The mystery bicycle, part 1

Some weeks back I visited an bicycle shop in the central parts of Stockholm. I was looking for some old bicycles. I had been asked if I knew any old bicycles that some friends could use for the Bike in tweed event for next year, 2016. It seems that the Bike in Tweed event has become a huge success so more people wants to join. Since I like old bicycles and know were to look, I was asked to do some research for the friends.

This shop I visited is what I call a real bicycle repair shop. There is not a clean spot anywhere to be found. The smell of old grease and rubber from old tires hits you when entering. The workers got old grease up to their elbows, that is a sign of working and having an interest. There are some good shops for vintage bicycles in Stockholm, but this place is genuine as a shop used to be. Own by people that loves bicycles. There are bicycles everywhere, parts everywhere, bits and pieces all over the place. But they know every part of the shop. All things, pieces and tools are in the right place, in an odd but nice way. I had been there some time earlier and looked at their range of old bicycles. They had some really nice ones, mainly old Swedish brands standing in corners of the shop. They vintage ones was mixed with newer models, a really good selection for everyone.

As I mentioned in this post, I got an idea of building an bicycle by using the parts from my grandfathers bicycle. My idea was a black roadster, in a 1930s style. So I decided to visit the old shop again and ask them if they had an old bicycle for sale that I was looking for. I explained the style I was aiming for. I think I even said that I was looking for a project to work on and it was for the 2016 Bike in Tweed.
The fellow I was talking listened and understood what I was going for, he remembered that he had seen an project that might be suitable for me. “Follow me”, he said and walked in to the shops storage.

We walked in to the really small rooms in the back, there up on some water pipes hanging from the ceiling was an old frame laying covered in dust and spider web. He took it down and said that it was an old Swedish 28 inch wheel frame that might suit me as an project to build and develop. The frame had no name badge so it was a mystery what maker it was. It had screw holes on the head of the frame for a badge. I got a feeling of remembering the pattern of the screw holes from somewhere. But my memory was blank for the moment.
He asked me if I was interested of the frame. If I was, then they could look for more parts and also build the bicycle for me. Of course, I was really interested of the parts. But I said that I would like to build it myself. After all I have been repairing bicycles since I was a kid and I still think it is really fun to repair and fix old bicycles. I told them that I would come back a few weeks later so they could find the parts that was needed for the project in their own time.

At my next visit, they had found some mudguards that had the same colour scheme as the frame, black with gold trimming. But sadly no wheels. But, they had some rims that matched the mudguards and the frame. But there was no spokes or hubs. That is no problem for me, I had a rear hub from 1935 that was very common on Swedish bicycles in those days. Besides I have wanted to build a wheel for some time now. With the winter around the corner, it could be a fun lesson for me. Building wheels where 36 spokes need to be mounted in a special order and tighten so the wheel is true. It will be fun!

To day I collected the first batch of parts. I brought a big plastic bag and carried the parts home. Now comes the part that I really like, cleaning and making sure that the parts are in a good shape. De-greasing, cleaning and polishing all the parts. As I was unpacking all parts in my basement I remember the screw holes on the frame. Now I even remembered where I have been seeing the pattern before. It was the pattern of the Hermes badge that is on one of my other vintage bicycle. But with one difference, the pattern is for the older, 1930’s style badge. So now we know what brand it is, it is an Hermes made in the Swedish town of Uppsala. With that information, I can now focus on getting the correct parts for the build. I am thinking of documenting the build here on this blogg if you like?

I will most likely spend the winter in the basement building an 80 year old bicycle so why not write about it and take photos to? After all, it could be worse.

I could be sitting outside in the snow, building a 80 year bicycle.


Modern cameras and old cobblestones

Back in the days when all photos were black and white. Well, not that far back in time, only to the time when digital cameras were rather exclusive and very expensive. Back in the end of the 1990’s when I was starting to take photos on a more regular basis and I started to develop and make my own prints in a darkroom in the basement. At that time I was using an old Zorki camera as my main camera. It was a Soviet made “Leica 2” copy made in 1955. The German Leica 2 cameras from 1930’s was considered to be one of the best cameras in the world at that time. They were developed to improve the Leica 1 camera that was a ground breaking design in mid 1920’s. The usage of 135 millimetre film, also the simple, but reliable functions along with the optics that was developed and made by Leitz (that founded the Leica camera company). Leitz lenses with and Leica cameras was top of the line back then.

