Cycling conversations – Ep. 1

There’s a cycling revolution going on. It started a bit before the pandemic, gained a lot of unexpected traction during that time and now, hopefully, it will maintain course. As more and more people discovered cycling and bike lanes finally started to appear in more cities, most of the talk was focused on users and authorities. But another important part is represented by the humble bike shops. Through the years they supported the people, provided bikes, repairs and know-how, some became cultural hubs and nurtured communities, and they also had to navigate the stormy waters of pandemic lockdowns and supply shortages. They deserve a lot of credit.

So I thought it would be a good idea to go around Stockholm and ask some of the people behind these shops how they feel about all this. Also because I had some great conversations along the years with folks from bike shops. I noticed they tend to be good people, the kind we need more of.
The focus here is not on photography, obviously. I just enjoy finding out people’s point of view on things that interest me, like urban mobility, reducing our car dependence, or simply the joy of exploring the world by bike. I’m also curious to see what the common ideas will be at the end of this series.

First guest: Andreas Jacobsson. You’ll find him at his Chain of Wheels shop in Kungsholmen, where he sells gorgeous Bullitt cargo bikes. I love cargo bikes, by the way, and I’m thrilled to see them spread increasingly fast in our urban environments, where they have so many advantages.

How did you get into this business? 
Basically, by chance. I was a messenger and I looked for a bike that was going to make us able to carry more stuff. Looked for a lot of years, didn’t find anything and suddenly, just by chance, found these. Bought three of them, sold one over the phone, while standing in Copenhagen in the shop and that sort of made me a dealer, you know. And then I sold a couple of bikes from home, building them in my home. And then I tried to get someone else to take over, but it ended up being me. 

What do you love most about working in the cycling industry? 
I sort of liked the engineering of a bicycle. It’s efficient, it’s light, it’s easy. It makes you independent and free. You have the freedom to go where you want and you’re not reliant on fuel or anything, except yourself. So I would say I’m very new to the cycling industry, in one sense, as being on the other side, selling bicycles, instead of riding them. And that’s interesting, but, you know, I think I’m more into actually riding these bicycles than selling them.

And what’s the hardest part?
I think the hardest part is the sense that people have towards bicycles, that they are cheap, they don’t cost that much to buy, and therefore service on them should be cheap, parts should be cheap. The value of the actual bicycle and a second hand bicycle is very, very low, compared to how well they work. I mean, you can buy a second-hand bike for next to nothing, and with little very little effort and money and care, it could be as good as new, and serve you many years. And if you compare that to something else, it’s strange that the value of services to a bike and bike parts and stuff like that are so cheap. 

How do you see the future of the bike in this urban transport equation in this moment?
I would say this, I believe it when I see it. Of course I wished that more people would realize it isn’t difficult to ride a bike and it’s super, super efficient. And it will serve you very good in so many ways, but as I said, I believe it when I see it. Because from what I’ve seen, it takes a while for people to shift this way. I see tendencies towards that and people I know, and friends I know, and people in the industry, they are also saying “well we can see it sort of growing”, but you know, eight years ago I thought “oh, this will change in one year”. And I’ve been thinking that ever since, but now I’m not pessimistic, but I’m sort of getting like an idea that maybe yeah, it will come to that, but probably it would take much more time than I initially thought. 

What about Stockholm? What needs to improve here?
I think it’s not just Stockholm, it’s everywhere. And that’s the mindset and our society’s view of transport. Because there are so many things that are not yet done anywhere. We haven’t been thinking outside the box, in terms of “why can’t you take a bike on a train with you when you travel”? Why isn’t there at least one carriage in the whole train that is, you know, made for taking even bigger bikes as well. And that is so strange. And for example, why are street lanes and highways totally straight, instead of bike lanes? Why are bike lanes turning and coming and going, and not prioritized like that. And that’s because our society sort of prioritized the car, thinking it will solve every problem. And now we know for sure it’s not. And it doesn’t matter if we transfer to electric cars, it still won’t solve that problem. 

But the bike would. And so I think the biggest shift that needs to happen is people’s view on bikes, and what can be done with it and how it can help the whole society, in so many, many ways. But it has to be like… the car is involved in any future planning, let’s say you want to build a house, you want to build a city, you want to start a shop or whatever, the car is within that plan, but the bike isn’t. So in any business you sort of make plans for “what about the cars?”, but you don’t ask the question “what about the bikes?”. 

And if we as a society started thinking like that, then you would see a really big shift. Because now having a bike is a problem, instead of being easy, you know? You don’t have good storage where you live, because “yeah, who rides a bike”. But you can have a garage under your house with several places that are luxurious in space. But if you try to get your bike from your bike room, it’s “yeah, I see you in a week”. Because you have to move everything else. There’s not enough space and it’s not well built and blah, blah.

And the last question, the shortest one. What’s your favorite type of bike? 
Well I would say the Bullitt is my favorite bike, of course. Because I ride it every day. But I would say my favorite sort of bike is a fixed gear bike. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Bullitt or a regular bike, you know, my favorite bike is a fixed gear bike.