Tuesday, June 14, 2011

BSNYC Field Trip: From Gotham to Gothenburg

Yesterday, I returned from my trip to Gothenburg/Göteborg, Sweden, where I visited the Göteborgs cykelfestival. I'm pleased to say in all sincerity that the visit was easily among the highlights of my bicycle blogging life. In fact, at one point I had something of an epiphany, when I was so overcome with goodwill towards the Gothenburg cycling community that my eyes alighted on this bicycle and I decided on the spot to change my name to "Wildcat Rock Machine:"

When it comes to messages from the Almighty Lobster on High, I know how to take a hint. Plus, the moniker should also serve me well should I decide to transition to country western music or reinvent myself as a "Flintstones" character.

My only problem with the visit was that it was far too short, and it felt remarkably like driving through three states to ride a single cyclocross race--which is to say a lot of fun, but very exhausting for mostly the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, sometimes a short visit is better than no visit at all, and this was one of those times. Furthermore, as soon as I arrived I knew immediately that I had made the right decision, for clearly Sweden was a land of limitless possibility and promise for the future:

Unfortunatly, it was a long flight and I couldn't wait until autumn, so I apologize to the janitorial staff of the Stockholm-Arlanda airport for what's lying behind that wall right now.

Speaking of Sweden's national character, it's quite different from that of America (or Canada's bidet), and here are just a few surprising things I learned about Sweden during my stay:

--It is remarkably clean;
--There are infant changing stations in the men's rooms;
--Both men and women get parental leave from work until their child is 42;
--Pets get free dental care (this also goes for applicable houseplants such as Venus Flytraps);
--Swedes get 50 weeks of paid vacation per year.

However, as desirable as these things may sound to us Americans, they also come at a considerable cost, since Swedes are taxed at 120% of their income. While this may be low by European standards, Americans would be unlikely to accept it, since it would mean many households having to give up that second gun. Plus, Americans are about as likely to embrace men's room changing tables as they are men's room tampon dispensers--though if you think about it the two would go well together since many American men think that changing a baby in public can cause you to grow a vagina.

The other thing I learned about Sweden was that, at this time of year, the sun actually rises before it's finished setting. This means that not only is it light all the time, but the day is also 29 hours long. It also meant that, if I craved darkness, I had no alternative but to look into the recesses of my soul.

Anyway, my flight was delayed considerably, which meant that by the time I finally arrived on Friday I was in no condition to participate in the "Big Lebowski"-themed alleycat being held in conjunction with the festival. (Actually I'm not sure there are any conditions under which I would participate in such an event, short of those caused by consumption of PCP.) However, the next morning I did ride over to the Götaplatsen to join the group ride over to the festival, and on the way there I passed the procession of some sort of beer appreciation society. Due to my trademark poor photography skills I missed the leaders and their banner, though I did catch a couple of stragglers complete with tophats, mullets, and a keg in a stroller:

Remember, this is Sweden, so not only is that beer delicious, but it's also entitled to free healthcare and education up to and through the university level.

Also (at least from an American perspective) Gothenburg is a very easy place to ride a bicycle as a practical means of conveyance, and I witnessed a good number of people doing so, including this couple on a tandem:

If you're wondering how I know their ride was of a practical nature, I'm reasonably certain they were off to buy a pair of "Fundies:"


As for the "bike culture," I found it assembled at the Götaplatsen by the time I arrived:


In any city, the "bike culture" is fairly John Hughesian in that it contains certain cliques, and Gothenburg is no exception. Most of the cliques I've come to expect were ably represented, including tall bikes:

As well as their tall riders:

There were "tweedies:"

As well as nonplussed-looking people loitering ominously on the periphery while wearing sunglasses:

There were "smuggies" with cargo bikes:

Both dry and lemonade-dispensing:


And, of course, there were lots of "fixies:"

(Fixed-gear cyclist plays a delightful tune on his handlebar flute.)

As for me, I was singlehandedly representing the American bike blogger clique. Thomas Edison once said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." Similarly, being an American bike blogger is one percent perspiration and ninety-nine percent being an asshole, and inasmuch as this definition is true I like to think that I was doing a pretty good job of it.

Speaking of the nether regions, can you guess what this is?