After the second world war, everyone all over the world started to make copies of the Leica cameras because they were so well made and great working. But in Soviet they already had made copies of the Leica camera even before the war. The main manufacturer was the FED factory that was located in Kharkiv (Ukraine). They started to produce cameras in the mid 1930’s, but some years after the war the KMZ factory that was located in Krasnogorsk that is near Moscow, started to make FED cameras due to that the FED factory was behind in production. After a while KMZ developed the FED-Zorki model, but soon after that they changed the name to only Zorki. In fact even the “1” is an addition in recent years. In teh begining it was just “Zorki”. Then with further developments and designs then started to use the add on numbers. It all ended in 1978 with the Zorki 12.

Back to the story. When I was using my Zorki camera, I always used the Kodak tri-x film. It used to have a nice grain and good performance so it became “my” brand of choise. I got great results and it was fun to take photos and later on develop and print the photos in the basement. At one point I was visiting an old city in Germany when I by accident dropped the camera on to the cobblestone pavement! It was a rather high fall for the old camera, so of course I thought that the camera was absolutely smashed to pieces. But when I picked it up I could not find a dent, not a scratch anywhere on the camera! That was a surprise! The Zorki camera was simply built like a tank, robust, sturdy and almost indestructible. I just picked up the camera dusted off some dust and it was ready to take photos again.

Now, many years later and many different cameras later. I have been using a Fujifilm X-100 for the last few years. It is a good camera, the sensor captures the colours and details in a great way, the optics are really nice and the camera works like a charm. When I bought it I wanted to protect the lens. So I bought an UV filter so that the filter would take the first hit when the dust flies around. I also got a lens hood, just to catch raindrops, snow, any fingers or anything that an by accident can make a mark or an smudge on the lens. Both lens hood and UV filter? I hear you ask. Well, you can never be to safe.

When I attended this year Bike in Tweed event, about a month ago. I brought my Fujifilm camera along, there are lots of photo opportunities of the bicycles and the participants, I posted some of the photos I got in a post about the Bike in Tweed event here on Schneebremse. But at one moment when I trying to get a good photo, crawling around on the ground, disaster struck! While was trying to get some nice photos at the start of the event, I dropped my camera straight down into the cobblestone pavement. At least I was kneeling down when I dropped the camera so it was a short fall, at least that was I thought.

The impact was not dramatic or anything like that. But when I picked up the camera, the entire lens hood was smashed like the crash zone on a car. It turned out that the entire impact was on the lens hood when the camera fell to the ground.

The camera worked perfectly the rest of the day, I got great photos in total. But when I got home I tried to get the smashed lens hood off the camera. It was really tight and difficult to remove, all bent and crooked. But I finally got it off the threads. But I need to get a new lens hood now after all I think it is a small price to pay, since I rather pay £15 for a new hood rather than £150 for an new camera.
But remember the old Zorki camera, it was all metal and built like a tank, no electronic or plastic.

Instead of getting a dent, it dented the cobblestones.

(the Fujifilm X100 with the smashed up lens hood and extra UV filter, a cheep protection of the lens)


The autumn is here

Suddenly the autumn came here and pushed away the summer with force. It is no surprise since that happens every year at this time. The temperature becomes colder, the sun rays tries to give us the last warm feelings of a season that is going to be replaced. The leaves on the trees transforms from a healthy and summery green colour, just to take on all colours from yellow to red. Personally I like the autumn very much, it makes me calm in a way. The usage of a warm jacket, a scarf and gloves, it is nice to get inside after being out side. Have a cup of tea and some scones with marmalade. Watching the leaves falling to the ground, wile burning the tongue on scolding hot tea. That got it’s charm to.

