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Dealer Tour: Austin retailers seek niches in increasingly saturated market

AUSTIN, TX (BRAIN) — Take away the perpetually sunny skies, year-round mild temps and the ever-present Southern hospitality, and it might be easy to mistake Austin for Portland, Oregon. Striking similarities between the two cities include: a booming population of under a million, hip food trucks and new restaurants emerging on nearly every corner, a vibrant cycling culture that spans all disciplines, a large green space accessible from town, numerous bridges that connect the downtown with other parts of the city, a growing cycling infrastructure, a vibe that makes you want to stay awhile–and above all, the two cities are siblings in weirdness, with Portland having adopted and adapted the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ slogan for its own use. And the parallels don’t end there.

Scott Aspect 720 review

In some ways the Aspect is a reminder of an earlier, simpler age of do-it-all mountain bikes. While some manufacturers’ offerings are overtly pitched as budget race bikes or slackened-out trail bikes, the Scott keeps everything in the middle of the road.

  • Highs: Hugely versatile frame design, solid component spec, pleasingly agile at sensible speeds
  • Lows: Fork can start to get out of its depth, nervous handling at high speeds, on the heavy side

Frame and equipment: mostly a strong showing for this price point

We don’t expect massively innovative design and construction at this price, and the Scott’s frame is an entirely straightforward mechanically-shaped alloy number. We’d have liked to have seen a head tube ready for a tapered steerer, just to ease future fork upgrades. Heading back from there the key word is ‘stout’ – the main tubes are distinctly chunky, with a squared-off top tube and a subtly flattened down tube. The rear stays are generously proportioned too, especially the deep chainstays.

The scott’s oversized tubing means good stiffness but also a bit of surplus weight:

The Scott’s oversized tubing means good stiffness but also a bit of surplus weight

The kickstand mount on the non-driveside chainstay isn’t something that we’re used to seeing on mountain bikes, but the Scott is designed in mainland Europe, where people use bikes for more than just arsing around in the woods. The Aspect is intentionally designed to work well as an urban runaround too, and even has eyelets for a rack. All its cables are routed along the top tube.

The Aspect’s specification is a pretty good example of what you can reasonably expect for at this price level. It’s got a mostly Shimano Deore-based build, with non-series Shimano brakes and an Octalink triple crankset. An outboard-bearing crankset would be a bonus, but this is par for the course.

As is still commonplace on bikes of this sort, the crankset is a 42/32/22t triple. Combined with the 11-36t 10-speed cassette, you’re not likely to run out of gears in either direction. We were a little disappointed with the brake rotors, which are very basic Center Lock splined numbers with a thin steel spider. There are no issues with stopping, but the rotors are heavy and, well, just a bit nasty looking.

The aspect 720 is generously geared with triple chainrings and an 11-36t 10-speed cassette:

The Aspect 720 is generously geared with triple chainrings and an 11-36t 10-speed cassette

Scott has opted to kit the Aspect out with mid-sized 650b wheels, which have become the default choice in what seems like 10 minutes flat. Scott bought legendary component brand Syncros a few years back, so it’s no surprise to see Syncros branding on most of the Aspect’s finishing kit, including the rims. They’re shod with generously-sized but also shallow-treaded Schwalbe Rapid Robs, which wouldn’t be our first choice for loam or loose surfaces but make sense for the kind of all-round riding that Scott clearly has in mind for the Aspect.

The fork is a critical component on any bike, and the Scott’s Suntour model is competent enough. It’s the basic (read: heavy) version of the XCR, with a steel coil spring inside. You do get adjustable rebound damping and a remote lockout lever on the handlebar though.

Ride and handling: old-fashioned virtues – and vices

Despite its on-trend 650b wheels, the Scott is very much an all-round cross-country mountain bike of the traditional sort rather than a low-slung, raked-out trail weapon. The riding position is long and the 660mm-wide handlebar is narrow by modern standards.

If you want to tackle steep and loose trails, the Aspect isn’t the best choice – the relatively steep geometry means it starts to get nervous as the front points down, the narrow bar is more sensitive to steering inputs and the shallow-tread Schwalbes prioritise fast rolling over grip. The coil-sprung Suntour fork starts getting distractingly bouncy in the rough too. For this kind of riding, a bike like the Saracen Mantra Trail makes a lot more sense.

