CargoBike Short: four months & one thousand kilometers later

It’s been exactly four months since Fizz #1* and I pedalled back home on a classic Dutch Bakfiets we picked up at Gamla Enskede Lådcyklar. Four months and 1000 kilometers in the saddle later I believe time has come for a few pictures and some feedback.

Bakfiets CargoBike Short, 1000 kilometers in 4 months

So far, so good

We’ve been to places, we’ve transported stuff and we’ve had fun, a lot of fun. I guess that’s sort of what I expected the experience would be but I have to admit it’s been even smoother than I anticipated. Never in the last four months did the bike fall short and a bigger vehicle was needed. It just does the job.

It does the job and IT JUST WORKS.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I want stuff that just works. I really can’t be bothered with fixing and tweaking anymore and if there is something I love about this box bike is that: it works. I have not had a single mechanical issue in 1000 kilometers. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Ingenting. I barely had to pump the tires now and then to keep the pressure required for heavy duty. That’s how things should always be. Period.

Winter & Fizz #2 are coming

Maybe it’s a little too early for a proper review though. Temperatures (slowly) begin to drop and I have yet to swap the Schwalbe Marathon Plus for a pair of mountain bike tires that I hope will help keep the rides fun and safe during winter. At the same time Fizz #1 is also looking forward to sitting next to Fizz #2. Fizz #2? Well… she doesn’t know it yet. Twice the fun soon?

I suggest we meet here again in a few months.

* You got that? Right?

Stockholm Cargo Bike Festival 2015

A few pictures from the first Cargo Bike Festival held in Stockholm on September 19, 2015. One of my neighbors -who I sent a link to the Facebook event to- ordered a cargo bike right after he and his family went and tried all the bikes available for test rides. I can only call that first edition a success.

One box, two legs & fourteen islands

Two weeks and two hundred kilometers later the CargoBike Short is already part of the family daily routines.

What happened?

We’ve been thinking about getting rid of our car for a while but it really took the imminent birth of Pignon Jr. #2 for us to set things in motion. I have always been riding with Pignon Jr. #1 to preschool and other places already but the car came in handy once in a while. It also came with all the costs associated to convenience which, at the end of the day, are just not worth the money.

One of the biggest argument against owning that particular car though was that it simply is not a family car (3 door-VW-Golf-kind-of gas sucker). Owning a car “designed” for things a family of four tends to do and carry would basically mean, for us, owning another, bigger car that we would still only use twice a month or less anyway.

And that’s pretty much how the whole family ended up at Gamla Enskede Lådcyklar on a Sunday afternoon just a few hours before Måns closed the store for a month.

After so many weeks (months?) looking at cargo bikes specifications, reviews, and videos online I was sure I would ride a Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E back from the shop (it was actually because Måns had a MK1-E available that we went to his shop in the first place). But he, Måns, did what not too many shop owners do anymore and guided us through the process of choosing the right bike for us and our needs and had us try several cargos that he suggested (in the following order) we took for a spin. Family

We first tried a trike (I came for a MK1-E remember?) and pedalled around the block on a Family which -it was the first time both Madame & Monsieur Pignon rode a trike- was a very nice introduction to three-wheeled bicycles., Family
The bike was easy to handle and pleasant to ride but we felt that it would feel a bit bulky and not so nice to manoeuvre on longer rides (we don’t exactly live in central Stockholm and a roundtrip to Hötorget, for instance, is about 16 kilometers). – around 24,000 SEK

Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E

Next, we tried the Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E -finnnaaaallllyyy- and… I’m glad Måns got it back in one piece!
Butchers & Bicycles, MK1-E, Black & White
I know I wasn’t used to riding a three-wheeled bicycles but, compared to the Family, riding the MK1-E was a completely different experience which, in my trike novice opinion, wasn’t of the riding with the family type. Sure I only rode it around the block for a couple of minutes but I couldn’t really figure out how to tilt it back on sharp corners and keep the rear wheel on the road. Madame felt it was not as stable as the Family and did not feel confident in its saddle. First impressions are key and we decided it just was not a bike for us. – around 50,000 SEK CargoBike Short (and Long)

Last we tried what I thought I would never ride (and like) ever -for reasons I still can’t really explain- and within a couple of seconds knew it was exactly the sort of bike I had to have: a classic Dutch Bakfiets., CargoBike Long
We (Madame Pignon is 8 months pregnant) tried both the long (Måns’ bicycle with electric assistance) and short versions and felt -probably due to the fact that they are pretty much regular two-wheeled bicycles, only a bit longer- like we always have had one. Easy to ride, easy to manoeuvre and easy to maintain (not much can go wrong on simpler machines). We had a deal -18,000 SEK- and rode a CargoBike Short home.

