I was on vacation in Florida, sitting in the sun and wondering what I should do when I returned home and had a week to myself. I had been watching Ultra riding on GCN+ and really liked the idea of it. Not necessarily cycling races day and night, but longer rides, living in a tent, being self-supported.
Planning the route
I began planning a route that would take me from Stockholm along the coast to Oskarshamn and then inland through some smaller villages before returning to Stockholm (route on the page). The route was 850km long with an elevation of 6800m, so relatively flat. My plan was to complete it in 5 days.
Although I had only read about how to plan a longer ride, I started looking for places to eat, get water, and find other necessities along the way. I estimated the time it would take me to cover certain distances, assuming an average riding speed of 25km/h. I noted the starting and ending points for each day and the stops in between.
I double-checked the route to ensure it was paved since I would be using my racer. Once I felt everything was meticulously planned, I moved on to considering the gear I would need to bring.
Knowing I needed to travel light, I opted for a smaller tent, a compact sleeping bag, and some bags attached to my bike. I figured I wouldn't need a kitchen setup as towns, stores, and restaurants are readily available in Sweden, making it easy to find food along the way.
I made a conscious effort to minimize everything. Overall, my packing amounted to 12kg, divided among a larger saddle bag with a smaller bag on top, a bag in the front, and another on the frame. Additionally, I carried a small bag for food.
Over packed!!! 😂
At the end of July, I embarked on my adventure, with a week of sunny weather ahead. The first day was one of the longest, covering 220km. If I recall correctly, my average speed ended up being 22km/h instead of the planned 25km/h. The reason for this discrepancy was that I greatly underestimated how challenging it would be to ride uphill slopes with an extra 12kg of weight. Every small incline felt like a 15% climb, and I pushed myself too hard. When I finally arrived at the camping area, I was completely exhausted. After taking a bath in the sea and grabbing a bite to eat, I received a call informing me that my bag, delayed from the US, could not be delivered. I had to wait on the phone until 2 am to resolve the issue. By the time I fell asleep, it was 3 am, and my alarm went off at 8 am. Waking up that morning was agonizing—I had no energy left.
Despite my fatigue, I managed to pack my belongings and hit the road. After about 30km, I was so tired that I made a split-second decision to shed some weight. I sent my tent and sleeping bag back home by mail and booked hotels for the remaining days.
I continued riding south, albeit at a slower pace than expected, with only a few stops. Strangely, I felt stressed and couldn't take the time to rest properly during the days. Perhaps it was because I was alone and had no one to converse with.
I realized that I had been riding against the wind for two days straight. When I arrived in Västervik, I checked into a hotel and slept soundly. The following day, which also happened to be my birthday, I was still quite worn out. I decided that I needed a shorter day without headwinds. So, I adjusted my route and headed back inland to Åtvidaberg, where I had booked a nice hotel with a good restaurant. I had some time to enjoy a beer and a delicious dinner before going to sleep.
The next day, I made another decision—to ride back home. It was about 220km to get back, so I mailed all my belongings except for a few extra items and set off. I think I maintained an average speed of 28km/h that day and made it back home in time for dinner.
A few days later, I realized that I had enjoyed the experience more than I had initially thought and that I wanted to do it again.
What did I learn?
Saddlebags are cumbersome when they are too long, big, and heavy, especially when standing on the bike and riding uphill. The saddlebag tends to sway around.
Estimate a slower average speed and feel satisfied if you finish the day earlier than expected.
Triple-check your planning. I missed some aspects of my planning on the way back home, which I only realized after the second day. I had to improvise to find food and drinks.
A snack bag on the handlebar is fantastic. I used a small bag that climbers use for limestone. It easily held half a baguette, Snickers bars, and more. It was convenient to grab things from, and it could be closed in case of rain.
If you're bringing a tent and sleeping bag, opt for ultralight versions.
Extra weight makes cycling much more challenging. Carrying 12kg is not ideal for maintaining an average speed of 25km/h in a day.
Consider bringing a friend or two as it can get a bit lonely.
Next time, make sure to plan everything more effectively! 😉