Who could’ve thought, that the seemingly disappointing end of our bikepacking journey was actually the start of something great. On our way from Georgia to Japan, we now suddenly hear ourselves call Sweden home. How’s that for a plot twist. We are happier than ever, here at our new base camp from where we can partake in all kinds of outdoor adventures. Right in our backyard.
When COVID-19 was hitting China and Italy hard, we still had a spark of hope that things would calm down soon. But the situation only got worse. We soon realized that cycling from one country to another would be close to impossible for a long time. Let alone cycling from one continent to another.
Cycling life after COVID-19
We spent months, if not years preparing our adventure. And even though we had some time to let reality sink in, it still felt like an abrupt end. Don’t get us wrong, we are definitely not complaining. All things considering, our grief over a mere holiday cut short is nothing compared to what so many people have and still are facing in the darkness of this pandemic.
Time to go home. But that was just the catch. We didn’t have a home. Or a country that we wanted to call home for that matter. Returning to the Netherlands wasn’t really an option for us. At least not one that we would opt for. A cold turkey arrival would have meant an abrupt end of adventure. Living an adventurous outdoor life isn’t impossible in the Netherlands, but we figured that other places would simply be better. And there was one odd duck in the lockdown mania that stood out to us.
Malmö & Häckeberga
That odd duck was Sweden. Friluftslif-loving Sweden, with more forest than you could ever imagine. We’re currently based in the city of Malmö, the third largest of Sweden with only 320,000 inhabitants. An old harbour city with a cool mix of tradition and modern architecture. The Öresund Bridge connects the city with the Danish capital Copenhagen. By train, it takes only 18 minutes to reach København.
Besides the city and it’s conveniences, the area of south Sweden, named Skåne, offers some other great quality’s. Right outside Malmö you’ll immediately set foot in nature. Just a stone’s throw away there’s the Häckeberga Nature Reserve. It’s one of the most valuable forest habitats in Skåne. Landscapes vary from ancient pastures, rolling fields and expansive forests. Also known as: gravel paradise.
Train tracks and gravel
Skåne offers an extensive network of trails and gravel roads. There are thousands of kilometers of trails and the amount of gravel roads is almost endless. According to the guys behind the website www.grvl.se there’s over 250,000 kilometer of gravel in whole Sweden. Local knowledge about routes is needed, otherwise you’ll have no idea where to start planning your ride. A lot of gravel roads are dead ends, which lead to logging areas or to completely nothing. Sometimes it’s inevitable to conquer challenging trails and hike-a-bike through thick forests to link gravel roads together. But that’s part of the fun, right?
Right in the heart of Häckeberga lays an impressive web of mountainbike trails. Over the past years the Swedish Authorities have actively promoted mountain biking. Thanks to the increasing interest more trails are continuously being built. There’s even an MTB-park just 4.5 kilometres away from Malmö’s central train station. The trails in Häckeberga are challenging and technical. Sharp corners, muddy surfaces, rocks and roots make riding here quite demanding. The official trail is 35 kilometers long, but there are way more trails waiting to be ridden.
The Swedes love to camp. There are hundreds of camping grounds spread out all over the country. The majority are with facilities such as shops and restaurants. But wild camping is the way to go in Scandinavia. Allemansrätten, the right of public access, allows you to pitch your tent almost everywhere you want.
Allemansrätten is not just about camping. You’re basically allowed to walk, ski, boat or swim on private land as long as you stay at least 70 meters away from houses and gardens. Cycling is included in this as well.
Cycling and hiking is not as divided as it is in for example the USA. There’s no ban on cycling on hiking trails. But since the trails are designed for hikers you’ll need to give priority to hikers as a cyclist. There are exceptions and prohibitions by local ordinances, but these are very rare. The motto of Allemansrätten is ‘do not disturb, do not destroy’. But mostly, enjoy! (yes we added that last bit ourselves)
In Häckeberga, and all throughout the rest of Sweden, you can find these wooden semi-closed structures. These shelters (vindskydd in Swedish) are the most common type of shelters which anyone can freely use. In peak season most are even equipped with fire wood for the fire place. The shelters are the perfect getaway for short weekenders and full-on bikepacking adventures. Did we already say they are free to use? For everybody?!
Now and then we scrape a minimalist camping kit together and ride to a vindskydd to escape our new city lives. The closest one from our home is only 14.5 kilometres away. There’s nothing better than breaking the routine of a working week. After lighting a campfire it is time to crawl into a warm sleeping bag. The next morning we prepare a cup of coffee and ride back to town.
Work and play
We are now trying to find a healthy balance of earning our livings (and hopefully saving up for some rad adventures to come) and enjoying the great outdoors on two wheels. It’s easy to get sucked in to working and social life, especially because those are fun too! We both enjoy our new careers a lot.
Sabina is passionately saving the world with Too Good To Go. A social impact company driving a movement against food waste. The app connects users with businesses that have surplus food, so that this food can be enjoyed instead of wasted. Robin started working as a freelance editor, mostly for komoot. Komoot is a route planning app that inspires people to go out exploring by bike or foot.