Now, you have to put on a jacket and a scarf, bring a thermos with tea. Let us take a bicycle ride on the back roads in the autumn. It is a nice ride, filled with the fragrances of the forest. The rich and slightly cold air fills your nose and lungs. Why not stop for a moment and just listen to the nature, the wind in the trees and the quietness of the forest relaxing after the spring and summer. It is time to relax for everyone, charging our batteries for next season and summer. But before it is summer again, here in Sweden we will have a dark and long winter. Snow and very cold weather when it is hard, not impossible to ride a bicycle.

One good thing with the winter and all snow on the roads, is that you can sit in the basement and renovate old bicycles. Plenty of time to prepare them , and you, for the time when the roads are swept clean of the winter and the warm wind of the spring hits you in the face while pedalling along in the first fragile days of spring.

Next year there will be a Bike in Tweed event again here in Stockholm. In fact there will be several events all over the world. We have the original one, the classic the one and only, London Tweed Run that is by not world famous and had follow-ups all over the world. From the north to south, from east to west. Everyone brings out their fines bicycles and dresses up in tweed clothes. It has become an event that everyone loves. The riders enjoy every minute. The bystanders are happily surprised and cheers and take photos. It all started in London. I would love to join that one, but the chances are rather slim. The thing is that since it is so popular they would like to have a restricted number of participants, but also they need finances to rent/buy/pay everything surrounding the event. So they decided to sell tickets to be able to attend the bicycle event. Understandably it is very popular at the tickets sells out rather quick. I read that last year their tickets sold out in 90 seconds!
So I feel that my chances for booking a ticket is really small.

But there are bike and tweed events in other cites, the biggest may be London Tweed Run. One of the smallest might be the Oslo Tweed ride I heard of, 15 persons. But still, it is a bicycle meeting dressed in tweed.
I never know what to call the events, since the London version is called “Tweed run”. But I heard that Stockholm was not allowed to use that name so it became “Bike in Tweed” instead. In either case, it is bets to call them “tweed events”. I have done some research for possible tweed events that I could attend that might not be impossible. There are an total of 6 different tweed and bicycles events that I think I can possibly attend to. Sadly I guess that I can only attend to only 3 of those 6 events when thinking realistic. It is most due to the fact I need to work weekends often.

First up next year is the craisiest event of them all. It is located in Helsinki, Finland in February! They gathers in Helsinki and rides their bicycles in -20 degrees! That is no problem for me at all, I have done it before. Back in the school days when the bicycle was the only way to get around I used my bicycle all year around. But first I need to check with the Helsinki officials, if I am allowed to attend. After all it would be great fun to bring an old bicycle over there, dressed in a heavy jacket over the tweed suit. Twining rope around the tires for grip in the snow (not the best way to do it, but it is the way we did back then).

Then we have the London Tweed Run in April. But it, as mentioned earlier, might be difficult to catch a ticket. But it would be really, really fun to attend the original tweed event. Having a cup of tea in London dressed in tweed and riding a bicycle on the streets of London, why not? It was a few years since I was in London, perhaps this time it will be a odd and fun experience. I will at least try to get a ticket.

In May there is an really nice event in Oldenburg, Germany. To me that event seems to be really well organized and well thought of. A quick search on internet gives you photos and videos of many bicycle riders that really enjoys themselves and are having a great time.

Then there is 3 different tweed events in Sweden. There is the event in Gothenburg, Malmö and Stockholm. Lucky for me is that they are all held at different dates. It would be fun to attend them all. Just to be able to say that I was there. But time might be against me as mentioned earlier. It is a big shame that we are not allowed to bring yours bicycles on the inter city trains any more. It would been so easy to just simply ride the bicycle to the train, travel by train across the country, then ride to the event and attend. But today, that is impossible.
If I will attend any other “tweed run”/”bike in tweed” event, I will do a reportage about my experiences of course. Reportage complete with text and photos of course.

Next year, I will most likely not use the tandem bicycle again. There is a few reasons for that. First of all, it is easier to manoeuvre a single bicycle, also quicker and more effective in slow speeds. Second reason is that it is easier to carry a single bicycle (have you ever tried to carry a tandem bicycle up the stairs of an old museum)? It is also way more easier to just hook up a rack on the towing hook on a car and hang a bicycle on the rack if transporting the bicycle to places far away, like London for example.

