Why Harris Tweed?

Now days it is popular to organize tweed rides with the London Tweed Run as an example. All sorts of historical societies, groups and clubs organizes an tweed ride, run or social meeting in almost every town. It is fun, cheap and easy to organize. Bicycles are easy to carry around if needed, you can not carry a car and park it on the side walk at an café. Well you can, but it is frowned up on by many of the pedestrians that would like to use the side walk.

After riding vintage bicycles and attending all sorts of events for some years now. I realized that I was never quite out of style.  Because I have been riding vintage bicycles while using tweed since I was a teenager. Well not all the time. I was not using tweed in the summer when the heat was really demanding or when we were swimming in the sea during school breaks.

My first experience with tweed was my fathers old coat that was hanging on a hanger in the closet in attic. It was a Harris Tweed brown herringbone coat that he bought back in the late 1960’s at the famous Stockholm department store NK (Nordic Company).

By accident he bought the coat in the wrong size, it was just ever so slightly to small. Instead of returning the coat to the shop after you realized the mistake as you normally do. He kept it in an closet in the attic for many years. There it was left along with other clothes that he also bought in the wrong size some reason.

The coat was hanging there until the early 1980’s. That was when we did were looking after old things in closets to get rid off. My father found the old tweed coat, he asked me if I would like to have it. The coat was double breasted, 3/4 long coat and had an “Napoleonic ” style collar top fashion in late 1960’s. Because it was made of heavy tweed it was really warm, perfect for long winter days. My father remembering the fabric as “extremely sticky”, but I really liked it.

I never wore it to school. After all, the fashion amongst kids back then was jeans, sport trainer trousers, sneakers (white of course) and white tube socks. Anyone who came dressed in anything else was a open target for bullying. So I was only using the coat on my spare time.

There I was, dressed in fathers tweed. Beside an coat was better than a jacket when its cold, it keeps the behind warm. There were other cloths in the closet that I could use, shirts, sweaters. Sometimes when we were going to my grandparents I had his old ties and even dabbed on some of his old 1960’s after shave that I found in an cupboard in the basement. Sounds strange perhaps, but I guarantee that it was better with tweed, shirt and a tie than jeans and t-shirts. My mother always sighed and said that it was impossible to by clothes to me. I have no idea what she was talking about.

After all, I was quite fashionable back then. Almost straight from the 60’s. Sadly there are no photos from that era, it would be fun to see today how I looked in my outfit. Surely like no other kid in the middle of 1980’s. I would be beyond hip if I dressed like that in school today.

In the end, where did the Harris Tweed coat go? Te honest I do not remember, perhaps it was damaged in a house move at some point. Or perhaps it was decided to be thrown away at some stage. Only the label and the buttons exists today.


The buttons and the lable form my fathers old coat

Why did I got stuck in Harris Tweed? I guess there is three main reasons for that. First it was the coat mentioned above.

Secondly, when I was in school I met a teacher that was very special. He played chess, talked philosophy with us kids in a way no other teacher talked to us. We were equals, not kids to him. I remember that he had a photo of William Golding on the classroom wall and often quoted the book “Lord of the Flies” to us kids. Always when I saw him he wore an grey herringbone Harris Tweed jacket with dark elbow patches. He looked like an actor from an English TV-play, inspector Morse perhaps, Frost or any other of all these series. That teacher was the best one I ever had in school. I decided that I would have a jacket like that just because of him.

Thirdly, when we had lessons in school and I saw photos from Scotland. I fell in love with the nature of the highlands, the rugged landscape. I fell in love with the images you can see of the Hebrides. The sea and sunsets, it was then I decided that one day I should travel and visit the Harris Tweed factory.

But the years went by until one day a few years ago when I was looking around the internet for a new jacket. I found a web site of a small shop in Scotland that sells Harris Tweed clothing. I found a grey herringbone jacket, remembering my old teacher from school. I placed the order and a week later an package from Scotland arrived. It was just what I expected, heavy, strong, warm and great looking. But sadly without elbow patches.


