Fern is a touring bicycle and component manufacturer based in Berlin (Germany), founded by two travelling cyclists / design graduates – Flo and Phillip – who after thousands of kilometers on the road together wanted to put their touring experience into making their own practical and beautiful bikes for fellow travellers. Fern was born out of friendship, a shared lust for adventure, and curiosity. Their signature bike is the ‘Chacha’ – named after a Georgian Mountain Schnapps; a story or two behind that no doubt.
Back in 2006 I (Flo) headed off on my first big journey by bike: from Budapest to Istanbul. Equipped with my old mountain bike from my teenage years (which had just one working brake and 8 dodgy gears) and a totally insufficient sleeping bag I rode 2700km through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to Istanbul. I had no idea about what incredible nature and beauty I would encounter, the landscapes I would ride through, and I was definitely not prepared for all the friendliness and hospitality I’d experience along the way. This trip changed my thinking and, in the end, the course of my life.
In the very same year I met Phillip, a fellow design student at the FH Potsdam, who had recently discovered the joys of travelling by bike too – he had just got back from a 3700km cycle tour between Malaga and Berlin; we were both heavily infected with the travel bug and seriously hooked on the cycle-of-wanderlust.
Soon we made plans for the next trip, and just a few months after we first met, we were back in the saddle exploring the beautiful shorelines of the Mare Balticum: riding from Berlin through Poland, Kaliningrad, Riga, Tallinn, St. Petersburg to Helsinki and back to Berlin. The foundation of our friendship was well and truly established on this Eastern European journey and in the following years we shared more and more kilometres together. All the hours and 30,000km+ in the saddle on all these tours meant that we had a lot of time to think about what could be done better, both in terms of touring bikes and our touring equipment, and everything we believed could be improved we tried to make work better. Our understanding of bikes grew over the years and we constantly improved our own setups up to one final barrier: the bike frame. The frame always remained a given part that we had to choose from what was on the market, but often, the production frames were still not quite what we were searching for: light and fast, but still robust and reliable touring frames.
As a result, Flo immersed himself deeper into his research and after a while the first vision of what was to become our signature ‘Chacha’ frame began its journey. He took the best of what the ingenious French frame builders like René Herse and Alex Singer had developed over 5 decades ago and integrated his own modern touches, to satisfy the demands of real world adventure cycling today. Then, as fate sometimes dictates, he stumbled into a bicycle frame builder from Potsdam who was about to shut his business down and who sold all his tools to him. Flo seized this chance and opened his first workshop in Leipzig, busying himself learning the secrets and techniques of frame building…
The Black Sea Tour | Testing FERN’s first bikes
Following a hard year exchanging the designers pencil for torch and file learning how to work metal, the first two prototypes of the Fern ‘Chacha 26-inch’ were ready for testing. So, in the Summer of 2012 we went on a trip which took us almost all the way around the Black Sea. Starting in Krakow in Poland we cycled through Ukraine, all the way down through Moldova, and back into Ukraine where we took a boat to Georgia. After a little round trip through wonderful ‘Grussia’, we rode into the Caucasus Mountains, crossing the Turkish borders. Cycling on the incredibly scenic rural mountain roads in the Turkish backcountry we made it back eventually to the Black Sea in Samsun, enjoying riding next to the warm black water all the way on the old coastal road to our final destination, Istanbul. Again.
Sitting by the Bosporus – the strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia – again, sipping on our Cay, six years after Flo’s first arrival here on his old mountain bike really felt like we had made ends meet. Now we had both travelled here on our first self-made Fern cycle touring bikes which performed extremely well on the sometimes very rough roads that led us there…
Fuelled with motivation and strong belief in the future of Fern we headed back to Germany, moving from Leipzig to Berlin into a nicer and bigger workshop. Phillip soon joined Flo in the company to support him in all photographic, visual and marketing aspects of Fern. New bikes and components such as special racks, stems and handlebars were developed in order to constantly improve the experience and joy of bicycle touring. Our friend and fashion designer Kristin joined the workshop to open her own studio and start ‘Paks’ which focuses on custom touring luggage. With Kristin joining us we’re once again a little step further on our dream to offer a perfectly working, completely custom and handmade cycle-touring setup for travelling cyclists…
The FERN 'Chacha' Touring Bike
Fern’s long distance frame: classic shape, robust Columbus tube set, fillet brazed. 26-inch (28-inch on request).
FERN | Behind the Scenes
Fernbuch #1 | Black Sea Tour
On our Black Sea tour, Phillip had taken pictures and kept a diary of all our memories from such a fantastic journey. From these stories, he collate the very first Fernbuch – a book packed with amazing impressions of what touring life on the road can be. If you want to know more and why the ’Chacha’ was finally named after a Georgian Mountain Schnapps, make sure to get yourself a copy and read the whole story.
This is definitely a project we aim to repeat after our next cycle touring adventure. Look out for Fernbuch #2 soon…