By nature the aspect 720 is a traditionalist xc machine, most at home on flatter trails:

By nature the Aspect 720 is a traditionalist XC machine, most at home on flatter trails

But the Scott is pitched at a broader market. High-speed nerves equate to low- and medium-speed agility, and on flatter twisty trails it can be hustled along at a fair old pace. There’s no escaping the fact that the Aspect is carrying a bit of excess weight at 13.3kg (29.3lb) – and that does start to work against you. But the faintly old-fashioned riding position is effective for sustained climbs, and on good surfaces the benefits of that fast-rolling rubber quickly becomes apparent.

The large-volume Rapid Robs have a big role to play in comfort too, because there isn’t much give in the chunky frame and oversized seatpost. All those frame fittings and bosses make the Scott extremely versatile though, so if you need a bike for the daily grind in the week and some not-too-demanding off-road fun at the weekend, the Aspect could easily hit the spot.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.








Scott Aspect 720 review

In some ways the Aspect is a reminder of an earlier, simpler age of do-it-all mountain bikes. While some manufacturers’ offerings are overtly pitched as budget race bikes or slackened-out trail bikes, the Scott keeps everything in the middle of the road.

  • Highs: Hugely versatile frame design, solid component spec, pleasingly agile at sensible speeds
  • Lows: Fork can start to get out of its depth, nervous handling at high speeds, on the heavy side

Frame and equipment: mostly a strong showing for this price point

We don’t expect massively innovative design and construction at this price, and the Scott’s frame is an entirely straightforward mechanically-shaped alloy number. We’d have liked to have seen a head tube ready for a tapered steerer, just to ease future fork upgrades. Heading back from there the key word is ‘stout’ – the main tubes are distinctly chunky, with a squared-off top tube and a subtly flattened down tube. The rear stays are generously proportioned too, especially the deep chainstays.

The scott’s oversized tubing means good stiffness but also a bit of surplus weight:

The Scott’s oversized tubing means good stiffness but also a bit of surplus weight

The kickstand mount on the non-driveside chainstay isn’t something that we’re used to seeing on mountain bikes, but the Scott is designed in mainland Europe, where people use bikes for more than just arsing around in the woods. The Aspect is intentionally designed to work well as an urban runaround too, and even has eyelets for a rack. All its cables are routed along the top tube.

The Aspect’s specification is a pretty good example of what you can reasonably expect for at this price level. It’s got a mostly Shimano Deore-based build, with non-series Shimano brakes and an Octalink triple crankset. An outboard-bearing crankset would be a bonus, but this is par for the course.

As is still commonplace on bikes of this sort, the crankset is a 42/32/22t triple. Combined with the 11-36t 10-speed cassette, you’re not likely to run out of gears in either direction. We were a little disappointed with the brake rotors, which are very basic Center Lock splined numbers with a thin steel spider. There are no issues with stopping, but the rotors are heavy and, well, just a bit nasty looking.

The aspect 720 is generously geared with triple chainrings and an 11-36t 10-speed cassette:

The Aspect 720 is generously geared with triple chainrings and an 11-36t 10-speed cassette

Scott has opted to kit the Aspect out with mid-sized 650b wheels, which have become the default choice in what seems like 10 minutes flat. Scott bought legendary component brand Syncros a few years back, so it’s no surprise to see Syncros branding on most of the Aspect’s finishing kit, including the rims. They’re shod with generously-sized but also shallow-treaded Schwalbe Rapid Robs, which wouldn’t be our first choice for loam or loose surfaces but make sense for the kind of all-round riding that Scott clearly has in mind for the Aspect.

The fork is a critical component on any bike, and the Scott’s Suntour model is competent enough. It’s the basic (read: heavy) version of the XCR, with a steel coil spring inside. You do get adjustable rebound damping and a remote lockout lever on the handlebar though.

Ride and handling: old-fashioned virtues – and vices

Despite its on-trend 650b wheels, the Scott is very much an all-round cross-country mountain bike of the traditional sort rather than a low-slung, raked-out trail weapon. The riding position is long and the 660mm-wide handlebar is narrow by modern standards.

