We head back to Berlin for this week’s Reader’s Rig, where our pal Georg Bessinger shares his 2021 Brother Mehteh after its maiden voyage. Get to know Georg and the story of how his passion for cycling helped him cope with recent mental health struggles here…

Words by Georg Bessinger, photos by Martin Neumann

Hi everyone! I’m Georg, I’m 36 years old, and I’m originally from southern Germany but have been living in Berlin for six years. I’m glad to have the opportunity to show you my 2021 Brother Mehteh and the story behind it, which is tightly connected to my personal story.

Brother Mehteh

I started becoming passionate about bicycles just before I moved to Berlin. I bought my first old steel road bike which totally drafted me into the cycling community. As a consequence, I got my first job in a Berlin bike shop after having worked for the local bank for 11 years (can you imagine!?). It quickly turned out that I enjoyed off-road riding much more than road cycling. Also, I found my passion for camping was much easier to combine with gravel biking. Towards the end of 2020, I decided to finally build a proper bikepacking rig as a pandemic project.

After a looong wait (Brexit hassle), I received the beautiful Mehteh frameset in summer 2021. With the help of my dear colleagues at work, I gathered all the required parts and we put it together (huge thanks!). My highlight is the complete lightning system by SON (which is, by the way, based close to my hometown). I went for mechanical TRP Spyre brakes for easy maintenance and picked a wide Salsa Cowchipper handlebar to accommodate any front bag.

  • Brother Mehteh
  • Brother Mehteh

Speaking of bags, you’ll find pictured a Vagabon Burrito Bag (with the best patch I’ve ever seen), a custom-coloured 7Roads Stem Bag (power to Ukraine!), and a top tube bag which is designed and handmade in Berlin by my dear friends We Can Gravel That (@wecangravelthat).

In late summer of 2021, the bike was finally ready to touch some dirt, but it was a rocky start. During the test ride, I noticed heavy pain in my back and right leg. The doctor’s diagnosis was spinal disc herniation in my lower back. Of course, this meant no cycling for uncertain time. Just a little bit later, I slipped into a stress-induced depression, paired with various anxieties.

  • Brother Mehteh
  • Brother Mehteh
  • Brother Mehteh

It got so bad that I wasn’t able to go to work anymore. The combination of both led to a vicious cycle: sports and being outside would help to handle the depression, but with the back pain, I was hardly even able to walk. On the other hand, going for a walk or a swim could help to ease my back pain, but it felt impossible to figure out how to manage this when my mental state was so fragile that I couldn’t even imagine leaving bed. I went through the hardest times of my life.

  • Frame/Fork 2021 Brother Mehteh with 2022 carbon fork
  • Rims 27.5″ Alexrims DP23
  • Hubs Hopetech Pro4 (rear) / SON 28 dynamo (front)
  • Tires Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite 2″
  • Handlebars Salsa Cowchipper
  • Headset Hopetech
  • Crankset Garbaruk 34t chainring with SRAM Rival crankarms
  • Pedals Contec Spade (sometimes I like riding in sandals)
  • Cassette SRAM 11-42t
  • Derailleur SRAM Force
  • Brakes TRP Spyre
  • Shifter(s) SRAM Rival
  • Saddle WTB Rocket
  • Seatpost Schindelhauer
  • Stem Thomson 70mm
  • Front bags Vagabon Burrito
  • Accessory bags We Can Gravel That top tube bag, 7Roads stem bag
  • Other accessories Spurcycle bell, Merida Anything Cages

The situation gently improved after about four months. My back slowly got better, I started taking anti-depressants, and I went to psychotherapy. I was able to ride my “new “bike for the first time in January 2022. It was absolutely fantastic. After all the trouble I went through, I was finally able to experience a glimpse of happiness again. After all the self-isolation, I also started socializing again and went on casual rides with friends—shoutout to the Pizza Gravel (@pizzagravel) crew!

Brother Mehteh

As my physical and mental health improved and the temperatures went up, I decided it was time to go on my first ever real multi-day bikepacking journey. I took the inspiration from the Ardennes Arbalete route in Belgium that I found here on BIKEPACKING.com and added some detours to Luxemburg and Netherlands. As a cyclist from Berlin, I’m not used to hilly terrain. Also, being on my own in a foreign country kind of scared me. But despite all my fears and self-doubts, everything went well, and I completed my trip as planned in seven days at the beginning of August. I had a great time, and the Mehteh did a fantastic job.

  • Brother Mehteh
  • Brother Mehteh
Brother Mehteh

Why am I writing all this instead of diving deep into the technical aspects of my bike, as many of you might expect from a Reader’s Rig article? Because I wish to show how much cycling and its community means to me, how much it helped me to overcome my mental crisis, and how much power and energy our shared passion can create. Eventually, I want to help remove the taboos around depression by speaking openly about it. If reading my story can encourage or inspire others in their struggles with mental illness, I think that’s a good place to start.

You can keep up with Georg on Instagram @gregnisseb.

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