One box, two legs & fourteen islands

Two weeks and two hundred kilometers later the CargoBike Short is already part of the family daily routines.

What happened?

We’ve been thinking about getting rid of our car for a while but it really took the imminent birth of Pignon Jr. #2 for us to set things in motion. I have always been riding with Pignon Jr. #1 to preschool and other places already but the car came in handy once in a while. It also came with all the costs associated to convenience which, at the end of the day, are just not worth the money.

One of the biggest argument against owning that particular car though was that it simply is not a family car (3 door-VW-Golf-kind-of gas sucker). Owning a car “designed” for things a family of four tends to do and carry would basically mean, for us, owning another, bigger car that we would still only use twice a month or less anyway.

And that’s pretty much how the whole family ended up at Gamla Enskede Lådcyklar on a Sunday afternoon just a few hours before Måns closed the store for a month.

After so many weeks (months?) looking at cargo bikes specifications, reviews, and videos online I was sure I would ride a Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E back from the shop (it was actually because Måns had a MK1-E available that we went to his shop in the first place). But he, Måns, did what not too many shop owners do anymore and guided us through the process of choosing the right bike for us and our needs and had us try several cargos that he suggested (in the following order) we took for a spin. Family

We first tried a trike (I came for a MK1-E remember?) and pedalled around the block on a Family which -it was the first time both Madame & Monsieur Pignon rode a trike- was a very nice introduction to three-wheeled bicycles., Family
The bike was easy to handle and pleasant to ride but we felt that it would feel a bit bulky and not so nice to manoeuvre on longer rides (we don’t exactly live in central Stockholm and a roundtrip to Hötorget, for instance, is about 16 kilometers). – around 24,000 SEK

Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E

Next, we tried the Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E -finnnaaaallllyyy- and… I’m glad Måns got it back in one piece!
Butchers & Bicycles, MK1-E, Black & White
I know I wasn’t used to riding a three-wheeled bicycles but, compared to the Family, riding the MK1-E was a completely different experience which, in my trike novice opinion, wasn’t of the riding with the family type. Sure I only rode it around the block for a couple of minutes but I couldn’t really figure out how to tilt it back on sharp corners and keep the rear wheel on the road. Madame felt it was not as stable as the Family and did not feel confident in its saddle. First impressions are key and we decided it just was not a bike for us. – around 50,000 SEK CargoBike Short (and Long)

Last we tried what I thought I would never ride (and like) ever -for reasons I still can’t really explain- and within a couple of seconds knew it was exactly the sort of bike I had to have: a classic Dutch Bakfiets., CargoBike Long
We (Madame Pignon is 8 months pregnant) tried both the long (Måns’ bicycle with electric assistance) and short versions and felt -probably due to the fact that they are pretty much regular two-wheeled bicycles, only a bit longer- like we always have had one. Easy to ride, easy to manoeuvre and easy to maintain (not much can go wrong on simpler machines). We had a deal -18,000 SEK- and rode a CargoBike Short home.

Two weeks and two hundred kilometers later then and I would like, once again, to thank Måns for his help and for opening the shop on a sunny Sunday afternoon on his way -on a cargo bike obviously- to the lake. You’ll probably see us again sometime in the future… that box already feels too small.

To be continued…

as if you needed one more good reason to ride a bicycle to work…

… SL (Storstockholms Lokaltrafik AB, the organisation running all of the land based public transport systems in Stockholm County) is giving you plenty during the upcoming weeks (months even).

From the 2nd of April at 04:00 to the 6th of April at 09:00 commuter trains will be cancelled in both directions between Stockholm C and Älvsjö. But that’s only the first reason.

Train commuters living south of Stockholm (Årsta) will be hit even harder next and should consider bicycle commuting to work rather soon: commuter trains will not be stopping at Årstaberg from the 6th of April (week 15) to the 2nd of August (week 31). That’s 17 weeks. SEVENTEEN weeks.

And last but not least, if one thought she would do just fine and travel by tram to Liljeholmen or Gullmarsplan to catch the red or green subway lines, one was wrong. Trams between Alvik and Sickla udde won’t run at all in July. Summer holidays I believe. Like last year.

