Beer with Ernst

Ernst [ern-st) Adjective used to express admiration when spotting a nice bike. Can also be used as an expression for “let’s bike” and when experiencing happiness while biking, often shouted out loud while a group of bikers are riding fast down Oslo’s streets. Ernst is also the name of a bicycle club, located in Oslo.

Text: Silje Strømmen
Photos: Even Suseg

We’re sitting in the living room of a high ceiling Oslo apartment at Uranienborg, surrounded by the gang: the 16 Ernst-club members. The story of how they all came to identify themselves with the name Ernst is somewhat coincidental.

- Philip used to work at this bakery down the street, and one day Ernst, the curator for modern art at the national gallery came in and introduced himself. He was just a really cool guy with a cool name. He was just so happy, so Philip became happy. Later we were out riding and we just started shouting the name Ernst. And then it just stuck.

The gang
When being introduced to the idea of featuring a bicycle club your first reaction is:

1. Oh, another road cycling club. That’s not really our thing.

2. A bicycle club that don’t do road cycling. What are they, 16?

3. Wait what, they are in their early to mid 20’s and just ride for fun? This could be interesting.

The reality though, is a group of sixteen mates bound together by the love of bicycling (or at least by the hatred of walking). Some are childhood friends; others have just joined in over the years and somehow they just make it work. How they got interested in biking varies. For Philip the bicycle interest took off after he found a bunch of stolen bikes in a creek and fished them out and put them back together. For him it’s never been about the sport (he hate sports), but rather the fascination with the bike as an object. For others it’s just about biking, and for some it’s about owning the bike.

- Recruiting hasn’t really been that hard. Some of us started riding road bikes and the rest of the gang would follow behind on city bikes. That turned out to be hopeless as they don’t really work, and they ended up buying some awesome racers and that was that, Håkon recalls.

Keeping the standard up But let’s just get one thing straight:

- We’re just a bunch of friends who would probably hang out regardless of the interest for riding.

The sentence hangs in the air for a moment.

- However, there has probably been some peer pressure to get a bike if you didn’t have one, the gang admits. Because let’s face it; it probably sucks to be the guy who always have to tag along by foot (or on a city bike) when everyone else is racing to the park (or the local pub for that matter).

- It’s not about having the coolest bike. If you can rock a bike that has seen its glory days, that’s cool. But if you can’t keep up, that’s when we have a problem.

Naturally everyone shouts “me” when being asked who has the most beautiful bike.

- We think they are all pretty nice. We keep the standard up, they announce. And one would think so with an average of two bikes each. Our current location reflects that. Bikes and frames in all shape and sizes are hanging from walls and occupying the narrow corridor connecting the high ceiling bedrooms to the kitchen. Five of the club’s members Christoffer, Adem, Morten, Simen and Håkon share the apartment, and since this is the only place that can fit all of the bikes they normally hang out here.

It doesn’t come as a surprise, that one of their favourite routes in Oslo starts at the apartment and goes along Bislet stadium and Josefines gate. That is just one of their favourite routes though, because the question ends in loud discussions (sixteen boys in a small room trying to get their opinion heard, just saying).

- We have many different favourite routes. We put our pride in finding the fastest way, and often split up if some of us have strong feelings about a particular route. The point is to prove that your choice was the fastest.

And that brings us to the subject of biking and Oslo. The best thing about riding bikes in the city is, unanimously, that you can get from one part of town to another in less than 20 minutes (I told you, they ride fast, ok?). They strive to use bikes as transportation everywhere, including when going out, something that can result in “some pretty hopeless trips home”. That would maybe explain the long pause following the question “what is your best bicycle related history?”

- Well I mean, they do sometimes get stolen and stuff. And there has been incidents with crashes and overturns, the boys quickly laughs changing the subject.

- If you haven’t had some personal interaction with the tramtracks, you haven’t really biked in Oslo, one ads to the sound of popping beer bottles.

All about the fuss While the gang thinks Oslo is a perfectly fine city to bike in, they add that it’s not at all facilitated for bikers. Still they define Oslo as a fun city to bike in.

- If everywhere was facilitated it would be a boring city to bike in. They should definitely facilitate more, and that is a cause that many are committed to. At the same time that’s also what makes it fun. You can’t always follow the traffic rules. That would take too much time. In this club you are not allowed to bike on the sidewalks.

With sixteen members both bikes and riding style is as diverse as the members themselves. Most of the time they don’t really have a plan for where they are going. During the summer around 80 % of the gang meet up at least once a week and ride to whatever part of town they feel like exploring.

- With biking, part of the charm is the fact that you can get through traffic. It’s funnier when you can bike fast and live on the edge of the law. We enjoy biking as a shoal of fish through town and arriving at the park or at a concert as a group shouting ERNST.

We love making a fuss.