The chilly cycle tourist – a short winter cycle tour of Munich

Gallery

This gallery contains 16 photos.

This was the cycling excursion that was never going to happen. It was the result of a three day process that went from “no way”, through “maybe” and “what the heck” and ended up as “that was good”. A chilly … Continue reading

Its snowing – of course childish enthusiasm wins over mature common sense!

Photo Kevin MayneI had been seeing tweets and news stories all day about the snow hitting Britain and Northern Europe.

In Yorkshire there were typical shots of closed roads up on the hills while the Dutch were being oh so smug about the clearing of snow from their bike lanes.

And here it rained, and it rained and it rained.

Until about 2pm when the rain turned to slush, then sleet and finally slow.

Of course I had to go out – its like a rule isn’t it. It may have been mainly slush on top of mud but it was beautiful. (Even if I did have to clean the signs)

Photo Kevin Mayne

Photo Kevin Mayne

Is this Spring? A cyclists’ plea – please let it be so

Sunday in February 2014

Photo Kevin Mayne

Brabant Wallon La HulpeThe same weekend at the same place last year.

Fondation Felon Solvay Park La Hulpe BelgiumAt this stage of last year’s winter we still had two months to go before the snow stopped. As newcomers to Belgium it was quite a shock to the system. And as a cyclist it meant lots of frustration.

But this weekend we were out in the sunshine, almost without hats and gloves. I had the great pleasure of showing a friend round the area and we ended up soaking up some sum and a small beer at one of my favourite cafes at Chateau Solvay.

Along, so it seems, with many others who got the message that the outdoor season has started. The wildlife certainly thinks so, the birdsong seems to have lifted several decibels in the mornings.

Oh gosh I hope this lasts, my system craves warm riding, not worrying about hitting ice, light mornings, no gloves………………….

 

Some Stockholm cyclists are hardier than me, despite conditions on the roads

Kevin Mayne photo

I am so over winter already. We have had two wintry days here in Belgium. Last week, day 1, I fell off on the ice. Today, day 2, I arrived at the station like a soggy snowman.

Which seems a very good starting point for my final round of Stockholm photographs. Despite being mainly there on a non-cycling holiday I was of course very curious to discover how the hardy Swedes coped with the first snows of winter and sub-zero temperatures.

Benchmark for this sort of thing is considered to be the Danes who apparently set the record for cycling further and on more days of the year than any other cyclists in Europe. But in terms of cycle use Sweden is right up there in the first division and the city authorities in Stockholm have some ambitions to catch up with not only their Danish neighbours but also the other leaders in Sweden like Malmo and Vaesteras.

Bicycle counter StockholmHowever I have to say that my impressions were really mixed which kind of matches what I found when I was there at other times of year, some things were quite well done and the cyclists who were riding seemed very confident on the snow. But I didn’t need to see the many parked bikes with snow on the saddles to tell me that numbers were well down. I could see it on the cycle paths and the cyclist counter by the town hall had counted a very sorry 300 riders by 9am. That might be good in a UK or US city with 1% mode share, but that is terribly low for an ambitious cycling capital.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

So what’s the problem?

Well of course the competition is good, Stockholm’s metro is extremely good and well used. On a snowy day it is an easy option.

But the most noticeable thing were the cycle paths themselves and the behaviour of the riders. I think the paths had been swept, as had the pavements. But poorly, the snow seemed to be compressed to form a smooth surface as if the sweepers were compacting not clearing. Then there was a layer of gravel which is the ubiquitous snow topping for grip in much of Scandinavia because there is too much snow. But cycle tyres and even our walking shoes just went through to the slippery surface.

Icy cycle path Stockholm

Finally the clearance must have been happening in the early morning before rush hour, but by the time we went out there was a layer of snow on top of the swept paths so the cyclists largely created their own channels in the fresh snow.

Slussen cycle paths in Stockholm

Cyclist Sodermalm snow Stockholm

In those conditions I was perhaps surprised just how many cyclists were picking their way gingerly around the city. I could see clearly how lacking in confidence many were. On the first day I would say they were predominantly fit looking younger men but over the whole week we did see more and more older people and women coming out, however the balance was not what it was in the summer.

