Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Still ready.

After a surprisingly comfortable train trip up sharing a "room" with Magnus and Dag that are also riding Sverigetempot, we're now in Katterjåkk in the very north of Sweden.

Dizzily spectacular arctic scenery between Katterjåkk and Riksgränsen.

Although we ate pretty much the whole 19 hour trip, our stomaches must be stretching and we decided to continue immediately with a huge lunch of raggmunkar in Ebbe's Kök which were awesome. Everybody went to assemble and fiddle with their bikes and I found a short gap to ride past Riksgränsen and to the boarder of Norway where the start will be.

Getting a breath of fresh air.

I watched the 9 am start today and will probably ride to the late one as well, because I'm itching to get away and it's nice to get out on the bike. And exciting to watch the other starts! After all the excited chatter the last day or so it would be nice to meet up with some of these friends again somewhere on the road through Sweden.

The bike and I feel as ready as we can be. All the packing has been done, I've chosen clothes and checked the weather and, well, just feel more and more ready.

The first starters of Sverigetempot 2014 crossing the Norwegian boarder = starting line.

...and climbing the first hill.

Ready to roll. And probably rock.

And, best of all, Per Eric has hacked a homepage on which all riders can easily be followed whenever they report there positions. It's extremely simple and elegant: tracking us during Sverigetempot 

Could be fun to follow!

Now for some more food, a bit of rest, maybe out and enjoy the area a bit and then meet up and try and be friendly with a new group of riders tonight. Because we will probably have to put up with eachother for many, many kilometers...


Monday, 23 June 2014


Yes, I actually feel like I'm ready for Sverigetempot 2014 now. All 2109 km of it. Bring it on!

In one week I hope to be finished. Now is the stage when there is hardly any room for anything else in my brain and all my thoughts and energy rotate about which clothes to take, small bike details, how to pack everything, what to plan in the dropbags... Quite fun actually.

The final KBCK planning evening was a roaring success.

The KBCK corner in Lilla Barkarby; the Planning Pub

With quality planning like this, what can go wrong?

I picked up my bike from Norvelo before the weekend before we drove away for Midsummer. I tested all the new bits and pieces on a 60 km, great fun ride on Midsommar afton; mainly to at least get a few kms of training with time trial pins.


What was even better was that I could ride what was my favourite part of the route last time, between Hällefors and Älvestorp. This means I will be looking forward to this part in a few days. And small motivational ingredients like this make a big difference.

Midsummer smile.

I have now said goodbye to and been wished good luck by my family. Am waiting for the train to Riksgränsen, the bike is packed and so is my bag. A point of no return. I have 1.5 days there before our start and will work on a clever way to be tracked. Otherwise I will try and tweet (Toni Arndt, @kitzblitz) on the way and should have their blogg updated during the ride too.

But it feels good. I feel ready. And in a week I hope to have earnt my reward:



Sunday, 15 June 2014

Södertälje 600 km.

I decided pretty soon after Barkarby 600 km two weeks ago that it would be OK to fit in another 600 km prior to Sverigetempot. Good to practise routines and good training. So I rode Södertälje 600 km over the weekend. I already knew beforehand that there would be poor KBCK participation due to a number of legitimate reasons like being too old (nypan), too fat (Danne) or too hungover (most of the others). Unfortunately bigmollo couldn't make it either due to sore Achilles tendons from the Barkarby ride. And too fat and presumably hungover as well ;-) So the opportunities for ridiculous childish talk and pranks on the ride would probably be limited, which is always a shame, as this can be the most memorable aspect of an adventure like this!

Ready to go! Waiting for the train to Södertälje in Älvsjö at 5.20 am.

20 of us left the start at 6.15 and after 27 km there is a ferry. It was blowing a gale (over 10 m/s) and we were pretty close to averaging 41 km/h to catch the first ferry, but we weren't really trying, and ended up having to wait 20 mins for the next one. But nobody complained  while waiting in the great sunshine.


As expected the strong wind was head- or sidewind for the first about 150 km to Eskilstuna and some of the sections were pretty tough. But great legs and fantastic scenery on a clear sunny day kept me happy.