Then we have the interesting question of what bicycle to use and the current bicycle situation for me.
I have an idea that might be a nice homage to my grandfather. He also loved to ride bicycles all the time, even in the winter so my father told me once. When I was a kid my grandfather had an old worn Swedish Rex bicycle that he was given from a neighbour. Later that bicycle was left to me. Sadly it was in a rather bad shape, so I removed some parts from it and scrapped the bicycle (it was before my interest of vintage bicycles started for real). The parts I removed from the frame is still laying in a box in my storage. In that box there is a bicycle pump with holders, an old bicycle bell that came from a friend of my grandparents, the bell must be from the 1920’s it has the loveliest chime. But the main item is the saddle, an old double spring saddle with a loop in the front, all worn and old. But it is an valuable memory from my grandfather.

So I was thinking of building a vintage bicycle as it would been back in the 1930’s that my grandfather could have used. An old Swedish made black roadster with a mudguard mascot, wooden grips on the handlebars, vintage reflectors, old headlight and my grandfathers old saddle. That would be a bicycle great for attending any tweed event with. Also with personal history and essence behind the build.
Currently I am searching for a good foundation bicycle to base my ideas upon. I have some ideas on where I can find a good bicycle. For example I know where there is a great late 1930’s frame in good condition for sale. But I need the other parts, but I will give it one more week to see if the ideas turns out good or not.
Of course I document the build. From the first moment until the finished result. This time I know what I need and want. The winter is long and cold, but first there is time to enjoy the autumn riding the old Hermes bicycle from 1950’s.


Bike in Tweed, 2015

Then the day came, it was time for the bicycle event again. Bike in Tweed in Stockholm 2015.

To get a good foundation and build up some energy for the long bicycle ride that was before us. We started with breakfast at an bakery in a sleepy suburb. There we meet up with our friends that also was entering the Bike in Tweed event with an old Rex tandem, just like the one we have. But in a blue color and some other minor diffenreces. At the bakery we parked our bicycle outside went inside for some lovely and fresh bread. While we were sitting there we noticed that the people walking by on the outside, watched, looked and smiled att our bicycles outside. It seems that old vintage bicycles makes people happy. After the breakfast we started our journey toward the centre of the city with the royal castle as goal. It must have been a strange sight, two old tandems after each other, with the riders dressed in tweed clothes just crousing down the streets.
In fact there was at some point people even smiling and cheering at us when we passed them on your journey in to the start of the tweed parade.

Two Rex Duplex tandem bicycles from late 1940’s

At the starting point at Nytorget, we were among the first to arrive.
We parked out tandems beside each other and went to the register office and got our numberplate’s for identification. We got two one for each rider on the bicycle, but we were riding on only one bicycle. That usually makes the officials rather confused. Is it two riders or one bicycle? Is it the bicycle that should have the number, or is it the riders? But we put our both numbers in a rather fun way on our tandem. One number at the front of the bicycle and other at the rear, someone would be confused. But it worked out like a charm, no one did notice that, at least as we knew!
At the start when we all that registered us, we also received an bag with a map of the route, some commercials and a package of Scottish shortbread cookies from the sponsors. Inside there was also an voucher for an beer at the Nordic Museum at Djurgården at the finish. Another of the sponsors, Hendrick’s, said that they would treat us with a gin and tonic just before the finish.

As the time went by, different riders started to join the event. There were old vintage bicycles, new modern ones to. Many of the riders was dressed in fancy vintage dresses, old puffy plus 4 trousers, retro sharp suits, nice flamboyant hats and great really lovely shoes. One of the riders actually said, “we do not dress for fun, we dress in a nice way”. After all, this is not an event to act like a clown (as many bystanders might think). Many of the riders dress like this because they want to, we like the look of tweed and the old style of clothes. But sadly many of us never got a suitable moment to dress up in tweed suits and vintage clothes. Bike in Tweed are an perfect opportunely to embrace the well dressed and use good looking clothes and to use our old bicycles.