If you guessed that it's the taint of a giant yet modestly-endowed statue between whose legs you can survey the majesty of Gothenburg, then you're correct:

In any case, we soon received our marching orders via a megaphone, which is of course the fixed-gear bicycle of personal amplification:


So we strapped our helmets to our faces:

And set off to the Land Beyond the Giant's Taint:


All of us except for this guy, that is, who headed off by himself into the late 19th century:

At the venue, there was a spectacular display of trials riding:

Although this kid was singularly unimpressed:

Then again, he might have been overwhelmed by smugness--or by the sounds of accordion music:


They say music soothes the savage beast, and accordion music summons the wayward pennyfarthing rider back from the 19th century:

("Hey, does anybody else hear an accordion?")

And of course where there's accordions and "bike culture," there's also media:

I don't speak Swedish, but I'm pretty sure I got the gist of the interview:

"What's it like to ride a tall bike?"
"How's the weather up there?"
"Who does your hair?"

And so forth.

Inside the venue there were exciting bicycles from the future:

And exotic recumbents:


And lovely handbuilt bicycles of the road, track, and mountain variety:


And luminous pennyfarthings that cast spells on men with beards:

Unfortunately I was unable to follow most of the day's presentations and films since, apart from my own presentation, they were were in Swedish. As for my talk, if you'd like to see how ridiculous I looked while delivering it you can do so here, but if you don't let's just say I've got a bit of an armpit waterfall happening for much of it:

I realize I said earlier that being an American bike blogger involves one percent perspiration and ninety-nine percent being an asshole, but during the talk it looks like I was splitting the two 50/50.

To their credit, the festivalgoers humored me:

Though the kid in the box was apparently bored out of his mind:

In any case, my presentation on hyperhidrosis (complete with demonstration) was the last one of the day. With the festival over, people clearly needed to let off steam, because an impromptu Brompton folding competition broke out:

In America, people shoot each other. In Sweden, they challenge each other to Bromptons at dawn--which, at this time of year, means like 2:30am.

I knew if anybody challenged me to a Brompton folding contest I'd probably manage to trap myself in it and suffocate, and so I headed back to my lodgings to get ready for the afterparty. On the way there, I was shoaled-and-trackstanded in the Swedish manner:

And then it was off to the (roller) races:

I was sad to leave Gothenburg, but before I did I'm pleased to report I was able to sample some very pleasant off-the-road bicycle cycling (which, amazingly, was located right in the city):

The bicycle, sadly, is not mine, and was indeed built by one of our riding party under the brand "Godspeed:"

Despite myself, I even attempted some amateur bike porn by taking this gratuitous lug-and-twine shot, complete with disembodied feet:

I feel so dirty.

As I flew back to New York, I reflected on how humbled I was that a group of people so far away had asked me to visit. I also reflected on how much I had enjoyed their company, and how grateful I was to have had the opportunity to meet them. Certainly, for me, this was one of the best experiences to have come out of my blog. Though I was very tired, I was also oddly elated, and I continued to feel this way all through the cab ride home from the airport.

Then the driver and I had a minor disagreement. Dropping me off in Brooklyn, he pointed to a beautiful June sky, fixed me with his eyes, and uttered the following words like he was Inigo Montoya:

"You will die very soon. Mark my words. You will die very soon."

Then he drove away.

So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

118 comments:

samh said...

Who would win in a fight between God, Ditka, or Eddy Merckx?

Anonymous said...

Yipeee

Anonymous said...

skipeee

Stein said...

Skol!

mikeweb said...

Kegger at Snob's house!! Woo-hoo!!!

Bod said...

I hate swedes, they're too much like turnips

Kenny Banya said...

Gold SAMH, GOLD!

Tyler said...

Banned from comment by Lance!

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Welcome back Snob.

Anonymous said...

Damn. Would've been second if I didn't read it.

Marcel Da Chump said...

Rock Machine- now that's a mountain bike!

Alice Clifford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clifftard said...

Google translated "Om yllefolkets faschination för cykelväskor" from the Swedish coverage of the talk to "If the wool people faschination for bike bag..."

Who are these fabled wool people?

Anonymous said...

So, where are all the dragon tatoos I keep hearing about?

Anonymous said...

Gunga. Gunga galunga.

Ash said...

I love you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Snob, did you know that you were in Sweden at the same time as Rob Zombie? Did you guys eat lingonberry jam together?

Anonymous said...

Hey, at least the shoaling and track stand was easy on the eyes...

Anonymous said...

Ladies in the house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

hillbilly said...

IKEA TOWN

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Snob. When you feel the pincers of Lob, don't forget to give a little squeak.

ervgopwr said...

Eddy would drop Ditka, but only if he didn't kick him in the pantzyabbiez first, just as God intended.

Anonymous said...

