According to the weather forecast I will soon know whether I took the right decision or not but I finally decided to go for cyclo-cross tires (non-studded) to commute to work during winter.
I’m sure riding non-studded tires might not seem as safe as riding studded tires during the days when roads and bicycle lanes are covered with a thin layer of black ice but non-studded tires will do most of the time.
First of all there are usually only a few days with ice as the streets are cleaned pretty quickly in the city and most of the winter rides will be either on asphalt, fresh or compacted snow. Secondly, studded tires are heavier and harder to drag. I commute by bike because it’s faster and funnier and this would be kind of a “fun killer”. And last but not least I am not really sure studded tires are safer than non-studded tires. Even on ice.
Riding studded tires (would that be on a bike or on a motor vehicle) gives a feeling of safety that lowers the attention one would pay to the road. Studies have shown that there are as many accidents involving studded vehicles than with non-studded vehicles the only difference being the speed (higher for the studded vehicles). Sure I am referring to motor vehicles here but let me tell you something: the first and only time I broke a rib was last winter on a mountain bike… with studded tires.
That would be the subject of the email I sent to my boss together with a picture of my bike upside down – the rear wheel laying on the pavement – this morning as I stood in windy & chilly Stockholm in front of the first flat tire of 2012 (with the fixie).
I could have had a flat on a worse location but the view over Skeppsholmen and Kastelllholmen did not really ease the frustration when, all pieces apart, I realized I did not bring the right spare tube with me (the vent on the one I had in the bag was just too short for the high profile rim).
Hands covered with a sticky mixture of dust and chain lube I mounted everything back together and was considering my two options: I could leave the bike there and pick it up in the evening (if it were to be found) or I could push the bike on the last 2 kilometers to the office.
I chose the latter and made it to the door in half an hour or so just to realize I had forgotten my card to the building. I finally makes my way in after a call to the receptionist and heads to the bathroom for a thorough “clean this oily mess” session when it hits me: “I forgot my lunchbox at home!” (lunchboxing is another very important sport in Sweden – probably as popular as ice Hockey – but that’s off topic).
It took me one hour and fifteen minutes from home to the office (when it usually takes around 20 minutes) so yes it definitely was the worse morning I ever had commuting by bike to work. But now that everything is fixed (new tube and new tires but I will write about that in a coming post) I must say that I can’t wait to ride tomorrow morning. Who says I’m a masochist?
This morning could have ended pretty badly if it were not for the front brake. Yes I do have a brake on the fixie and I’m glad I did not sacrifice it for aesthetic.
I was rolling down Södermalmstorg (the ugly curvy bit of macadam connecting Hornsgatan to Skeppsbron) when I rode over something that I believe was a small pothole. It was not that deep of a hole but bad enough for the back wheel to slightly move forward from the shock and loosen the tension on the chain.
It took my legs a fraction of a second to realize that what was bound to happen just happened: the chain had fallen off and I was literally coasting at 30+ kph towards the red light. It took another fraction of the same second for the signal to go from the legs up to the brain and down to the left hand before I was pulling on the brake lever and safely stopped on the side of the road.
I read here and there, in books and on Internet forums, stories and statements from hipsters who claim a pure fixed gear bike cannot have brakes. That is just plain wrong and stupid. For your own safety and the safety of others you should and you must have a proper working brake on your horse.
I don’t really know what I was expecting from Sweden Bike Expo (a bicycle fair in Stockholm) apart from having a nice time with a couple of friends but in retrospect I must say I was a bit disappointed.
I knew I was going to see bikes, lots of bikes and there were bikes, lots of bikes. Lots of racers and mountain bikes and very few alternatives but one cargo bike, a couple of single speeds, 3 “Dutch bikes” (yes, three), some electric bikes and – maybe it was well hidden and I missed the stand – no cyclo-cross.
When you go to a bike fair you must be prepared to see bikes – no doubt about that – but I guess I was looking forward to discovering “new things”, some cool accessories and smaller brands than Trek, Corratec & Scott. To simply put it I was looking forward to seeing things that are not all over the magazines. Some “out of the ordinary bike porn” would have been very appreciated and I certainly did not go to Sweden Bike Expo to buy lycra clothing and tires on sale (the sales area was surprisingly the most popular part of the fair it seems).
