In this guest article, my husband Guy shares the story of his holiday romance with a Sogreni bicycle in Copenhagen this summer and how he returned there in December to bring his new bike home.
“That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest”, wrote the American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, a thought that could be written for those of us who have always been excited by cycling as a combination of transport, adventure and cutting edge design. Let us enter the rarified world of Sogreni bicycles in Copenhagen, where the artist’s materials are steel, brass and leather and where the wait for your new hand-built bicycle is part of the pleasure.
The week before Christmas, I found myself catching planes, trains and automobiles to Copenhagen, Denmark, to collect my bespoke Sogreni Young Shatterhand bicycle, a mere six months after my fitting with Soren Sogreni in his eclectic shop on Sankt Peders Stræde.
As everyone knows Copenhagen is truly a green city surrounded by water and parks, with climate-friendly citizens to match. Holding the title of European Green Capital of 2014, the city is not resting on its green credentials, but aims to become the world’s first CO2 neutral capital by 2025. In Copenhagen, sustainability and cycling are an integral part of the vibe and there is even a Cycling Embassy that advises the world on how cycling can be integrated into daily life.
Bikes are simply everywhere and used by all ages from the Royal Family downwards. Indeed Crown Prince Frederik is the only Royal to have completed an ironman triathlon, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon, raced without a break. Useful but not essential preparation for taking one of the children out in a Christiana type cargo bike – a three wheeled design that can be configured in many combinations and is as popular with families as it is for delivering the post.
Having been to Copenhagen many times it was not long before I became aware of Soren Sogreni and his bicycles. Like a moth drawn to a candle I finally tracked him down to his shop when on holiday this August, finding myself chatting about engineering and Classic British cars and particularly the Bristol marque. I immediately liked him as haute couture is not my thing and Soren is well known for his T-shirt-and-shorts appearance. I had done my research and knew exactly what I wanted so the ordering process took very little time and soon I was back at our apartment dizzy with the caffine overload and the excitment of my purchase.
The months of waiting for my bike to be made was not a problem, indeed it was part of the excitement, given the time invested in deciding on the type and specification of the bicycle. A Sogreni hand-built bicycle is not something to be rushed or to rush on in an unseemly and sweaty manner. Like a Bentley motor car there is speed enough, but such a vehicle is not about writing or graphics and there certainly won’t be any lycra or writing on this rider.
If anything the delay helped me appreciate the skill and workmanship that went into the creation of this new and custom built machine. My new bicycle was the result of numerous manufacturing processes and logistics involving craftsmen from across Europe but with life, character and soul breathed into it by the Sogreni magician and mechanic, Peter, who I met on my return visit to the workshop in Copenhagen.
This Sogreni design is a build of distinction and rightly recognised by the luxury Danish brand, Georg Jensen who commissioned twenty identical bikes from Sogreni. The internationally renowned Louisiana Museum of Modern Art to the north of Copenhagen for many years displayed another Sogreni classic bicycle design, named the Louisiana, which you can still order.
So how did my bicycle get its name of Young Shatterhand? As Soren Sogreni explained to me, Old Shatterhand is a fictional character in the Western novels of German writer Karl May (1842–1912). He is the German friend and blood brother of Winnetou, the fictional chief of the Mescalero tribe of the Apache, a story that was made into a Euro-western of the same name in 1964, starring Lex Barker. The story of Old shatterhand entertained Soren Sogreni as a youngster so he decided to name not one but two bicycles after this fictional character. They are the Old Shatterhand and Young Shatterhand. Quirky? You bet!
In Copenhagen you are as likely to see a very stylish lady or gent in the latest fashions riding their Sogreni bicycle through the Latin quarter as a mum cycling with her children in the ‘burbs. Being Copenhagen there is even a Cycle Chic website with an eclectic view on cycling and cyclists that promises to be lycra and granola free and promotes, amongst other things, the slow cycling movement. It also shows the amount of kilometres cycled by Copenhageners today. Incredible and for all you UK cyclists NOBODY jumps red lights … There really is no need people!
For visitors and residents alike, Copenhagen has recently introduced the Bycyklen smart bike for hire, which you will see in numerous public places around the city. It represents the latest generation of urban electric bikes, with no-puncture tyres, built in lights, touchscreen computing and GPS navigation, all in a stylish and durable design. Once you have set up your account, you can pay by the hour or have a monthly account and the web site will tell you how many bikes are available at the nearest docking station. Now how cool is that?
So back to my journey to collect my Sogreni bicycle. While some might ask why a bespoke bicycle is necessary I am hoping that my hand built machine will transform the everyday journey to work into a joyful progression. My Young Shatterhand includes leather handles, a carrying rack, an enclosed gearbox, a drum brake for the front wheel and painted rimmed mountain bike wheels – as well as a magestic brown leather sprung Brooks saddle. A bike beautifully designed by Soren Sogreni and lovingly constructed and fitted to me by Peter just in time for Christmas.
This is a bike that has kept me awake at nights, a bike I think is perfect for my today and my tomorrow and a bike that I will never sell. I believe that Henry David Thoreau would have approved.
More things to see in Copenhagen
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