Guess which side the wind is coming from?!

En korv med ben, tack!

We turned southwestish in Eskilstuna and had tailwind for about 200 km; vroooom :-) Some of the scenery was just pure magic. And, despite the advantageous wind, the pace in our group was not as high as it could have been with a few more ambitious, strong riders, so I had many opportunities to play around and take photos:

One of many "our group from behind" photos.

Swedish colours.

A randonneur skyline. One of the cloudier pictures of the day.

At about the halfway point in Ödeshög (well actually 360 km) we met many who had just ridden Vätternrundan which passed through the same area. I met Mikko, whom I knew from previous Conti Test Team rides together. He knew that the guys who had ridden today, with the aim of finishing in under 7 hours, had come in in 6:59!!!! I got so excited and happy for them! I know how much they have put into this and how many years they have tried and only just missed out on sub-7 hours (twice with me in the team). This kept me happy for many more hours of the ride! For me it is important having distracting thoughts to make you smile or chuckle while riding :-)

Happy as Larry.

During the week I had been considering leaving the others and riding off the front by myself on this ride. Mainly as training to ride such a distance solo. But, although we didn't have a particularly fast group, the stops were short and efficient, so it would have felt a bit pathetic to leave a control only a minute or two before the others, with the definite possibility that they would catch me only a few km's later. So I stayed with the lead group the whole distance. And it is nicer, especially during the tough night section, to have company! I rode with Stefan whom I had ridden with a few times previously (e.g. Barkarby 400 km) and another rider ditto, who's name I have unfortunately missed, and a new companion I also didn't catch the name of. Isn't it amazing, that you accompany eachother for a whole day, discuss riding, life, the universe and everything and help eachother through all the rough patches, and laugh about the magic sections. And in the end you don't even know eachother's names?!

Heroin plantation, Swedish style.

It is difficult to find something to complain about on a day like this!

After another picturesque section following Ödeshög, the roads turned boring, the sun set and it got unexpectedly cold, unexpectedly quickly. We stopped to put on all the layers we had, but a few hours later the temperature had sunk to 0.8 degrees. And it stayed like this for the toughest, fatigue section of the ride between Norrköping and Nyköping from about 1 am - 3 am. My legs and body felt great on the bike, but my hands got cold and I started feeling sleepy. It did help that the Swedish summer night never really got dark, which was enhanced by an impressive full moon. So when the sun rose early, the situaton quickly improved. The most positive part was that having knee warmers avoided the muscle problems I had two weeks ago. What a great invention! What a great relief! During this cold, tougher period I 1. didn't think of taking photos and 2. couldn't have with long gloves and frozen fingers. So you have to make do with sparkling sunshine pictures for today :-)

Three of us finished together (one of our "incognito" companions decided to ride at his own pace the last 75 km), with myself having to take more and more responsibility at the front when legs were getting tired. We finished in 24:15 hours, but as is often the case once you have come through one of these adventures, the time in the end effect doesn't even matter.

A standard, post-brevet look. On the train home.

Thanks for a fantastic day everybody I rode with and especially to Åsa and Henrik for this picturesque route that surely must offer some of the most amazing scenery in Sweden! Thanks also to Norvelo for all the help the last few weeks fixing the Pearl.

And thanks, you two; you did well!

Now I have some days for recovery, planning things to take with me and checking the Sweden-Pearl; only 11 days to Sverigempot!


Friday, 13 June 2014

Others that are longer and harder.

As always, I am anticipatorially excited about the Södertälje 600 km ride starting early tomorrow morning. New pedals on the bike, the USB port for charging phone/GPS is working, the route is downloaded into the GPS and good weather has been organised :-) Now I am eating non-stop and drinking ridiculous amounts of water to get ready.

A picture of the old Pearl, showing The Plug. Powered by the hub-dynamo in the front wheel.

