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.
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.
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.
Sälen is best known as a skiing area but a few years ago they realised that they need something to keep the region going once the snow disappears. They’ve spent a not so small fortune on making the area attractive to cyclists during the summer months. There are downhill runs and mile after mile of mapped road routes for those of us on skinny wheels. There are also information signs with maps, descriptions of the various types of runs, safety information and links to more info on the web…
Now this has all been done in just a couple of years so how come Stockholm thinks it is going to take so long to do anything? OK, it’s a big town but the people here seem to think it’s comparable to London and New York. It’s just not. Stop making excuses and start actually doing something. If you don’t know how, go and ask them in Sälen.
Last Saturday morning was supposed to be perfect and I had it all figured out in these sweet dreams I had. The horse was ready. I was – as much as one can be with an infant around – ready and I naively thought that everyone else would be. Wrong.
So I’m on my way, all geared up, to ride the 2013 Hammarby Hill XC but as I reach the starting line and look around me I know I’m in trouble. Not only am I surrounded by the Lycra tights army – those guys are all over town already but they usually mean no harm – but there’s also a bunch of people wearing reflective safety vests! Safety vests for mountain bike racing in the woods? Seriously? Did I miss something here? Is the cyclist hunting season already open?
Me right before heading to Hellasgården
But I don’t really have time to think about the risks I’m about to take as the organizer fires the starting pistol (I know I’m safe at that moment since the guy between me and the weapon is wearing a vest) and we’re on the move: the dense herd rides on a tiny asphalt ribbon for a while but even though we make pretty easy targets no one gets shot.
Then the fun begins and as the group enters the first (of the too few) rocky section it’s clear some of us have never cycled elsewhere than gravel paths. Bikes and parts are flying all over the place, piles of people start to form and trees are covered with bright shiny pieces of clothing. It’s a mess but I somehow manage to stay on the saddle and make it through in one piece (I think I’m dragging two guys with their fingers stuck in my rear derailleur at that time but the bones quickly snap and I’m soon back to cruising speed).
Just like two years ago I signed up for the 40 kilometers distance only this year I was in better shape and should have been done with the 2 laps in less than 2 hours. That was my goal at least and I was obviously not expecting problems with the derailleur (could the bones explain the malfunction?). I unfortunately had to stop twice to put it back in place and finished the race in 2 hours and 8 minutes. Eight minutes over. Crap.
I should look at the bright side though: I didn’t take a bullet that day and I should consider myself lucky to just be alive! A fine Saturday morning after all but how wrong can it go when cycling is on the agenda? Wait. Did you just say reflective safety vest?
For the 14 islands racing buns, with cycling love.
Thanks to – “because of” would grammatically be more correct but completely wrong expect for some spandex retards out there – the massive amount of people who choose to walk or ride during summer commuting by bike in Stockholm is quite an enjoyable hassle at the moment.
This is especially true on shared paths that are ridiculously narrow in some parts of the city and that only fuels the annual summer war between pedestrians and cyclists. But it does not have to be that way! Let’s look at how the smart brains of Järvsö solved the problem: with only a couple of wood boards and the help of gravity they created a nice segregated cycle facility leaving enough space for pedestrians on the left of the bicycle lane.
me trying out the bicycle lanes in Järvsö last Saturday
Thumbs up to Järvsö for solving the shared path problem so well! I can’t wait to see Stockholm urban planners follow these guys ideas on streets design: imagine a double wall ride (first to the right, second to the left) to connect Götgatan to Skeppsbron. Wouldn’t it be sweet? Or am I just day-dreaming again?
It was a fine spring Sunday afternoon in Stockholm and while skiers & snowboarders enjoyed one last ride on the (short) slopes of Hammarbybacken mountain bikers were back on the saddle for some dual slalom racing on the steepest side of the hill.
Because of the 11 stitches I currently have between the legs (I might write about that later but I’m still not sure it would make a good story) I’ve been off the bike for the last two weeks and could unfortunately not join the 18 or so riders in what looked like great fun. Instead of the goggles I put on my nicest sunglasses and brought the camera to support my friend Yoann (#15 but he got eliminated in his first qualifier), shoot some action and work on my tan.
Sun, snow & mountain biking: an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you ask me. More pictures can be found in this folder.
Yesterday was time for the first mountain bike ride of 2013 in Stockholm. I was much more committed to Sunday winter rides last year and I have to admit it took me a while before I found the motivation to take the Coilair out in the woods this year.
I put it on the warm and sunny ride in Réunion last month which kind of biased my weather expectations to a level not attainable in snowy Sweden. I was kind of stuck between the two options I had : either deal with ice and studded tires or wait another month (two months maybe?) before the snow melts.
Then the phone rings and Yoann asks me out on a date: “You’ve been off the trails for too long! Should we go for a ride and test one of the demo Kona Tanuki I have in the shop?” (Yoann is the owner of Fix My Bike in Hammarby Sjöstad and has a couple of demo Kona bikes one can borrow and test ride: read about the different bikes and conditions – in Swedish).
I put the Continental Spike Claw 240 on the Coilair (love the bike for how easy it is to maintain) and off we are for a 3 hour ride in Nackareservatet (the nature reserve of Nacka). It was slippery, the trails covered with packed snow or ice, but sunny and it made me realized how much I missed riding around Hellasgården.
What about you? How was your Sunday ride? Did you need studded tires and a big dose of motivation or do you live in a warmer part of the world?
I really do like Stockholm, no doubt about that. I like the city for the perfect mix it is between urbanized areas, forests or parks and lakes or the Baltic Sea, and the best way to enjoy that environment is in my opinion to wander around walking or, even better, riding a bicycle.
The best time of year to do so would be, for most people at least, summer but Stockholm is a whole different but as beautiful city in winter! Unfortunately I have to be a bit more objective and I must admit that winters are a bit rough even for the most committed riders and one needs a break from snow and ice once in a while.
I suppose I don’t really have to justify myself but after my 8th winter up here I finally did what a lot of Swedes do sometime between November and March: I traveled to a warmer place, in the south hemisphere and on the 2nd of February I was sitting on a plane bound for Réunion, an eleven hour flight from Paris (following a 2 hour flight from Stockholm to Paris).
Addiction being what it is I could not travel that far and not ride some of the local trails and since packing a bag for such a destination is quite easy (you basically just need a couple of t-shirts and shorts) I had room for Crank Brothers Mallet 3 pedals and a pair of Five Ten Cyclone shoes (my usual mountain bike setup).
I did not spend 10 days riding a bicycle over there (that was definitely NOT okay with the wife) so I had to pick the one thing I really wanted to do on an island that basically is a big volcano: downhill mountain biking or to put it in cycling figures a 3 hour ride that started at 2,205 meters and ended at sea level.
Three hours of downhilling on various grounds (volcanic rocks, muddy soil, …) and through amazing landscapes (volcanic desert at the top, forests of Highland tamarinds, sugarcane fields, …) on a rented full suspension Kona bike.
It was an amazing experience (even though it gets pretty warm with a full face helmet when it’s already 35°C+ outside – 95°F+) and I hope I can soon post a video shot by a fellow rider. Stay tuned.