bike basket lid

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.

some pretty out there solutions

Cycle in town

Everyone agrees that something needs to be done to make our inner cities more bike-friendly. The problem is that nobody seems to agree on exactly how that should be achieved. At the one extreme you have bikers who say we should ban all cars, at the other are the drivers who think they should be able to mow done those cockroach cyclists who flout every rule in the book at every available opportunity.

Of course the real solution is somewhere in the middle. There are only two ways major change is going to happen though. Either the politicians need to get behind a serious move for change and give it a serious budget rather than just spouting platitudes and buzzwords or there will eventually be a major spate of cyclist deaths in towns which will stun everyone into action.

While everyone dithers around and doesn’t actually do anything, why not read about some more extreme suggestions that are being floated for how to fix London.

giro d’sverige?

Giro D'Italia in Sweden?

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 Sweden1. 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.


  1. http://www.eurosport.se/cykel/giro-d-italia/2012/girot-i-samtal-om-mojlig-start-i-sverige-fantastiskt-erbjudande_sto4011459/story.shtml 

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?

Sweden Bike Expo 2013

Over the weekend I spent a few hours at Sweden Bike Expo at Kistamässan in Stockholm. As you would expect there were big stands for the big names including Shimano, Scott, Nishiki and Cannondale, some local interest groups such as cycle clubs and political organisations who plan to improve cycling around Sweden and then the obligatory sellers of gear that you didn’t know existed or didn’t need to replace but now absolutely must have!

After a quick walk through the hall I then tried to narrow down what I actually wanted to look at. Since my bike has been stolen (again) I need a new one so had a look at a few people who had hybrids within my fairly modest budget. There was always either something I didn’t like about the bike or it was slightly too expensive. I homed in on a Nishiki but the bike was 600SEK over my budget and then I’d need to buy lights, a decent lock etc on top of that so I decided not to go for it.

For years I have been sporting a very nice pair of Specialized gloves while cycling. If I’m honest though I only had them cos I thought they looked flash. Then I started cycling more seriously and, one rainy day, forgot my gloves. Then I realised just how much use they were. They’re getting a little old (about 15 years) and, worse still, they don’t match my current gear, the horror! I had a look around and found a pair that fit nicely, felt good and were really clever. I’ve always had trouble getting my gloves off cos they’re tight and stick to my sweaty hands. These ones had little pulls between the fingers so you can just tug them off. Simple yet effective. Did I buy them? No. The bank seems to think I have to have money in my account before they allow me to spend any.

That Nishiki really was nice. And only a little over budget. Maybe just one more quick look.

The most popular thing seemed to be electric bikes. My friend was interested in getting one so we had a look at a few. While I’m sure they are all very cool in their own little ways, a large number had to be immediately removed from consideration. They were so damn ugly and I’m sorry but I’m never going to buy a bike that is just ugly. Others were fine looking bikes until you put the battery on. It seems that the battery had to be as obvious as possible so you could say, “Look at me, I have an e-bike. Look how green I am.” Others though had really clever solutions. One had a very old fashioned style leather saddle bag which gracefully concealed the battery with just a few wires giving the game away. Others had them mounted inside the frame tubes. We gave one a try and for the first three seconds of pedalling I was entirely unimpressed. It was heavy and oh so slow. Then the support motor kicked in and the bike shot off down the tiny test track. I managed to avoid the children who were trying electric scooters and handbikes (I’m sure all of them were serious customers) and hung on for a couple of laps. I have to say, I’m sold. Since I’m using cycling as a way to get more exercise and lose some waist, I’ll stick to my unassisted pedalling but if you just want an easier commute, I can highly recommend it as long as your destination is within the bike’s range!

e-bike

Oh just one more look at that Nishiki…

We looked at a bit more equipment that I absolutely needed but the bank manager was still saying no. Then I found the most fantastic helmet for my son, said, “Stuff the bank manager!” and nicked some money from our savings to buy this…

Shark helmet

Like his dad, my son is a little mental and I think he’ll love this. The only bad thing was they didn’t have them in my size.

One final look at that Nishiki?