Two weeks and two hundred kilometers later then and I would like, once again, to thank Måns for his help and for opening the shop on a sunny Sunday afternoon on his way -on a cargo bike obviously- to the lake. You’ll probably see us again sometime in the future… that box already feels too small.

To be continued…

Kona Dr Dew continued

I’ve had this bike (check the Kona Dew Deluxe also) for a while now and had more time to use it. It’s still not my main use bike as I use my racer for the daily commute but it is what I use for cycling with my son or my dog and for quick runs to the shops. So, what do I think?

Well, in short, I love it. it’s comfortable to ride, stops really well (I just love the brakes) and it looks good too.

I’m no expert but the one thing that has bothered me slightly is the mid-range gearing. I don’t know exactly which gear it is but there is one step somewhere around 14th or 15th that is too big. It goes from being too hard to pedal to far too easy. However, the reason I have not bothered to find out exactly where the issue occurs is that it’s only really noticeable if I’ve already cycled a long way and have tired legs or am going uphill. In either case I just back off a little and the problem is solved.

Before I bought this bike I had not heard of Kona. Now that I’ve had it my only regret is that I didn’t have a bigger budget when I bought my racer. Then I could have bought one of their racers as well!

Kona Dr Dew 2013

As you may have read, the tail-end of 2013 brought a lot of bike misery to me. I had my long serving and much abused mountain bike stolen, I replaced it with a hybrid and, after just 11 days, that was stolen too. Luckily a friend of a friend (who runs a bike shop) took sympathy on me and offered to sell me a good bike at a great price. While researching for the first hybrid I’d looked at the Dr Dew but I have a real problem with Cyklotkeket since their staff pretty much ignored me when I wanted to buy my racer and then when I asked for help told me they didn’t have time because the shop would shut in 15 minutes. Now I had a second chance to get the same bike at a better price and from a nicer place.

I went for a quick test ride and was convinced this would be a good bike for me. It was comfy to ride, seemed to be well-specced, didn’t have the lockable front suspension which had annoyed me a little on my Specialized hybrid and would be fitted with the lights, speedo etc that were stolen along with the last bike.

We agreed on a price and I gave the shop a few days to get it in order before going to collect it. I then cycled back across Stockholm to my work. Almost immediately I started to regret my decision. Cycling was a nightmare. I pedaled and pedaled but seemed to go nowhere. Sure, it was windy but it wasn’t that bad, was it? Oh well, too late now so I took the bike home, waited a few days for the wind to die down and tried again. Talk about a difference! It was easy to ride, I could keep up a fairly high speed without too much effort and it was not nearly as jarring as I bashed up and down kerbs compared with the Specialized and that lockable suspension.

Now came the only problem. I wanted to go out for a ride but had no time during the day and it was dark already at night. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to riding new bikes and prefer to be able to have an easy bedding in period where I only ride in nice conditions and on roads I know. Weeks went by with just short spurts when dropping off my son at day care or zooming to the shops but no long rides. Finally I got an hour to myself and went for a quick spin. My initial negativity is now totally washed away and I love it. The two main gripes I had with the Specialized Crosstail were the lockable front forks (see above) and also the fairly uncomfortable hand-grips. No such issues on the Kona. The brakes are also very good and were particularly strong in the wet which was nice.

What I have heard is that the main difference between the 2013 and 2014 models will be a downgrade of the brakes so, if you are thinking of getting one, I highly recommend you strike now. Yes, the vivid lime green colour of the 2014 model is a bit more eye-catching but I’d rather have a bike that will stop on demand than one that is a little bit prettier.

