The Bakfiets is doing well, thank you for asking! And to all of you who think commuting by bicycle through the winter is not possible I tell you, it is. It’s even possible up here in Stockholm with a cargo bike and it’s lots of fun.
PS. I will update the gallery as snow keeps falling.
Lots of people treat winter as the bike commuting off-season and most winter cycling tips out there are either written by buy-as-much-accessories-as-you-can-but-seldom-ride cyclists or people who just don’t ride their bike at all during winter but believe their opinion matters nonetheless.
I’ll soon bicycle commute for the fourth winter in a row and I’ll do it with the CargoBike (Bakfiets.nl) Short for the first time this year. I tried to find information on what kind of tires people use to get these tanks roll through snow but could not find many different alternatives.
Most seem to go for Schwalbe Marathon Winter but I really didn’t want tires with spikes. I don’t think spikes are necessary around Stockholm and I’ve been doing just fine without for the last four winters (the one time I crashed during winter was on a bike with spikes). Moving 100+ kilograms on 20+ kilometers everyday is already hard enough and I didn’t feel like pushing harder on the pedals because of the added rolling resistance of studs (whatever people say spikes DO increase rolling resistance) and so I went for my own setup:
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.
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.
Sun, snow & mountain biking: an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you ask me. More pictures can be found in this folder.
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.
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?
It has been snowing quite a lot for the last couple of weeks and when you combined melting snow with salt you get a pretty aggressive cocktail that does no good to a bike.
My last blog post was 10 days ago but yes I am alive – CX Pro tires for the win but I keep knocking on wood – and still riding the fixed gear back and forth in the city. I manage to lock the bike indoors most of the time – at the office & at home – and keep it dry but I had to leave it outside the house for only one night: below is a picture that just shows the effect of the salty cocktail.
Time for maintenance on the drivetrain: the chain, chainring and sprocket need brush love and lube.
It’s Saturday morning, I’m sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee, sore legs and mixed feelings after the last couple of days: it has been quite a commuting experience to say the least.
It all started with freezing cold weather (between -10°C and -15°C) on Monday and Tuesday but roads were clean and apart from the extra time it took to dress up accordingly the daily rides were business as usual and quite enjoyable.
But on Wednesday the weather Gods – for some obscure reason – decided to punish us all and poured thousands of cubic meters of fresh snow all over Stockholm.
“Crews at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport were forced to remove 200,000 cubic metres of snow in the wake of the storm, nearly as much as the 250,000 cubic metres removed for the entire 2011-2012 winter season.” – thelocal.se
And chaos it was. Complete chaos. The city buses were pulled out of service, commuter trains and subways faced severe delays when not cancelled and people had to find a way to get home: a colleague even walked 16 kilometers not even trying to hail a nowhere to be found available cab.
Snow chaos, svd.se
I half walked, half rode the bike in deep fresh snow between the office and home and made it back in an hour or so (compared to the usual 25 minutes). It felt like the worst ride ever at the time but having the bike with me in those conditions was probably the best choice in retrospect.
Thursday morning’s ride was still a bit rough with not all of the bike lanes cleared and ridable but everything was back in order on Thursday evening.
I can understand how frustrated Stockholmers have felt during the storm – let down by the public transport system having to find an alternative to get home – but let’s face it: which city in the world would have done better? Everything was up and running in less than 24 hours after the first flake came down and I must admin that I am quite impressed by how the situation was handle and the amazing work done by the snow plow crews who have been working 24/7 since then.
A week ago I was mounting Schwalbe CX Pro tires on my commuting bike a few hours before the first snow falls hit Stockholm. Not sure it really was a wise choice at the time I’ve now been riding them for over 100 kilometers and I’m still in one piece.
I took it very easy during the first ride on snow as to get used to the tires and deflated them a bit for a softer steering (it was really bumpy and a bit slippery at 6.5 bars, no kidding!) and better grip after a couple of kilometers. I think I now have a pretty good setup and I’ve not found myself in a delicate situation so far.
Those tires sure do a very good job on fresh and packed snow (no difference whatsoever with summer tires on asphalt even when breaking hard) and are pretty stable on an icier surface (but I’m more careful then as one should be riding studded tires or not).
All in all a very positive first impression and I’m looking forward to the 30 centimeters of fresh snow promised for tomorrow (according to TheLocal). Please stay tuned for more feedback on those tires later.
According to the weather forecast I will soon know whether I took the right decision or not but I finally decided to go for cyclo-cross tires (non-studded) to commute to work during winter.
I’m sure riding non-studded tires might not seem as safe as riding studded tires during the days when roads and bicycle lanes are covered with a thin layer of black ice but non-studded tires will do most of the time.
First of all there are usually only a few days with ice as the streets are cleaned pretty quickly in the city and most of the winter rides will be either on asphalt, fresh or compacted snow. Secondly, studded tires are heavier and harder to drag. I commute by bike because it’s faster and funnier and this would be kind of a “fun killer”. And last but not least I am not really sure studded tires are safer than non-studded tires. Even on ice.
Riding studded tires (would that be on a bike or on a motor vehicle) gives a feeling of safety that lowers the attention one would pay to the road. Studies have shown that there are as many accidents involving studded vehicles than with non-studded vehicles the only difference being the speed (higher for the studded vehicles). Sure I am referring to motor vehicles here but let me tell you something: the first and only time I broke a rib was last winter on a mountain bike… with studded tires.
This morning was the perfect mix of these little things that make me glad I ride my bike to work instead of going underground: blue sky, dry air, clean & not overcrowded paths. Sure it was -2 ℃ when I left home but it’s not that bad for mid-November up here.
Even though the weather forecast looks alright for the coming days I know it will get worse sooner or later. I probably won’t make it alive if I keep on riding slick summer tires so I got myself a second pair of wheels (I can’t be bothered to swap tires now and then through the winter, I’d rather have two sets ready and just swap wheels). I haven’t made my mind whether I’ll go for studded or non-studded cyclo-cross tires on the winter rims though. Any suggestions?