Rider’s Lens: Ralph Berwanger’s Illustrations

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In our latest edition of Rider’s Lens, we explore the work of Berlin-based illustrator and cargo courier Ralph Berwanger, who shares a selection of his analog and digital creations, the story of how bicycles first found their way into his life, and some thoughts on how pedaling helps make space for creativity. See it all here…

Words and illustrations by Ralph Berwanger (@sixerberlin)

I’m Ralph, and bicycles have been a fixture in my life since I learned how to ride without training wheels. This miraculous moment came about when I was six, in my grandma’s backyard in a tiny Romanian village. After Ceausescu’s dictatorship collapsed in 1989, my parents and I migrated to southern Germany. Too young to be aware of the revolutionary political changes, I spent my days racing with friends around the construction sites of my new hometown.

  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin

Apart from cycling, the second constant in my life is drawing. This neatly led me to graffiti for a couple of intense and adventurous years. That’s where my pseudonym, Sixer, comes from. It derives from a six-pack of spray cans, not beers! I eventually found myself studying product design and working for Lego. Although I liked the job, I increasingly struggled with spending so much time indoors at a desk.

  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin

After quitting the full-time office life and being swept to Berlin, I became a messenger for a food delivery company that shall not be named. I realised that I really enjoyed this job, and a few freaks who were my colleagues at the time felt similarly. In 2018, we founded Crow Cycle Courier Collective together, specializing in cargo courier work. Two years later, we added Crow Cyclery, our little bike shop focused on Cargo bikes, particularly Omnium. Nowadays, I ride an Omnium Cargo most of the time. Big fun! And after tens of thousands of kilometers on the streets of Berlin, I feel more at home in this city than in any other place I lived before.

Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin

During all my years of cycling, I have always particularly enjoyed off-road riding. When MTBs boomed in the 90s, I had to get myself one! The first mountain bike I had was a Merida Miami with plenty of purple bling. The next one was a Kona Explosif, which I ride to this day.

  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin

Bikepacking—or bike travel more broadly—came into my life rather late thanks to Konstantin of Drust Cycles (@drustcycles), a fellow messenger. One day, he asked me if I would spontaneously accompany him on a bike trip from Berlin to Stockholm. I slapped a front rack on my old-timey Kona, bought an ass-rocket, put on my Chucks (painful decision), and went along for the ride. It’s become pretty much my favourite thing to do ever since.

  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin

In 2019, I did a three-month solo trip from Berlin to Sarajevo with a big detour through Romania. I got to understand my home country a bit better, and I also learned a lot about myself—especially at times when I was too exhausted to still feed my ego.

Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin

Time spent with my butt on the saddle helps me stay grounded and mindful. I am slow enough to observe things but fast enough to leave places behind. I can stop anywhere to examine bugs, mushrooms, and other quirks of nature since I am not bound to any schedule. It’s a good way to let my mind settle down and make space for creativity.

Ralph’s Illustration Tools

Having a sketchbook and a small selection of pens and fineliners on my rides is a must, no matter how much I might curse that extra weight when faced with some harsh climbing! I appreciate the simplicity of ink on paper, and it all fits into a reasonably compact kit while adding a whole new facet to any ride.

  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
  • Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
Ralph Berwanger, Sixer Berlin
Ralph Berwanger

About Ralph Berwanger

Ralph Berwanger is a Berlin-based illustration artist who left the full-time screen time as an industrial designer to co-found Crow Cycle Courier Collective and Crow Cyclery because he wanted to cycle more and click less. He loves sleeping in the dirt and thick-tired bikes. You can find him on Instagram @sixerberlin and on his website at SixerBerlin.de.

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