As if you needed one more good reason to ride a bicycle to work, SL just delivered. Once again. Do you really want to fork 790 SEK out each month (or 300 SEK each week) for all the troubles? I sure don’t.

Don’t bother with longer and chaotic journeys with them. Get a bike already. For your own sake.

3 great cycling books you should read this summer

Three books, three different topics but a common subject: bicycle cycling. If you are out of books for the coming days under the umbrella here are three titles you definitely should consider adding to your reading list.

It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels

It's All About The BikeRobert Penn’s “It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels” is a paean to the humble bike; it’s the story of why we ride, and why this simple machine holds the power to transport us all. Robert Penn has ridden a bike most days of his life. He rides to get to work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to stay sane and to feel free. This is the story of his love affair with cycling and the journey to build his dream bike; a freewheeling pilgrimage taking him from Californian mountain bike inventors to British artisan frame builders, and from perfect components to the path of true happiness. Read more…

A Bike Snob Abroad

A Bike Snob AbroadBike Snob is all grown up! After two books and thousands of miles under his tires, Bike Snob is back with a book that takes his family on the road – 2 year old son in tow – on an international cycling adventure into the wild and tweedy bike-share lanes of London, the Bakfiet equipped cycling utopia of Amsterdam and the back roads of Switzerland and Italy. But all roads lead home eventually, and the Snob takes a close look at the state of American cycling after a decade of advocacy, infrastructure development and backlash have frankensteined us into some semblance of a bike-friendly nation. But is it working? Read more…

Cycle Space

Cycle Space“Cycle Space” is the first book to view the city through the lens–or rearview mirror–of the bicycle. It features portraits of eight major cities and their respective cycling cultures: New York, Chicago, Portland, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Budapest, Sao Paolo, Singapore and Sydney. Each of these cities has seen a groundswell of cyclists taking to its streets in recent years. From death-defying bike messengers to hipsters with a taste for cycle chic to commuters simply riding to work, cycling is now being viewed as more than just an alternative: it’s practical; it’s cool; it’s green. Read more…

Grab a cold drink, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Already done with these three? Have a look at this longer list.

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.

sea, ride & sun in Réunion

I really do like Stockholm, no doubt about that. I like the city for the perfect mix it is between urbanized areas, forests or parks and lakes or the Baltic Sea, and the best way to enjoy that environment is in my opinion to wander around walking or, even better, riding a bicycle.

The best time of year to do so would be, for most people at least, summer but Stockholm is a whole different but as beautiful city in winter! Unfortunately I have to be a bit more objective and I must admit that winters are a bit rough even for the most committed riders and one needs a break from snow and ice once in a while.

I suppose I don’t really have to justify myself but after my 8th winter up here I finally did what a lot of Swedes do sometime between November and March: I traveled to a warmer place, in the south hemisphere and on the 2nd of February I was sitting on a plane bound for Réunion, an eleven hour flight from Paris (following a 2 hour flight from Stockholm to Paris).

Addiction being what it is I could not travel that far and not ride some of the local trails and since packing a bag for such a destination is quite easy (you basically just need a couple of t-shirts and shorts) I had room for Crank Brothers Mallet 3 pedals and a pair of Five Ten Cyclone shoes (my usual mountain bike setup).

Ready for departure

I did not spend 10 days riding a bicycle over there (that was definitely NOT okay with the wife) so I had to pick the one thing I really wanted to do on an island that basically is a big volcano: downhill mountain biking or to put it in cycling figures a 3 hour ride that started at 2,205 meters and ended at sea level.

Three hours of downhilling on various grounds (volcanic rocks, muddy soil, …) and through amazing landscapes (volcanic desert at the top, forests of Highland tamarinds, sugarcane fields, …) on a rented full suspension Kona bike.

Downhill in Réunion - The Maïdo

It was an amazing experience (even though it gets pretty warm with a full face helmet when it’s already 35°C+ outside – 95°F+) and I hope I can soon post a video shot by a fellow rider. Stay tuned.