Stockholm Critical Mess

The first critical mass of the year was held on Friday last week and as an avid cyclist who had never attended such an event before I thought it would be nice to ride around town with a group of people who have a common enthusiasm and love for cycling. I decided to give it a try and even managed to bring two friends along.

Stockholm Critical Mess

Almost 1,500 people got the Facebook invitation to the ride: 88 replied they were going, 90 said they were maybe going (meaning they declined but did not want to offend their friends) and the rest just ignored the invitation as people often do with public spams on Facebook.

So it’s 17:30 and I’m 30 minutes away from my first critical mass. The ride will start at 18:00 from Medborgarplatsen on Södermalm and as I sit on a bench waiting for my friends I can hear from the small gathering that the fun has already begun. Not the kind of fun I was expecting though since people are arguing whether anti-nuclear activists can hijack the ride with two meter high Smiling Sun flags or not. They finally take the flags down and the rather small group is good to go.

Still, I must ask: if those hippies represent the opinion of so many thousands – so they claim – of supporters, why don’t they organize their own ride or demonstration instead of sneaking in events that have nothing to do with the subject?

The ride begins and I quite enjoy it at first. We cycle the right lane on the four-lane Folkungagatan leaving one lane for cars to overtake us. But as we make a left turn on to Renstiernas gata things get hairy: we (25 cyclists) occupy the whole road and furious honking drivers don’t hesitate to cross the solid white line to travel past the group at light speed.

As we continue our promenade it turns out some riders are not in for critical mass cycling but are demonstrating and shout so to angry drivers who don’t seem to agree with 25 bikes taking up all the space: “We live in a democracy! This is a demonstration! Town without cars! Town without cars!”

As much as like the idea of towns and city centers without cars I also do believe this was definitely not the way to behave. Critical mass is all about power in numbers and there is no power in 25. Not even enough power to fully utilize the cycling tracks along the same very roads we were riding. The critical mass turned into a critical mess.

Critical Mass participants have insisted that these events should be viewed as “celebrations” and spontaneous gatherings, and not as protests or organized demonstrations. – Wikipedia

The quote above summarizes what I think a critical mass ought to be: a celebration and not a demonstration. Last Friday was no celebration in my opinion and me and my friends quickly left the group and headed to the pub instead. That probably was a pale move from me as I could have met with the “organizers” in the end and tell them what I just wrote but I did not feel like riding in that kind of ambiance any longer.

Criticism is easy, art is difficult. I know and I would still like to thank people who get involved and make such events happen. I just don’t think I’d be part of future rides until it gets what a critical mass is supposed to be: a celebration, in great numbers. Meanwhile I’ll just do what I do every day: ride my bike and have fun.

Haglöfs Courier 15″ review

I’m one of those who read reviews on the web before I go and buy a product at a local store but between the copied/pasted manufacturer description and the go-to-youtube-and-watch-me-open-the-box-of-this-brand-new-product-I-will-never-use-but-still-I-bought-it-because-I-am-cool-and-I-look-great-on-video there is not much room left for real reviews from real people who really have actually used the product.

Long story short I did not find a proper review of the Haglöfs Courier 15″ but I decided to buy it anyway because it looked nice, waterproof, solid and Haglöfs rarely failed me in the past. That was in August last year.

The goods

Not only did the bag looked waterproof but it actually is. I ride every day no matter what the weather is and trust me I reached the office completely soaked (as in “thoroughly wet or saturated by or as if by placing in liquid”) a couple of times last autumn and winter: the bag has always kept my clothes and other things dry.

It’s big enough to carry a fresh set of clothes, some tools for on-the-road repairs, a wallet and a mobile phone and I don’t think I have ever felt the need for a bigger bag. The front pocket comes in handy for storing things you need more often like a lock key or an access card to the bicycle parking facilities at the office.

The bads

The bag sits rather comfortably on the back but the waist belt (you have to use it in order to keep the bag from slipping to the side) is quite tricky to clip in when the bag is loaded: either you’re a 5th Dan in flexibility yoga master and you’ll manage on your own or you’ll need to ask your partner or a friend to help you with the strap.

Haglöfs Courier 15

The biggest issue I have with the Courier 15″ though is in the front pocket. To be fair to Haglöfs the internal key ring is a pretty idea but it was not really well executed. With the key ring too close to the zipper it gets stuck into it easily. I usually get mad, pull back and forth like a maniac until the pocket is closed: it did not take very long for the zip to break.

Do you have a Haglöfs Courier 15″? Have you experienced the key ring zipper battle too?

With the front pocket always open the bag is now a bit less attractive and practical and so I need a new bag. Only this time I’ll make sure I find a proper review before I swipe the credit card.

why are automobilists so hard on themselves?

Today was a very special day for me: I drove to work. I work in the city center of Stockholm and driving to the office had obviously never been an option I considered (I enjoy biking too much to commute differently) but since I had to be at the office early (07:00 is early in my world) and cannot currently ride my bike I decided to give it a shot. I could not have been more wrong.