Stockholm cycle path Cyclists on Sondermailm Stockholm Sweden Descending Slussen cycle paths in snow Stockholm Cyclists on snow Slussen Stockholm

Would I have ridden on it? Frankly after a couple of recent falls and not bouncing as well as I did in younger years I seriously wonder whether I would have done. The sheer inconsistency of the surface beneath the snow looked seriously dangerous to me. Most likely I would have been riding because I would have sorted a bike with MTB tyres or studs. But without that I think I might have joined the rest of the sensible Swedes and taken the metro. Sorry Stockholm, half marks from me for the snow work.

But all credit to those who were out there, they did make some good sights in the snow. And it was certainly better than Wallonia or Britain!

Photo Kevin Mayne

A different Stockholm

Photo Kevin Mayne

Photo Kevin Mayne

Photo Kevin Mayne

Regular readers may remember me writing about a number of work trips to Stockholm, it has provided me with some nice posts and is turning into a favourite city. (Click the Stockholm tab at the bottom of the post to see more.)

However last week I enjoyed a different Stockholm.

Three main differences.

  • Reason: We were on holiday! Proper tourists, taking in the sights beyond my fixation with cycle paths.
  • Location: A new location for me, staying in bohemian Söndermalm, the southern island of central Stockholm
  • Season: Shock to the system, first proper snow of the winter for Stockholm, and for us. Minus 7 degrees C in the evenings.

Over the next few days I will add a few extra stories of the trip, and some cycling notes might just sneak in, but here’s an opening highlight or two.

First let’s get the weather thing out of the way. There are two choices when you want to take a few days holiday in January. Either you have to spend a lot of money heading off to look for somewhere warm, or you have to embrace the fact that it is winter and enjoy what the season offers.

Our choice of Stockholm was exactly that, we wanted somewhere that could offer a proper winter break. The plan almost came unstuck because Europe’s relatively mild winter so far has left much of Scandinavia cloudy but snow free so far.

However we watched the forecast for the last two weeks and suddenly the temperatures dropped swiftly and over the weekend light snow was due to fall. And as if to order it did, leaving a light coating in the first day and then regular flurries through the next five days.temperature Stockholm Gondola

Gamla Stan

Stockholm cosy cafe

Between the cold spells were some beautiful spells of sunshine that lit up the buildings and waterside. And after dark there were still many Christmas lights so the city was shining bright against the snow and the cafes and restaurants offered a cosy warm glow which invited us in for coffee, cake and hot chocolate during the day and hearty Swedish food at night.

Some spots I had been to before looked quite different under the snow, especially the open squares but on a more touristy trip I found some interesting new places to enjoy. I suspect I got a different view because we walked everywhere, on previous occasions I had cycled a lot and that takes you away from the pedestrian hot spots. For example Stockholm City Hall sounds just like the boring seat of bureaucracy, but its position and interior architecture make it one of the top visits of the city.

Photo Kevin Mayne

It is also one of the three buildings in the city most associated with the Nobel awards along with the Concert Hall and the Swedish Academy, neither of which I had seen before.

Stockholm Concert Hall The Swedish Academy Stockholm

In contrast to the grander buildings of the city centre Söndermalm is a bustling residential neighbourhood full of art and craft shops, galleries and some fabulous cafes and bakeries. Sondermalm streets Stockholm

Our hotel was the Rival on Mariatorget (the Maria Square) which was a lovely spot in the snow day and night.Mariatorget Stockholm

Mariatorget Square Stockholm

And above it was maze of tiny roads and alleys that led up to the Mariaberget (Maria Magdalene parish) and Monteliusvägen, a panoramic footpath that runs around the top of the steep cliffs that overlook the lake, the old town and the city centre of Stockholm.

Mariaberget street scene

Some of the apartments up there are the most desirable in Stockholm. Photo by Kevin Mayne

We went up there at night and got a brilliant view over the city which was a special addition to my experiences of Stockholm.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Coming next:

  • The Rival Hotel
  • The Winter Cruise
  • Stockholm’s cyclists coping with the snow