Grey herringbone Harris Tweed, the same style of jacket my chess playing teacher used

Later when I started joining different vintage bicycle events I needed a suit. A suit in tweed naturally. My very first Tweed suit was bought on location while an vacation in Edinburgh. I visited an retailer on a Queens street and bought a three piece suite that I will write about in the future. It was an adventure from the start.

The following year I saved up some money and bought a genuine Harris Tweed suite from the small shop up in the highlands. The Harris Tweed suit I received is made to travel around the world on a bicycle! It is so well made and the fabric is marvellous, all the colours and the lining with the symbol of Harris Tweed embroidered. Details everywhere.


The Iain Harris Tweed suit, quality in every way

It is easy to understand why tweed has been so appreciated. It is reliable, warm, and looks amazing. It is a shame that I do not still have my fathers old tweed coat, but it got me in to tweed. Perhaps it is the destiny of some sort.


A lovely lady jacket in Harris Tweed, but the jacket is sewn by a different company

But the great feeling attending all sorts of vintage bicycle events dressed in tweed. Meeting other people that also dressed up enjoying the event. It is fun, not only for me but for the others. Look and admire each others outfits and bicycles. Perhaps there even is someone else among the riders that got to use their parents old Tweed suit, jacket or coat.

After all, tweed is a fabric that is almost impossible to wear out.

Springtime for Tweed

It has been a while since I last wrote here. Well, as usual I have no good excuse for not writing. More that laziness and that the weather has been bad (says the fellow who wrote an article about riding a bicycle in Helsinki in the middle of February).

That is true, but can I say to my defence that I actually had nothing interesting to write about? After all, reading about bicycles and more bicycles can be a bit boring for you. Considering that I once stated that the motto of this blogg was “my view of things around me”. Then the question is, how difficult can it be to write things that are around me? Strangely, not difficult at all.
But, what can I write to still keep the level of my writing style? I can of course write political articles, reviews of things that I tried. I could write endless posts about movies, music, life and so on. But would I like to do that? Strangely, yes and no.


the sticker from Helsinki tweed run is still there

If I started a long time ago and kept it all under one roof, all writings, thoughts and articles collected here under this blogg. Then it would have be a great collection of my views. An time line over what I, as a person, was developing. Different interests and ideas over the years. But after starting this blogg rather recently.  I realized that I wanted to keep it clean, no statements other that “tweed is nice” and “vintage bicycling is the bees knees”, you get the point. An sort of silly, harmless writing about things that offends no one. That is what we really need at this day and age. More harmless silliness about nothing.

So here I am, writing about old bicycles and Tweed hoping that I offend no one.

In fact, now when writing about it. I realize that I never have written anything about tweed it self, the cloth. All my experiences of the cloth with stories from my early teens up to the present. The change in fashion and other ideas all over but how tweed always was important and why a grey herringbone tweed was important for me. Could that be something for you to read?

Or I could write about my ideas for a new bicycle project that I have been thinking of for many years. Once I had an old Swedish military bicycle from the 40’s. Sadly it was in a pretty bad shape and was later even stolen. But today, I would really like to get one again and this time really try to get it in good working order. It would be fun, they are heavy, but reliable!

I can also now officially let you know that I have an vision to participate of 5 different Bicycle Tweed Rides/races/runs this year. That vision brings me to the issue of bicycles in general. After all, I really would love to only have one good vintage bicycle that I could use and participate in different Tweed Rides. But as now, I had different bicycles in every event. There is more articles to write about. In fact, when thinking about it. I have no time to do something else than writing. The questing is how to earn money on writing?

To something completely different. The weather today was an lovely day in the spring with lots of sunshine and chirping birds. In short, it was a perfect day to take the 1956 Hermes bicycle for a ride. I have not moved or looked at it since my return from the Helsinki event, I have not even cleaned it yet. But still the tires had full pressure, nothing on the frame was loose.
I brought my tweed jacket and took a ride. It went smooth as silk. They knew how to make great bicycles back then.


the weather was perfect for an ride with an vintage bicycle, springtime

Happy Tweed!

