So, you will notice that it has taken me an exceptionally long time to write about this ride. Part of this is that I’m busy, part of it is that I’m attempting (for the zillionth time) to write a novel I’m happy enough with to publish, and part of it is that riding a bike in Stockholm wasn’t really as thrilling as I wish it had been.
Don’t get me wrong: Stockholm is a beautiful city. The old buildings lining the waterfront are colorful and grand, the islands are wooded and mysterious… but truthfully, it reminded me a lot of a much older version of Seattle. I suppose I’m spoiled by the astonishing beauty of my home city, but I just didn’t go wild about Stockholm.
I’m sure the fact that the Swedes are just as reticent and stand-offish as Seattlites had nothing to do with this. Ehem. Moving on.
I had most of one day free in Stockholm, after my clients had flown home. Due to an airline snaffu, I was stuck one day longer than they were. Not that being stuck in Stockholm is a bad thing, but I wanted to get home to my family. So perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to begin with. Add to that the fact that I had effectively toured most of the city on foot already, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with myself. Strolling through Old Town, again, to get my fifty-third serving of raspberry-and-Turkish-pepper ice cream (sooooo much better than it sounds), I found myself passing a bike shop. They had rentals. I peeked inside. Then I chickened out. Riding a bike in a strange city seemed a bit scary.
But then I reminded myself that I’m not really one to be afraid of much of anything, and in I went. Fifteen minutes later, I had a “Dutch” bike to ride and a map of where to go. Fortunately, we’d already visited an area near where I was supposed to end up, so even my fear of getting lost was unfounded. Off I went.
The bike was another modern version of my Gazelle, disguising bad hybridness. But unlike the one I rented in Copenhagen, this one was not fun to ride. Dutch-style bikes can be heavy and cumbersome even at their best, but without the proper balance and good-quality materials of a real Dutch bike, they just stink. And this bike didn’t really know what it was: Dutch? A hybrid? I dubbed it “mud bike,” because every time I hit even the slightest bump in the road, the bike promptly slowed down and felt as though I were peddling it through quicksand. I mean, it was Stockholm. There were no serious hills. But sheesh, when even the slightest incline leaves you huffing and puffing, the bike is crappily designed.
I cruised along the waterfront, which was a lot less fun and far more dangerous than any of the paths we took in Copenhagen. The small hills in Stockholm mean that significantly fewer folks ride there, and the infrastructure is less developed. I felt several times like I was about to plow into a group of pedestrians, or ride out into the road and get hit. But then a bike path reappeared, and all was well. I rode out to several of the small islands that make up the edge of the downtown, rolling past museums and amusement parks, playgrounds and housing developments. I ended up riding through a large park, which was pleasantly cool and green.
At the edge of the park, I decided it was time to head around back to the city, as I had just an hour before the shop closed and I didn’t want to end up too far out to get back in time. I figured any old road would do to make a loop, but ended up on a funny little unpaved short cut across the tip of the island past farmer’s fields and wealthy houses. The bucolic long-horned cattle were a real highlight of this short jaunt, and I was thrilled to have taken it.
I ended up paralleling the canal back into the city, which was the most pleasant part of the ride. The path was unpaved, but well-packed, and the sun was out just enough to warm the air. Boaters riding in everything from speed boats to canoes traveled next to me, and on the other side, a greenbelt meant there were birds to spot in the small lakes and marshes.
I finished back in Old Town just as the shop was closing. I briefly eyed a sheepskin cover for my Gazelle’s horrible seat, but decided against buying it when I wasn’t sure it would fit (and everything in Stockholm is horribly expensive). The ride was certainly enjoyable, but I wouldn’t categorize it as the best ride I’ve ever taken or anything. In fact, a good ride on Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail is almost as scenic, and a lot less stressful in terms of the transitions from street to trail.
Would I recommend riding around Stockholm? Of course I would. It’s a lovely city, and cycling is a great way to see it. But would I do a week-long bike tour in this area? Probably not. It’s expensive, and though it’s beautiful…. so are lots of places. Copenhagen’s exceptional infrastructure is an attraction in and of itself. I can’t say the same for Stockholm’s. Spending more than a few days there would be overkill, in terms of cycling.
Arriving home, I’ve been riding The Gazelle almost daily. The poor, neglected Raleigh has a flat tire, and I’m too lazy to figure out how to wrench off the rear wheel and disconnect the shifter cable. Then there’s the joy of pulling out the tube and reseating the tire, which is never pleasant when you have nerve damage in your hands. I debate constantly whether or not I should run it into the shop and have them do it, but I feel a bit lame asking someone else to change my tire when I’m supposed to know all about this sort of thing. And I have changed numerous tires, just not on this bike. Sigh.
That said, things have been exceptionally exciting, bike-wise. Not only is The Gazelle an outstanding bike and very different from The Raleigh (it even works totally different muscle groups!), but the kind woman who gave it to me has now gifted me with her vintage vinyl panniers, and tons of spare parts and do-dads for the bike. I will soon have pictures of up the new panniers and fun little treats (how about an original 1976 Gazelle cap?).
More than that, next week or soon after, I’m going to pick up another Gazelle from her. Only this one is not a Dutch bike, but something entirely different. I have seen it, and it’s a beauty. I suspect, though I haven’t ridden it yet (she didn’t have the correct combo to the lock and her husband was out of town), that it will prove to work for me despite not ostensibly being an upright bike. More on that soon. And yes, she’s just giving it to me. Her generosity is so amazing! She’s also a delight to be around, so even if she weren’t giving me bikes, I’d be thrilled to be her friend. Gotta get that on record!
So more news soon, and a new bike to talk about. Unfortunately, I think I’m too broke to get it tuned up at the shop, but since it’s a more “standard” model, I might be able to talk a local pal into doing it for cheap. We’ll see…