thank you for cycling – September 17, 2014 – tack för att du cyklar

On September 17, the City of Stockholm and Naturskyddsföreningen (the most influential nonprofit environmental organization in Sweden) will give goodie bags to cyclists around Stockholm as a thank you for riding a bicycle (“tack för att du cyklar”).

Cycling in Stockholm

In order to get one of the 150,000 bags you will have to ride by one the following 17 check points:

  • Alvik (Alviksplan)
  • Liljeholmsbron (east side)
  • Ekelundsbron (Solna)
  • Slussen
  • Årstabron
  • Skanstull
  • Götgatan (by Katarina bangata) – bike service available
  • Hammarbyfärjan (Södermalm)
  • Roslagstull (north side) – bike service available
  • Stadshuset – bike service available
  • Norrtull
  • Lidingöbron (Ropsten side)
  • Sankt Eriksplan
  • Raoul Wallenbergs torg
  • Älvsjö station (by the bicyle pump)
  • Kista – bike service available
  • Hökarängen

Will you commute by bike on September 17 and ride by one of the check points to get a bag? What do you think the goodies will be this time?

How was your day?

It had been way too long since I last rode the heaviest piece of my velocipede collection and I really had to head back to woodland.

Wednesday 9am, I put a bunch of knives, matches and a jerrycan full of fuel on the kitchen floor to make sure my one year old girl has something to play with while I’m gone and then I’m off to meet a friend who, being his own boss, can also go for a “Tour de Hellasgården” in the middle of the week if he feels like it (and he does in a different bike each time: Kona Process 153 the other day, Kona Hei Hei Deluxe this time).

Our “Tour de Hellasgården” goes on the rather technical green track around the lake and must end with a cup of coffee at the restaurant followed by a swim in Källtorpssjön.

Mountain biking around Hellasgården

A couple of kilometers and a cup of coffee later

Crappy pictures and Instagram filters are also part of this Grand Tour and I’m quite sure people usually don’t have a full suspension mountain bike for towel and jersey rack. See.

Coilair towel and jersey rack from Kona

Coilair towel and jersey rack from Kona

Travel guides say Stockholm is one third asphalt, one third green areas and one third water and we sure stayed away from the first 33.33333333333%. Big bikes, slow riders, pines and water temperature at 25°C are all it takes to make Wednesday feel like Saturday… or Sunday.

Rien n’est simple (1962)

The least we can say when looking at these 5 drawing from 1962 is that Jean-Jacques Sempé (a French cartoonist) saw it coming. Each of the illustrations shows a “proletarian” (left) and a middle-class person (right) going to work. And as time goes by…

Rien n'est simple, 1962
walking & cycling

Rien n'est simple, 1962
walking & driving a car

Rien n'est simple, 1962
cycling & driving an even bigger car

Rien n'est simple, 1962
riding a moped & driving an even bigger bigger car

Rien n'est simple, 1962
finally “driving” a car (stuck in traffic) & cycling

After years of hard labour and social progress the “proletarian” (like a good deal of the population) could finally afford a car but the comfort and freedom the automobile cartel (manufacturers, politicians, …) promised were long gone…

What do you say? Did we end up in the situation Jean-Jacques Sempé had in mind more than half a century ago or was he completely wrong?

Jean-Jacques Sempé, usually known as Sempé (born 17 August 1932 in Bordeaux), is a French cartoonist. Some of his cartoons are quite striking, but retain a sentimental and often a somewhat gentle edge to them, even if the topic is a difficult one to approach. He once drew a series called Le petit Nicolas, starting it in the 1950s, but he is best known for his posterlike illustrations, usually drawn from a distant or high viewpoint depicting detailed countrysides or cities. – Wikipedia

The Flying Scotsman

While reading about something totally unrelated, I came across information about a film starring two of my favourite actors, Jonny Lee Miller and Brian Cox, and one of the most pleasant celebrities I have ever met, Billy Boyd, about a guy whose book I have recently been reading, Graeme Obree. I was interested immediately but when I saw that the movie has actually had pretty decent reviews, I had to see it.

johnny-lee-miller

For those not in the know, Graeme Obree decided to build his own bike and take on the heavy hitters of the cycling world. I’ll not give too much away but I highly recommend you see this film. It’s an amazing enough story made all the more amazing by being true. What he overcame and the way in which he did it is as funny as it is inspiring and touching.