No, I must resist. Quick, get me out of here before I do something my wife will regret…

All in all I was pretty impressed with Stockholm Bike Expo. They had a lot of interesting stuff and while a lot of it was aimed at the serious cyclist, there was enough to keep a hobby cyclist interested too. If anything was missing then it was actual bike shops selling bikes. A lot of the manufacturer stands had bikes on show with prices but I was never sure which were and were not for sale there and then. Maybe your local bike shop can’t afford a stand at an expo like this (it’s not cheap) but surely the Sportsons, Cyklotekets and Cykel Citys of this pedal-powered world could? I’ll be back next year. Let’s see if any of them listen to me…

in figures, October 2013… or not

The plan was to keep track of my relationship with the commuter over a 12 month period but I’m afraid it won’t happen. I’m sure my 3 month old baby girl has something to do with it as she likes to go to the stables at night and play with the bike computer but I obviously will never be able to prove that she pressed the reset button (if you really want to know, on October 31st, the screen said 115 kilometres which is pretty much what I rode in the last 4 days of that month).

So no figures for October 2013 but a (new) picture of me riding to work instead. Beautiful autumn in Stockholm and, as you can see, snow is late this year.

Cycling on ice

But let’s change subject to what made my day miserable yesterday: I commuted by public transit. Due to circumstances beyond my control I have been commuting to Kista the last two days (which for someone living in the southern parts of Stockholm is close to the worst punishment ever) and, to make things even worse, commuter trains traffic was cancelled after a freight train derailed right before Stockholms södra yesterday morning.1

One could argue this was bad luck and – hopefully – does not happen often but it still shows how fragile Stockholm’s rail infrastructure still is in 2013: one train derails and thousands of commuters are affected. Only two tracks (one way) support all traffic at this particular location and even a minor glitch has enormous consequences. But the issue is being addressed and the Capital of Scandinavia will spend one billion Swedish kronor on the cycling infrastructure over the next two hundred years. Oh wait… Does the railway network also need maintenance and improvements now?

The rest of the journey was business as usual with a traffic stop on the subway red line, a quick switch to the green line in Slussen and a I-am-glad-I-am-in-good-shape-and-can-walk switch to the blue line at Stockholm’s central station. Kista, here I am, one hour later.

I’ll spare you the details of the never ending commute back home via the brand new tramway line because… I just want to forget about it and pretend I did not just waste another hour of my life.

Commuting by bike to Kista

Anyway, I was not going to endure the SL pain two days in a row and so, today, I rode my bicycle instead: 20 kilometers in 50 minutes (one way). Now tell me: what was I thinking yesterday when I chose public transit over the fastest means of transportation in any (relatively) big city around the world? But like October’s mileage, I guess I’ll never know.


  1. http://www.thelocal.se/20131112/rush-hour-derailment-snarls-stockholm-train-traffic 

congestion payment

More and more cities around the world are introducing congestion fees for people who drive their cars into town during peak times.

Congestion Fee Station

The idea is to discourage people from bringing their cars into unnecessarily crowded areas unless they really have to and are willing to pay for the privilege. So far it seems to be working but a lot of the money being raised isn’t used to improve the inner cities but to build more rounds outside towns.

Now Johan Ehrenberg (@JohanEhrenberg) at Dagens ETC has come up with a novel alternative. Instead of just discouraging people from driving their cars, we should actively encourage people to cycle. His idea is that everyone who cycles through a congestion station once per day will be paid 25 SEK. I don’t agree with all his ideas (wearing a hi-vis jacket with a registration number on it and that all people who cycle fast are idiots for example) but I think it’s a great idea. If I knew that I would actually earn money by cycling (as well as the savings I’d make on train tickets), I’d be much more likely to cycle as often as I could.

I don’t know if it’ll ever happen and it’ll certainly need some more thought but it’s pure genius. Read his full article (in Swedish) here.

south pole bike expedition

You might have read my recent story about applying rule 5 by cycling to and from work even though it was pouring with rain and bitterly cold. I was feeling so proud of myself then this guy comes along and ruins it…

Juan Menendez Granados

Juan Menendez Granados plans to cycle to the South Pole! Weather conditions may prevent him from cycling the whole way but he plans to do as much as possible on his specially built bike. You can read all about it on the BBC’s news site here or on Juan’s own official site here.

