I had booked the first flight of the day to Gothenburg, so at approximately 6 am on Tuesday the 2nd May, I found myself trying to eat breakfast in Giraffe at Heathrow’s T5.
After a very straight forward flight with British Airways and I arrived in Gothenburg Airport. It’s a small airport and so doesn’t take long to get through. Whilst I waited for the bike bag to arrive I admired a classic Volvo.
The bike bag came though after a short delay and I was very pleased to see that everything inside looked to be ok. Then it was off to find the Flixbus to Jonkoping. When I had booked the bus I had been told I would have to pay extra for a large piece of luggage and it would only be carried if there was room. However the bus was pretty empty and the driver seemed happy enough for me to load the bag on board without any extra charges. As we left the airport, I saw the first of what would be many Swedish flags and the first and only wolf of my trip.
The journey to Jonkoping took just under two hours and gave me my first glimpses of some of the forest and lakes that this part of Sweden is famous for. The journey itself was pretty un-eventful and by sitting at the front of the bus I was able to notice how well most of the cars were driven. Upon arriving in Jonkoping I stopped to get a quick bite of lunch in the warm sunshine while I worked out how to get to Eric’s apartment where I was going to be staying. However, a 25kg bike bag and a roller suitcase soon get heavy and I ended up stopping in the local park and building the bike up. rather than drag the two bags I thought it would be much easier to load then onto the handlebars and saddle and wheel them, using the bike as a trolly. Well it must have taken a while as Eric messaged me to see where I was. After a little while I made it to his office where we were introduced. Eric is a keen road cyclist who works for a start up company that basically installs pool bikes for apartment buildings, to help reduce car usage. He has an amazing e-cargo bike and we soon had my suitcase in that and the bike bag balanced properly and headed off to his apartment. We chatted about the town and the event which Eric knew a lot about as he was friends of the organisers. I then took the bike for a quick spin (Strava Link) and headed into town to discover the Government alcohol shop. In Sweden, you can only get a very small amount of alcohol in supermarkets, for anything over about 3% you have to get it from the alcohol shop. The one I went to was very much like a branch of Waitrose, but with just alcohol. Eric had warned me that imported drinks could be expensive, so I picked some local beers for us to drink and headed to the beach to have a look round. Jonkoping is situated at the base of Lake Vatten, the sixth largest lake in Europe. It has a yearly bike race (Vätternrundan) round it which is the worlds biggest cycling event. It was still nice and warm and apart from some ducks I had it to myself.
Upon returning to Eric’s flat, we enjoyed a quick beer and then headed out to the local home made burger restaurant, which even minces it’s own burgers, and makes it’s own bread. It was very good. As I had been awake since 3am, I turned in for an early night.
On the Wednesday morning after a Swedish breakfast with Eric, I went out to explore the town a bit more and pick up supplies for the event. I hadn’t brought any co2 canisters with me to avoid any hassle at the airport so they were on my shopping list. A local sports superstore XXL sorted that one out.
Next I went to hunt down (Strava Link) one of the trails which was on Loop 4, to give me a bit of an insight into the local terrain.
Eric and a friend kindly offered to ride with me to the start of the off road section, which was a great idea, until I realised that they are seriously fit and fast roadies on very quick bikes. The Camino is quick normally, but with the bike packing chain ring I was running, it tends to spin out at about 30km/h, which was about the minimum speed the boys were riding at. 10km’s and a pair of tired legs later, I bid them farewell and headed up the steep road climb to start of the off road section. It is a famous local hill that is used in lot of events and boy is it steep! The first off road section follows the John Bauer walking trail. This climbs further and gives an amazing view across the lake towards Jonkoping.
The trial is for hikers and cyclists and soon became tight single track with some nice drops. However on an adventure bike, this was quite challenging and for the first time I wondered if the Vir Fortis might have been a better choice.
Soon the trail took a sharp turn to the right, well according to the line on the Garmin it did, but there was just dense forest. Ok I thought just like a BB200 event, where the GPX file means nothing. Perhaps the organisers were Stuart Wright’s Swedish cousins.
Still the forest was beautiful and empty as Sweden, despite being almost twice the size of the UK, has a population that is only a 6th of the UK’s. Again, I would soon come to realise that most of the ride would involve seeing very few people. The route opened out into farmland and I soon found my first proper gravel road. Now the Camino was much more at home. Stiles in Sweden are much easier than their UK cousins. And if you play attention, you often find almost next to them, open gates!
After a few hours it was time to head back to Jonkoping to meet the organisers and other riders for a pre-event dinner and drinks in the Idlewild Bar. This was a 20 minute walk or a much quicker rider across the town. As I had now fully built and bagged up my bike for the event, Eric suggested we go on the cargo bike and I squeezed into the cargo section for the ride of my life. When you are sitting 2 inches above the road, 25km/h seems very, very fast.
It was a great night at Idlewild and all of the guys involved were great fun. It didn’t get too messy or late as we all had an early start.
To read part 3 click here.