourite rider for what feels like years now, even though it’s probably only early-2018 I first saw her race, or maybe late-2017, and her winning the cyclocross World Championships at the start of February feels like years ago as well. I’ve been needing new kit for a while now (and a new bike, and an old bike rebuild), and been holding off ’cos kit is mad expensive and none of what I saw really grabbed me, both aesthetically as well as in terms of what it means.

I have no idea how she might see someone like me, what her position is on trans femmes and trans women competing in the women’s section. And I have no idea what her position is on Black Lives Matter, or even if she has the space and support to have an unambiguously public one. But I do know young Black and Brown girls and women see her lining up first row of the start line every week, see her race and win (back when those things actually happened) in the Rainbow jersey, and see themselves, see possibilities for themselves and people like them. That shit matters.

I was 💯 Shut Up And Take My Money! the instant I saw her kit and everyone I’ve shown it to is 😍.

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Tempelhofer Feld Rain-Assisted Physical Distancing

I didn’t mean to get soaked. 10/10 had a good time tho. Bike wasn’t so happy during but got a wash and clean out of it at the end.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Teltow Kanal and Ehemalige Autobahnbrücke Dreilinden

I’ve ridden over that bridge many times, the last in the damp grey drizzle on Tag der Deutschen Einheit when I totally over-extended myself (seems to be a theme?). This is the first time I’ve seen it from this direction, coming along the very sandy, loose, dusty and full of exposed roots single track from Schleuse Kleinmachnow. One of my favourite parts of the Mauerweg and in general to ride and eventually I’ll stitch together a whole — multiple whole routes from those glorious cobbles up Rudower Straße all the way to those cobbles up Wannseestraße. Simple pleasures involve getting thrashed on cobbles and slithering around on single track.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Friederikenhofstraße North to Großwohnsiedlung Waldsassener Strasse

It was way more bright yellow and intense blue. And that’s not a small house on the prairie, that’s a very large apartment block over the horizon.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Forest on Ziethener Straße near Mahlower Seegraben

Another Sunday another practicing of Physical Distancing.

After the last weeks’ fun, I wanted to find some lanes and tracks like the ones around Groß- and Kleinziethen and Friederikenhof. Failed spectacularly. Apparently Großbeeren is the drain I circulate around and end up in fun places like Neubeeren or on the drag through Ruhlsdorf to Teltow.

The first third was a joy, hitting cobbles at 30+km/h obviously, and there’s so many new cobbles to be found (Keplerstr and around thank you very much), and new lanes and single track and generally incredibly pretty and very empty of people, and for some reason the people around there are reliably friendly. The second third was mostly a mess riding on 70km/h roads through industrial parks and joyless towns like Teltow. But! I knew the canal was nearby and kept veering right into the forest when it finally appeared and I knew I was more or less back on track and found the most glorious, incredibly sandy single track running from Scheus Kleinmachnow all the way to the Ehemalige Autobahnbrücke Dreilinden, putting me back for a moment on the Berliner Mauerweg. As one old German woman out for a stroll with her husband said, “Ha ha it’s like a sea! A sea of sand!” as I skidded and slid in all directions on tires and tire pressure very much not for sand.

More cobbles and the truly brutal short climb up Wannseestraße, then more (non-cobble) suffering up and down Nikolskoer Weg and Pfauenininselchausee the roads getting busier all the time with very distinctly not ‘social distancing’ and finally onto the most boring part of the ride, which road cyclists love, which proves they are a boring and unimaginative bunch, the blandness of Königstraße followed by the monotonous straightness through Grünewald. There was an utter mob on Spanische Allee outside AVUS-Treff Spinner-Brücke, hundreds of all-white bros in black leather on their garbage wagon Harleys doing the same white trash shit as their brethren in the US, strutting their ‘right’ to gather and super-spread while the cops looked on doing nothing in the way they always do when it’s right wing white people they’re being ordered to police.

And the ride back into the city, hitting every red light because the lights are timed for cars moving at fifty and not bikes moving at any speed less. I over-extended myself a bit and defo was feeling it when I got home, even with all the liquid and rice cakes I took. And this might be my last long ride for a while because here comes Ramadan which, like always, I never know if I’ll do until it’s done.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Ziethener Straße near S-Bahn

Practicing Physical Distancing again, Part 2. On the sandy old road of Ziethener Straße that becomes a very sandy, frictionless slide of singletrack running parallel to the S-Bahn on the way back to my happy place, those 1200 metres of cobbles along Mozart and Petkusser Straßen. I was having a very good time here, and my only other thought was, “One bidon of electrolyte and a banana is slightly on the thin side for three hours.”

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Berliner Mauerweg: Ziethener Straße near Mahlower Seegraben

Practicing Physical Distancing again by going for a ride south of the Berliner Mauerweg ’cos it was getting like an outdoor festival along that stretch. Like the virus takes Easter off ’cos, “I respect Jesus when he’s harrowing Hell. Also, bunnies!”?

Plan for the day was around 60 kilometres of riding, following the Mauerweg all the way to the Canal in Lichterfelde and then reversing, mainly ’cos I like riding the roads and trails around Großziethen and want to explore them more, and ’cos the thought of hitting the Mozartstraße cobbles twice. Twice! Today would have been Paris-Roubaix and on the Sunday in Hell we worship cobbles. Plan got bailed on at Marienfelder Allee. I’d already been thinking of finding an alternate route back with all the people, but crossing that highway, both sides of the street lined with people on bikes all jammed up together. 0/10 partaking in that wilful stupidity.