Now that’s what I call hardening the fuck up!

A cyclists conscience is hard to satisfy

When I looked out the window this morning it was 3.5 degrees and pouring with rain.

Conscience

The guy on the right shoulder said, “Go on, you know you should cycle to work. You need to keep cycling and get used to crappy weather.” but the guy on the right said, “If you take the train you can watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead and be dry and warm.”

I thought about it for a while then got dressed, switched on my bike lights and hit the road. 50 minutes later I arrived at work cold and wet but feeling like a very good boy.

Rule 5: CHECK!

hey dj, where’s the bike?

A long time ago in a Norrviken far, far away someone started building some new bike parking. It was desperately needed because the existing cycle stands at Norrviken station are jammed full every day. I was really happy because not only was there going to be more parking but it was going to be on the same side of the station to my house so I wouldn’t have to walk as far after dropping off the bike (those extra 50 metres were a killer). While I would like to cycle all the way to  work more often, I don’t have time as I have to pick up my son from day care pretty early and the train is faster. Luckily he’s learning to ride now so at least I can cycle to the station in the morning and then from the station to day care in the afternoons.

A hole was dug out quite quickly, some foundations were built and, in no time at all, some supporting legs and a roof were up. Then everything ground to a halt. No actual bike stand was put in. Over a year passed and no progress was made but then, out of the blue, work began on a second bike stand beside the first uncompleted one. I thought it was pretty weird but decided to wait and see what happened.

It was worth it. Just a few days later the following sight greeted me on my way to the train…

New bike shed

Naturally I started parking my bike in the new bike stands.

Then came the dreaded storm weather warnings (am I the only who thinks that was totally blown out of proportion?). I was worried about the trains not running so I scrounged a lift home from a friend and totally forgot that my poor bike was waiting for me.

The next morning I walked up to the station and past the bike parking. I was almost past before I realised my bike wasn’t there. I looked around in case the workmen had been forced to move it somewhere but no, it was gone. Stolen. Vanished. It was an ex-bike.

I was pretty pissed off at whoever stole it. It’s not like they took it accidentally. Or that it was an emergency so they stole it then brought it back later. Learn the difference between yours and mine please! However, I realised there was an opportunity here as well. I have insurance so I could get a new bike. I phoned up my insurers and was told that, due to the age of the bike, it wasn’t worth that much but, even though I had no receipt or any kind of proof that I’d ever bought the bike, they’d give me 50% of the estimated value.

All that remained was for me to buy a new mountain bike. I had a pretty limited budget (max 8000SEK for everything) but I started looking and quickly realised it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The decent bikes all seemed to be a few thousand above my budget but I soldiered on. Then my friend and fellow Fourteen Islands writer Pierre suggested I get a hybrid bike instead. I was fairly skeptical. “Those skinny tyres will never hold up to me smashing up and down kerbs”, I thought, “and there’ll be no grip out in the forests.” (not that I’m in any way a serious off-roader but everyone likes a cycle through the woods occasionally). I’d pretty much dismissed the idea until I went to the first shop who had not even one mountain bike within my range. I talked over the issues concerning hybrids with the guy in the shop and he was able to calm my nerves so I looked at a Kona DR Dew that Pierre had recommended. I liked what I saw but had only looked in one shop so wanted more choice. I also have a bit of a problem with Cykolteket but that’s another story.

Moving on to Sportson I talked to a really helpful guy who encouraged me strongly to go for a hybrid. They had two on offer that he recommended, a Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disc or a Scott Speedster X40. Both were the exact same price (6995 SEK) and had pretty much the same specs but which to choose. In the end it came down to a few small details. I hated the huge platform pedals on the Specialized but the guy swapped them for my choice of pedal for free. I preferred the colour of the Specialized and didn’t like the hand-grips on the Scott. And I’ve always wanted a Specialized. It might be daft but for some reason it’s always felt like I could never afford a Specialized bike and here was my chance so I grabbed it. And here she is, my new baby…

Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disc

So far I’m very happy with it. It’s a comfortable ride, it’s pretty fast (especially compared to my old mountain bike) and it’s just so pretty. I’ll let you know how I get on with it after I’ve had more time on it.

Now let’s just hope the thieves let me hold onto this one!