But I did find one interesting accessory: the Tacx Lumos. It’s probably not a new concept and might have been around for a while but I’d never seen it before. The Tacx Lumos are basically drop bar caps that replace regular caps but provide better visibility thanks to the back/red & front/white LED lights they are.
Since I don’t ride a racer I haven’t tried them myself but it’s an interesting and rather non-intrusive piece of safety on a commuter bike (if you commute with drop handlebars that is).
Don’t get me wrong though. I was a bit disappointed but I still enjoyed the fair and good company. It was a well spend Saturday morning in November Stockholm and I even got a brand new ice scraper! Seriously? Ice scrappers for goodies on a bicycle fair?
Riding a bike wouldn’t be fully rewarding if it always took you from A to B no matter the time, the weather or road conditions. So once in a while – often when you’re least excepting it or you’re really in a hurry – your bike will remind you it needs love and make you stop for a minute or two of mechanics intimacy.
And when your bike faces you with a flat tire they’re no escaping its needs for bonding: you have to fix it or you’ll be late to work.
As most of the cyclists I carry a bag when I’m riding so I thought I could open it up and show you what’s in it that helps me handle those situations. The first thing you should do when you have to fix a flat tire is remove the problematic wheel. There are probably guys out there who can patch a tube without dismounting the wheel but I’m not one of them and I’d put on a new tube rather than patch the old one anyway. Tubes are quite cheap and I can’t be bothered to find the hole, apply the glue and patch, … especially when it’s pouring rain or -10 degrees.
I own two sets of wheels which are not of the quick release kind and, even better, are of different standards: 15mm nuts on one set, skewers with Allen key heads on the other. But I found a nifty multi-tool that supports both standards (with different spanner end sizes), has a lockring hook and even a bottle opener (specifications): the Pedro’s Trixie.
It’s light & flat and therefore easy to fit in a bag. A must have in my opinion even though it’s not that cheap.
This morning was the perfect mix of these little things that make me glad I ride my bike to work instead of going underground: blue sky, dry air, clean & not overcrowded paths. Sure it was -2 ℃ when I left home but it’s not that bad for mid-November up here.
Even though the weather forecast looks alright for the coming days I know it will get worse sooner or later. I probably won’t make it alive if I keep on riding slick summer tires so I got myself a second pair of wheels (I can’t be bothered to swap tires now and then through the winter, I’d rather have two sets ready and just swap wheels). I haven’t made my mind whether I’ll go for studded or non-studded cyclo-cross tires on the winter rims though. Any suggestions?
Since yesterday (November 8th, 2012) a new bicycle sharing system – Djurgårdscykeln – operated by JCDecaux & Kungliga Djurgårdsförvaltningen is running on Djurgården and is open 24/7 all year round.
The 50 available bikes are not part of the existing SVD Stockholm City Bikes network but can be used (for free) if you already got a City Bikes card or an active public transport (SL) access card. If you are like me and have neither of those cards you can opt for the 3 day access costing as little as 10 SEK.
There is currently one docking station located by Cirkus close to the main entrance to Skansen, the famous open air museum. You can rent a bike for 3 hours at a time and up to 8 times within 24 hours.
Since it seems to be nearly impossible to teach cab drivers how to drive and behave the Department of Transportation in New York City initiated a campaign to prevent (or at least reduce) doorings. 26,000 stickers are to be placed on the windows and doors of the city’s cabs to remind people to check for cyclists before they exit the vehicle.
I’ve stopped counting the number of times I had to ride on the road because of a taxi parked on the bike path unloading passengers: this happens pretty much each and every day (Skeppsbron would be the worst of all on my route). I sometimes stop by and try to talk to the drivers but, as if they knew they’re being stupids, they often just pretend not to see me or, even better, act like they know better and raise their voices.
Those “Look! For cyclists.” stickers (I read about then on londoncyclist.co.uk) might not solve the real problem but if they can just make people think twice before opening the door I think it’s worth the rather cheap investment. Do you think they should be put on Stockholm’s cabs? Or on all cars even?
I found that picture in the newspaper last Friday but unfortunately could not find the online version on DN.se.
Tommy Åberg was riding his bike on Blekingegatan (south of Stockholm) when he came to a police car parked on the bike lane. He thought something wrong was going on (like a robbery) at first and decided to have a quick look around. But the emergency seems to have been of a completely different nature: the law enforcers needed a little sugar kick and were just buying some candies.