If you want to tackle steep and loose trails, the Aspect isn’t the best choice – the relatively steep geometry means it starts to get nervous as the front points down, the narrow bar is more sensitive to steering inputs and the shallow-tread Schwalbes prioritise fast rolling over grip. The coil-sprung Suntour fork starts getting distractingly bouncy in the rough too. For this kind of riding, a bike like the Saracen Mantra Trail makes a lot more sense.

By nature the aspect 720 is a traditionalist xc machine, most at home on flatter trails:

By nature the Aspect 720 is a traditionalist XC machine, most at home on flatter trails

But the Scott is pitched at a broader market. High-speed nerves equate to low- and medium-speed agility, and on flatter twisty trails it can be hustled along at a fair old pace. There’s no escaping the fact that the Aspect is carrying a bit of excess weight at 13.3kg (29.3lb) – and that does start to work against you. But the faintly old-fashioned riding position is effective for sustained climbs, and on good surfaces the benefits of that fast-rolling rubber quickly becomes apparent.

The large-volume Rapid Robs have a big role to play in comfort too, because there isn’t much give in the chunky frame and oversized seatpost. All those frame fittings and bosses make the Scott extremely versatile though, so if you need a bike for the daily grind in the week and some not-too-demanding off-road fun at the weekend, the Aspect could easily hit the spot.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.








New York, Chicago top Bicycling’s list of most cycling-friendly U.S. cities

EMMAUS, Pa. — Bicycling Magazine published its biennial ranking of the 50 most cycling-friendly cities in the United States in its October issue, which hit newsstands Sept.

Polygon Pave i7 urban bike review

With the growing popularity of two-wheeled commuting and the increasing number of cycleways popping up around the world, urban style bikes are becoming all the rage – and Polygon’s Pave i7 ‘utility bike’ is right on this global trend.

The Pave i7 is a sleek, stealthy?“utility bike”?ideally suited for the urban commando, featuring a carbon-belt drive with a seven-speed internal-hub gear system, and retailing at under AU$1,000 (UK prices TBC) through a direct-buy channel – it’s priced to go.

Weighing in at 12.34kg for the 50cm model delivered to?BikeRadar’s Asia-Pacific office in Sydney, the Pave i7 features a sturdy 6061 alloy frame and fork. Its biggest attention grabber, though, is the Gates belt drive, paired with a Shimano Nexus seven-speed internal gearing system that keeps the mechanical shifting components hidden from sight and also out of the elements.

Pulling the Pave out of its box, we were met with a preset torque wrench and small pedal spanner. (Polygon’s Australian online distributor, Bicycles Online, includes this – and it’s everything needed to complete the mostly assembled bike.)

This reviewer has always been a big fan of internal drive systems, so we were eager to take the i7 for a spin. The first thing we noticed right from the start was the Shimano trigger shifters were in reverse, compared with a normal mountain bike setup. This took some getting used to, and to be completely honest we were still getting it backwards days later.

Seven gears are hidden inside this rear hub. the downsides? internal geared hubs add weight, offer limited gear ranges and have additional resistance:

Seven gears are hidden inside this rear hub. The downsides? Internal geared hubs add weight, offer limited gear ranges and have additional resistance

Also blatantly apparent were the limitations of the?seven-speed setup. While fine for commuting and leisure riding in Adelaide, Austin or East Anglia, riders living in Sydney, Sheffield or San Francisco may find it simply does not have enough range when you’ve lost your grunt when forced to take hilly routes. This is less than ideal when creeping up roads with gradients closing in on double-digit percentages. After all, there is nothing worse than arriving at the office after just a short pedal and feeling the need for a shower.

However, on flat roads and rolling hills, we found the Pave i7 to be an exceptional ride. The longer lasting, lower maintenance belt-drive and internal gear systems provide a silent, almost seamless ride void of rattles and clicks often associated with chain-driven, multi-speed external gearsets. The belt also requires no oil, so say goodbye to messy grease stains on the legs or worse – your trousers.