Winter Tweed Run Helsinki 2017

February 19th was the date set for 2017 version of Winter Tweed Run Helsinki that is held in Finland’s capitol. The meet up for the event was at Senaatintori (the senate square) in central Helsinki, an perfect place to meet. We all had hoped for a sunny day with lots of snow and a at least -20 degrees Celsius bone chilling Nordic winter. But sadly it was +3 degrees and light rain with an heavy overcast instead. This year the weather was more of an dull October day rather than a day in February.

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My Swedish Hermes from 1956 parked on Senaatintori

When I arrived at the square round about noon, I noticed a group of bicyclists standing in front of the stairs leading up to Helsingin tuomiokirkko (Helsinki cathedral). I joined them, after all, they were standing there with vintage bicycles and dressed in tweed. I guessed they were participants of the tweed run. Right away we started to have a chat and I noticed the kindness and friendliness of the riders. Even if we all was trying to make conversations mixed in Swedish, English, Finish all added with home made sign language. More and more riders with their great looking clothes and nice bicycles arrived and joined us. Both modern and vintage bicycles of all styles and models, Swedish, Finish, Indian(?). It was a great mix of everything. Lots and lots of photos were taken, by ourselves and others. Even tourists came up to us and wanted to know more what we were up to looking as we did. It was an relaxed and happy feeling in the light rain on the square.

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The meeting in front of Helsingin tuomiokirkko

Soon the organizers joined us. Sadly I never got their names, but they were very kind and helpful in every way. They welcomed us all individually, shook our hands and gave us stickers as an gift with the events logo for this year. We also got information about an race that is held in the summer of 2017 that looked very tempting to join. After a short while one of the organizers stood up on his bicycle and with a old megaphone and announced to us that we was welcome to the seventh annual Winter Tweed Run Helsinki! He explained that we would take the coastal route around the central part of Helsinki. But first of all we all should get up on the stairs to the cathedral and take a group photography. We took our bicycles and climbed the stairs trying to group ourself for a good and fun photo! One of the organizers used the megaphone and directed us, telling us to cheer seven times to celebrate the event. Sadly I do not have any group photo, but I am sure that it will be available on-line. Somewhere.

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Some of the people behind Winter Tweed Run Helsinki

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The style is a winner!

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I placed the sticker on the frame of my bicycle.

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“Welcome to Helsinki”

After the photo we all made us ready for the start. The direction was given and off we went. It is a fun thing when an race like this starts. Tourists stands still and looks amazed on this large group of bicyclists that are dressed in odd cloths. Not to mention the car drivers surprised looks when they sees about 30 riders in a group riding on the streets.

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Here we are just coming down the stares to for the start of the race.

The goal of the route was an café located on the shore on the other side of Helsinki. It is an regular route that they usually use for this event. It consists of bicycle lanes most of the time, the few times we crossed streets with traffic one of the organizers stopped the cars. Because we were riding in a relative tight formation the car drivers showed an great deal of understanding. After all, it is February and some strange people are riding bicycles, “better to let the bicycles pass…”.

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Crossing a street on our way to the coastal scenery bicycle path around Helsinki

The bicycle lane along the sea shore had lovely scenery of the sea and buildings on the other side. For me it was special, as one of my favourite films from Finland is Calamari Union made by Aki Kaurismäki. Along the ride we went by the area called Eira that is a famous place in that film. It was really great to be there and see it. We took the bicycle lanes further along the way to reach our destination, Café Regatta.

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There was a strong head wind sometimes, but for us that was no problem.

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Some of us stopped to take photos of the sea

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Wide and nice bicycle paths, even for an “lay-down-and-pedal-bicycle”

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More wonderful scenery and surprised bystanders.

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At the Regatta café.

Now we could sit by an open fire or enter the café for a semla pastry and a hot coco, of course with whipped cream on top! Excellent service and really tasty! On the outside we all could talk and admire the bicycles, special made ones, really vintage Crescents, old Hermes and different Finish brands. All sorts of modifications as wine bottle holders and cup holders for coffee that was isolated to keep the heat. The organizers had transport bicycles. One “long John” model that is build as an regular bicycle but has an large luggage rack between the handlebars and the front wheel. The other one was the more common three wheeled version with a large storage box in front. But the most impressive was the fellow dressed in tweed with a cap and an umbrella under his arm while riding all the way on a unicycle! That was truly an amazing sight to see.