Harris Tweed jacket

We all started to cue to have the official individual start photos taken, the start was getting closer by the minute. Then the word was out, it was time to start the parade (more a parade than a race). Then we all were off, all 160 of us! 160 bicycle bells where ringing in the morning. Tourists were confused by the noise, bystanders cheered. There were children on small bicycles, race riders with vintage road racers, really heavy tandems bicycles (I used to call my tandem “the Dreadnought” because it is so big and heavy).
All generations of both bicycles and their riders was represented in the parade. A young girls skirt needed some attention at the start, the advantage with an event like this, is that there always are people available with the know how to mend and fix vintage items. The girl had the skirt mended on location. In every way.

Repairs on location

As we ride along the route, there was some stops along the way, just to let everyone to catch up so we all could ride in a tight formation along the streets. The ride along the waterfront was nice, the bicycle tires silently floating over the walkways. There was old boats at the docks, small cabins along the way and the trees were starting to get yellow leaves on their branches. It was a great autumn day for a tweed parade. No sun and no rain. A perfect bicycle and tweed day.

DSCF7471_sch DSCF7476_sch
Views of the surroundings from a riders perspective

In the middle of the race there was a stop at the park theatre at the Rålambshov park just outside the city.
It was time for picnic and the official group photo of all riders and their bicycles. It was nice to sit down and have a cup of tea and a sandwich. One of the sponsors of the parade I mentioned earlier, Hendrick´s Gin, were there and offered lemonade and cucumber sandwiches to the riders.  We all got time for admiration of the other bicycles, discussions with people with the same interests, laughs and music. It was really nice to have a break at the park theatre. Then after a while we were off again, towards the next stop on the route at Hasselbacken restaurant where a cold gin and tonic was awaiting our arrival.
It was a long way there, lots of hills and traffic. We were going straight in the middle of the city. But it was said that just this day all car traffic in the city was not permitted in order to make it easy for bicyclists, that was just perfect for our parade.

Picnic at the park theatre

I guess there is no need to say anything about the roads that was chosen for us. But I feel that I must say that this year to use the central parts of Stockholm as an route was a bad decision. Roadworks, closed off lines, 160 bicycle riders together with buses and taxis in the same lane. As mentioned, it would be a “car free day” in the city. It was, but sadly not where our route was planed. For me as an bicycle rider on a big, heavy tandem bicycle, keeping the balance in very low speed and at the same time keep my eyes open for buses, taxies and other riders was challenging. It was a fight, as commander of the “dreadnought” I worked all my skills in navigating between people, taxis, buses and other tweed riders. But it all worked out fine in the end.

At Hasselbacken, again the nice sponsor Hendrick´s Gin gave every rider an voucher for a gin and tonic (non alcoholic alternative was available of course) in the restaurants outside garden. We salute the nice gesture with a bow and keeping Hendrick´s in mind for the next gin purchase. After riding for a few hours the ice cold GT was very, very tasty and made the riders temperature go back to normal. Especially after the hills and the traffic in the city. Again we talked a lot and laughed, the spirit was high and we all looked forward to the finish and the events at the Nordic Museum. So after some time we all started again, down the road a few hundred meters to the Nordic Museum where we all was shown to the side entry of the museum to bring in all bicycles up to the main hall where they should make a display.

One of the sponsors, Hendrick´s

At the museum they had an all day long event in the theme of the 1940’s for the public to visit. Cloths, fashion show, dance shows and the restaurant served 1940s themed food. The peak of the day was when we all came and put all or bicycles on display in the main hall. It was a pity that the bicycles was standing there only for a short while. It would have been a great display to watch all bicycles, having all the owners write a small note with information and history of the bicycle. I had my trusty camera with me, the Fujifilm x100. But I must confess. I did not take as many photos as I wanted, there was so many other things to do and see. But I got a few photos, among the ones in this post. Considering the amount of lenses and smart phones that was aimed at us during the parade. I guess that there will be many more photos around the inter-web soon, featuring Tweed and old bicycles. Perhaps one and another “Dreadnought” tandem bicycle.