The belt is tensioned via turning the eccentric assembly within the frame. unfortunately it's an extra component that can creak - as ours did:

The belt is tensioned via turning the eccentric assembly within the frame. Unfortunately it’s an extra component that can creak – as ours did

Unfortunately it wasn’t all perfect, with the crankset/bottom bracket on our test sample making some groaning noise under stress. A little grease fixed it right up, but this requires specialty tools – something to consider, because the bike is often sold online and shipped to your door in a box.

The Pave i7 floats effortlessly over the tarmac, especially with the 700×35c Schwalbe Citizen tyres mounted on Rigida alloy double-wall wheels. The Citizens are bulletproof and possess enough grooved traction channels to keep you both puncture- and worry-free on your daily commute, even under damp conditions. The Pave i7 feels both stable and responsive and, fitted with an Entity road saddle, its ride is anything but harsh.

Standard v-brakes work just fine, but a little rain will cause a quick loss in performance. disc brakes often more consistent performance and greater durability:

Standard V-brakes work just fine, but a little rain will cause a quick loss in performance. Disc brakes offer more consistent performance and greater durability

For stopping action, the i7 uses Tektro levers connected to alloy V-brakes, which are adequate, but not as precise as disc brakes, especially over rain-kissed roads.

With just two sizes available, the Pave gives up the precise fit offered by bikes available in a greater range. Even so, we were perfectly comfortable for shorter journeys – and the quick release adjustable seat post makes for a quick fitting process.

The final verdict is simple. At this price, with carbon belt-drive and Shimano Nexus hub gearing, Polygon’s Pave i7 is a fantastic buy if you live in flatter areas. If your home’s in more mountainous urban territory, however, you might want to consider Polygon’s pricier (AU$2,199) sibling, the Zenith Di2, which features Shimano’s Alfine 11-speed internal drive hub system and has disc brakes to boot.








Trail Tech: Joe Graney interview

In this edition of Trail Tech we venture inside the mind of Santa Cruz engineer and director of quality Joe Graney. Since 2001, Graney has been designing, testing and redesigning many of the Santa Cruz models beloved by mountain bikers around the world.

Graney is a man of frank talk and strong opinions. His passion for the craft is readily apparent, as is his disdain for industry standards that don’t offer tangible benefits to the rider.

We caught up with Graney at the launch of the redesigned Santa Cruz Nomad in Santiago, Chile, and picked his brain about the development of the new bike, as well as the future of mountain bike design.

Since 2001 joe graney has been designing, testing, and redesigning many of the santa cruz models beloved by mountain bikers around the world:

At the Nomad launch you mentioned that the Bronson seemed like an easier project, so you switched gears to focus on that.?What made the redesign of the Nomad so challenging?

The Nomad was having an identity crisis. Was it a coil shock bike or an air shock bike?? Was it “all-mountain” or “mini DH”? What do those things even mean?

The nomad ushers in some significant changes for santa cruz. specifically, internal routing, a recessed lower link and the 1x-specific frame design:

The convergence of wide-range single chainring drivetrains with the rise of enduro racing set the stage for the Nomad’s redesign

Marketing?types often pitch new bikes as “the best ever” with “zero compromises,” but as an engineer you work in a world of give and take.?What are some of the major compromises that one must take into account when developing a bike such as the Nomad?

Geometry and fitting parts are the fundamental challenges. How slack is too slack, how low is too low? How can you fit a front der if the tire is overlapping the cage? Would anyone use a front derrailleur on this bike anyway? How can you fit a piggyback shock and a water bottle? Should we have adjustable travel or geometry and what are the compromises in doing that??

The Nomad appears to usher in some significant changes for?Santa Cruz.?Specifically, internal routing, a recessed lower link and the 1x-specific frame design.?Are these technologies that you plan to incorporate into future projects?

This might sound like a cop-out answer, but we really evaluate each model and incorporate what is best for the riders. For the Nomad, 1x was a tough decision, for other bikes it might swing a different way. The internal routing came from the fact that it was 1x, actually. If it had a front derailleur it might not have been. The cross-over of the rear derailleur cable from left to right on the down tube is done inside the molded tunnel, and prevents rubbing on the head tube.