Check it out here or order the book.

Vätternrundan 2014: Part 7: Hammarsundet to Motala

And then we were off on the final leg. Just 40 km to go but there was still a serious chance of a couple of team mates dropping out. The pace had dropped significantly but the morale of the lead group was high as we realised we were going to make it. The ones who were struggling were in real difficulty so that every time we came to a hill they got dropped. The pace dropped even more to make sure we stayed together. Suddenly in front of us was a beautiful, the first sign to Motala and it was only 20km away. What we didn’t know then was that the route did not follow the shortest road to Motala so we actually had about 30 km left :)

As we got clsoer to town I began to recognise things and knew we only had a few minutes left of our ride. We organised ourselvse into two perfect columns and rolled into Motala’s waterfront area to cross the finish line in 11 hours and 48 minutes.

Mission accomplished!

Vätternrundan, finish

My family were there to greet me and my little boy was very proud of his old dad.

Welcoming committee

Vätternrundan, medal

My butt was killing me and my legs were tired but I’d made it and didn’t feel nearly as bad as I’d expected. The team sat down for some food then it was hugs all round as we headed off to see our friends and families. Here I am in my final moments in team kit as I got back to our camp site.

Finished

Part one of my svenskklassiker was done and I was feeling very good about myself.

Here are the bare figures from the ride (viciously stolen from my team-mate’s Garmin Edge since my iPhone lost GPS contact and thinks I cycled across lake Vättern rather than round it)…

The full route

Vätternrundan, route

Speed

We needed to average a moving speed of 27.3 kmh to make our goal. We had included some stops as well to refuel and rest.

Vätternrundan, speed

Altitude

Considering the race goes around a lake (usually pretty flat things), you’d think that it’s a pretty flat course. Not at all! There were actually very few flat sections.

Vätternrundan, altitude

In the final part of this report you’ll find out what I learned before and during my first (but probably not last) ride around lake Vättern.

Vätternrundan 2014: Part 6: Karlsborg to Hammarsundet

As we neared the end, the stints were getting shorter. Just 53km this time but a lot of the team were hurting so that was a good thing. Things had generally gone very well. We’d had a few people feeling not so great and one or two minor mechanicals but no punctures and, most importantly, we were all still rolling and still together. Then came our scariest moment.

For large parts of the course we were sharing the road with cars. There weren’t many and all of them were very considerate of the cyclists. On all dual carriageways the left lane was for cars and the right was for bikes with plastic dividers between each lane. As we approached one of these divided areas something went wrong. I don’t know if the people in front didn’t see the divider or if they didn’t warn those behind early enough but several people hit one. They were made to bend so there were no injuries but Magnus, one of our best riders, hit the base of a divider and his bike leapt into the air. Everything went into slow-mo and all I could think was, “If he doesn’t sort this out then I’m not going to be able to avoid hitting him and we’ll both be down!” I’ve no idea how he managed but he landed, got the bike under control and we all continued on slightly shaken but totally injury free.

Hammarsundet
Picture from Vätternrundan 2012, Christer Hedberg

Again my energy levels started to drop so I was very happy to see the honey to line our bread rolls with when we got to Hammarsundet. You were only supposed to take one at a time but I took three or four and drowned them in honey.

After a quick rest and bottle refill we had a final check to see how everyone was feeling. We decided that the ones who were struggling would stay at the back of the group while the rest of us did the work at the front. We made sure everyone was ready and then off we set for the final stretch into Motala and the finish line…

Vätternrundan 2014: Part 5: Fagerhult to Karlsborg

Only 70km between these two stops so I figured it was going to be an easy time. Man, was I wrong! The actual course wasn’t too bad, one nice descent of 80m over less than 8km and hardly any climbing but around the 180km mark I hit the wall big time. I had no energy and every turn of the cranks felt like a major achievement. When I was at the front or in the middle of the group it wasn’t too bad but as soon as I got to the back I got dropped. Every time! Totally demotivating and I was feeling very bad about it because I had to keep asking the rest to slow down.

