In July 1995, after attending the IETF (Internet Engineering) conference in Stockholm, I went sightseeing in some other parts of Sweden. On one of these days I stopped in Falun - a small, picturesque city about 150 miles from Stockholm - and visited Mike Ollars, who runs one of the Swedish MTB WWW pages that I’d previously run across and linked into my own MTB page. Mike’s a part-time sysadmin for a local Internet access provider, a part-time photographer for the Swedish "Mountain Bike" magazine, and an all-around cool guy. Mike loaned me one of his bikes and took me on a long tour to sample the local trails.
The Swedish countryside is beautiful: large tracts of pine forest, a bazillion lakes, and farmland dotted with quaint country homes. (Oddly, almost all of these country homes are the exact same color: rust with white trim. The Swedish are big on conformity, it seems.) Sweden also has a "common access" law that allows anyone to traverse (or camp on) any piece of private property - such as farmland - as long as you don’t go close to a dwelling. And Sweden is quite large geographically - about the size of California - but with less than 1/3 the population. All of this makes for lots of great mountain biking, with no trail conflicts. Mike showed me several pieces of rustic singletrack interconnected by sparsely-traveled country roads. Each section of singletrack crossed a section of pine forest or farmland. (At one point we crossed the remnants of a farm - and a well with refreshing drinking water - that was used by monks back in the 1500s.)
For comparison with Bay Area rides, the trails seemed most similar to those at Boggs Mountain, except not as hilly. Like the U.S. northeast and upper midwest, Sweden was ground down by the Ice Age, and (except for the western edge of the country, near Norway) is relatively flat, with small, rolling hills. This geology also leads to another difference from the riding that we’re used to in the Bay Area: the topsoil is quite thin, so the singletrack tends to have lots of small rocks and exposed roots, requiring concentration and some technical riding skill, despite the relatively flat terrain.
So, if you’re looking for some scenic mountain biking in a European country with friendly, good-looking people who are happy to speak English, who bathe, and who don’t test nuclear weapons, then go visit Sweden :-)
Caveat: I was fortunate to experience Swedish summer weather at its best - warm (~80 degrees F), low humidity, and sunny skies. Summer in Sweden is not always this nice; rain is always a possibility. (But then dust is rarely a problem either, apparently.) The riding season is short, and the winters, of course, are harsh. (Most of the locals used stronger adjectives to describe their winters :-) Winter, it seems, is a time for hanging up the mountain bike, putting on the cross-country skis, and heading out on the local trails, longing wistfully for the far off days when they can be used for mountain biking once again :-)
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Last modified date: 2015.03.05
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