My favourite orange hexagonal airport is closing this week, almost a decade after the original date, making way for the highly blah, much delayed, extremely suss new airport south of the old Flughafen Schönefeld which opened in the middle of a pandemic.
Living in Wedding, we could get to the airport in a few minutes by bus — even quicker for the taxi drivers who knew the tree-lined shortcut along the canal. Yeah, it was old and creaky, but drop-off to boarding was the quickest and chillest of any airport I’ve been in. Coming in to land from the east across lakes and city I’d read the ground finding Wedding and Uferhallen as we descended. Even getting to the south of Berlin was lazy easy, bus to Hauptbahnhof and M41 to Kreuzberg and Neukölln.
Before this terminal was built in the ’60s, before it was a military airport and one used during the Berlin Airlift, it was home to the Royal Prussian Airship battalion. And before that, the artillery range when the Exercier Platz der Artillerie got pushed west into the Jungfernheide forest from near what’s now the corner of Seestr. and Iranische Str. (which had a different name back then).
Unlike the beautiful Tempelhofer Feld, which has so far avoided necrocapitalist property seizure and ‘development’ and remains an open field like it’s been for hundreds of years, Flughafen Tegel has had the money class salivating along with the government. And being Berlin and Germany, we know they’ll ruin it like they did Potsdamer Platz or the new Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg. It’s what money does.
I first flew from TXL in late-2008, I think, going to London and Whitstable. No photos of that except a grainy one of me returning at night, and I remember hating coming back to face a hard winter and poverty. A year later, Dasniya and I flew early morning to Brussels to work with Roméo Castellucci on the Wagner opera Parsifal. Deep geologic layers of frozen snow and air cold as sharp knives.
Remembering my favourite airport this week as it comes to a close.
Grey as fuck yesterday, rainy as fuck later in the week, pandemic and staring down the open throat of a lockdown again and here goes Berlin flashing her wares. Berlin is such the hard lover who occasionally does this.
That’d be me, Francesca d’Ath, and my toes, yesterday while biking to rehearsals.
Pandemic and very delayed sensible government response allowing, I’m performing at Sophiensaele next week. A double bill of two solos, the other with Claudia Tomasi, and both started with Isabelle Schad way back in January.
I don’t know if we’ll even get to perform next week, carrying on like we will, and it feels dead weird to be art-ing while shit goes exponential in Neukölln, Berlin, Germany, Europe … In case we don’t or if we do, here’s me looking well tasty.
And for everyone who saw that poster around Berlin-Mitte, yes, that is me, yes that person is trans femme and serving deep trans femme energy, and yes, even a glance at a poster of me will turn your children trans.
Still a better German Ring story than Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
Yes, I did buy a Nürburgring t-shirt and hoodie. Yes, the hoodie Ring is reflective. Yes, there is a future where I will spend silly money to do laps on the Nordschleife. Preferably at night in the rain.
24 hours with no racing from before midnight till eight in the morning. So much rain. 15.452 seconds between the 1st place Bimmer and the 2nd place Audi.
Charlie Martin coming in 57th and 4th in class, and racing first and last sessions.
And how diligent and unremarkable was all the mask wearing? Maybe it’s because drivers and crews are used to wearing things over their faces, but doing a transmission replacement in the wet at midnight and keeping those noses and mouths covered shows how basic and possible it is to Wear a Fucking Mask. And as soon as the winning driver was out of his car, there was someone there with a mask.
It’s so much easier and less bullshit if the rule is you have to wear a mask at all times, no exceptions. Everyone did it, very few noses exposed, everyone did it and not just for the cameras. Maybe it took the race organisers setting the rules and consequences which achieved this level of getting it right. Drivers and teams have a very strict set of non-negotiable race rules to adhere to, making this just one more rule to either follow or not race at all. Very comfortable with doing it like this.
I truly love this race, love the Nürburgring and love that in the middle of a pandemic they did the work to create this gorgeous bit of hoonage art.
Seven hours in. Night and rain and hydroplaning and attrition. Giti ladieswomen Girls Only team shredding a sikk as VW Golf VI GTI. Bad weather Red Flag, all the cars garaged and crews stripping and cleaning.
And the two old Brit geezer commentators shoutout to Charlie Martin. I have never heard motorsport commentators saying, “trans woman.” Ever. Barely ever are there cis women drivers, and from Bubba Wallace in NASCAR to Lewis Hamilton in F1 barely ever seen Black drivers. They got her pronouns right, they used her middle name, Christina, also, just in case Charlie was too unisex for us hoons, they got the terminology and context down too.
