Customer Profile: Finn Snaterse

We're back with a brand new customer profile with Finn Snaterse!

 

This month, we talked to Finn about the perks and challenges of being the captain of a cargo bike in the Arctic Circle.

He tells us all the details and work that went into selecting the perfect ride for the whole family.

 

 

Finn's pirate cargo bike

Ahoy mateys!

 


 

Please tell us a little about yourself, where do you live and what do you do?

Usually when I introduce myself and where I live everybody looks at me a bit weirdly and tries to figure out if I'm pulling their leg, then again being Finn in Finland (not a Finn, just Finn) leaves plenty of room for silly word play. Always nice to use it breaking the ice in a conversation as Finns are usually 'a bit' shy using their English (even though most speak it pretty well). As you might guess I started off in another country only to find my way to the Arctic Circle for the same reason as so many other foreigners end up in Finland, they start dating someone from Finland and eventually move there.
Initially, as a Dutch person, living on the Arctic Circle was both challenging due to the cold winters and rewarding because of the stunning dynamics of nature. I remember freezing part of my ears when cycling to university at -30C (-22F). Being in a place where you shift between total daylight and total darkness/twilight every half a year makes sure that no week is the same.

 

Aurora 

What is your bicycling background and how did you become interested in it?

As time passed by, dating became marriage and being a couple became having a family. At the time when our kids were very young, cycling was less practical and got replaced by way too many car rides, especially during the cold winters. When visiting Holland last year we realized that using a car was not that practical as we were doing mostly short distances and we wanted to be outside, it was summer after all. After some searching we found a second hand cargo bike that fitted three kids. We really enjoyed going everywhere as you can have a lot of fun interacting together while moving from A to B. It was so much fun that we made a lot of extra kilometres.
Once back home, we were missing the cargo bike and had to use the car instead again. It didn't take us long to decide to get a new cargo bike at home as well so we would be able to have the same fun, use the car a lot less and get into a better shape. Money saved on the car goes straight to the bike and our carbon footprint is nicely reduced.

 

 

FinnFoto

 

What is it like riding a bike where you live?

[We decided on] a cargo bike, a two wheeler, but that was as far as we got initially. After a lot of reading on which models would be good we ended up going for an Urban Arrow with pedal assist, so that the hills become less of an issue and so that my wife would also enjoy taking the kids to places. No assist would mean you'd always have to work hard to cycle it.
Once we knew what we'd like to get I started figuring out if the bike would survive the Finnish winter. I assumed we wouldn't be cycling when it gets colder than -30C (-22F) and in the storage it would have to be able to survive -40C/F (yes it can get that cold up here). First thing I checked was if the engine and battery would survive the extreme temperatures, it took a few phone calls and eventually the manufacturer gave me the number of someone in Helsinki who had a lot of experience with Bosch engines. He assured me it would be fine at those temperatures even though the oil in the engine would get a bit thicker. The battery would have to be kept as warm as possible, in practise this came down to dragging it inside at every possible opportunity when the temperature dropped below -5C (23F).
Next up was looking at the NuVinci hub, would it survive the cold? Here as well, it took some calls with the importer and he mentioned that at -20C (-4F) you might risk breaking the hub. Storing and using it in even lower temperatures did not seem like such a good idea any more. A little disappointed (I really like the technique in a NuVinci) I bumped into a Rohloff hub, it operates at -15C (5F) easily, -30C (-22F) after an oil change, and can handle the power output of both my legs and the engine. It did come at a premium, however.
With everything sorted out, we ordered the bike and it arrived in November. The first thing I had to do was replace the tyres with studded ones as the first snow was already covering the roads. As winter progressed the snow pack grew larger and larger. We've been cycling at -28C (-18F), in snow storms, on icy roads, under the northern lights and the bike (and the kids) have held up miraculously well. My wife really enjoys taking the bike and going to visit friends.

 

 

Aurora2 

How did you hear about Monkeylectric?

Because our bike is the first one of it's kind (due to having a different hub) and because it's used so far North, I've been in frequent contact with the shop where I bought it. When mentioning all the ideas for tweaking the bike he mentioned it couldn't really go without Monkey Lights. Apart from plans for a pirate's crow's nest, additional headlights and indicators, lights in my wheels couldn't really be absent. As usual, I did my research and it seemed Monkey Lights were the best option to get that done. I was really happy to notice the photo contest they were organizing and put my wife and kids on the bike for a photo-shoot. While they were having thick clothes on and cycling in circles I managed to take a picture that was awarded a second prize, a set of M232 lights :). After mounting them in March the kids were already loving them, and we didn't even cycle yet. The first ride was a long one and the entire roadside was just lighting up, all colours of the rainbow were reflecting from the snow. Since then we seem to have a "disco bike".

 

 

Contest winner

  Action shot in the snow

Are there any links you would like us to share with our readers?

Instagram
Urban Arrow
 

I'd like to share some of the deliberations I went through that are behind buying a cargo bike as it was quite the investment and this might help others make the same decision!

 

CAR VERSES BIKE
We used to drive between 100-200km per week just in town. Mostly driving the kids to daycare and go to the grocery store. The town we live in is relatively small and we live close to the centre. By bike I'm able to go pretty much anywhere in town within 30 minutes. So our town is pretty ideal for leaving the car be and using a bike in stead. Using a bike brings the following advantages:

  • I'm way more active than before

  • we're outside much more

  • much better interaction with the kids

  • no more hassle putting on the seat belts

  • shorter distances

  • no more searching for parking space, paying for parking or getting parking tickets. I can now drop my bike next to the shop doors 🙂

  • grabbing the bike and heading out is so much faster in winter time because I don't have to clear the snow off, warm it in advance or scratch the ice off the windows

  • we suspend the car for multiple weeks in a row which saves huge amounts of money on road taxes and insurance

  • no need to fuel up on fossil fuels (big reduction in carbon footprint)

  • less kilometres means less maintenance costs on the car

  • a bike brings so much more joy than driving a car

  • last but not least the bike pays itself back easily within 5 years if we do not use the car inside town

 

 

TRAILER VERSES CARGO BIKE
This one took some effort, I sought to see what other peoples opinions on the issue were and I drew the following conclusions.

It seemed that the advantage of a trailer is that you can:

  • decouple it and use it on multiple different bikes (although it would require us to buy both 2 good electric bikes and a trailer)

  • easily zip it up to keep the kids dry

  • transport 2 kids

  • haul 80kg max.

 

With a cargo bike on the other hand you can:

  • comfortably transport 3 kids (5 when jam packed)

  • drag 150kg load (I can easily haul 3 kids and a week worth of groceries in one go)

  • have the kids in front which makes interaction possible (try talking to them in a trailer and keeping an eye on the road at the same time)

  • keep an eye on the kids so that they don't misbehave and correct them if need be without stopping

  • easily stop and point out nice sights along the way (clouds, birds, squirrels, reindeer, santa)

  • peel a banana for them while on the move

  • don't have to worry how much length you have behind you (when crossing the road)

  • narrower than a trailer (for 2 wheeled cargo bikes)

  • can still add a trailer for skis, sleds or a canoe

 

Arctic Circle

 


 

We'd like to thank Finn for sharing so much wonderful information about himself, cargo bikes, and Northern life!

 

 

If you'd like to share your story, please send an email to chloe @ monkeylectric . com

Enjoy!