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An 1920’s Crescent, all original.

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The details on the bell and worn wooden grips are amazing.

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Hot coco and a semla filled with whipped cream and strawberry jam, it was a real treat. Tasty and delicious.

At the café about half of the riders that started said good bye and left. For example the riders from Sweden needed to go back and catch the boat. After the break we all started again and left for the after party that was held in the northern parts of Helsinki. The road there was sometimes really steep but it was really a nice ride, forest roads and great nature. Suddenly one of the riders bicycle broke down. Everyone was trying to help out, but almost all of us only had tools for vintage bicycles, this was an modern bicycle. But they found a tool that did the job so we went on.

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“Get ready to start”. The megaphone has “speed race” written on it.

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An forest route was planned.

After a while riding of small paths, larger roads, bicycle paths that was covered with ice we arrived at our final destination. It was a club house, where a band should play later on that evening. But up to that point we were welcome to buy some pea and carrot soup, beer and also have a sauna. The kindness among the organizers (I really can not remember their names) was heart warming.

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Our final destination.

After eating some hot and freshly made pea and carrot soup served out of a huge pot, served with mustard. We were few riders that decided to leave this lovely event. I talked to the organizer and thanked him for a lovely day and lovely hospitality. I was so overwhelmed by all expressions, when saying good buy I mistook an honest hug for a odd handshake.
I am still ashamed for my awkwardness.

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The smile says it all, it was a good day.

Finally, my personal thoughts on Winter tweed run Helsinki 2017 are simple and straight forward. It was a great event with no rules more than just to have fun and having a great time. But if there will be an Helsinki tweed run 2018, I will plan it way better. Sauna, beer, bicycles and music, count me in.

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On the way back to Helsinki city

Kiitos paljon!

Winter and an old bicycle

Hello there dear reader! I hope that you end of 2016 was great and that 2017 has started in a good way. I am sorry that the updates are rare here. But I guess that is what happens when work and real life wants attention. Besides, it is not so fun to sit in the basement, mending bicycles when it is snowing outside. The basement is gloomy place as it is, but when it gets cold outside, the basement is filled with an bone chilling cold and raw draught. But did that stop me from mending and repairing old bicycles? No, of course not.
I was down in the basement anyway, fixing my latest project bicycle.

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The saddle is a worn non original Brooks

A while ago I bought a bicycle that my brother would use when we went on the Bike in Tweed event. But by coincidence he bought an 1920’s rusty old Monark bicycle instead. So the one I bought become standing in his storage unused. One day I asked him if I could take it back and use as a project. It turned out that he needed some space in his storage so he was only happy to let me have it back. We had already started an light renovation of the bicycle but never really got around to complete it. Now when I had it back in my basement I started to do some research about this new bicycle I suddenly had. What I knew was that it was an Nordstjärnan (Northern star) and that it could be a genuine Stockholm bicycle, but they where own by Nymans that was based in Uppsala. My question was; was it made in Stockholm or was in assembled in Uppsala? How could I date it? Here is a quick story about the bicycle brand.

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Stockholm registration plate

Anton Wiklund had a bicycle shop in Stockholm back in 1886. Where he also had an mechanical shop where he started to manufacture bicycles in 1889. In 1894 quitted Anton Wiklund all work with his company, but the remaining owners kept the name since it was known that the name was equal with good quality. Wiklunds bicycles was very famous competition bicycles, known for their reliability. They made bicycles in their mechanical shop, and in 1900 they needed to move to a bigger place. They had a newly build 5 storage building at Kungsholmen in Stockholm where the company moved in. At that location they build bicycles and motorcycles and later on also imported cars with brands like Fiat and later on even Nash, Chevrolet, Packard, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce. Really good quality brands in other words. Then there was the economical crash of late 1920’s and the import of cars almost stopped completely in early 1930’s.

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The Wiklunds symbol the “W” inside a star. It is a nice detail…

When the Swedish military stopped buying Wiklunds bicycles around 1932 the business went down even further. In late 1939 Wiklunds went so bad that Nymas from Uppsala bought the Wiklunds company and moved the production from Stockholm to Uppsala. Then the second world war started and in 1941 Wiklunds was closed as a brand. There is of course more information and a great story behind the brand and all different models that they had, but we stops here with the history lesson for now.