Any dickhead saying this isn’t relevant / leave politics out of sport / something something meritocracy / what’s that got to do with racing, on God I will call them a waahmbulance once I’ve sorted their ‘opinions’ with my mechanic baba’s Snap-On tools.
I’ve always been a hoon and loved motorsport. I’m already old cunt auntie and Charlie racing at Nürburgring 24h, being respectfully spoken about by the commentators, all that, is so fucking important.
Friday got me to the “It looks like a bike, dunnit?” stage, which was me lying to myself. Saturday was the real work of cutting brake and gear cables, and the horrorshow of setting up cantilever brakes. Sunday was “It’s gotta be rideable by 3pm, ’cos you gotta haul arse up to Wedding and see Dasniya perform.”
Sunday. Many videos of Calvin Jones of Park Tool later, a rideable bike.
So many ways to measure and fit a chain. So many ways to set up and index front and rear derailleurs. So many ways to wrap bar tape. So, so, so many videos on YouTube. Only one Calvin Jones.
And of course, not finished. Riding to Wedding and back rattled everything into place. The gears, they went *ching* like Kelis’ Milkshake. The brakes can throw me over the bars with one finger. Still a little skippy and noisy and squeaky though.
And the new riding position is a bit of work. I bought a fizik – or rather, fi’zi:k – Vento Argo R5 saddle ’cos the cutaway down the middle on my old one was nice but not in the right place, and this one is wider (for my weirdly spacious sitbones) and shorter, and very much does not stab me anywhere from butthole to pubic bone. I also bought fizik seat post and bar stem, ’cos I’ve loved using their bar tape the last couple of years. My new position is about the same length on the bar tops but slightly lower on the hoods and drops. This bike has always been a size or two too big for me, and getting low without getting stretched out or loosing the cyclocross agility I need has been a messy process, compounded by the shit cable routing for the front brake.
And today, with a very big box of discarded packaging, another box of old and destroyed bike parts, I decided to sort my drawers of bike shit. So much shit. So many old parts. I now have two drawers of very fucking highly organised and actually usable parts, two sets of serviced and ready to thrash wheels (one for cobbles and one for cyclocross), one sexy refurbished bike and pretty close to getting back out on some training rides.
It’s seen better days. Like the day before I bought it, for example. Original parts are now frame, forks, and handlebars. The latter I considered replacing as well this time but I like their fit and buying highly specialised fit stuff online without measuring and trying is a high risk activity for me.
So. First set of Fulcrum wheels rebuilt by me and bearings replaced in the shop ’cos I have not yet cried my way to spending 300€+ on a bearing press. Second set of Fulcrum wheels also rebuilt and laughing my way through flushing one set of grotty bearings and regreasing them ’cos I can’t afford another trip to the shop right now. Very tasty Challenge Chicane cyclocross tires on the former, with tan sidewalls (Which is high fashion. Allegedly.) and the Strada Bianca ones on the latter. Dead fucking sharp.
Old parts stripped from bike and in a box. New parts I’ve been collecting for months in another. Bike frame cleaned, much WD40 huffed, vague ennui slash sadness at the crappiness of the BB30 bottom bracket, which I considered replacing with an adaptor and a threaded one, which would mean a whole new set of cranks, which realistically isn’t a bad idea but fucking hell we’re very in “You spent new bike money on your old bike. Again!” territory right now, so, no, creaky fucking BB fucking 30 it is.
I did buy a chain whip and cassette remover ’cos I wanted to be able to swap the cassette between aforementioned dope as fuck wheels (“You could just swap the tires, Chica?” “I could just not? Dickhead!”) and woo! tools! My baba was very in the room yesterday. Not sure if he’s proud or confused about me, but he was very professionally interested in wtf I was doing.
Yesterday, then. Bike stripped and me all, “Fukken really? This again? Oh god why?” And today so far, past the grotty cleaning stage and starting the funtimes rebuilding stage, pretending the subsequent running and setting cables stage is no big deal and will not take me an upsetting amount of time.
My fingers and hands are serving high femme mechanic realness.
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:
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. Yah ’cos I’m particular, I checked how Google Forms works and it’s a deliberate two-step process to add an ‘Other’ checkbox.)
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.