Since me and Timmy are planning a camping trip in two weeks, where I will drive back to Belgium leaving Sweden behind for the near future, we felt like we needed to go on a test trip to see how the gear and bikes hold up, just like my friends did recently.
They had asked on the Horizons Unlimited Facebook group, and I thought it would be really interesting meeting them. I got to ask a lot of questions about things that seem vague to me, like shipping a motorcycle, or border crossings. Also turns out they are from Brisbane, and will be back there for a short while by the time I’m heading there in October, what coincidence.
They’d done 45.000km so far on their Yamaha XT660’s, without much problems at all save for a little accident. Not even a flat tire! I have to admit those XT660’s seem extremely reliable; I test rode one myself however and it just felt a bit heavy and slow for me (180kg with 48hp)…
When they were leaving the next morning, things got delayed a bit, so I only got to meet up with Timmy at 11. Then when we left, we got another problem as we were only 200meters on the motorway…
That 10-meter long skidmark you see is where Timmy’s front brake locked up on the middle of the motorway. He ended up standing between the cars with a front wheel that was completely stuck. I heard him shout “my brakes are stuck!” through the intercom, but had to do a 10 minute detour since he was behind me, before I could get to him and help.
Turns out the cool orange brake levers he bought, were not fitting properly, causing the brake to drag, heating the system up and eventually jamming! We fixed it with some Loctite and duct-tape, a fix that fortunately held up for the rest of the weekend.
After an hour of asphalted roads, with some dirt in between (including the GPS trying to send us through an active military area), we got to the trail we were planning to follow. Called ‘Sverigelänken’ or ‘The Sweden Link’, it’s a 2000km gravel trail from Uppsala to Kiruna. We were only going to do a small part up to Torsåker and then turn back.
As always, whn following someone else’s routes, we come across some surprising obstacles. This had already looked fishy when planning, with the GPS claiming there was no road at this spot. I’d seen some cool videos on Youtube of Lyndon and Lukas going around the world, doing this stuff, so I figured ‘how hard can it be, and tried it. I kind of chickened out and didn’t want to go in the real mud, instead going into the bushes on the side. That turned out to be a big mistake, I got stuck after 2 meters.
We spent half an hour dragging and lifting my bike out, in ankle deep swamp water, with lots of bugs around us on quite a warm day, but got it out eventually. In the process I’d sprayed my entire bike with swamp water, moss and turf. I found out that my boots are really, perfectly waterproof though (unlike Timmy’s)!
We then turned back and took the 1km straight asphalt road shortcut that avoided this whole thing.
We came across some more cases where the route was changing: they were building a huge road that the trail cut across several times. Too bad this will all be asphalted soon, but those big rocks are very hard to ride on on the other hand.
The light got really nice by the evening, so we stopped for photo’s a few times.
Eventually we got to the Hovnäs Ferry, which was this cool little ferry that still ran on cables. You pressed a button, a bell rang and an old guy slogged out of his little hut to start the boats diesel engine. You could only pay the fee in cash, and the ferry only ran until 7 (we got there at 6:30). I loved it, so much more interesting than the big ferries, and it only fits one car at a time.After the ferry we had to decide to pick the shorter route, or keep going on the trail for the longer route. Timmy was really into it so he suggested to go long.
The riding was good, the light was great and we came past some really nice spots. In hindsight, we really should have stopped and camped here, as the spot was so perfect. But we felt like we could keep going a bit (it was almost 8pm by then). We ended up looking for a spot by another lake around 10pm, in the dark, and only finding private areas where people owned cabins. It got darker and darker until we decided to try one last trail into the forest, past a closed barrier on a very overgrown track.
That turned out pretty interesting: the road was a dead end, but there was a cabin with an open spot. The cabin turned out abandoned for a while (just my luck, haha). This picture is from the next morning, as we put the tent up and cooked in the pitch dark!
It had been abandoned and uncared for for so long, that the roof had collapsed.
That night, we also found out there was a shed behind it, that was open and in much better condition.
Even better was that there were some tools which we used to create a campfire. The whole inside felt very 60’ies, with magazines and items from a long time ago.
I’d brought porridge, but had forgotten sugar, jam, or anything to make it less bland (lesson learned). So Timmy picked blueberries in the forest around us; as is typical in Sweden this time of the year there were tons.The porridge turned out quite alright with those!
The next days riding turned out just as good, if not better than the Sweden Link trail. Proves again that forcing a route onto small roads always works out nicely here in Sweden (but does take a fair bit of work).
When we got near Gimo I started recognizing roads and places from last year’s gravel course I took around there (that started all of this obsession properly). We came across an old ruin I’d seen before back then, but couldn’t stop since I had to keep up with the group.
I started to realize we’d underestimated the distance for that day again, so we cut short to a road I knew would be great. At that point, after one and a half days, our intercom system batteries started to go empty. I’d forgotten to mount my USB charger on the bike (another lesson learned) so we had to use Timmy’s bike for a while to bring mine back.
That good road turned out even better than I thought: we managed to string together more than 35 km of gravel with only about 200m of asphalt in between two halves, an absolute record. The area is called ‘Pansarudden’, for the park it goes through. It’s all up and down with winding corners, the only downside is there are a bit more cars than on your average dirt road, so we had to be a lot more careful and got stuck behind a slow car at the end.
After taking a break at 5pm in Uppsala, where we had a BBQ with some friends of mine, we set on again. For some reason we went on some much sketchier roads than before, some hadn’t seen traffic in months I think, some where even just a long grassy overgrown opening through the forest where we ended up in the backyard of some farm deep in the forest. The owner didn’t seem to mind.
As it often goes when you get closer to cities, we encounter some road barriers. Often there’s tracks besides them that we can use to get around, if not it’s easy to get past them 95% of the time, as Timmy demonstrates here. There’s always the interesting question what the other barrier, on the other end of the road will look like.
It mostly tends to be just as easy, but we came upon this one, that was pretty hardcore. Logs, rocks, 2m deep ditches on both sides. There was just a 1m opening into the forest on one side. We scouted it by foot for a few minutes until we found a way through, over tree roots and around trunks. It was by far not as hard as our little swamp mishap though!
We ended up riding in the dark for a while until we made it back to Stockholm. We were partly over enthousastic (ignoring most of my shorter options I had pre-planned), left way too late, lost time and I also have trouble estimating time and distances since the new Google Maps doesn’t display that info anymore when creating routes (how handy). We must have done 700km on very small roads over two days.
The next day I had one of the worst headaches of my life: I could barely function and it took a whole day of pills, water and energy drinks before I felt better in the evening. Lessons learned again: drink more, ride a bit less!