Travel

Photos of Berlin's Brutal 'Bike War'

Just like Destruction Derby—but with bicycles.

by Christophe Gateau, Words by Matern Boeselager
Jun 30 2016, 12:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

The Berlin Bike Wars are what happens when grown-up punks play around with old bicycles and welding machines. It's a battle between crusts, fought every May atop their own creations at the Carnival of Subculture in Berlin's Kreuzberg district.

Twenty eight-year-old Sev is one of the co-founders of Bike Wars. The Dutchman is a professional welder, who has been lovingly spreading fear, terror, and bruises with his monster bike Pink Assassin for four consecutive years now. I talked to him about the myriad of ways in which Berlin's punks on bikes try to destroy each other.

VICE: What are the Bike Wars, exactly?
Sev: The Bike Wars are a competitive game. You build your own bike and then test how well you built it by trying to run down other homemade bikes. It's just like Destruction Derby—but with bicycles.

What are the rules?
There are different rules for different categories: Firstly, there's the Two-Wheel Battle, which includes normal bicycles. You can change whatever you want on your bike, with the exceptions being that each bike can only have two wheels, it should be driven by two peddles, there can only be one rider per bike, and they can't use any weapons.

The second category is called Tall Bike Jousting. Two people go at each other on tall bikes and the trick is to try to push the other guy off his bike using a lance. The third category is Big Machines. There aren't really any rules here—except that the bikes have to be driven by peddles. You have to try to break the other bikes without hurting the riders.

Is it dangerous?
There are always light injuries, but luckily nothing really bad has happened so far. It's a very demanding sport, though. Competitors are so sore afterwards, that they have to stay in bed for days.

How long have you guys been doing this?
The first Bike War in Berlin took place in 2006. But they've been doing it in New York and Copenhagen for much longer.

Is there any deeper meaning behind it all?
It's purely "come, build, destroy." The idea is that you put a lot of effort into building something really beautiful, but then you aren't afraid of losing it. There's deep meaning to that sentiment, but it's also just supposed to look spectacular.