"Planning is good, but life has its own twits”
Stage 1- punctures & perfect pace
The sun is up, the heat is on, and life is good! I'm riding to meet up with my friends, as we are about to embark on our 1,000 km bike trip from Stockholm, around Lake Värnen, and back again. We start off at McDonald's in Kungens Kurva, riding west at a leisurely talking pace. After about 1 km, we encounter our first puncture, which quickly becomes a second – but we know that a slightly shaky start often leads to a great trip. 😅 As soon as we leave Stockholm, beautiful country roads stretch out before us. Today's goal is to cover 205 km, and we quickly realize that if we want to reach our stop in time for dinner, we need to keep pedaling. By 8 pm, we unwind with a well-deserved beer, eagerly anticipating a delicious meal. After an hour of chatting, we head back to the hotel for a long, restful night's sleep.
Stage 2- shortcuts & detours
Day two started off very well, with good weather and incredibly nice roads. However, my planned route eventually led us to one of the narrowest highways. We couldn't join the road due to the fast traffic and the complete lack of space to bike on the side of the road. We must have tried all the small roads and single tracks to bypass the highway and reach our smaller road, about 1 km ahead. Unfortunately, fences blocked our way everywhere, and our only option was to walk in the ditch next to the highway. It was certainly an experience to remember! The rest of the day was perfect, featuring a mix of sun and rain.
Overall, it was a very pleasant day that concluded with pizza and beer!
Stage 3 - rain, lots of rain!
Riding 160 km in a day is totally fine. However, when it's raining heavily all day long, you just have to smile and believe that the following day will be better. 😂 We knew we had to travel from point A to point B, as our hotel was booked and waiting for us. I initially thought it would be a bad day, but halfway through, I realized it was actually going well. There was lots of chatting, a perfect pace, and it was quite enjoyable to ride in the rain when you have good company and don't need to rush all the time. A "little" wet, we arrived at the hotel and managed to fill up their bathrooms with our wet, smelly clothes. It was one of those hotels where you share bathrooms, so I can imagine the other guests must have been annoyed with us for hanging our damp clothes everywhere, as they really did smell bad! Despite that minor hiccup, the food was great, and the beds were comfortable, ensuring we slept like babies.
Stage 4- torn hamstring, right?
On the fourth day out of five, we were just rounding the lower end of Värnen and were on our way back towards Stockholm. The morning started perfectly, with great weather and amazing roads. We passed by a small town where we found the best bakery of the trip so far. Relieved to not be riding in the rain, I didn't realize that the heat was increasing and that I wasn't drinking enough water. I started to feel a slight pain in my left hamstring but ignored it, as we were pretty close to our lunch break. Suddenly, my hamstring stopped working, causing pain like nothing else. I slowly made it to the lunch stop but couldn't walk properly. Unsure of what had happened to my hamstring, I tried to rest for two hours, hydrating and eating. Unfortunately, nothing helped. Since my hamstring didn't feel cramped, we assumed it was injured, and I decided to end my ride and take the train home.
Taking a train with a bike in Sweden is usually straightforward, except when you need to go to Stockholm with SJ. First, I had to find different trains traveling up and down in Sweden to get a connecting train to Stockholm. Additionally, I had to disassemble my bike completely – removing the wheels, saddle, handlebars, and everything else.
Despite the challenges, I managed to get home late that same day. Unfortunately, I still couldn't walk properly, and the pain was unbearable.
Day 5, right decision, but what to learn
The next morning, my friend began cycling the last stage back home. I had a long, restful sleep at home, and when I woke up, my hamstring had improved significantly. I could walk, although there was still a slight pain, but overall, it was much better. After two more days, all the pain had disappeared. It must have been a mild cramp that took a few days to recover from. I made the right decision to end my trip and head home, as I wouldn't have been able to ride the following day anyway. So, the lesson learned is to never forget to stay hydrated and eat properly while going on long bike rides. Now it's time to start planning next summer's gravel bike packing tour! 🤩