Riding the narrow streets of old Stockholm

There we were standing, having a beer and waiting for the price ceremony. There had been a jury judging the riders and bicycles right from the start and now it was time to learn what the jury had decided. There was a price for best dressed lady, that was a lovely girl with a fantastic hairdo, all in a typical 1940’s sporty look (she is the girl mending the young girls skirt above). Then we had best technical bicycle, that was a Norwegian chap that came to Stockholm with his Norwegian bicycle. It was really nice! The there was a price for the best dressed youth. It was a girl which dress had broken at the start (also seen on the photo above). Then there was a gentleman from the northern parts of Sweden. He got a price for his appearance, all dressed in a 1890’s bicycle uniform, riding an high wheeler from Holland. Then they announced that there were a price for the best looking carriage. It was awarded… us?!
We got an price for looking great on our 1940’s Rex Duplex tandem bicycle. So we had to enter the stage and receive the cheers from the other riders. Now that was a real surprise!

Schneebremse with brother on the stage

Bike in tweed 2016? Of course. See you there.

Bicycles in Munich

Vacation time!

This year the trip went to south Germany and Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Also home of the (in)famous Oktoberfest beer festival, heavy food and nice architecture. History and modern visions, side by side. Munich centre is a old city with its narrow alleys and old houses, we have “bierkellers” large restaurants with lots of tables and benches where you can just sit down, have a beer or eat some food. Then we have the traditional “biergartens”, that is an outside place where you can drink and eat. Often with large chestnut trees making a comfortable shade over the biergarten.

What to eat at those places? Well the traditional dishes like potatoes with grilled pork or sausages and sauerkraut are to recommend, at least that is what I think. Those dishes are always tasty and nice. All these places serve beer from one of the 6 main brewers in Munich. They have big signs outside where they display what brewery they are connected to. Of course the breweries got their own bierkellers and beirgartens, where there are music and lots of people having fun and a great time. It is a special feeling to sit there and eat when the music is playing, sometimes bands with traditional music. But mostly there is no music at all. Only the conversations from all people.

My favourite place in Munich is not the the places in the city as you think of it. It is the huge park called “English garten” that is located in the city centre. It is was founded in 1789 and have forests, small rivers, bridges, walkways, paths for horse riding and bicycle lanes and even a small man made waterfall. In the middle of the park there is the “Chinesiser turm” (Chinese tower), that is a large building shape in a Asian style that was built in 1789 (rebuilt in 1952). There is an square at the tower where you can buy food and drinks in a open air environment. Just go in to the food court and take the food you want, then you pay on your way out. Then you can sit anywhere, there are hundreds of benches and tables all over the square. The are large chestnut trees standing there giving the dinner place shade in the sunshine. Sitting three with a tweed jacket and just enjoying the moment, that is a great feeling.

Now and then there is Bavarian folk music played from the tower. On one of the middle floors there is a band, dressed in traditional clothes playing songs from the alp regions. Or some other tunes. Now and then they play the signal that are so associated with beer and Munich. It is a short melody, that translates: “a cheer, a cheer, for Gemütlichkeit (translated roughly to, cosiness or good cheer)…. one….two…..bottoms up”!

People are walking around in traditional clothes, young, old everyone has them. Lederhosen and drindls. You know the cloths all stereotypes ever made of Germans in comedy sketches all over the world. That is the south of Germany and the traditional clothes. But there it is not funny, it is with pride they wear the clothes and hats with pins and huge brushes. The girls with their colourful dresses. Impressive!

But the thing that impressed me was all bicycles. Old, new, roadsters, racers, mountain bikes, city bikes. They were everywhere. You can find new elegant Duch Gazelle lady bicycles, worn vintage German Bauer’s. There was old Italian Bianchi’s one and another old Swiss army bicycle complete with leather bags and original saddle. There were fixies, single speeders, cruisers and cargo bicycles. All handled with the skills of professional riders. There was one crossing where the bicycle riders came down a hill at very fast speed. If you happened to walk out in the designated area for bicycles on the side walk. An symphony of bells would sound and angry gestures from the riders. I used to call them “Giro de Munich” riders.

I was a great vacation! Sadly I had no bicycle. But now there is a dream of mine. That is to ride my Pelago bicycle in the English garden a nice summer day. I bet it will be a real eye catcher. Or perhaps I will try to find a old Bauer for sale. Like the one on the photo below. Or a really old one, with an big headlight and rod operated breaks. Or a Bianchi where the rear calliper brake wire goes inside the frame.

They all are really great looking.



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