Summer has finally arrived which means that the biking season is finally upon us! Me and Dan bike every day, often more than once, and I have come to love urban biking! We live in a small town where it makes a lot of sense to commute between work, to do groceries, head to the climbing gym or the forest. In the summer we often bike to a lake to go for a swim.
I know every turn and bump in town at this point and as I zoom down the grassy hill in our park and up onto the road there’s a huge sense of freedom.
With my bike I can go wherever I want to and when I want to, using my own body. It’s amazing! No need to care for timing the bus, having gas in the car or expensive parking. As a bonus I get to work out, especially as I try to keep up with Dan and his long legs.
I’ll be honest though, I used to hate biking. I had some bad experiences with it as a kid and it left a mark on me. So as an adult I’ve kind of avoided it. As a result I was quite hesitant towards picking it up. Biking in town with loads of people and cars added to the fear but Dan loves it and was determined I bike with him.
It was a struggle at first and I had to take my time but now I’m comfortably zipping through town rather quickly and I love biking together with Dan. I even bike during winter now too! I had a decent bike but last year I upgraded to a mountain bike so I can easily switch between being in the city or pedalling through the lush greenery that surrounds Sundsvall.
Lately Sundsvall has put a lot of money towards constructing more bike lanes and bike lights, and Södra Berget got
funding to expand the MTB-trails a lot so we are very stoked to be biking even more in the future!
Rules for biking in Sweden
As free as it seems to be out biking, there are some rules and recommendations to follow that are important to know about – for yours and others safety.
You are to bike on the right side of the road, and always use a bike lane if one exists. You must of course have functioning breaks. If you don’t know how to maintain them or check them yourself I recommend finding a local bikeshop and have them go over the bike and tune anything that needs fixing.
You are also required to have a bike bell. As you are biking along quite quickly and sharing the public space with other people it is important to give a heads up that you are coming so pedestrians or other bikers have time to react and get out of the way. Speaking from experience I recommend ringing your bell way ahead of time because some people do not react the way you’d think they might haha.
You can of course use any clothing and gear to bike in an urban setting, but there are some key things I find to make my bike commuting a lot easier and pleasant. We order all of our biking stuff from Bikester as they have such a huge range of everything we might need from tools and bike components to clothes – and the shipping is fast!
Here are some of the things I would not want to be without:
(shop all my gear at the bottom of this post)
Protection against the weather
Not much is needed to stay more protected against the weather while biking but it does make all the difference. Being cold (or wet) is never fun.
My number one most important thing is definitely gloves. Your hands are at the forefront of your ride and if it’s cold or windy they feel it and it sucks. Regular gloves might however feel clumsy in terms of getting a good grip or easily accessing and shifting gears or ringing your bell. This is where bike gloves come in handy. They have a good grip, a lot of them also have a padded section in the palm for extra comfort and they’re quite light and nimble so they don’t hamper you during your ride. There are both thicker and thinner ones depending on the season.
If it’s raining hard I recommend using a proper shell, I have mine from Lundhags that you’ve seen in a previous post. If you need to purchase a shell the most important things I would look for is if they’re light and have a good range of mobility. It’s no fun if the jacket weighs a lot or has a stiff fabric when you are out moving. If it’s not raining or the forecast isn’t calling for it I use a very light wind jacket from Klättermusen. If it’s cold I layer up underneath but if it’s warm I mostly just wear it over a t-shirt. Even in warm weather it can be nice to keep the wind off you. This jacket can handle a few drops of rain as well, it’s water repellant but not water proof.
I like when my gear can be used for a lot of different things so that I can put less strain on the environment, so because I already had jackets that work I have not invested in bike specific ones. But if you are in need of something new Bikester carries both rain jackets made for biking as well as wind jackets.
Grippy pedals and good shoes
Urban biking can be quite varied and changes happen quickly. From zooming down a hill to having to stop at a road only to get going rather quickly again as cars clear to biking on varied terrain like asphalt, smaller gravel paths, cobblestones or across train tracks. There’s also a fair amount of going up onto, or down from, the sidewalk. So having a good grip with your feet really is key, if your shoes slide around on the pedal it’s easy to have a bad fall happen.
I use pedals with little nubs on them to get a better grip. It’s incredibly helpful and I could never go back to regular pedals again. They also come in a huge variety of colors so it’s a fun way to personalise your bike.
Of course you can bike in any shoe, and I definitely recommend some sort of sneaker that is comfortable and with a good, grippy sole. But there are also bike specific shoes with a more grippy thread and rubber and where the sole is a bit stiffer. It’s almost like they’re sucked Onto the pedal and then they stay there, it was quite a strange experience the first time but it truly makes me trust my feet a lot more and I can put a lot more power into my pedal strokes or stand up a lot more without worrying about my feet sliding off. Shoes like this still work great for walking around in so it’s not like you need to bring a different pair (unless you want to wear fancier shoes at work).
Wearing a helmet while biking is absolutely necessary. Obviously your head is the most important part of your body and it is key that you protect it, but I still see so many people biking around town without a helmet – it baffles me! It does not matter if you bike carefully and slowly, you never know what situations might happen with other bikers, pedestrians or cars and it all happens so fast. If you are in an urban setting there is a lot going on so make sure you stay safe.
My helmet is from the Swedish brand POC which I really like, and it feels good to support a brand from my own country. I also have their knee -and elbow pads for when we go mountain biking.
Backpack for groceries or adventures
We go literally everywhere on our bikes, and so it’s important to me that I have a good pack. It needs to fit my bike lock within easy reach, have place for a water bottle and enough space that I can pick up groceries or packages while I’m out and about. It is also very important that it sits comfortably on my back and does not make me all sweaty.
The Osprey Archeon does all of that beautifully! The suspension system is amazing and it’s by far the most comfortable backpack I own. It’s also very airy so my back does not get wet and gross when I am out biking. If I’m biking longer distances it supports a water bladder but that compartment can also be used to fit a notepad, laptop or tablet. The big compartment is easy to get a lot of groceries into as it can be zipped open quite wide and it’s quick to get in or close it with the roll top closure.
The side pockets are huge and easily fit my water bottle and bike lock. It also has a small kangaroo-pouch at the front where I usually keep my first aid kit. The bottom compartment has space for a rain cover and/or some other small items as well as a little hook to safely attach your keys.
Water is so easy to take for granted. And for quick commuting through town one might think it’s not necessary. But if you don’t want to lug a big bottle of water around, I still recommend having some with you, and it is nice to have easily accessible. For quick errands in town I have a lightweight sport bottle that fits in my bottle holder on the bike. For longer rides or if I am heading out to hike or climb I bring a bigger bottle in my backpack or a hydration bladder in the pack.
Since we bike in town so much and make a lot of stops to run errands, we need good locks to keep our bikes safe. But they also need to be a good size to bring with us and so we went for the KryptoLok Mini. It’s robust and a lock I really trust, and it fits in the side-pocket of my backpack!