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…that can be found on the front wheel hub

After I had asked around on some internet forums and different discussion groups trying to date the Nordstjärnan and looking for details about the bicycle. I tried to pin point the year for manufacturing to 1936-1939, that could make it an Stockholm made bicycle. But did I dare to hope? One day there was a fellow on one site I had asked about information that replied to me saying that he had an original catalogue from Wiklund from the -30’s. He enclosed an photo of the catalogue and there it was!

It was the same model, the handlebars was the same. The luggage rack, painting and pin striping. It all matched my bicycle. The catalogue was about the model range from 1938. So now I am 100% sure that it is made in Stockholm and that made me really happy since now I have a bicycle that is made in the town where I am born and where my family are from. Also the catalogue helped me in replacing some parts that was missing, for example the handlebar grips. Along the years a previous owner had replaced the original wooden grips with some 1960’s style plastic grips that was horrible. In a drawer I had a pair of original wooden grips, worn in a way so it matches the bicycle.

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It rides just great and with the visor on the head light it looks really cool

Sadly the luggage rack is in bad shape so I removed (I still have it) but I mounted an registration plate instead, I think it looks really cool and it really defines it to a bicycle made and used in Stockholm. One more thing I did, since the bicycle is used and worn there is no collector item or museum piece. I decided to replace the rear hub. It was original Wiklunds own brand “WINCO” hub. But I replaced it instead with the classical German made Torpedo. Only because, the access to spare parts. The Wiklunds hub have not been manufactured since 1940’s, spare parts are non existing. Around 1940-41, Torpedo celebrated 40 million made hubs. So parts are cheap and easy to find. Also it is very easy for me to repair an Torpedo single gear hub.

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The Torpedo hub from 1937 that I bought on German eBay looks just great

I also had an old Västerås made “ASEA” head light and an old dynamo laying in a drawer that I decided to use on . One day I saw a visor that fits those old ASEA light on an auction. I fell in love with it right away! Sadly the dynamo is a Swedish made “Neo” that was the bicycle makers Husqvarnas own brand. To be honest, I must replace it. I can not have the competitors made parts from Husqvarna om the Stockholm made bicycle.

After all Husqvarna is far from Stockholm and Kungsholmen.

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The Husqvarna made “Neo” dynamo, it looks impressive and still works after all years

 

Bike in tweed, 2016

The day we had waited for had come, it was time for Bike in Tweed 2016. We were three fellows in tweed that had decided to meet at 9’a clock in the morning outside an local bakery shop for our traditional breakfast before the start of the event. The staff at the bakery must have been surprised when three gentlemen in tweed suits looking as they came from the 1940’s was entering the their shop and starts to order sandwiches and drinks. Fashionable as can be! But we got many possitive comments on how great we looked.

We had a quiet talk about the events during the day while eating an fresh breakfast sandwich. We talked about meeting familiar faces once again and all the happy smiles from the bystanders that will stop and look along the way. The spirit of the event, with music and lots of great bicycles and well dressed people, it was going to be a great day! After the breakfast we all mounted our bicycles and started the ride into the central parts of Stockholm, the old town and Stortorget to be precise. The sun greeted us welcome to the city when we were riding over the bridges and enjoying the view.

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The view when we were close to the starting point at Stortorget

There we were, three gentlemen in tweed on vintage bicycles along new bicycles and everyday commuters, we got lots of curious looks and smiles. When we got closer to the old town, more and more vintage bicycles with riders also dressed in tweed were visible, we were on the right way to the meeting. When we all were walking the narrow alleys pushing our bicycles, many tourists looked puzzled and took photos of us. It must have been a strange sight for them.

The registration for the participants opened at 10 a clock, we were there on time and recived our starting numbers and a bag of things, that included a package of biscuits and an map of the route around Stockholm that we were going to ride. After some talking with the other riders it was time for the traditional photography. Every rider had their photo taken for the start gallery and to document the clothes and the bicycle. There was 166 riders so it took a while to take all photos and register all of us. Then there was the adventure of trying to make room for all vintage bicycles, curious tourists and ourselves on the old square. It was a challenge, but it was fun! Many curious people came forward to take photos and ask what we were doing while we were having a cup of tea and a biscuit.