Blueberry soup

Karlsborg was planned to be a long stop so I rolled in and got off the bike as fast as I could. I then shovelled as much food and drink into me as possible. Two cups of blueberry soup, two cups of coffee (I don’t usually drink that much in a year), four or five cups of energy drink, a stack of semi-sweet bread rolls, about three bananas and a mound of salty gherkins. I then got my shoes off (very sore feet) and lay down on the grass for as long as possible.

All too soon it was time to get up and go again. Normally I was near the front at the start of each stint. Not this time but I felt much better and had gotten over my lowest point.

Falu red cottage, bicycle & bread

If you ask Swedes where they’re going to spend their next vacation don’t expect to get a list of 196 different countries. There are basically two answers to that question: Spain1 or “på landet”.

You can’t blame the Swedes for wanting to escape for a sunny weekend away but you sure can’t blame them for loving their countryside either. “På landet” is like a country within the country, a place where one can live without electricity and running water less than an hour drive from Stockholm. In cycling lingo “på landet” is also just another word for paradise.

Sure the lack of running water can be an issue for some – especially after long rides – but there’s always a lake nearby for those who insist on hand washing their bibs. And for the rest of us… well… that’s part of the experience. Can the cyclist (the one not too concerned about laundry) in you imagine a better resort than a wooden cabin in the middle of close-to-nowhere with great riding all around? Can you imagine a better way to start the day than a 30 kilometre cycling round trip to the grocery store so the family can enjoy fresh bread for breakfast? I can’t.

Cycling in the Swedish countryside is pure pleasure with beautiful landscapes (classic Swedish red houses, forests, lakes & fields of rape seeds), pretty good roads and almost no motorized traffic (I met one car during that trip to the bakery). You pretty much get the whole pavement for yourself and, once you’re cruising at whatever speed you think is fast, you can just let a “yeeehhhaaaa” go (even two if you want to since no one can hear you anyway).

A Falu red cottage and a bicycle is what I would choose over Spain if you asked me (I could import a few extra degrees from down there though) but if you still don’t believe “på landet” is the place where you should spend your next (cycling) holidays, just see for yourself.

Sweden countryside cycling

Doesn’t she look happy? Does she look like she’d rather be in Spain or in the shower after that long ride she just took to the nearest shop? I think she’s doing just fine… “på landet”.


  1. In 2013, Swedes took 2.04 million trips to Spain. – http://www.thelocal.se/20140603/swedes-top-travel-destination-revealed 

If America can do it, so can anyone

For a long time, Memphis has been looking at ways to better connect the city and the waterfront. One suggestion was to remove a couple of car lanes and convert them into bike and pedestrian areas.

Riverside Drive

The idea is that it would make the area more attractive to people who weren’t in cars. The good news is that it seems to have worked.

[...] for the price of some plastic bollards and new street coloring, Memphis has opened one of the best streets in the mid-South for biking, walking, skating and playing.

Read all about it here.

Surely if America, home to the biggest gas guzzler cars of them all, can do this, then anyone can!

Vätternrundan 2014: Part 4: Ölmstad to Fagerhult

With the wind at our backs and some good downhill sections we really picked up the pace. Heading towards the southern end of the lake and the turn north at Jönköping we were hitting our maximum speed of just over 60kmh several times. When we got to Jönköping we were forty minutes ahead of schedule but it was not to last.What had been a tailwind had turned into a headwind and a very strong one at that. We were also heading into several long uphill sections and the pace dropped considerably. Two major uphill sections of over 5km each were killing us. In fact, over the next 50km we lost all the time we had made up and were only just keeping up with our schedule.

Morale in the team sank a bit and it became very quiet. Nobody was chatting anymore, everyone was totally focused on just keeping going. To make things worse, the group got slightly separated from each other and some outsiders forced their way into our lines. This made it difficult to rotate the team and keep the guys at the front fresh. I was stuck right at the back and in the end I had to just sit there and watch everyone else suffer while I had it easy stuck out on the tail. One of the girls was also starting to feel sick. She couldn’t eat or drink without becoming nauseous and, of course, that just made things even worse. This really was our low point.

Luckily it wasn’t too far to Fagerhult. We got a rest some food into us.

blueberry-soup

We also took the chance to reorganise the group. One guy stayed at the back making sure those who were struggling could keep up while those of us who still felt strong rotated at the front a lot faster to keep everyone feeling in top condition.

So far it had been a struggle but we’d had no mechanical issues. That was about to change.