"Fixed-gear cyclist plays a delightful tune on his handlebar flute."

YES!

Thanks for that nugget.

Bad Lawyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mangina said...

Twat did you say? I cunt hear you...

Bad Lawyer said...

Let's try this again....it's like being in an endlessly looping Bergman film.

Anonymous said...

Aww, nice shot of Snob on his first bike with training wheels.

Marcel Da Chump said...

...and that God Speed bike is a beauty; the red stem, nice.

crosspalms said...

Welcome back, Wildcat Rock Machine!

Anonymous said...

total consciousness

Emily said...

That Carl Spackler quote-- well played, Snob, well played.

urchin said...

DYIN SOON

Anonymous said...

Where's all the hot blonde Swede gals? Did they fly south for the winter and stay?

Anonymous said...

Miss ya. Just saying.

cycle

Anonymous said...

If you ever get invited back to Sweden, give Lizbeth my email address.

cycle

Anonymous said...

LOBS PEED

BRNZ TANT

BORK BORK

Matt DeBlass said...

I love the fact that, although I can't understand the captions at all under Christer Hedberg's photos, I can make out the occasional "Hipster" and "Hillbombing."
Also "lycrafolkets" needs to somehow find its way into the American cycling lexicon.

Neil said...

I guess being a biker in Sweden means something very different than it does in Quebec ...

OBA said...

Did you tell the cabbie that you "...hate the f*@#ing Eagles, Man!"?

Ed said...

AW! A sweet post! Glad you had a fun time.

Chris said...

BSNYC: did you have any spettekaka?

Anonymous Coward said...

Snob, is that a Yankees jacket you're sporting in the training wheels pic?

Anonymous said...

"Wildcat Rock Machine"
It sounds more Wacky Races than Flinstones, if ye ask me.

There will be brand new toilets (...)
I've always loved nordic marketing catch phrases.
Did you know that air has more than 20% oxygen? Breathe it in. Doesn't it make you feel awesome?

If I lived in a country where hookers and alcohol are prohibitively expensive, I'd get high on oxygen alone too.

Donny Diamantes said...

I am 10,000% freaked out by what the car service driver told you.

leroy said...

Wait a minute.

Wildcat Rock-Machine? Of the Newport, Rhode Island and Palm Beach Rock-Machines?

(Welcome back.)

ce said...

WRM

leroy said...

Samh --

That's trick question. Ditka and Merckx are the same person.

How else do you explain that they've never been photographed together?

Instrumental Rock Machine said...

Spotnicks!

LAID BACK said...

I bought a recumbent called Rock Magnet but that was a misnomer as it was more of a Big Gulp magnet.

g-roc said...

Awesome post Snob. You've outdone yourself.

My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die

Anonymous said...

a change of antiperspirants seems to be in order.

David Henderson said...

samh, that's easy. Chuck Norris.

The fact that he's omni-present explains alot, including the second pile located behind the aforementioned wall.

yogisurf said...

So when they invited you to speak, offered to pay all transportation, etc., you said "no sweat, I'll do it" Looks like a great time.

crosspalms said...

Is is true their sugar substitute is called Sweden Low?

Anonymous said...

What?

cornhole said...

aw fuck

Chazu said...

Beautiful, intelligent women are into men who change their sons' diapers in public. I know this for a fact.

The only exception is when you're wearing a sweaty Jaundiced Johnny's shirt during the process.

Chazu said...

Oh, and jaded New Yorkers never let cabbies get under their skin. What does that tell you?

bikesgonewild said...

...sweden seems to be a land with a high % of 'sensible shoes'...

...just sayin'...

...& not a word about 'lutefisk', bsnyc/pdx/sfo/rtms/wildcat rock machine ???...

Anonymous said...

Dear Snob,
The beer procession you witnessed was the enlighted members of Porter Drinkers Association on their annual excursion to the city of Kungälv.

Regards,
Peter

dovestrobe said...

Oh, that cherry red drop bar fantasy bike with the sky blue seat churned my inner man to lustful thoughts with a capital cursive "G." As the crown of this bike so fittedly possesses.

Too bad that women do not last as long in bed as this bike on the road to physical bliss!

ashcroftchops said...

Dont ya just love cab drivers :-)

bikesgonewild said...

...btw...that wasn't really snobsweat...

...mellow johnny's lawyers have told him that despite the bravado, his ass is an inch from the fryer, so even his t-shirts sweat, no matter who's wearing them...

Marcel Da Chump said...

Wylecath Roque-McSheen,
Was that you on those training wheels?
Training wheels???