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Tourists and curious bystanders are looking on our clothes and bicycles

Between all photos, the tea and biscuits we were having in the sun, we talked with other tweed riders and had a really great time. Suddenly the church bells announced that the clock was 12’a clock and it was time for start. Bike in Tweed 2016 was on its way! Laughs, cheers and good luck wishes from tourists and bystanders followed us all along the way to the starting point next to the royal castle where we formed a slightly chaotic starting grid.  Then the signal came from the leader, we were off for a 20 kilometres ride around the city of Stockholm.

Along the way, the group with all 166 riders was very scattered and formed many small groups. Due to the sheer amount of riders it was impossible to keep a tight formation during the ride. Red lights on the streets, cars and buses scattered us all, so we were in groups of 10-20 riders instead of an united group. Fortunate there were some planned round up places for us to all get back together as a unit during the course, that was necessary and was a good move by the designer of the route.

After rounding all up, we continued our ride and headed to the open air theatre at the “Rålambshovs” park and the picnic we always have there. The break was really needed, after all. It is very hot to ride up and down the hills and bridges of Stockholm with a heavy three piece tweed suit from Harris Tweed. While wearing a hat.

The cucumber sandwiches and lemonade that the events sponsor Hendricks Gin offered tasted really great, it was just the bees knees for us tweed riders. Many riders had also their own food and drinks in typical baskets, some had wine and real china with them to eat on. Others, like me had some sandwiches wrapped in paper. Just as they use to do it in the olden days when having a picnic. My sandwiches were made by slices of Skogaholms loaf, that is an classic. Of course topped with the equally classic “cognacsmedwurst” sausage. Every child have had those sandwiches on field days since 1945. Instead of the bottle of milk we has as kids, I brought along a bottle of beer. It was just perfect for the Bike in Tweed picnic.

At that time we also were having our group photography taken. Every rider was standing by their bicycle and an photo was taken of us all as an memory. We were also taking photos on each other, our clothes and bicycles, all the lovely hair creations and all great tweed suits. So many photos!

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Time for the group photo

Then we were off again! Out and around the streets, out into the traffic, up steep hills, trying not to crash into each others when  taking narrow corners in construction zones. All 166 of us together on bicycles had to get along with with cars, pedestrians and everyday cyclists. There was some talk about the unfortunate choice of route for the event. Many walkways we took was very narrow and steep. This year I was riding a single bicycle, not a tandem. For me it was very easy to get around the course. But I felt sorry for those brave tandem captains and stokers. The captains trying to manoeuvre those heavy battle cruisers true the narrow nooks and crannies of walkways between roadworks and hedges. It puts the captain to test with navigate and planning the ride.

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Narrow and tricky rout challenged the riders

Then we all arrived at the end destination, the goal of Bike in Tweed 2016 event. The finish line was located this year at Armémuseet (Military museum). They let us use their courtyard as a collection point, but also so we could have a price ceremony. There were speeches about the day and prices were given to best dressed gentleman and lady, the best looking bicycle. A special price went to the gentleman who joined the race in a bicycle car that was built after drawings from the -40´s. Hendricks Gin, the sponsor, treated us with Gin and tonic after we all had made it to the finish line. Later on during the price ceremony Hendricks Gin had an special award for the most unusual rider.

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Just before the price ceremony there was live music, we all sang along and had fun.

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Hendricks Gin and sandwiches.

After mingle and talking with everyone many of us had signed up to join the after party with dinner at Hasselbacken restaurant out on the island of  Djurgården. It is a famous old restaurant where we had a stop last year. We arrived there 30 minutes later on our bicycles and parked them on the grass and sat down at our tables, looking at all vintage bicycles standing under the trees. The evening followed with drinks, food and laughs.

Later that evening we had to ride our bicycles home. 14 hours after I mounted my bicycle and left for the breakfast, I was back home again and parked the bicycle in the storage.

It was a great day, all I can say is:
See you all next year!