Monday, October 13, 2008

NHL Hockey, Biking, and surrounded by hot blondes – does it get any better than this?

So, last week my wife and I came back from a one week trip in Sweden. Since we’re huge Sens fans, we decided to travel to Stockholm to see our favorite NHL team, Ottawa Senators, play the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sweden apparently has a Sparty Cat of their own (pic taken inside the Globe arena).

Since I’ve previously travelled with my bike, I was anxious to try out my new Pika Packworks bike bag. ,,6610,s1-6-3-16835-1,00.html

This is a pretty amazing bag as it’s light, durable, and simple to use.

To pack the bike, I only needed to remove the wheels, seatpost and saddle, and the handlebars from the stem (despite the instructions, I was able to keep the pedals on). There was a pouch for the wheels, seatpost/saddle, and shoes. There was a pad for the top tube which also held the handlebars with the fork facing backwards. The bottom of the bag had a dense foam saddle to hold the BB up so the chainring could be supported without resting on the bottom of the bag.

All told, the bag weighted 45 lbs with the bike, and all of my cycling gear. I’m sure with future trips (with more consistent weather) I can get as low as 40 lbs. The bag hid it’s contents well and I was never asked about it’s contents or charge extra. Sweet!

Back to the trip, our check-in at the hotel was pretty much as documented in the Ottawa Citizen (link to Citizen article - scroll down a bit) by Allan whom we met at the Sens/Pens practice on the Friday.

While Allan got it wrong saying I was trying to book the same hotel as the Sens, I did inadvertently manage to book us in the same hotel used by the Penguins organisation.

View outside of our hotel room.

Across the bridge in proceeding picture is the very old island/district of Gamla Stan. The island has tiny cobblestone alleys and tall crooked buildings.

Back at the hotel, it was pretty cool throughout the week to see professional player’s lifestyle. Because the hotel is a ‘safe zone’, the players were pretty relaxed. I pretty much met or spoke to the entire team including Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Fleury, Staal, Malkin, Satan, etc… Not as cool as meeting all the Sens players, but better than nothing.

Sidney Crosby pic. He has a real firm handshake!

The hockey venue itself was held at the Globen arena. Honestly, it makes for a pretty ugly backdrop to Stockholm's more historical architecture.

Looks like some kind of alien spacecraft. Observe the 'portholes' even.

Inside it's quite large and comfortable (both games sold out at 13,000). Although by Swedish standards, it's quite inefficient with only the lower half of the 'ball' in use.

OK, onto the biking. The bag did amazing on the trip and I was able to rebuild the bike in just a few minutes. However, things took a turn for the worse when my mini pump refused to inflate my tires.

Thankfully Cykel Works came to the rescue

As cool as the shop owner was talking about hockey & cycling in Stockholm, I wasn’t expecting to see him again. However, on day 2 a rear spoke suddenly popped and I was back to get it fixed.

The shop all kinds of cool antiques. Here's a late 1800's big wheel.

Once I finally got out to ride, I quickly discovered that the Stockholm cycling infrastructure was actually a little overwhelming.

Public air pump for bikers

Every few hundred meters there was an intersection with well marked directions and distance to various bike routes. Stopping each time was too slow so I eventually just rode and depended on my trusty Garmin Edge GPS computer to point me in the right direction when it was time to head home.

Morning commuters crossing the road, note the cycling-only traffic light on the upper right.

In the end I managed about 150 km which is not bad considering the amount of intersections and traffic lights.

GPS results from a typical bike outing

It was pretty cool rushing along a busy street in town on the bike-only lane.

The best part of bringing a bike on a trip is that you can get away from typical touristy stuff and play ‘local’.

Some cozy Swedish homes

Cycling along a boulevard, weather was great for every day except one.

As for the bike that the local used, they were pretty simplistic machines. Many of them appeared to be single speeds but in fact some of them were geared hub machines.

Neat built-in bike lock welded onto the seatstays

In hind site, I was very glad I brought the road bike instead of the MTB. Apparently the MTBing is world-class here (hosting the 2006 Singlespeed World Championships even), but I was worried about carting a muddy bike through a 5 star hotel lobby every day. Also, the overall lack of speed and increased complexity of a MTB was another deterrent.