Do you ride one? Are you pleased with it? If you have anything you want to share on Kona or on the Dr Dew, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Electric bikes just got a lot more attractive

Let’s be clear: many people won’t agree with me but I simply don’t see a valid reason why a healthy person (and by that I mean anyone with two legs and a pumping heart) would ride an electric bicycle (or any other electric-assisted machine for that matter).

I just don’t buy made up excuses that usually come in a discussion about electric bikes and often include “sweat” or “green”. What’s the point in riding a bicycle if you are not cool with the fact that you might sweat? What’s the point in riding a bicycle because it’s green but do it with the help of a motor and a not so environment friendly battery attached to the rack? Yes. You get the point. There’s absolutely no reason you should be riding an electric bike when you could ride a regular bike. So just get a mopped already.

On the other hand some people can’t ride bicycles without assistance (for real) and they were, until now, left with pretty much only ugly solutions: take a bike, add a battery and a special hub. Done. The tank is ready to drive.

There were lots of e-bikes at Sweden Bike Expo this year and one manufacturer (Pro-Movec) really got my attention as they were the only one offering electric bicycles that actually did look great ! Here is one of their city models: Breeze.

Promovec Breeze

And that’s how you make a battery almost disappear. Simple and elegant.

Promovec Breeze

Breeze – with LED display
250W Motor with 3 year warranty
7 speed gear, Shimano Nexus
Coaster brake
LED display
5 assist levels; walk-assist up to 5 km/h
Panasonic Li-ION battery, detachable
9AH x 36V = 324 watt hours
Charge time approx. 7 hours
Weight 20 kg excl. battery
Battery weight 2 kg
Size 28″ (48 cm)
Range up to 100 km

Nice to see some effort being put into making electric bicycles look nicer. Hope next year will bring its share of innovative ideas so the electric bicycle as we know it today is history. What do you think? Does the Breeze look nice to you? Does it look better than e-bikes you’ve seen so far?

If James Bond had a bike…

What’s the difference between James Bond’s car and every other car? Well, apart from the fact that most of us don’t have Aston Martin’s, Bond’s has tonnes of gadgets. Nowadays it’s possible to add more gadgets to your bike than Bond could ever fit into his car. First we had the humble bike light then speedometres. Now you’ve got power metres, GPS trackers, smart phones apps, Bluetooth devices, the list goes on.

I’ve been cycling since I was a kid but it’s only in the past few months that I started cycling in any serious way to get exercise. My plan is to complete Vätternrundan as a part of the Svenskklassiker next year so I needed to get a new bike (my mountain bike just isn’t right for 300km in one go). I bought myself a Columbus Pinta from CykelCity in Stockholm.

Columbus Pinta

It wasn’t cheap but it was far from the most expensive bike available. But buying the bike was only the start of the tale. Then I had to get special shoes to fit the clip pedals, a speedo to measure how far I’d gone and how fast, decent cycle shorts to cushion my butt, a cycle jersey with some pockets to hold the essentials and, and, and…

What I didn’t know at the time is that there’s a term for a new cyclist who buys all the gear but still isn’t very good. A Fred. I read a bit about it and I guess I have to admit it, I’m a Fred. I love having my gadgets. I track my riding with RunKeeper and/ or Endomondo, I planned to buy a Wahoo bike system from a friend (couldn’t make it work so I backed off) and now I’m trying to choose between a heart rate monitor strap or a sports watch. Do I need most of this stuff? No. Does any of it make me a better cyclist? Probably not. Will it help me get round Lake Vättern? Doubtful. Is it doing anyone any harm? 100% not so where’s the problem?

So who else out there is a Fred? What kit have you got? What’s worth getting and what’s total rubbish? What’s the best app to use for tracking your rides?

Say it once, say it loud. I’m Fred and I’m proud!

orange mécanique

Two days ago, something rather disturbing happened to me: in the span of an hour and fourteen minutes I wore Lycra, I rode a bicycle with lots of gears, a curved handlebar and a carbon fork and, to my own surprise, I liked it.

Despite the relative lack of sleep (a couple of hours) and training (none at all, remember the three week old daughter?) I met with two of my colleagues (Joel & Jukka) last Sunday morning for an Olympic relay (triathlon) here in Stockholm, Sweden. For those of you who are not too familiar with the sport (as I was until two days ago and still am), a triathlon is a multiple-stage competition with hundreds of women and men wearing spandex while they swim, cycle and run: a giant flash mob of people in tights sort of.