Hairy-legged roadie said...

Must take a fair bit of compartmentalization to wear an MJ shirt while at the same time tossing the word "Fred" around.

Twistyface said...

@Chazu 3.26:"Beautiful, intelligent women are into men who change their sons' diapers in public. I know this for a fact.2

Depends if the son is in his teens or not.

Anonymous said...

No blacks, Mexicans, or Puerto Ricans. I love it.

No wonder they can afford national health care.

Jasper said...

T-shirt stigmata, now you're talking Snob - that was your funniest idea for, oh, at least a week.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

@Hairy-legged roadie.

Good one.

Nebraska bike commuter (non-DWI edition) said...

@Bod; Yes, but they're essential for a proper pasty.

ant1 said...

ant1st!

crosspalms said...

I see blacks, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans on bicycles every day on my commute. They're fellow cyclists. And we can afford national health care here, too, we just choose not to because apparently we're dumb as posts and twice as stingy. Maybe the cabbie was just giving Snob a message to pass along to Anon 4:25.

Anonymous said...

Uh, crosspalms, I'm pretty sure he was talking about Sweden. And I'm pretty sure he's right.

bikesgonewild said...

...crosspalms, you're being properly polite...i shan't be...

...anon(s) 4:25 & 5:03pm...you guys are racist pricks...

Anonymous said...

Well, Fïrst!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's true. I'm a racist.

It's also true that Sweden can afford national healthcare because they don't have a lazy/violent black underclass to support.

Anonymous said...

Lingonberry jam!

Perhaps today IS a good day to die!

Oh. Wait a minute. Nevermind.

Urban Sophisticate said...

@anon 5:30,

They don't have a lazy rural white underclass to support either.

Present company excepted, of course...

bubba said...

Om hipsters som lägger ut hillbombing-filmer på nätet…

hard to type that while sharing fundies.

crosspalms said...

Next time I'm in Stockholm I'll stop in at Serrano, where you can get 2 burritos or 2 quesadillas plus a pitcher of margaritas for 349 kronor. Skol, amigos!
http://serrano.nu/

Anonymous said...

Did the cab driver really say that? I get the Caddyshack reference but what would make him say that? Was there some other exchange you had??

BTW, I'm not asking this rhetorically.

Anonymous said...

Wïld Cat Röck Mächine!

Grrr.

Rocky Mountain Chuck said...

BGW, completely agree with you, regarding anon(s).

Pretty much every country in the world has a multicultural population (including Sweden), yet somehow they are able to provide health care to their citizens.

Probably jealous. And definitely wrong.

Rock Lobster said...

Tomorrow is National Lobster Day. Rock ON!

Marcel Da Chump said...

Anon 5:30,
I respect your honesty. I believe everyone's a racist. But it takes an enlightened individual to reject racism's influence. By choosing to be racist you'll always be in the dark about everything. And like that cabbie said, we'll die soon--more darkness.
Think I'll listen to Talking Heads' REMAIN IN LIGHT tonight.

rural 14 said...

ant 2nd!

crosspalms, bgw, well said.

There's enough $$ in this, the richest country in the world to deal with all the problems, including healthcare, though it seems to be falling behind re the ignorance problem. Part of the unintended undirected right wing conspiracy, eh? Make 'em dumb, and then steal all the monay (sic).

Maybe more funds spent on the public good, and less on the war machine, which is for the corporatocracy?

Rupert Murdoch said...

Uhh guys, hate to break up the fun, but the countries with universal healthcare are going broke faster than the States. Except for Canada, because that's where we employ people to build the cars we "import" from Detroit.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Crosspalms, when in Serrano, it's best to stick to the ham.

rural 14 said...

And fer lob's sake, call and write your congressmen and senators, and state reps, and select board etc etc about everything. Go to those awful meetings at the town hall (or even in NYC the community board meetings).

It's at least as punishing and rewarding as the hardest climbs you've ever done. I know I feel like puking after each one, but still I go (and still I ride the hard ones (slowly)).

Even you racist imbeciles - go, just go, and see if your position changes; when you're confronted with other people's suffering perhaps it will soften your heart and educate you a little bit, even though you don't want or expect that. Or you'll join the Aryan Nation, and THEN after a longer time than I'd think THEN you'll have the ephipany. But at least action will cause some sort of change.

Anonymous said...

Panties! Panties! Panties!

livingjetlag said...

Gothenburg, Nebraska has a good coffee shop, a Sod House Museum, and was on the route of this year's Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN). It's also way easier to get to than Sweden, and everything is in English. Cheaper, too.