My usual bike-in-pic #1

My usual bike-in-pic #2

Besides the hockey and cycling, there is a couple of other Swedish must see.

The Vasa is a warship that sunk in 1628 within a few hundred meters on its maiden voyage when a slight breeze capsized the vessel. Apparently adding that second gun deck later in the construction phase wasn’t a good idea eh? Since the water around Stockholm is brackish (mix of salt water from the Baltic sea and fresh water from lake Malaren), the salt worm doesn’t flourish and so the hull was almost perfectly preserved. They raise the ship in the 1960s and restored it.

This picture of the Vasa doesn’t do it justice, this thing is HUGE (220 feet long, 38 feet wide, keel to top of the rear deck has to be 30+ feet high)!

Link to more info on the Vasa if you’re interested:

Cathy and I also visited Sigtuna which claims to be Sweden’s oldest town. In main drag is in its original layout even. Besides it's documented history, Sigtuna's biggest claim to fame are the number of Rune stones which dot the town. These stones are remnants of Viking era where people etched their personal story clockwise around the perimeter of the stone.

Some of the Rune stones are quite large as shown by this lovely model.

All in all we were very pleased with the trip. The locals are very pleasant, and yes, HOT! Since English is taught in their schools, it is quite abundant and very well spoken, dare I say better than Canadians and their French. Everything is clean and due to their somewhat socialistic government (55% income tax plus 25% sales tax on services and goods!!!!) they appear very healthy and well educated.

Swedes are naturally practical and efficient. Even the dogs are put to work.

I've been told that Sweden is one of those places which everyone will recommend to a friend but will probably never return themselves. I now see why. It was great to have a reason for us to go there (Sens) but having seen it there’s really no reason for us to go back, especially with the feel and geography so similar to Eastern Canada.

However, I will miss seeing all those blondes


fitzski said...

Great write-up, Fritz! Thanks for sharing!!

Vasa Museum is incredible; a highlight for us.

On packing the bike... a couple of tips that you might be interested in. I'm surprised you didn't take the pedals off, just to protect them. A good idea is to take them off and simply thread them in on the back side of the crank - won't lose them, and keeps them from protruding. Was also surprised to see you didn't put a spacer in the rear triangle - I have many, and it's another good idea. You never know what the minimum-wage luggage tossers might do (intentionally or otherwise). I've seen bikes destroyed because of not using a 2 cent piece of wood or plastic to reinforce the seat/chainstays.

Welcome home!

fritZman said...

Hey bud,

It's hard to explain but the bag is much stiffer and padded than it looks in the pics. Also, the layout is smart in that the wheels are used to protect and distribute any loads from the side. I'm sure the spokes would give up long before the frame would flex.

Speaking of spokes, I think it's recommended to remove the pedals to prevent them from jamming into the spokes. Note that my one spoke broke after the trip there when I actually did remove the pedals.

Still, a frame and fork spacer are a good idea, especially since I've got a bunch sitting around. Also, I'm also going to use hub tabs the next time.

the original big ring said...

Great photos and write up Fritz. Sounds like an awesome place!

Anonymous said...


I concur, what a great post of your adventure in Sweden! While I was privy to bike talk while you were away via email, this whole analysis of the trip has really made me want to put Sweden on my places to go and see!

That bike bag, is the BOMB!!!!!!!



Anonymous said...

How cold is it in comparison to ottawa?
How cluttered is the roads with cyclists? Can you bike on the roads or only in designated paths?
Drivers accomodating or dinks?

Personally, I don't mind paying more tax if it goes into the right things. Promotion of alternative modes of transportation being one of them. Can just imagine the empires being born in Canada.
yet, we don't want to change the sails and remain status quo. Which is a dangerous thing to do.

So, next question - does it seem as though Sweden is an adaptable country (change with the time) or does it seem as though it is a "status quo" kind of country.

(kind of seems as though I'm trying to find a new country to live in... I'd probably go south though if anything. Some place where I could grab fruit from a tree any time of day)

Anonymous said...

try biking downtown during rush hour. That's overwelming sometimes.
Lots of jerks.
(I know I know plety are saying lots of jerk cyclist. I'd sooner get hit by a cyclist than a car! Metal hurts!)

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