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.
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’m not sure what’s wrong with Södermalm. Either it’s in a different timezone than the rest of Stockholm and they don’t know we turned back the clock one hour for winter time (and forgot to reprogram the street lights) or the island was hit by Sandy on its way to the US and electricity has not returned yet but on thing is for sure: it’s pitch dark on Hornsgatan between Slussen and Mariatorget after 16:00. Below is what one could see from the saddle yesterday evening. Pretty much.
If you thought Stockholm was an idiot free city let me get this straight: you’re wrong.
The more bikes around in a city the more bike thefts & demolitions and – the cyclist in you will agree – there is nothing more annoying than not finding your bike where you left it in the morning or (and that’s maybe even worse) finding it smashed into pieces after a day at the office.
But even in an idiot free Stockholm a bike would not have a long life expectancy if it were to be outside 24/7. While it has a pretty easy life during summer, it has to deal with rain, snow, ice and salt most of the winter.
There’s fortunately some landlords that have sacrificed a couple of square meters from an indoor parking (basically the surface previously occupied by a single car) and built a parking for a dozen bikes instead.
I’m pretty lucky since my office is located in a building owned by such a landlord & I can leave my bike indoor behind a secured door during the day. One drawback though. Such a facility encourages people to cycle to work and the parking is often very crowded.
I’ve been on and off my beach cruiser since 2006 until it got stolen last summer in front of the house and I was facing a not so difficult choice: go on with a public transport pass for 790 SEK a month (120 USD) or get a new bike.
I chose the latter and bought myself a rather cheap – I did not know if that was really what I wanted – fixed gear bike. Almost four months later, still alive, I enjoy my daily commute (9 kilometers one way) to work a little more every day and thought I could share my experience with you who are reading these lines.
Stockholm is one of those cities where you can very easily go from A to B on a bike and like 150,000 other cyclists I just can’t stand the subway anymore (I’m not even talking about riding a car).
From beautiful and easy rides in the summer to freezing cold and slippery roads in the winter, welcome to Stockholm, Sweden.