Anyhow, I was part of a wonderful team of amateurs on their first triathlon ever and my duty obviously was the 40 kilometres bicycle ride. I might commute by bike to work every day all year round and have some fun in the woods or in the bike park with the mountain bike I, on the other hand, don’t do road cycling and the fact is I don’t even own a road bike. But I have friends (yes I do), great friends, one of them being the owner and dictator at Fix My Bike in Hammarby Sjöstad. Yoann (that’s his name) trusts me enough to lend me a brand new Kona Jake The Snake for the race and the least I could do for him is put a link to his website (and here’s a second one – Fix My Bike – for the road).

Kona Jake The Snake, carbon fork

So I’ve been riding a Kona Jake The Snake, a cyclocross bicycle I know, on that race and, as a first road experience on a first proper sort-of-road-bike, it was a HUGE change from the Kona Coilair (really?) or the Kona Paddy Wagon (really?) I otherwise ride. Rolling at 50+ kilometres an hour with only the sounds of tires against asphalt and air in the spokes was just pure happiness.

I bought a pair of Crank Brothers Eggbeater 2 for the occasion and was very pleased with the pedals. I already have Mallet 3 on the Coilair and Candy 1 (that I’ll replace with the Eggbeater) on the Paddy Wagon so it was quite a natural addition to the bike.

Crank Brothers, Eggbeater 2 on Kona Jake The Snake

One hour and fourteen minutes then. That’s my modest performance on the 40 kilometres ride but I’m still quite satisfied considering the preparation with an average speed of just over 32 kilometres an hour. The team completed the race in 2 hours and 47 minutes and I guess we’ll just have to try and do better next year. Well done boys.

Note. The Snake, Jake (56 centimetres frame) is now for sale at 12,000 SEK (instead of 16,000) and has only been used for the triathlon. Hurry up cause there’s only one left.

Kona Paddy Wagon 2013

In January I replaced the cheap fixed gear bicycle I had since July – reasons behind this rather quick replacement might come in a later post – with a 2013 model of the Kona Paddy Wagon and I’ve been riding it pretty much every day since then.

I already owned a Kona Coilair 2012 and I must say that I am still amazed by this horse’s reliability and quality so it was kind of a natural choice to go for the same brand.

The bike is very decent the way it’s shipped but, not that the original parts were bad in any way, I changed a few things: the pedals (mounted my Crank Brothers Candy), the tires (I’ll ride Schwalbe CX Pro until the end of the winter) and the saddle (since my wife got me a brown Team Pro Chrome Brooks saddle for my 32nd birthday why should I sit on something else?).

Nothing wrong to report so far – apart for the front wheel nuts that already began to rust (snow & salt must have something to do with that) – but I’ve had the bike for only a month. Long live the Paddy Wagon and if it proves to be as solid as the Coilair (and can keep up with at least 500 kilometers a month) I’ll probably still be riding it in a couple of years.

Do you ride one? Are you pleased with it? If you have anything you want to share on Kona or on the Paddy Wagon don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

the MBK project – cleaning up

I thought I’d spend Christmas day on the couch letting all the available body energy flow to my busy stomach but my obsession with bicycles had other plans for me.

A couple of months ago my dad bought a brand new road bike but did not throw away his old school MBK Super Sprint even though pretty much nothing on it was in working order: rusted brake callipers, stucked derailleur and shifters. The frame being in rather good condition with compatible drop-outs I could only think of one solution to get that bike back on the French country side roads: I had to start with my first conversion and build a fixed gear bike.

Since I did not know I was going to convert a bike during the Christmas season I did not have the parts I needed to complete the work but I started anyway and removed all the useless bits and pieces I could find on the frame. It did not take long and the bike is now waiting for new components and I’ll make sure I order them in advance or find them in my own stock before next time I pay a visit to my parents. Here’s what I need before I can ride this “back from the deads” MBK: a front brake, tires & tubes, a fixed gear rear wheel, a chain ring and a chain. Duly noted.

the MBK project

I’m now back in Stockholm, Sweden and the project is on hold for a while but stay tuned (subscribe to the RSS feed if you don’t want to miss the followup to the MBK revival).