The nomad has carbon tubes molded into the down tube to make it easy to feed the cables through the frame:

Carbon tubes molded into the Nomad’s down tube make guiding cables through the frame a painless process

Do you think 1x frame designs will become the norm? Is the front derailleur destined for extinction?

There are times when an expanded gear range is preferred, or closer steps between gears is preferred. The front derailleur is hard to package on modern bikes, if the mechanism was changed to address some of the issues (noise, chaindrop, extra shifters, weight, etc.) then I think riders would opt to have more gears rather than less in a lot of cases.??

The nomad is one of a growing number of frames that ditch front derailleur compatability :

There’s no provision for a front derailleur on the new Nomad

How far into the future does?Santa Cruz?work? Are the next generations of the Nomad and Bronson already on the drawing board? Are they already being ridden?

It depends on the model really. The Nomad was started in mid-2011 and it’s 2014 now. That’s more of an exception however. We work on changes to things quite a bit, but typically don’t start a full redesign until we feel like we can make a significant improvement over the current design.

Some brands have a bit of a regional flavor to how their bikes ride.?Do you feel this is the case with?Santa Cruz? Do the?Santa Cruz?trails play a defining role in shaping the character of the bikes you build?

We are lucky to have some of the best trails a short ride from the door of the building in?Santa Cruz. While we use our bikes on the local trails, the designs are influenced more by the people who work here. We don’t build bikes that we don’t want to ride, so those preferences are built in to our decision-making processes. We did get out of town quite a bit on the Nomad mule-testing process, from Finale Ligure to Downieville to Whistler to?Santa Barbara.

Santa cruz experimented with many different designs in the process of revamping the nomad:

An early Nomad test mule clearly demonstrates that not all ideas make it into production

Which?Santa Cruz?model do you gravitate toward as your daily driver?

I ride the Solo locally, and the Bronson when I’m in the Sierras. Probably switching to a Nomad, though.

Santa Cruz?launched an extensive 650b salvo last year.?In the process, the company cleared out most of its 26in models.?Some, but not all, of these bikes were replaced with 650b counterparts.?Is there a place for shorter-travel 650b models (bikes with less suspension travel than the Solo) in the?Santa Cruz?line? Is a 650b hardtail in the works? What about a 650b XC full suspension?

Yes.

VPP aside, is there another suspension design you appreciate?

I don’t think any system itself has validity. It comes down to the execution of a system for a particular model. Anyone who rides and older Nomad compared to the latest design can testify to that, despite similar wheel travel and suspension system.

I prefer mechanical systems that are simpler and don’t require gimmickry or custom-made spring damper systems to work well. Our bikes are designed to last a long time, so we want to make sure riders can fit the latest shock technology to their bike in a few years time.

If you could wave a magic wand and make one new “standard” or technology disappear, what would it be?

Press-fit bottom brackets on mountain bikes. It’s ridiculous how many ways this crappy system has been tried. Epoxying your BB in is acceptable??

For a deeper dive into the musings of Joe Graney, visit Joe’s Corner, his tech blog on the Santa Cruz site.








Day in the life of the downhill mountain bike mechanics – video

BikeRadar is in Cairns, Australia, for round two of the UCI downhill mountain bike world cup. Plenty of rain leading up to the racing this weekend means the mechanics are working furiously between the riders’ outings to keep things clean and dialled.?

We spoke with mechanics from GT Factory Racing, Specialized Racing Downhill, Santa Cruz Syndicate, Trek World Racing, CRC/NukeProof and more to find out what’s keeping them busy and to learn more about their daily duties as pro mechanics to some of the world’s best.

Stay tuned for more videos featuring Sam Hil (CRC/Nukeproof), Gee Atherton (GT Factory Racing) and Greg Minaar’s (Santa Cruz Syndicate) bikes.?

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Video: Mechanic tech talk at the downhill world cup round two in Cairns, Australia (Anthony Gordon)








Mother’s Day CycloFemme rides to offer free bike shares in three areas

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — CycleFemme is working with bike share programs in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area and Boulder, Colo., to provide bikes for participants in Gloabl Women’s Cycling Day, May 11. Bike share programs in those three areas are promoting self-led CycloFemme ride routes throughout their service areas.