But somehow this 600 km ride also feels a little pathetic in relation to other rides. Race Around America has started and the leader, Christoph Strasser has already ridden about 1760 km at an average of 32 km/h. Solo. And that's not moving average - completely mad! The race is nearly 5000 km. Now that's long. Live coverage here

Also, Vätternrundan is tomorrow, and although it's only 300 km and many thousands will easily manage it, the group (Conti Test Team) I used to ride it with are looking in top form and will almost certainly come in under 7 hours this year. That means an average speed of about 43 km/h. For 7 hours. Now that's hard. I will hopefully be able to follow them a bit during the day. You can read more about them here I am sure there will also be some live comments during the ride on happymtb

So a pathetic 600 km, riding with friends, at a pathetic speed of maybe not even 30 km/h moving average seems pretty, well, pathetic. I will be tweeting though, in case you're not too busy following real long and hard cyclists. Follow me on: @kitzblitz, #Sodertalje600 (one day I'll work out how to link to the tweets here on the blogg :-))

It will be fun though! And I wish all CTT riders and participants in RAAM all the best and a safe ride!


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Sverigetempot fast approaching!

I was just getting some information together, studying details etc for Sverigetempot 2014 and stumbled across this again and got pretty excited about the result list at the bottom:

I really can't wait. And at the same time I'm doubtful of even wanting to do this again! 2100 km is very, very long... So it's a strange cocktail of feelings, but I assume it's healthy to have this respect for such an event.

Things are starting to come together: travel to and accomodation and meals in Riksgränsen are booked. The bike is more or less ready with a few details still to go; the major problem being that I need to drill open the fork tube innerspace to be able to get the cable from the hub dynamo to my USB loading device through. I would like to find a proper workshop to do that for me.

I've checked the  Sverigetempot route a few times and most of it is very similar, so it will be a different feeling to know what to expect. I will make use of the bagdrops again - it seems silly not to take the opportunity to have more food/clothes/etc on the way and I really appreciated for example new socks, pants, shirt, some more energy bars, some new cream for sensitive areas and so on last time. The finish will be staffed this year which will make it far more exciting to get there than the quite anticlimactical finish in an empty youth hostel last time...

OK, the finish wasn't that bad last time either :-) I'm dying to get there already! With a bit of luck with Jonas again.
One slight scare has been the hypothermic problem with my thighs on the weekend's 600 km ride. That sort of thing shouldn't happen. I'll let my legs recover a bit now, do a couple of easy rides on the weekend and then I think I'll ride Södertälje 600 km the weekend after as well, to hopefully restore some more confidence again. After that it's only a bit over a week before a loooong train trip up to Riksgränsen! 18 hours on a train makes you realise the distances we're talking about.
In less than a month.... if all goes well.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Barkarby 600 km.

Finally time for distances that I feel are out of the comfort zone. Or at least close to it; I have cycled quite a few 600 km rides that were fantastic - a bit of a favourite distance; not just a longer training ride like 300 km or an uncomfortable "in between distance" like 400 km. Something that smells more like adventure!

So the anticipation level was high, the carbo loading was extreme and the new Pearl was ready. And to top it all off it was KBCK's own, inaugural 600 km event. So anything could happen!

Ready for departure from Skogås. Looking good, but sorry bike that your maiden trip has to be in rain and dirt :-(

After a bit of the normal, slightly twittery, excited babble before start and quite alot of greatly appreciated interest in the custom painted, Swedish bike, a bunch of about 16 (according to our KBCK organisors there were between 1 and 20 starters) we finally rolled out of Barkarby at 8 am. It rained and was pretty shitty for the first hours and everyone stayed together in a quiet, determined peleton wondering why we weren't still in bed on a Saturday morning. But after about 50 km the roads, the skies and everyone's mood started smiling.

Sun! Finally some drier roads and small, windy roads through Swedish countryside between Skolsta and Heby.

The group rode great. All except for our own sour Finn, Ari, whom we had to ask a few times if it was even possible to ride so slowly. He just replied with sour looks. But I do have to thank him for the latest detail on the bike :-)

Belgian beer temptation. Thanks Ari!

We had a fair bit of headwind for the first 185 km to Hedemora, where surprisingly many were already quite exhausted and a pair of surprisingly tired Tonilegs with a bit of a worrying sore left knee got a welcome rest. I decided that the settings on the new bike were to blame and lowered the seat by approximately 7.43 mm.