Traffic jam in Stockholm

It’s a 9.5 kilometer drive from home to the office (mainly on expressway) and I thought it would not take me more than 15 minutes to cover the distance if I’d leave home at 06:45. Well… it took me 25 minutes which is as much as when I commute with public transportation and slightly longer than when I’m riding the bike. I was wrong to think traffic would be running smoothly at 06:45: Stockholm’s roads are congested this early and remains so for a couple of hours (it gets better after 09:00 I’d say).

As I was slowly moving I realized how frustrating and stressful it must be to drive to and from work in such conditions every single day. I know some people don’t have the option and need a vehicle as a work tool (nurses and doctors, police officers, …) but having said that, no one will ever persuade me that, in a city as small as Stockholm (population of 2.2 million for the metropolitan area), those people can be so numerous that they cause traffic jams. I would not believe it was bad luck either and all bike and public transit commuters decided to drive – as I did – today.

The picture above is from an article (in Swedish) published on in October last year titled “Over two weeks in traffic jams – each year” and as one could guess the article is all about drivers in Stockholm spending more than two (working) weeks (96 hours) a year in traffic congestion. It took me one car drive to be frustrated enough to write about it and to know it was the first and last time I sat behind the wheel to go to work.

After reading that article I’ve got to ask all drivers out there: Seriously, why are you so hard on yourself? Why do you keep on like that? Don’t you think it would be nicer to sit on a train reading a good book or to ride a bike and get some fresh air?

thank you for cycling – May 22, 2013 – tack för att du cyklar

On May 22, the City of Stockholm and Naturskyddsföreningen (the most influential nonprofit environmental organization in Sweden) will give goodie bags to cyclists around Stockholm as a thank you for riding a bicycle (“tack för att du cyklar”).

Cycling in Stockholm

In order to get one of the 100,000 bags you will have to ride by one the following check points (see on a map):

  • Alvik (Alviksplan)
  • Hornstull
  • Ekelundsbron (Solna)
  • Slussen – bike service available
  • Årstabron
  • Lilla skanstullsbron
  • Hammarbyfärjan (Södermalm)
  • Roslagstull – bike service available
  • Stadshuset – bike service available
  • Norrtull
  • Lidingöbron (Ropsten)
  • Sankt Eriksplan
  • Raoul Wallenbergs torg- bike service available
  • Älvsjö station (by the bicyle parking)
  • Kista – bike service available
  • Hökarängen

Will you commute by bike on May 22 and ride by one of the check points to get a bag? What do you think the goodies will be this year?

the bike snob abroad

Eben Weiss is the blogger behind, a massively popular cycling blog, so if you are a two-wheeled commuter (without an engine obviously) and haven’t heard about him yet you probably should pay a visit to his blog right now, read some and come back here when you’re done. You have 5 to 10 minutes (you don’t have to read back to 2007). I’ll wait for you here.

The Bike Snob Trilogy

Now that you’ve formed your own opinion I can say I don’t really enjoy the blog myself. I actually don’t read it anymore as I find the posts too cluttered to even be readable. But Eben Weiss is not only a blogger but also a book writer and his books are just brilliant.

I read his first two books a couple of months ago and really enjoyed them despite the fact they picture life as a bike commuter in New York City (and in the U.S. in general) which sometimes (but not always) is pretty far from my local experience. And then comes the third book. The Bike Snob is going abroad and is visiting Sweden! Alright Eben Weiss did not actually spend time in Stockholm and went to Gothenburg instead but it still counts for something doesn’t it?

Long story short (I don’t want to spoil anyone) it was just very pleasant to read his experience as a father on parental leave who takes his young kid for rides. Since I plan to do exactly the same (take time off when I get a kid and take him or her for bike rides) Eben Weiss could not better describe the things I am very much looking forward to. His experiences in Gothenburg, London and Amsterdam are entertaining too and pretty close to mine.

Bike Snob Abroad: Strange Customs, Incredible Fiets, and the Quest for Cycling Paradise (see the cycling bicycle books page) is “a fierce and entertaining critic” (as The New York Times puts it) and I can only agree. Whether you are a bike commuter or not, you live in Sweden or not, it’s a book you should read but if you’re a bike commuter and live in Sweden, it’s a book you must read.

I doubt you will ever read this Mister Weiss but if you do this is an invitation to Stockholm for you and your little family. I can’t pay for the flights but would be happy to host, put some fun between your legs (it sounds scary I know but we’re actually talking bikes here) and give you a tour.

The previous books of the “trilogy” are Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling (also listed on the cycling books page) and The Enlightened Cyclist: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Transcendence (see also on the books about cycling bikes list).

Hammarbybacken, dual slalom 2013

It was a fine spring Sunday afternoon in Stockholm and while skiers & snowboarders enjoyed one last ride on the (short) slopes of Hammarbybacken mountain bikers were back on the saddle for some dual slalom racing on the steepest side of the hill.

Hammarbybacken, dual slalom - 2013

Because of the 11 stitches I currently have between the legs (I might write about that later but I’m still not sure it would make a good story) I’ve been off the bike for the last two weeks and could unfortunately not join the 18 or so riders in what looked like great fun. Instead of the goggles I put on my nicest sunglasses and brought the camera to support my friend Yoann (#15 but he got eliminated in his first qualifier), shoot some action and work on my tan.

Hammarbybacken, dual slalom - 2013

Sun, snow & mountain biking: an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you ask me. More pictures can be found in this folder.