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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
And so we were off. We headed south out of Motala towards our first stop. Unlike most people we did not plan to stop at all the pit areas. We had planned four stops totalling just 45 minutes. Our first goal was Ölmstad which was 83 km away.
There was a huge board telling us the start time of the next group and counting down to our start time. One group departed every two minutes so it was important to pay attention.
As we left Motala it was a lovely day, blue skies and, most importantly, the wind at our back.
The roads were almost completely free of cars as everybody had been encouraged not to drive in the area unless they had to. Unfortunately we got stuck behind another group who were going slower than us but not slow enough to make it easy to overtake them. They were very jerky in their tempo, constantly accelerating and braking which made it difficult to be close behind them.
After about one hour there were suddenly shouts from in front of us. There had been an accident ahead and an ambulance was partially blocking the road. Rather than gradually slowing or just steering round the obstacle, everyone in the leading group slammed their brakes on. If you’ve ever done group cycling then you know this is very dangerous as we ride so close to each other, usually not more than about 20 centimetres off the back tyre of the bike in front. Luckily we were all able to stop safely and the chaos of the situation allowed us to get by the other group. Sadly, as we passed the ambulance, we saw that it was a Fredrikshof group that was down. We learned later that the sub 9 group had crashed but nobody was seriously injured. A few broken bones and a lot of cuts and bruises, 5 guys out of the race but everyone lived to fight another day and that’s the most important thing.
Once we had cleared the slower group we really started motoring. It was a beautiful day and the countryside was lovely, reminding me a lot of my home in Ireland but we couldn’t take the time to appreciate it. With the wind at our backs we set to it in earnest pedalling as hard as we could to make the best of the favourable conditions.
After just under three hours we arrived in Ölmstad for an all-too-short break (just five minutes). It was a real splash and dash. Run to the loo, refill the water bottles, grab as much food as we could and back on the bikes. As with everything else, the pit area was really well organised. Plenty of racks to hang the bikes on, lots of toilets and loads of helpful and friendly volunteers manning the food stations. We had just enough time to check our progress compared to the plan. So far we were about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
At this point I was still feeling great but could we keep this pace up?
Every year Motala hosts Cycle Week, a whole week dedicated biking and home to various cycle races ranging from 1300m for 6-7 year old kids, up to the blue riband 300km race around the whole lake.
My mother-in-law always rides Tjejvättern, a 100km race for women only. She’s in no way competitive and takes her sweet time about getting round to get the most for her entry fee. This year we decided to head down to Motala a week early to check things out, get all the last minute bits and pieces I needed and then wave her across the finish line.
The whole town really gets behind the event. All the taxis get fitted with bike racks, the town centre is blocked to all traffic except buses and official vehicles and stalls pop up all over the places selling everything you could possibly need at some very knocked down prices. I’d already bought most of what I needed but a last minute puncture left me needing some new inner tubes. Two Continental tubes for 200SEK, not bad. I also picked up some Grip Grab gloves for 150SEK and a Bianchi foot pump for 349SEK. I also sorted out my food needs by buying the Enervit Vätternrundan “loader” and race packages.
With that all done we cheered on my mother-in-law then headed back to Stockholm for the final training session.
One week later and we had the car packed up and were on our way back to Motala.
The team met up on Friday night to have some dinner and sort out the final details for Saturday. We then headed home for some rest before our early start the next morning. I needed to get up at 0400 to be in town at 0515 and ready to start at 0546. As you can see I was taking it very seriously…
Everyone arrived in time. A few people had forgotten things. One guy forgot his sunglasses, I forgot to put on sun screen and so on but nothing major. The time flew by and soon we were ready for the start of our 300km adventure.
There were lots of Fredrikshof groups and most started around the same time. Every two minutes about 70 cyclists headed over the line. At 0546 it was our turn.
Next time we’ll see how it went on the first part of the race.
My main reason for getting back on my bike a year ago was that I have decided to try and complete the Svenskklassiker race series. I did Halvklassikern three years ago and the cycling was by far the hardest part, so I started with the cycling this time. That meant tackling Vätternrundan, a 300km bike ride around Sweden’s second largest lake.
