5 days of bicycle touring through southern Sweden… See more at STRIDSLAND.
Jotunheimen Super Randonnée
Words and photos by Johan Björklund
In late July it was finally warm and dry in Sweden, so we decided to go to cold and wet Norway and ride the Jotunheimen Super Randonnee, 600km with 10 600 meters of elevation. We had been talking about it for the last two years when Daniel, Even and I suddenly decided to ride it without doing any real planning.
A Super Randonnee is a 600km brevet, but with a minimum of 10 000 meters of elevation gain. In return, you get a more generous time limit, from 2017 and forward 60 hours and before that 50 hours plus one extra hour per additional 1000 meters of elevation. They’re run as permanents, so you can ride it when you want with the permission from the local organizer. The regular brevet card for stamping at gas stations is partly replaced by awkward staged photos where the bikes of all riders with an attached plastic sign have to be visible at specific locations.
Practice makes perfect. After a string of late starts, mishaps and consequently even later evenings, our group pushed through the sleepless nights, finally hitting the road before 8am. It took a while, but so it goes in brevets like this. 2100km in 177 hours is no walk in the park, yet it doesn’t have to be a panicked sprint either. There’s a balance to be achieved and oftentimes, it takes a bit of on-the-bike rehearsal.
During our journey along the Sverigetempot, we had a few riders join in for bit of riding. One of which was Patch, a local who met our group on the last day’s journey. Patch showed up in this fluoro Rapha jersey and this rusted road bike, built with mis-matched parts and older aero bars. It immediately caught my eye, even in my groggy state, which was heightened by a fresh knee injury from the evening before (I clipped my knee cap on a rock while sprinting to set up a photo).
The story behind this bike was pretty rad, considering the bike’s current state. To summarize, one of Patch’s friends was beginning to build frames, so he helped Patch braze this bike together. Over time, it broke, so he repaired it and in that time, it’s been his go-to bike, taking him on brevets and tons of road miles. After a mishap, he ended up with mismatched wheels, which, I might add, really work here. The patina has come from years of riding it raw, through Swedish winters and the frame bag dons patches of both victories (like the Sverigetempot completion badge) and personal mantras.
Patch is a designer, a person who usually controls details and aesthetics yet this bike seems to have designed itself. That, to me, merited a photoset.
As you might have noticed in the previous two galleries, not a lot of riders in the Sverigetempot are on traditional randonneur bikes, or even touring bikes. Rather, many of the participants are on carbon fiber road bikes, with a few select modifications to their components and of course, bikepacking bags. While there have been many excellent examples of bikes on this trip, I managed to photograph three in particular from the riders in our troop: Johan’s Focus, Daniel’s Roubaix and Johan’s Venge. Each have very similar specifications in terms of gear range and tires, but as you’ll see, are built to be lightweight, long-distance rigs.
At a certain point in brevets like this, it becomes a game of catch up. You’re either catching up on sleep or mileage. Think of it as a scale. On one end is hours slept and the other, mileage ridden, with events on the road either adding to, or subtracting from the balance. In our rider’s case, mechanicals on the third day made for a long night in the saddle.
In the world of brevets, or randonneuring, Paris Brest Paris is probably the most infamous, with its total length of 1200km and massive rider roster. However, if you travel further north in Europe, something more sinister awaits. The Sverigetempot is a ten year old, officially-sanctioned brevet, totaling 2100 kilometers. It begins on the Sweden and Norway border, in a small town called Riksgränsen, which can barely be categorized as a town, it’s more of an outpost. From there, a small group of riders have either 144 hours or 177 hours to make it to the southernmost point of the country, Smygehamn. Along the way, there are checkpoints, or control points, at which point the riders will have to have their brevet cards time-stamped at designated places as proof of their mileage. There are other rules, such as there is no roadside assistance allowed and the riders are to be self-supported. While the organizers will transport a bag from the start, to the finish, every entrant must carry their clothing, food and water on their bikes. The countryside offers many hotels and hostels for shelter, so luckily, no camping equipment was necessary, allowing for lightly-packed bikes, with one thing in mind: efficiency.
Well, after almost 30 hours of driving, we made it to the Nord of Sweden and the start of the
Sverigetempot, a 1200 mile brevet straight down the country’s spine. Tomorrow morning brings the start of the ride and even though its midnight, the sun is still shining…
The Sverigetempot is a brevet from the northernmost to the southernmost points in Sweden, which is about 1400 miles. That’s like riding from Seattle to San Diego. Entrants have the option for a 144 or 177 hour cutoff, which is roughly about a week. So far, there are 37 registered for the 177 with only 11 going for the 144. I’ll be there documenting the event and the vernacular of the Swedish countryside alongside Erzui Film, so be sure to follow along at @theRadavist and @ErtzuiFilm on Instagram.
If you live in Sweden and don’t want to spend a third of the year on a turbo trainer or in spinning classes you have to ride in the freezing cold. There’s no way around it. The last two years I did the 500 kilometers that are required to finish the Rapha Festive 500 between December 24-31 pretty much riding solo. This year I was happy to have a lot more company and I would say that we had some of the most memorable rides of all year over this week.
There are three rough categories of winter riding in these parts of Sweden:
1) Icy rain. Storm winds. Black ice.
2) Piles of snow. Cold as fuck. Super crispy sunshine.
3) Slush puppies. Damp all day fog. Eternal darkness.
For this Festive 500 we got to experience all of them on different days and while there’s at least one terrible factor to each condition I love them all for what they have to offer. With the risk of sounding like a show off these winter rides are some of my favorite riding of the whole year. It’s so much more than just base miles to me.
While you browse through the photos, think of that special mixed feeling of stoke and insanity when you descend a pretty much deserted rough gravel road in the middle of nowhere way too fast. Plus it’s thickly covered with fresh snow and when you look down at your front wheel all you can see when the snow is pushed away is a layer of black ice. Cue endorphins.
KVLT in Göteborg: the 2014 Svart Katt
Words and photos by Johan Björklund
Svart Katt is an alley cat race through the darkest corners of Göteborg where the riders look for as many checkpoints and solve questions scavenger hunt style with the help of a map and a manifest during the cold and dark night. You could say it’s a sightseeing tour in the twilight zone.
One of the most metal alleycats ever is returning from the crypt this year in Sweden. The Svart Katt is coming… and if you’re able to make it, do so. In the past, this race has been insane.
Riding in Sweden’s Sverigetempot Brevet
Words and photos by Johan Björklund
In 2012 I thought about riding the Sverigetempot for the first time. I had never done it before and so I didn’t know what I was getting into…