Luke said...

You should have ended the post with the quotation. You got greedy!

Fred said...

Yes, rock on there.....wildcat...hmmmm.

mander said...

Welcome back Wildcat! We missed you.

Doug said...

Don't worry,all you racists, you can continue to diss the French. That's the currently socially acceptable bigotry. No one will say a damn thing. Except me.

MTBSvetto said...

Welcome back in half a year. Then you hardly have to see the sun at all

Anonymous said...

@Rupert Murdoch June 14, 2011 7:49 PM: Eh no, Sweden are having one of the highest national growths in the world, with low national debt. The US is sinking as a rock compared to most European states (Greece and Portugal excluded)

//Harri said...

Found this on the interweb:
"I hate those fucking Sweds, and their oh so perfect sky’s and their oh
so perfectly reflective water.
I fucking hate their perfect compositions, and their fucking perfect colors.
The way the moss is so fucking multicolored and reflects the fucking
light so perfectly, not to mention how the moss seems to fucking
radiate a perfect color at the same time. How many fucking shades of
brown does moss come in?
I so hate the way the mountains have the perfect ratio of snow to
dirt, its so wrong!
I hate Sweds sooo much, I hate their perfectly smooth rocks, their
furry boots, their sliced meats, did I mention the fucking perfect sun
rise/sets? Who let these guys have DSLRs?
The perfect selection of different clouds for each and every fucking
set up, I hate that.
Who can not find fault in their fucking perfect dolly moves, its just crazy!
The way the water seems to be some kind of fucking mythic spirit of
wetness, trying to interact with the mythic sprit of the land, its
just so fucking, wrong!
And the Norwegians, THE NORWEGIANS ARE EVEN WORSE!"

Anonymous said...

more fun cop assault on cyclists and then the filmmaker:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5f4_1308033758

Swedish TSS claim it was a bear... said...

Crosspalms, BGW, and Marcel you need to get Snob to talk to some of his new Swedish friends to see if they will send over Hans for us. You guys need a TROLL HUNTER.
Do not provoke the trolls, they like it.

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2670304537/

TRROLLLLLL!!!!

Anonymous said...

@anon 9:10 am

Wow, that's some serious cop stupidity indeed!

It seems that it's getting scarier and scarier to live in the USA, no?

Anonymous said...

Gothenburg Bike Festival...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCEAJvx_388

Anonymous said...

Last

SLAM said...

renégat

Anonymous said...

I spent a few months in Denmark years and years ago.There's something very pleasant about Scandinavia, and I think you captured it nicely. They just seem to get things done without a lot of ego battles or other ugliness.

And then I got off the airplane in LA Int'l and the screaming continued.

BTW, lot's of changing tables in rooms out west. And lots of good beer.

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

Anonymous said...

Snob, you may have hit on the best tandem analogy ever.

They are either a pair of fundies, or a quick sale on eBay.

jacky jan said...

Don't worry,all you racists, you can continue to diss the French. That's the currently socially acceptable bigotry. No one will say a damn thing. Except me thanks you are sharing a good article or blog. good good keep it .

Hans said...

TROLLLLL!!

Bod said...

I enjoyed Sweden but I felt even more ugly than normal and you can't get a fucking drink for love or money, no wonder they have one the highest instances of blindness due to shonky moonshine in the world.
Worst location for a stag party ever, no chance of pulling and no way to get pissed...

flconductor1 said...

Check out the SLate Culture Gabfest about cyclists in New York. Thought of you, O Snob.

Anonymous said...

This post was good for lots of laughs. Thanks.

I have always lazily resented my grandparents for moving to the states from Sweden, though fortunately for me they settled in the Stockholm of the Midwest, usually known as Minneapolis.

Joe said...

Inigo Montoya and Carl Spackler within a sentence of each other! Perfect.

Anonymous said...

The rascists are ignorant and stupid as always. From Wikipedia:

"as of 2007, 12.6% of the U.S. population was foreign-born."

"As of 2010, 1.33 million people or 14.3% of the inhabitants in Sweden were foreign-born"

And read this, stupid. "US Congress praises Södertälje mayor. Södertälje, a town of 80,000 residents, has taken in more Iraqi refugees than the United States and Canada combined."
http://www.thelocal.se/11040/20080411/

/a swede

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Anonymous said...

The statue giant appears to be holding a bike helmet in his left hand. And he definitely has helmet hair.

Fixie Bikes said...

"Fundies" Wtf am i looking at o.O