A German woman’s bicycle dream

 

http://www.natooke.com/ 

 

NATOOKE, the shop opened by Ines Brunn, locates in Wudaoying Hutong near the Lama Temple.

Photo by Jia Zhao

 

Ines Brunn rides her bike with face mask.   Photo by Jia Zhao 

 

Ines and her fixed gear shop.   Photo by Jia Zhao

 

Ines Brunn is now hailed as “The Bicycle Queen” among fans.   Photo by Yuan Quan

 

 

  A German woman’s 

 

  bicycle dream

 

 

By Jia Zhao, Yuan Quan and Zhang Jiping

CHINA FEATURES TRAVEL

 

 

Ines Brunn

 

 

For many Beijing residents, bicycles are simply tools for daily transportation. But for Ines Brunn, a German woman who has spent almost a decade in the Chinese capital, bicycles are the bond connecting her to China.

In a widespread online video, the blonde does a handstand on a bike seat and stands on the handlebars for several seconds.

With both physical strength and artistic elegance, her amazing skills impress the audience, earning her the nickname “The Bicycle Queen” among fans.

Back in 2001, when she first visited China on a business trip, she found that her beloved bicycles were becoming less popular in the country once called the “Bicycle Kingdom.”

Brunn noticed that ordinary people were dreaming about cars rather than bicycles. Some even looked down on those riding bikes as too poor to afford a car. Bicycle lanes had been narrowed down to give way to more cars.

“It was the wrong direction and I wanted to make a difference,” said Brunn.

In 2004, she decided to settle down in Beijing and promote bicycle sports in her spare time.

She would go to a park every weekend to demonstrate acrobatic bicycle skills, which she mastered with training and the right type of bicycle.

Brunn rides what is called a fixed-gear bike, a type of bike with no freewheel. Whenever the fixed-gear bike’s rear wheel turns, the pedals also turn in the same direction.

Fixed-gear bikes are often attractive and one-of-a-kind, since they can easily be assembled by DIY enthusiasts.

In 2009, Brunn quit her previous job and started a whole new bicycle career.h She launched a fixed-gear website for Chinese people and opened a fixed-gear shop and club named NATOOKE near the Lama Temple.

The name “Natooke” comes from a type of green-colored banana from Uganda called “Matooke” and was the result of a brainstorm by Brunn’s friends.

“The word sounds funny and environmentally friendly, and the two ‘o’s look like bicycle wheels,” said Brunn.

Four years later, her employees have grown from 2 to 15, and she has opened a branch of her store in southwest China and contracted with factories to make bike parts with the NATOOKE trademark.

Though fixed-gear bikes have grown from a little-known concept into a popular trend, some people still believe the bikes have no brakes and are dangerous.

Brunn said she makes sure all bicycles sold in her shop have brakes installed.

“Fixed-gear bikes are not dangerous but, rather, safe and easy to control. When you ride, you may feel very close to the bike, and you will get addicted,” said Brunn.

To clear up these misconceptions, she has engaged the media and participated in talent shows to share the pleasure of riding with more people.

Brunn said she is happy the fixed-gear sport is growing fast with more participation by youth and ordinary people.

Over 1,000 bike enthusiasts from around the country made their way to Beijing for the Fixed Gear Open this August, which Brunn started and is now the biggest fixed-gear bike event in China.

But what excites her most is discovering that more people are returning to two wheels when they go out today, and she believes that every person riding a bike rather than driving means less harm to the environment.

Not only is the number of cyclists growing, but more bikes are available for rent near subway stations, and bicycle lanes are expanding.

“I think I succeeded!” said Brunn, with a sense of pride.  

 

 

 

 

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