thank God it’s (melting) Friday

The week is almost over and I can’t say bike commuting has been a blast the last couple of days. Like many other cyclists in Stockholm I was looking forward to seeing prioritized winter maintenance in action and riding clean bicycle routes but, once again, the City of Stockholm (or whoever is responsible for the maintenance) has failed to fulfill their promises. Miserably.

I consider myself a decent rider and still cycled my daughter to preschool every morning but not everybody feels comfortable riding on black ice with 480 studs. Alice’s 10 minute bicycle ride (2.5 kilometers) has become a 45 minute bus + subway ride for many other kids and that is NOT OK.

But life is too short to spend hoping that, someday, winter (or not) bike commuting will be taken seriously by the Capital of Scandinavia. I won’t let any sort of frustration affect my plans for the first warmish ride of 2015 on the bike with the skinny tires.

Kona, Jake The Snake 2014

I know the Jake The Snake is not a true road bicycle according to the Book of Fred but trust me it works perfectly fine on asphalt too. In 2014, most of the road pedaling I did was on the Paddy Wagon (around 4,500 kilometers bike commuting) but I also managed around 1,000 kilometers on the Jake The Snake.

Brooks saddle, Cambium, slate

I just hope I can ride that green horse more in 2015 and I’m definitely looking forward to fixing a shorten stem and switching to a nice Cambium slate saddle from Brooks England (that’s the big plans I have so far). It won’t make me a faster and more committed road cyclist but it will make the bike look even better. For sure.

And while I day and night dream about that first ride I believe the ice is slowly melting away. Although it’s 6°C and government agencies have nothing to do with that.

Happy cycling new year. Ride safe.

throwing money out the (car) window

Not even a month into the new routine and I’m already behind schedule. I did spend Monday morning cycling around Stockholm though – looking for a front rack to my Kona Paddy Wagon – but, considering the fine weather, I could not ride back home to lock myself in and write another piece of crap. I had lunch on hipstermalm, decided the blog could just wait and enjoyed some sun instead.

There are a couple of places where that star don’t shine unfortunately. Road tunnels are a good example and Swedish taxpayers would be pleased – as I was when I first read about it obviously – to know that 50 million Swedish kronor (that’s 5.5 million euros or 7 million US dollars) has been spent to light up the underground part of Norra Länken. 50 million Swedish kronor spent on five kilometers (you do the maths for a cost per kilometer), 50 million Swedish kronor spent on 6 art pieces inside a bloody road tunnel.1

I won’t argue on how tax money is being used (I might have done just that already) but I have to question, however, the thinking behind that sort of installation. A driver’s attention is a limited, critical resource that is already compromised by lots of distractions: space shuttle like dashboard with touch screen and switches all over, kids having a blast (or not) in the back, texting, emailing, instagraming, facebooking, you name it. Should we really distract drivers even more with art along the road? Aren’t you suppose to stay focused and keep your mind on the road when behind the wheel. I naively thought so.

I’m having a hard time understanding how these 50 million Swedish kronor pieces of art fit in the Vision Zero road traffic safety project started in Sweden in 1997 but, at the same time, I’m also having a hard time understanding how building more roads help reducing traffic jam. It seems that the guys at the Swedish Transport Administration just know better (about 50 seconds in the video).

Norra Länken will open to traffic on November 30 and while art lovers should not really have time to appreciate the exhibition (remember, no more traffic jam) I’ll probably be cruising around Stockholm on a far from perfect bike paths network. Too bad there’s not much money and intention to fix that.


Sthlm Bike, the world’s most beautiful bicycle race

I’ve been wanting to (among other things) spend more time riding my bicycles for a while and I just got the chance to do so. Until I decide otherwise I am now off on Mondays and today marks the beginning of a new routine: I will walk my daughter to school at 9:00 and will pick her up at 15:00 but I yet have to work on self-discipline and figure out how to make the best of these six hours each week.

So here I am, drinking espresso and writing about yesterday’s Sthlm Bike, the world’s most beautiful bicycle race, no less.

Sthlm Bike, 2013

Sthlm Bike is a 42 kilometer non-timed race and even though one could go flat-out through the streets of Stockholm and be served breakfast first at the finish area it would just be the most stupid thing to do. Starting at 7:00 from Gärdet the route was mostly on paved roads but included a couple of gravel roads through greener areas. I’d say that I know my way around Stockholm quite well on two wheels and I was very pleased to cycle parts of the city I just never had the occasion or reason to visit.

As always the Capital of Scandinavia did not disappoint and cruising around an almost car-free Stockholm in the early hours of Sunday morning was pure pleasure (can’t help but wish that day will come when cars will be banned from the city center).

Sthlm Bike, 2014

The highlight of the ride though was, in my opinion, the coffee and cookies booth at kilometer 17. With the race starting at 7:00 participants were expected to meet at the starting line at 6:30 so I, and a lot of other riders, left home quite early that morning with little or no time for a proper cup of fuel. Being reasonably fit and used to cycling I did not need the kilometer 26 banana but it was great for those less accustomed to riding 40+ kilometers. Anyway. That coffee was golden.

Our vision is to be able to offer a car-free Stockholm to 25,000 cyclists on a Sunday morning in September –

While this ambitious number has not yet been reached the race organisation and the volunteers who helped cyclists along the course did make clear they were up to the task. Great weather. Great route. Great race. Looking forward to September 6, 2015.

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.