Cycling conversations – Ep. 2

As I explained in the previous post, I think bike shops and the people behind them deserve a lot more credit than they receive, especially in the circumstances of the last few years. So I wanted to talk to some of these people, here in Stockholm, to find out what their views are on urban mobility and the cycling shift that’s happening right now.

Second guest: Fredric Svensson. You’ll find him selling all kinds of electric bikes at EloVelo in Stockholm, with a focus on cargo bikes in different shapes and sizes.

How did you end up working in the cycling industry?
I’ve had a shop for like five years now, I think. And I’ve always been working with innovations and been interested in environmental improvements. Cycling is also an interest, not a major interest but still, I like different sports and cycling. But the e-bike is making a change to the way of biking, and the way of moving and transportation in general. So I think just putting in engine on a bike gives a lot more possibilities on how to use a bike and that’s the interesting thing with this. 

What do you love most about working in this industry?
It’s not really just the industry, it’s building a company, building a store and developing that, that’s my main driver, I would say. And then, doing that in a niche, in an area where everyone is doing something new, doing something good. And contributing to major transformations in society. Both environmental, but also in health and in removing the traffic jams and saving time, you know, there’s a lot. It’s really hard to find negative things to an e-bike. Basically everything is positive, which is nice. 

That brings me to the next question: what’s the hardest part in working in this field?
The hardest part… I’ve been here for like, five years, and no year has been the same. When I started, it was the first year, and then the second year the government had a subsidy, where if you bought a bike, you got financing from the government. And then the next year they removed it and the next year after that came the Coronavirus. And now, still the Coronavirus is having effects. So it’s really hard to predict. What bikes to get a hold of, what the customer needs or wants at that time. And we also have a very short season in Sweden. With an e-bike it becomes longer, but still, the main period is spring, summer and beginning of the autumn. So that’s a hard thing, that this is seasonal. It’s hard to predict.

And there are so many bikes out there and so many wishes from the customers. So it’s hard to match. And now with corona, it’s very hard to have a forecast. I get bikes now that I ordered for last season. So I expected to have them last summer, but I get them now. But on the other hand, from some brands I can order a bike and get it in a few weeks. Which I couldn’t before for the same brand. So it’s really hard to predict and you have to adapt and adjust all the time. And it’s hard with spare parts, like discs for disc brakes. There are a lot of parts that are really hard to get. That makes it difficult nowadays.

Somewhat related, what should the city do to support the industry and support people getting on bikes?
Of course, the infrastructure needs to be developed in some way, but I understand that that takes time. It’s not done in a year or two. It takes a lot of time to transform the infrastructure in the city. But that needs to be done and it needs to be safe to ride. So it needs to be for different traffic types. It needs to be working for everyone: the pedestrians, bicycles, scooter drivers, car drivers, everything needs to work together.

And then in terms of e-bike legislation, I think it would be good if the EU could change the rule on the speed limit, because I think 25 kilometers, like we have in Sweden, is good in the city, but it prevents people living outside the city core (from using the bicycle). If you go a bit outside, then the time to travel with an e-bike into the city or past the city, if you have like 20 kilometers or 30 kilometers to work, you could still have an e-bike, but if it takes an hour, it’s a long time to be on an e-bike. So, having a higher speed outside the city would be very good. Like they have in Denmark, I think.

And how would you prevent that higher speed from being used in the city? 
I don’t know exactly how to do that, but I mean a car can go 200 kilometers an hour, that doesn’t mean that you drive 200 kilometers an hour in the city. So, there must be solutions to things. Just because you limit the e-bikes at 25 km/h, that doesn’t mean that race bikers stop at 25. And scooter drivers, they drive faster sometimes, and there are a lot of electrical vehicles that go faster and go under the radar. I think it would be nice to have a better system with rules, so, no matter what vehicle you have, we should all obey to the same rules. But they should be promoting this type of transportation, rather than limiting. 

And one last question: which is your favorite type of bike and why?
My favorite type of bike… it changes over time, but currently it’s a Riese & Müller cargo bike, because it drives like a normal bike, but you have the capacity to carry load and it still has suspension. So it’s very comfortable, very agile. And you don’t need to think, you can just get your dog with you, you don’t need to worry if you change your plan when you’re out riding, you can always go shopping stuff and take it with you. And it’s not that much bigger than a normal bike or handles differently from a normal bike, which is fantastic.