I figured that I would never make it round on my own so I signed up for Fredrikshof’s sub-12 group. Put simply, this meant that our goal was to get round the course in a total time under 12 hours. Not a bad challenge considering that most people take 14+ hours. There were 11 in the team ranging from total noobs like me to very experienced guys who have done VR in sub-9 groups.
We met up most Tuesdays and Thursdays through March, April and May for 50-60km rides around the Märsta / Arlanda area. These usually took us about 2 hours. We’d then meet up on the weekend and do anything from 50 up to 170km. The one big struggle we had was synchronising everyone’s real life commitments with the training sessions so we never managed to get the whole group together at one time. There was a core of five or six who came regularly and the rest came as they were able. Fortunately we had a great team leader who knew exactly what we needed to be doing to be ready in time.
They say that to make it round Vättern you need to have covered at least 1000km. 2000km is needed if you plan to go any sort of fast and 3000km if you want it to be comfortable. From buying my new bike last June to the start this June I covered a little over 2500km of which about 1800 was done this year. Tune in next time to see how it went…
On June 19, the architecture and design center (located next to the Museum of Modern Art) will open an exhibition with and about the bicycle. The bike and cycling are highlighted here as pages in the history of design and culture, as design objects, as lifelong companions and as an opportunity for urban planning, faced as it now is with an urgent need of redirection. The exhibition will close on October 5.
During that period several side events will be organized such as:
Tuesdays in July from 5pm to 8pm: bicycle-themed after work at Café Blom
August 3 to October 5: family Sundays from 1pm to 3pm (make bike accessories for yourself or your bike)
July 5, August 6 & October 4: bike before breakfast from 6am to 9am (bike out in the early morning and discover the architecture of Stockholm together with a guide)
August 13, 15, 30 & September 6, 13, 20, 27 & October 4: biking academy from 1pm to 3pm (learn how to ride safely in traffic, for kids)
August 12 to 16: culture festival (make bike accessories for yourself or your bike
September 2: cycle cities (a seminar ont the sustainable and bike-friendly cities of the future)
October 3 & 4: film festival (movies, bike and fun)
In June, August & September, Tuesdays from 4pm to 7pm & Sundays from 12am to 5pm: bring your bike and learn how to repair it
By going to a bike expo you probably couldn’t tell that the largest cycling crowd out there just wants to go from point A to point B and has no or very little interest in carbon frames, electronic shifting and power meters. Too few manufacturers try to innovate and spend time and money on designing accessories for casual riders. So when I saw the bike basketlid booth at Sweden Bike Expo and after I talked to guys for a couple of minutes I knew I had to write about their fantastic product.
The bike basketlid is the modern storage solution for active bikers and can easily be fitted on to any bicycle model. It has an easy open and close lid equipped with a lock that enables you to leave your belongings in the basket.
The bike basketlid is (surprise! surprise!) a basket with a lid that can be locked. The idea and realisation is so simple that one could wonder why bicycles (the ones with a basket) aren’t equipped with such a thing already.
And, the company behind the product being Swedish (Solna), I could not leave Sweden Bike Expo behind without mentioning this brilliant accessory. The wife already loves it and she’ll be a first adopter, for sure. For more information, feel free to visit their website or Facebook page.
Giro d’Italia takes place in Italy and the Tour de France takes place in France, right? Wrong! More and more they are visiting other countries including England, Northern Ireland and Denmark. And now the Giro may be coming to Sweden ((http://www.eurosport.se/cykel/giro-d-italia/2012/girot-i-samtal-om-mojlig-start-i-sverige-fantastiskt-erbjudande_sto4011459/story.shtml)). It’s not going to happen any time soon with the discussions mentioning some time after 2017 but at least it’s being discussed. It could be done in conjunction with Vätternrundan which would mean that most of the infrastructure is already in place and that us mere mortals would be able to join in and ride the same course as the professionals on the same day. Assuming I make it round my first Vätternrundan next year, this would definitely make a second more interesting for me.
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.
And that’s how you make a battery almost disappear. Simple and elegant.
Breeze – with LED display
250W Motor with 3 year warranty
7 speed gear, Shimano Nexus
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?