We have been on long rides before, but a 160+ kilometre gravel route? That’s something new. Last Friday we rode the Dirty Halland, and we can highly recommend it to every gravel fanatic that is looking for a good challenge. With tired legs, but a camera roll filled with awesome shots we share with you our ride report.
The Dirty Halland 2021
The Dirty Halland was initially planned as an event, but we all know how small the chances are of those happening these days. Luckily organizer Team Cyklamera decided to change the setup and released the route for everyone to cycle it independently. The route consisted of an extremely well put together combination of hard packed gravel roads, a few punchy climbs and some single trails to keep the mind sharp.
Gravel, sandy single track and rocky climbs
We started the route at the train station in Halmstad and climbed our way out of the city. Cold muscles and steep gradient, a perfect way to start every ride. After about six kilometres we finally hit the gravel in Sperlingsholm, a nice little teaser as turned out. After another short stretch on asphalt, we wouldn’t see much of that for a while. From here on it was gravel, sandy single track and rocky climbs almost all the way.
Our long distance cycling technique
Our longest route to this date had been about 120 kilometres, so we knew we needed a bit of a strategy. Something that had worked really well for us in India, was breaking up the long rides in blocks. We decided on 25 kilometres and breaks timed at 5 minutes each. The first break happened to be at a beautiful little lake, the Bredaredssjön.
Gravel cycling in Halland’s nature reserves
We followed the trail along the lake through the Hule Nature reserve. The gravel road kept going on and on in one straight line. Perfect for picking up some off-road speed. The road ran parallel from the main car road, and we were so pleased not to have to ride on that. We need more of those secondary gravel roads here in Skåne too.
After one of those typical sleepy little countryside towns, where the entire yard is covered in memorabilia such as rusted old Volvo’s and a big pile of other unrecognizable machinery, we rode into Alenäs nature reserve. The gravel here was made up of slightly bigger rocks and the short but sharp climbs rapidly followed one and another. At the 50 kilometre mark we stopped for our second break, again timed on 5 minutes.
Mind tricks of cycling with headwind
It was after this break that a slight panic set in for Sabina. There was still more than 110 kilometres to go, and headwind can play dirty tricks on someone’s mind. Luckily the road turned and as the wind stopped gushing in our face, the worry made place for enjoyment of the beautiful surroundings.
Steep gravel riding climbs
For about ten kilometres the trail went up and down, testing our climbing legs, but the real test was still to come. After a long descent we had a big climb ahead of us on chunky gravel. It was here Robin realized he couldn’t shift to his biggest gear. While Sabina was spinning up slowly on her 52t sprocket like Froome, Robin clenched his jaw and grinded it up all the way up to the top. The spectacular view at the top was the perfect reward for our effort.
All this hard work had started to wear a bit on Robin, it’s a good thing we usually take turns in when we feel the lows on our rides. On one of the long straight gravel stretches in a deforested area we had a very silent break at the 75k mark.
Refuelling in Torup
Up until this point we had been fuelling on nuts, energy and candy bars, so we were quite happy when we came to Torup the first town that had an actual supermarket. We always struggle a bit to find which foods are right on long rides like these, so we usually just pick whatever we crave for that moment. So not exactly your healthy well-balanced diet.
Sabina’s shopping list
- chicken teriyaki wrap
- banana (which she didn’t eat)
- protein chocolate milkshake
- triple shot espresso energy drink
Robin’s shopping list
- pulled pork wrap
- iced cappuccino
- salami chips
- 2 kex chocolate bars (which he didn’t eat)
- bottle of water (which was unnecessary since there turned out to be a water tap next to us)
Why gravel beats road cycling
After our meal in the supermarket corridor, next to the gum ball machine we followed the road to continue our Dirty Halland tour. It was turning noticeably darker and the overcast was turning in to a dark shade of grey. A few spatters of rain fell down on us, but absolutely not enough to drown our spirits. We did decide to skip out on the little sidetour to Mossared and just follow the beautiful puddle filled stretch of gravel from Häshult all the way to the Bosgårdsvägen. Plenty of climbs to come and a long way still to go.
We zigzagged through beautiful forest and nature reserves and the kilometres were flying by. When we hit a few stretches of asphalt we could really feel the difference in speed. Tarmac is faster, but those cars are a pain. The majority of Swedish drivers are very friendly and ride around us with a lot of room between us. But some really don’t seem to understand how dangerous it is when they race so close by, one even pushing Robin off the road onto the verge.
Gravel cycling in Biskopstorps Nature reserve
The part through Biskopstorps Nature reserve was yet another highlight of this route. After a long climb, with a short breather to pet the curious cows, we descended all the way to Kvibille. Here we bought a sugary drink, to get us through the last stretch. Blue hour had set in and Sabina was at the end of her rope. With just 20 more kilometres to push through, Robin somehow felt stronger now at the end than at the start of the ride.
Cycling in the dark
We had calculated that we would ride in the dark, but we didn’t have a lot of experience with that yet. So a technical descent in the nature area just east of Gullbrandstorp became a whole new challenge. Our torches were bright enough to light up all the tree roots, potholes and big rocks on the trail. But our tired minds were not sharp enough to catch all of them in time. So we carefully made our way down and bumped and hopped over the mud piles and rocks that we missed catching on time, but our chunky tires could easily handle for us.
Making our way down we could see the city lights of Halmstad in the distance. The finish line was now literally in sight. We crossed the farmlands on the last stretches of gravel, and before we knew it we recognized the road along the open air museum Hallandsgården which we had passed this morning at the start of the route.
The train back to Malmö
Back at the train station we had exactly 5 minutes to quickly buy something to eat for the two-hour train ride back to Malmö. In the train scrolling through our camera roll we knew that we wanted to share this adventure with you as soon as possible. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have. A big thank you for Team Cyklamera for piecing the route together, it was a beautiful day!
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