|The museum is on the top floor
With the departure of the troops and nothing much in the way of industry or agriculture, Zossen-Wünsdorf looked to new ways to survive. It offers tours of sections of the huge old bunkers, along with a great number of used books. It is categorized as a “Bücherstadt,” or “Book City,” such as the much more famous Hay-on-Wye in England, but it also refers to itself as a “Bunkerstadt.” There is what appears to be an unsuccessful restaurant seeking new management and a small art gallery and village centre, along with some souvenirs. Above the art gallery there is a sign made from an old bicycle fork and we figured this was where the bike museum should be.
|Billboard outside the museum
|The bike racing museum is above the gallery
|Bruno Roth's Wanderer
|Diamant Road Bikes (1924, rear and 1940, front)
|Close-Up of Schur's Diamant
The Peace Race, known as the Course de la Paix or, to the German, the Internationale Friedensfahrt, was the Soviet Bloc’s answer to the Tour de France and clearly the most important race in Mitteleuropa. Beginning in 1948 on a route from Warsaw to Prague, it included East Germany in its itinerary in 1952. One of the highlights that year and in subsequent editions was the inclusion of a brutal little climb in Meerane, a small town in Saxony. The “Steiler Wand” (“Steep Wall”), as it came to be known, is 342 m in length and averages an 11 per cent gradient.
The race (won by the above-noted Täve Schur in 1955 and 1955) was an event for “amateurs” which continued in that form until 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. Its subsequent history was a gradual decline as East Germany, Russian and other cyclists migrated to Western professional teams and competed in the Tour and other big name races and the final edition, after an uninterrupted 57 year run, was in 2005.
|Peace Race Display
|Wreath for the winner of the 1960 Peace Race: note the DDR "Hammer-and-Compass" insignia
A section of the museum is dedicated to the four man team that won the silver medal at the 1960 Olympics in the Four Man Pursuit event on the track. Althought the Italians were supreme in cycling at the games that year, the East Germans (competing as part of the combined East-West team) won silver on the track and on the road (Täve Schur leading his four man time trial team); as well, a West German, Dieter Gieseler, won silver in the 1 km track event. In addition to the various Olympic certificates, jerseys and photos, the museum also has an impressive silver trophy awared to the pursuit team when the riders set a world record of 4:32.8 at the Vigorelli Velodrome on October 26, 1959.
|1959 Trophy for World Record in Team Pursuit
Positioned next to Falk Boden’s Colnago is an evil-looking all-carbon FES time trial bike which was ridden by Jan Schur (son of the inevitable Täve) to a gold medal in the 100 km team time trial at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, bringing the family haul of medals to a complete set of gold, silver and bronze. FES, which is an abbreviation of the less-snappy Institut für Forschung und Entwicklung von Sportgeräten, was established in 1962 in Berlin by the East Germans as a research and development institute dedicated to sports equipment. It continues to operate today financed by the Federal Republic. It began working on bicycle technology in the 1970s and in 1984 produced its first carbon disc wheel. FES is involved in a wide range of sports projects, including speed skating and kayaking.
|1983 Colnago Master (left) and 1988 FES Time Trial Bicycle (right)
The museum is worth going through slowly as there are lots of interesting artifacts, including plenty of signed jerseys from German stars. Here is one from Jen Voigt; another from Erik Zabel. But some of the stories are a bit more obscure. I was very much taken with a lovely silver Rickert track bike hanging from the ceiling. It had a big sign on it and I was delighted to learn of the bike’s Canadian connection:
|Rickert Track Bike
Heinz Dieter Reinhold lived in West Berlin until immigrating to Canada in the mid-1960s. Shortly thereafter, legendary Dortmund framebuilder Hugo Rickert constructed this track bike for him and it was brought to Canada by Gussi Kilian, son of Germany’s famous track star Gustav Kilian, who was then retired but serving as a coach on the West German national team. Reinhold competed in seventeen Six Day Races, placing well although never enjoying outright victory, and rode in races in Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Delhi, Ontario before retiring from racing in 1973. He returned to Germany and the Rickert continued to see service as Reinhold was a trainer at the track in Kaarst-Büttgen, near Düsseldorf.
|Bernd Drogan's World Championship Time Trial Bike
|1989 Rund um Berlin winner's certificate: 210 kms in 5:15:27
|Rund um Berlin jerseys
The final part of the museum tells the story of Rund um Berlin, the oldest German road race with its start in 1896 and, sadly, extinct since 2008. The race had national signficance primarily and was only won three times by non-Germans but the winners’ ranks include, yes, Täve Schur, Erik Zabel, Jan Ullrich, Olaf Ludwig and Robert Bartko, as well Wolfgang Lötzsch, who was probably the DDR’s finest cyclist in the 1980s but denied opportunity to compete in big races for his refusal to join the Party and contacts with the West.
|Rund um Berlin Trophy
Rund um Berlin ran uninterrupted, with the exception of the war years, from 1896 until 2000 and then a final time in 2008. The museum has posters, jerseys, photos, certficates and medals spread out over the entire time of the race. Included is a trophy that is apparently modeled on Lady Godiva, probably the only nude-woman-with-long-hair-on-a-horse trophy ever awarded for cycle sport. The first race originated in Zossen and made its way in a big loop completely around Berlin without ever actually entering the capital. Recently, a professional road race has returned to Berlin with the expansion of the Velothon gran fondo in May to include a pro race managed by Erik Zabel and won in 2011 by Marcel Kittel in its first edition.
|German national team jerseys
The museum also features memorabilia from cycling clubs in the region, which have a long and impressive history as well.
The museum was opened in September 2009 and I believe that much of the collection originates with its curator, sport journalist Werner Ruttkus. He has written a book about the numerous cycling World Championships that have taken place in Germany, as well as a book about the history of the BDR, the national cycling organization. As a personal collection, the museum is impressive but visitors should not expect much interpretive presentation. The difficulty of any bicycle-focused museum is the problem in conveying the speed and excitement of racing in a static display of artifacts. Some big-screen videos of historic races or interviews with stars would help but I suspect the museum is not really equipped to invest in this kind of thing. Wünsdorf is not an obvious place for a cycling museum (Herr Ruttkus lives there) and the surrounding countryside is not necessarily going to bring in many passing cyclists. Inexpensive but modern media has not been used to promote the Radsportmuseum and it is not easily found on any lists of bicycle museums in Germany or even on search engines.There are questions about the continuing operation of the museum given the few visitors.
As a person with a good knowledge of the history of bike culture and races in Western Europe, I found the Radsport-Museum Wünsdorf to be well worth the visit and very informative about chapters in European racing that were new to me. See it if you can!
115806 Zossen/OT Wünsdorf
Tel: +49 (0) 33702) 9600
(Please note that the Website and all exhibits in the Museum are in German only)
Monday to Friday: 10:00-18:00
Saturday and Sunday: 11:00-17:00
(Tickets are 3 Euros each and can be bought at Haus-Oskar, across the street)