San Fran shop hosts panel discussion on women’s cycling clothing

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — Huckleberry Bicycles is hosting an industry panel discussion this Friday on women’s cycling apparel. Panelists from three brands that focus on women’s urban cycling clothes will speak and field questions from consumers and industry representatives in the audience.

Malmö Opens Fantastic Bike&Ride Parking at Central Station

13 Fe?vrier 2014Copenhagenize Design Company was pleased to have been invited across the Øresund to the grand opening of the City of Malmö’s brand new Bike&Ride parking facility at the central station.?On a sunny morning, the ceremonial ribbon – strung between two cargo bikes – was cut. Malmö is Sweden’s leading bicycle city – so much so that it features in the Top 20 on The Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities. It is a premier bicycle city with around 30% of the population using bicycles each day to go to work or education.

This brand-new Bike&Ride facility will host more than 1,500 bikes and there are even – be still our hearts – dedicated spaces for cargo bikes. There are loads of details; two air pumps, a bike shop, lockers, numerous screens showing train departure and arrival times, restrooms, a lounge if you have to wait for the train. There is even a single shower for the odd “cyclist” who might fancy a spandex ride. Generally, the facility is geared towards the Citizen Cyclist population of the country’s third largest city.

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Parking is free at Bike&Ride and there is 24/7 access. It is patrolled by station guards throughout the day.?

There is, however, a separate section for those who want some extra protection. A secure parking area for 700 bicycles based on a subscription service. It costs 80 kroner a month and you get a chip card. Although if you have a transit card, you can combine it with that.


There are numbers painted on the floor to help users remember where they parked so they don’t have to wander around looking for a black bicycle in a sea of black bicycles. All of it with a fresh orange colour and cool, Nordic graphic design.

One great detail is the height of the bars in the cargo bike area. Too low for regular bikes to be leaned against them.

Our über intern Dennis, who studies at the University of Utrecht, was impressed with the second tier bike racks. Excellent ease of use, he says. There is a low bar on them to lock your bike to and they require little effort to lift up and put into place.


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Access to the secure parking area is, of course, wide enough for cargo bikes, too.

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One of the waiting areas, with water fountain.
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The Bike&Ride is located under the bus station and connects directly with the train platforms. It’s partially underground but it is lovely and bright because of excellent lighting and windows and glass doors.?

All the signs, pictograms and colours (orange and green) used make the facility attractive and user-friendly. We mustn’t forget to highlight how important it is to use architecture and design to make sure facilities fit the users.?


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In comparison, the Bike&Ride parking located at Hyllie Station on the outskirts of?Malmö that opened in 2010 seems less appealing even if it has the same facilities.?

The upper level of bike parking is hardly used because you have to use a set of stairs with a ramp and the connection to the platforms is not at all direct. In the daily routine of a commuter, anything that makes it more inconvenient, however detailed, will not encourage them to consider changing their mode of transport. A2Bism is what we’ve always called it and Hyllie Station lacks that.

Let’s hurry up and get back to the new facility at Malmö Central. That’s the main focus here. The City has proved how serious it is about improving conditions for cycling in an already exemplary cycling city. Their new Bike&Ride should embarrass the City of Copenhagen and they should be incredibly proud of it.

Another 200 parking spaces are located outside, under a XIX century style roof. These spots are closer to the train station but, above all, they are important for the image of cycling. The City wanted to make sure that some bicycles remained outside the station. You don’t want to remove them all. It’s still important for everyone passing by to remember that Malmö is a bicycle city.

Malmö has a vibrant bicycle culture and, in April, the City will recieve the results of a massive survey dealing with transport habits and we will know how the modal share of cyclists has changed over the last few years. Gathering data is something the Danes and the Swedes take very seriously.
DSC_0059The bike shop called Bicycle Clinic.
DSC_0050

The ticket machines located conveniently at the bicycle parking.

While we’re dishing out love for Malmö here on Valentine’s Day, we should also recall their brilliant behaviour change campaign – No Ridiculous Car Trips.

Heja Malmö!?


Here’s what the parking around Malmö Central looked like until recently:
Malmö Central Station Malmö Train Station Parking
The Bicycle Island

Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.