icy Hellasgården

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.

Icy Hellasgården

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?

cyclists under police watch

Stockholm riders can expect more police controls at traffic lights during spring – Peter Ågren, Södermalm police.

Last Tuesday Stockholm’s police began with a series of controls targeting cyclists at the intersection Götgatan – Hornsgatan. According to an article published today on mitt i (in Swedish) 17 cyclists rode through red light and were fined 1500 SEK ($230) that morning.

Red light

While I totally agree with police making sure cyclists follow traffic laws for their own safety and the safety of pedestrians (I don’t think the safety of drivers is at risk here) I also wonder if police attention is in sync with all the political communication, programs and concrete plans for a more livable, greener & cleaner Stockholm (projects for better public transit, bigger and safer bicycle network are making headlines pretty much every week).

In 2010 Stockholm was given the first European Green Capital Award but it does not mean things are perfect and we can all sit back and relax. One of the issues central Stockholm is facing (in winter mainly) is poor air quality with higher levels of PM10 particles than in Los Angeles: studded tyres blamed for poor Stockholm air. In response to these high levels of particles the city of Stockholm introduced a ban on the use of studded tires on Hornsgatan, the very same street I mention at the beginning of this post.

And here is the thing. As I was riding on Hornsgatan the other day I decided to stop for a minute and listen. I don’t remember the exact number (I would gladly stop for another count if I need to show proof) but I know for sure I could hear the obvious sound of studs against asphalt for more than 50% of all cars that passed by during that minute (and trust me we’re closer to 75% than 50%). I ride that street twice a day all year round (not on weekends I have to admit) and I have never ever seen a police control targeting motorists who still use studded tires.

Yes it is a good thing that cyclists follow the rules and police should send strong signals to unsafe riders but what’s the point in keeping cyclists from dying in a crash now if they’re going to die from lung cancer later? Is this an evidence of short instead of long term thinking? Of targeting the minority (cyclists) over the majority (motorists) because it’s just easier?

I’m your father…

Speaking of spring being on its way I was a bit too optimistic and Mother Nature made it very clear this morning: she decides when I can just wear shorts or when I must put the long johns on.

Spring is NOT on its way!

Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work. – velominati.com

-12°C, blue skies: sunny but rather cold 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) ride to work this morning. What about yours?

Update. Looks like it’s going to be cold all week: Sweden hit by ‘unusually low’ temperatures

Chrome Kursk Pro

Spring is on its way (I can hardly remember last time I rode on asphalt) and, even though it still is a bit chilly in Stockholm (between -10°C and 0°C), it’s time to think about warmer rides.

I ride clipless all year round and finding the right shoes, commuting shoes especially, is not that easy. “Standard” clipless shoes are usually designed for lycra-clad roadies and, the fact of not being warm enough for winter aside, don’t do any good to the everyday cycling community. No I don’t want to look and sound too much like an idiot when I’m at the museum after a short after-work ride.

For the cold and wet winter rides I use my Five Ten Cyclone shoes which I find water and windproof enough but more importantly warm even when it’s -10°C and below.

But those shoes are a bit heavy and look rather massive so I wanted something lighter and more casual for summer. There are basically two brands that make casual (sneakers like) clipless shoes: DZR & Chrome Industries. I tried a couple of DZR models but did not really feel comfortable in them. Instead I found the Chrome Kursk Pro to be exactly what I needed.

Be careful if you’re going to order on-line because Chrome’s sizing is a bit off: my Five Ten are 7.5 (US) and I had to order 6.5 (US) for the Kursk Pro. I ordered the shoes from Tokyo Fixed (in London) last Friday and they were delivered to me yesterday (pretty quick).

I could not resist and took them for a ride this morning. They are a bit stiff compared to the Cyclone but they’re new and the Cyclone are already a year old so it should get better. They are light (so much lighter!), well finished and mounting the Crank Brothers cleats was very easy.

One remark to myself though: spring is on its way BUT has not yet arrived and those shoes are definitely not warm enough for sub-zero temperatures! I guess I’ll have to ride with the Five Ten Cyclone for a while longer.

Volvo’s anti-collision system extended to cyclists

Volvo announced today – at the Geneva motor show – that the collision warning with full auto brake and pedestrian detection safety system can now not only detect pedestrians but also cyclists. The package will be called Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake.

The system monitors traffic thanks to a radar unit integrated into the car’s grille, a camera fitted in front of the interior rear-view mirror and a central control unit. The radar spots objects that are then analysed using the camera. When the safety system identifies a potential danger it warns the driver before engaging the automatic braking function. The feature will be available in the Volvo V40, S60, V60, XC60, V70, XC70 and S80 models from May this year. – Read the announcement on Dagens industri (in Swedish).

While this looks like a pretty good feature on paper (and a useful one if it can prevent accidents) it also is – in my opinion – yet another support system that once again is designed to compensate for automobilists lack of attention to the road and lack of focus on actually driving a 2-ton vehicle: rely on the ABS in slippery road conditions, rely on the pedestrians detection system while typing an SMS, …

There are of course times when those systems are going to act upon a sudden and unpredictable situation and save lives but wouldn’t it be easier to solve safety issues directly at the source (behind the wheel that is) instead of making cars smarter? Is it worth investing so much money in R&D to solve an issue that occur most of the time on 3 (and less) kilometer drives (around 50% of all car trips are three kilometers or less)? Can’t people concentrate more than 2 minutes behind the wheel?