South then, which I kinda know, ’cos I rode through Großbeeren a couple of times before, and was all, “I know here, I think I got lost here,” and fanging eastwards at Frederikenhof (which is on the opposite side of the fields I photographed last week), and riding the prettiest old roads and trails, heading back to those cobbles. There’s another photo, saving that for the next post, just before I turned north on the so sandy it’s a beach without the ocean singletrack, going parallel to the S-Bahn. Much slippy slidey and nearly kissing the floor once. Very wrong tires and tire pressure for that kind of fun. Still fun.

Those cobbles again, hitting them at speed, in the big ring and in a slightly harder gear and just floating over them. Very vibrational floating, but ooh yeah does cobbles riding come alive when you’re going fast. And then on to Kleinziethen (near Großziethen, duh!), and finding the way back to Rudow I’d meant to ride out on. More pretty roads and turning onto Rudower Straße, hitting 3 kilometres of tiny cobbles. I could have ridden the asphalt bike path, or the asphalt bike strip on the shoulder. No, I couldn’t. Bit of a killer in the end, just on and on and getting drained and it was a warm sunny day also, not my ideal riding weather at all, and by the time I was hauling down Neuköllner / Rudower Str. / Buschkrugallee / Karl-Marx-Str. I was feeling it. Not feeling it so much I couldn’t destroy a bro on a fancy gravel bike who tried to chick me at every set of lights from Rudow to Teltow Kanal. Every set of lights. And started shouting at me ’cos apparently chick going faster than bro make bro sadangry? And by ‘destroy’ I mean kept the same pace I’d been on the whole time. Okay, a tiiiny bit extra pace. I’m petty like that.

And photo. Physical Distancing. You may be able to see some people in the distance.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Fields West of Lichtenrade

Part three of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.

This photo is never going to do justice to the insane yellow-green of the fields, or the empty flat expanse, and if you look really really really close, you’ll see a few people wandering out in it. This was just before I turned off the Mauerweg and took a guess at how to get back to Neukölln. Favourite way of riding, that. So long as the sun was more-or-less behind me, I was going home. My bike’s in truly terrible condition these days, two years now since the last rebuild and I’ve done something like 12,000 kilometres and some of the components have done way more than that. But it’s amazing how it just keeps going (until it doesn’t hahahaha not funny when I’m in the middle of nowhere).

Yes, this is work. I’m still a dancer, and doing ballet barre at home and all the yoga and core and other work is part of it, but doing this kind of physical labour is necessary for me. It feels like after more than twenty years of this, if I stop I’ll fall apart. And I’m very aware of the luxury I have (despite being poor and all the other caveats) to do this, now especially. Let’s talk about Gaza, or white French doctors proposing testing Coronavirus vaccines in Africa, and casually dehumanising a whole continent in the same sentence they do the same to sex workers. Or the massive increase in racism, Islamophobia and Asianphobia (dunno if that’s quite a word but it’s defo a thing), simultaneous with governments pushing through anti-transgender legislation and utterly destroying the arts.

I loved biking through and around Großziethen for the third time in as many weeks and loved seeing so many Muslimah women and families out there. I feel very much calmer getting into Brandenburg seeing them and knowing it’s not all Naziland like Zeuthen was when I last biked that scary town. And as I came back into Neukölln, I saw gangs of cops out, five or six of them at a time, all white, all in stab-proof vests and heavy gear, and all of them doing the intimidation act and harassing brown boys. Yeah, don’t think we haven’t seen that fuckery get dialled up in every country in the last few weeks. It was a good ride, but it’s never not political like this. Every time I go out, it’s political.

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Berliner Mauerweg: Mozartstraße Cobbles

Part two of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.

Going clockwise from Neukölln, it’s all pretty cushy up till Lichtenrade – the whole Mauerweg is pretty cushy, just the distance and very varied surfaces. Around Lichtenrade is the first (optional but not really ’cos we’re here for it) single-track, hard-packed sandy earth alongside fields, shortly after which rail lines cut the Weg and it’s a two-ish kilometre detour into the very pretty and very expensive-looking, most southern suburb of Berlin, along some of the roughest cobbles I’ve ever had the pleasure of being pounded in the arse by. (Hands are not so thrilled with the pounding, but suck it up, hands.)

It’s quite difficult in a photo to make cobbles look as gnarly as they really are, and this final section, looking back up Mozartstraße. from the corner of Beethovenstraße is the smoothest of the lot. And maybe I’ve been riding cobbles so much that I’ve got used to them and know how to ride them, and my memory is more of the thrashing I received the first time than how far from flat and smooth they really are. Anyway, I always wanted to photograph them to remember how much fun I have on them. And every time I hit some cobbles I think there should be a Spring Classic in Berlin, touring the cobbles. This lot would be in, the brutal cobble hill on Wannseestraße by Griebnitzsee also, and the hilariously rough and slippery and corner-y and defo scary when it’s wet and there’s any velocity involved Jägersteig in the forest of Waldgelände Frohnau at the far north of Berlin. Cobbles. Better than asphalt.