Hedemora. No, I don't think I ate all of that...

After Hedemora the head of the route that looks like a sperm started. These 200 km were awesome through the sickeningly beautiful Dalarna countryside. It was still daylight, the lowered seat worked wonders so my knee problems evaporated and I felt great. We were still a group of about 12 and there was no stress. I'm pretty sure everyone just enjoyed this part and it's a fantastic feeling to be this far up in Sweden on a ride that only just started "a few hours" ago in Stockholm.
Bigmollo at the back of the peleton, spectacular clouds and some water.
As normal; Bigmollo at the back. Dalälven on the right. That sign always confuses me: am I supposed to hold >40 km/h or < 40 km/h? Tricky.
After maybe the best part of the ride we ended up in a place called Gagnef, which must be a highlight on anyone's trip!
I think everyone realised it was the last sun before a long night.
Icecream in Gagnef.
Continuing the scenic route, we rode towards the roughly halfway point in Rättvik and everyone joined in well, the mood was good and I was having fun. We came to the iconic Dalarna lake Siljan, and it didn't disappoint.
Niklas; I'm sure it was ok to share your idyllic pee above Siljan? There was no real reason for everyone to stop there, it was just so breathtaking in the brilliant evening sunshine.
In Rättvik, most of our group decided to have longer, proper meal, but mollo, Danne and I decided that was unnecessary and we said goodbye and continued. Big, fat, heavy me got a bit worried in the company of two mountain goats and they assured me they would finish me off now and leave me dead in a ditch. That felt comforting. But after I tested them on some long, fast downhills made for heavy me, they were more modest and we road together well to Hedemora for the second time (back into the tail of the sperm) where we had another high quality meal.
I guess not only mollo looked like that after 425 km... But I think he's best at it.
After Hedemora, we knew there were 170 km with nothing open for food, drink or even water. So off we three rode, happy enough. But then it got cold. I've always been a bit overconfident with not bothering with long pants unless it is under 2-3 degrees, so I didn't have any with me this time either because the weather report had said a minimum of 7 degrees during the night. But it got cold, for a long time. And my legs started hurting in a way they never had before. Some sort of muscle based hypothermia with painful, stiff, shaking thigh muscles. Before Hedby Bigmollo got some sort of stomache/breathing/heart problem and decided to lie in a sexy pose in the middle of the road for a while (he's good at them as well). I sat down too and my quadriceps were just shivering. I could hardly stand or walk, but pedalling luckily still worked, allbeit at ridiculously low Watts.
It was an unbelievable relief that everything felt better again a few hours after the sun came up. Mentally/psychologically I was fine the whole time. But my legs did have me worried. Luckily the other two were each in their own sorts of dire straights as well so we fitted together quite well... We sarted to smell the end when there were only 100 km left. We put our heads down and just counted down the distance. A final energy stop in Bålsta did magic and we rode with new strength and quite excitedly into Barkarby.
Due to a social atmosphere with no stress for the first half, a pretty tough, hilly route and some physical problems, we took quite long (my longest ever 600 km) and got our last stamp after nearly 25 hours.

Brilliant, fitting name: Welcome Hotel in Barkarby with Bigmollo's, Danne's and my cards all finished and done. Thanks for a great ride guys!
A major problem was of course that Lilla Barkarby doesn't open at 9 am on a Sunday so Bigmollo had offered to serve Duvel and some food at his home. That was too good to miss! We sat and comatosed and wondered how only a few hours ago we had been discussing never doing this again, let alone anything longer and of course thought it sounded great to ride Södertälje 600 km in two weeks. But faster :-)

Strange that he suddenly looks so happy again! Thanks Johan and family for having me for a few hours.
After three Duvel, 611 km and no sleep, my wife picked me up and was surprised that I looked tired :-) Thanks for picking me up! It's not so obvious that you want to drive into Stockholm on a Sunday morning just to get me.

Thanks KBCK for a great new 600 km event. Especial thanks to Johan/mollo and Danne for very competent, usually fun company through the whole ride. But also to all others that rode it - I think the social atmosphere on these rides is priceless. See you all in two weeks!