Jonas Strømberg is not like you and me. Ok, we like bikes. Maybe you’ll go as far as calling yourself an enthusiast. However that is nothing compared to Jonas. He lives and breathes cycling: gets up at half past five in the morning to get an hour on the road before cycling his kid to kindergarten and himself to work where he, you guessed right, work with bikes.
Text: Silje Strømmen
Photos: Pål Laukli
As Jonas is sitting across from me, sipping on a beer and happily chatting with our photographer Pål, I can’t help to think, “Where the hell does this guy get his energy?” His movements are big; his legs and arms restless. I’ve only been up for six hours (don’t judge, it’s a Sunday) and I’m already dreaming about my bed, but Jonas and Pål they have been up since 5.30 am.
- To me, biking is everything. It is my very time-consuming hobby, it is my preferred way of transportation and at the same time it is everything around it as well: stuff you can accessorise your bike with, stories you can tell, stuff you can read. You have everything in this one thing. Yes, at times it can be frustrating when you only do one thing, but at the same time it is pretty awesome and comforting.
Some background information: Jonas is not some crazy middle-aged guy who in response to a midlife crisis turned to biking and now speeds to and from work as exercise. He is a 31 aged guy covered with tattoos and one impressive moustache, who lives with his girlfriend whom he has a four-year old kid with and another one on the way. As a kid he did ski flying and football on a top athlete level. However, troubles with injuries led him to an operation and a doctor who directed him to get on a bike – and then he just continued. By the time he was 20 years old he had started working in a sports shop, dealing with “some pretty nice bikes” and started getting into the fixie style, in addition to downhill. Then, he discovered road cycling.
- I was totally taken by it, and as of the last five years I’ve been mainly doing that. Naturally I do other (bike related) stuff as well, but road cycling has been my main focus.
Over the past years he has spent countless hours on the road, biked with Chris Froome and Sean Kelly in The Tour de France (all documented by Eurosport, with whom he won a competition), been named an official ambassador for Rapha and Oakley and been on several trips around the world, in addition to taking the record for biking Lillehammer – Oslo fastest (he and his team used 3 hours and 51 minutes on a route that takes two hours to drive).
- Yes, I like speed and there is probably still a little bit of that old adrenaline junkie in me. Back in the days nothing was too extreme and I’ve always liked that. I used to live in Canada as a ski bum. Speed has always been a part of my life.
So what goes on in Jonas’ head when he is speeding in 75 km pr hour downhill?
- It’s just fun. Last year, I reached 113 km pr hour in the Alps. Man, that’s fast. But that’s one of the things so cool about road biking: you can sit at home in front of the TV and be like “that’s piece of cake” but in reality watching someone ride upward just as fast as others do flat, that’s awesome! In my book, you’re a pretty honorable person if you’re able to do that.
Bicycling has a culture like few other sports. As an official Rapha ambassador, Jonas was a household name when The Rapha Prestige entered Oslo in May 2015.
- I’ve biked a lot of races and quite a lot in bad weather, but I’ve never seen anyone be that extreme cold, and to just take a shower, drink some beers and be that happy again. That was the coolest thing. People were just having a great time. In the end, it is all about being on the road. Even though he doesn’t meditate, Jonas admits that going for a ride before six in the morning does clear his mind.
- Let’s just say that if I don’t get to ride, I’m not the easies person to live with. I get cranky. I’m guessing that’s also partly why I get to do it, as way of just getting me out of the house.
Although that quote may sound like it’s coming from a fitness junkie, Jonas is not in the game for the exercise alone. He doesn’t hold those biking like crazy to and from work particularly high. Personally, he is one of those slow bastards who likes to ride long and who “tries to do so fast”. During his morning hikes his pulse rises, but he still takes the time to relax and enjoy himself. If he is lucky he might even catch a sunrise.
- If you get that mentality you’re a part of the gang. You become friends due to a common interest. We talked about it a lot during Rapha Prestige: how different personalities comes together, and then you spend several hours together on the back of a bike and you end up singing along to Backstreet Boys. That’s just how it is. You become friends in such an enjoyable way. You spend eight hours on a bike, and become best friends after two minutes. That’s the passion and the respect cyclists have for each other.
Today Jonas spends 15 to 20 hours a week biking, and then thinking about biking for eight to ten hours a day, roundly adding up to a nice 76 hours a week. During the research for this interview I asked around about Jonas, and the answer I usually got? “He is the bicycle guy in Oslo”.
- It’s not something that I have created for myself. That’s someone else’s work. I think it’s nice though. After all it is something I stand for.
A while ago Jonas spent some time in France with Rapha. After 14 hours on the road climbing the Mont Ventoux the team came back to the village where they were staying, and Jonas bumped into a 78 year old man who had just finished the same trip – which he takes once a year.
- That made me think, “Yes, I still have some years left!” Running into people like that is just awesome. I hope that when my son grows up, he will enjoy biking and that we can go on trips together.
By this time in the interview the obvious question comes to mind. Does he ever get tired of it? Upon being asked the question though, Jonas simply answers “No, not really”.
- I ask myself time after time “why do I do this”. You hate yourself for saying it, but my only answer is passion. I’m always excited about getting on a bike. I simply love biking. I can be cold, and briefly I can hate it. But give me a warm shower and I’ll be ready to go back out again. It’s just love.