At a time where recycled ultra-light Japanese velodrome cast-offs have become Fixed Gear badges of honor for indie kids form Silverlake to Brooklyn, I have chosen the path of Dutch and Swedish bike commuters, and made the Kronan Steel 3-Speed my daily rider. I was introduced to Kronans by my friend and tastemaker Natas Kaupas. Natas was at the cutting edge of the urban fixed gear phase, and in making an esoteric trade that included first-edition architecture and furniture books as well as an ’80s vintage surfboard, his old Kronan became mine. That ’70s era black beauty was from the time when Kronans were manufactured in Poland; they’re purportedly now made in China—but more on the recent models to follow. I took the Kronan to my commuter home in Palo Alto, and it has served me well, as my office commuter, grocery getter and yoga transporter.
The good folks at Palo Alto Bicycles, maybe the coolest bike shop in the country, were able to track down a set of the odd-sized Kronan tires, that had been impossible to get in the U.S., to replace the cracked original tires that she came with.
Until late 2008, Kronans weren’t available in North America, until they were rediscovered and reintroduced by my good friend Antonio Bertone, a true tastemaker and bike nut, who is the CMO at Puma and Tretorn. The Swedish-born Kronans matched the aesthetic of the Scandinavian-bred Tretorn (www.tretorn.com) , and the brand features the quirky Kronans at their SoHo store in NYC. Kronans are also available through a US distributor, Kronan Store USA.com.
Like my four-wheeled transport, Kronans are kinda slow–depending on leg strength–, heavy and somewhat esoteric. They are completely utilitarian and the well-designed front rack easily can carry a petite “volley dolly” looking for a lift on the South Bay bike path—say Marine Street to 14th in Hermosa. The rack is genius because it attaches to the frame, not the forks, so event the heaviest loads don’t interfere with steering. The bikes also come equipped with a sturdy rear rack, lights, fenders and the coolest accessory of all, a permanently mounted pump. In their natural habitat, Stockholm, Kronans are lined up in the many bike racks dotting the business districts. Because of this and the limited colors, Kronans come with license plates bearing a unique number. My Palo Alto ride begins HI, a sought after plate as it means an early designation.
You cant help but smile when you’re riding a Kronan. They are a true cruiser, but the 3-Speed SRAM shifter makes even steep South Bay hills navigable. I have picked up another Kronan, a cream-colored mate to the black one, for use in So Cal. It’s been updated by Kronan with a front hand brake, and–despite its Asian manufacturing–build quality is identical to my original.
In two towns where bikes rule, the Kronan gets nods, thumbs up and lots of questions. My only aftermarket mods include a discreet Trek LED front light, as the stock friction model wasn’t bright enough for dawn patrol surf checks in the South Bay or yoga mat toting in Palo Alto. The other mod is an amazing set of olive drab canvas saddle bags, designed and imported by Venice, CA based Linus bikes. In the French 70’s tradition, these bags are incredibly useful, and look killer. At last week’s 4th of July 4th Street, four-man volley ball tournament—a fellow competitor remarked that they made the Kronan look very “Indiana Jones.”
I love that.