Girls just wanna have fun, or newbies on TET Sweden

“No way I’m going to sleep in a tent in the middle of the forest in pouring rain!” was my friend’s firm statement when we laid out the plans for our mini holiday in Sweden. Admittedly, the forecast was for rain and a lot of it at times, so I could agree that accommodation indoors could be a better option.

We had booked our first night at a sheep farm in Floby, and the rain came just after we had taken our luggage in so we were lucky! We were both pretty tired, my friend Ela had worked all week and I’d ridden down to Gothenburg to meet up with her after work to do a joint ride to the cabin. We had agreed that, as we were not actually going anywhere this holiday, we were going to focus on quality rather than quantity. We had chosen some lovely, tiny, twisty roads to get to our destination, where we curled up with a glass of wine and caught up on what had happened in our lives since we last met two years ago. Indoor accommodation proved to be an excellent idea, I have to give Ela that. What is better than a glass of crisp wine and a blanket being warm and cosy indoors, while listening to the rain?

Starting of in sunshine
Starting off in sunshine

The cabin was a refurbished henhouse complete with all facilities and we slept like logs. Some fresh eggs for breakfast made a great start to the day and the sun was out. Hmmm, so much for that weather forecast. Despite what had been predicted for the weekend, the weather would be in our favour almost throughout our trip – with emphasis on almost. One goal for these days was to try out the TET, Trans European Trail, which we would be able to access only 30 km away. I had tried a bit of it near Karlstad but that stretch was actually mainly tarmac with some gravel in between. Now we were hoping for a bit more trail-like roads – but not too much, of course, since I was on road tyres and my experience is limited to greenlaning in the UK and Ireland.

Time for a coffee stop
Time for a coffee stop

We had an amazing start to the day. I was wearing my rain trousers but that was mainly not to get all messy from the spray from the gravel road, it didn’t actually rain more than a couple of short sprinkles. We found some amazing places to stop and have coffee and the riding was under control more or less the whole time. Apart from when there was a scary downhill with rocks and sand and I freaked out and went too slow which made Ela fall over behind me as she didn’t get enough momentum to keep her balance. How dreadfully embarrassing for me, luckily there was no harm caused to neither woman nor bike and this taught us to keep a greater distance between us on the trails. Rocky and stony passages were very challenging with my tyres, as well as anything muddy or even wet grass. But, over all, I was super pleased with the riding and felt that I had improved a bit and that changing to dual purpose tyres for next season will be worth it because for sure I want to do more of this.

Having fun on the TET
Having fun on the TET

Fika was a priority for our mini holiday, or svemester, as we say in Sweden when we stay in the country for holiday (a clipping and merging of the words sverige and semester, the latter meaning holiday). Fika is the Swedish coffee break concept when we spend time chatting and enjoying a drink and something yummy to eat. We did plenty of this, we found some lovely spots by the various lakes we passed where we could have not only fika but also lunch and even pick some blueberries. The picking and eating of blueberries is an integral part of Swedish summer and few things are as tasty as fresh blueberries and yoghurt.

This spot will do for lunch
This spot will do for lunch
... and a nap too
… and a nap too

The last day, by fluke, we came upon a rockabilly restaurant in the countryside. Worth mentioning is that this culture has a strong following in Sweden, where there are lots of classic car and bike meets during summer and a lot of people go all out with 1950’s hairstyles and clothes, as well as the music. These features of the Swedish culture always come across as exotic to me after so many years abroad and I fully enjoyed the experience and the pulled Oumph! veggie burger was scrumptious. This was the last day, and after the meal I called Christopher to tell him how fantastically lucky we were with the weather, “it is like the clouds are parting for us” – yeah, right, after this it was more like we were rain goddesses and the rain clouds flocked around us, pretty much like for the lorry driver in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I learned that my rain trousers, which I had bragged about for their persistence in a forum thread just a week earlier, leaked after less than 5 minutes heavy rain. Now I need to start a thread asking for others advice for rain gear because that is simply unacceptable. And so annoying as I’ve only had them since February 2018. We had our last coffee break inside a petrol station before pushing on home to Ela’s flat outside Gothenburg.

Mandy's Diner
Mandy’s Diner
decoration in the loo
decoration in the loo

The rain continued overnight and became so heavy that I got stuck the following day. Dad sent one of his rare and always very brief messages, it read: “Don’t ride today”, and as he seldom asks for anything, when he does, I tend to oblige. Indeed, large parts of Sweden got hit with enormous amounts of rain that day, more than what is normal for a whole month. Some areas are still under water now, several days after. For me it was a minor inconvenience, I just waited one day and spent one more evening with Ela and the following day I could ride up in good weather and take some nice roads that I hadn’t ridden in a while too. I’m really pleased I could ride the famous twists in Tisselskogen between Håverud and Tösse – there is a section where you cross the same train track three times and you nearly meet yourself in the corners and as it is undulating too you get the same feeling as when you are in a rollercoaster.

Perfect timing for my lunch stop at the aqueduct in Håverud
Perfect timing for my lunch stop at the aqueduct in Håverud

Photo courtesy for photos 1,2,3 and 6, Ela Johansson

Wake up Cool Cat!

I’ve spent the last few days prepping Cool Cat, my blue 2002 F650 GS. It had been stored away in a shed for two full years without anyone looking after it so it was in desperate need of some TLC. Firstly, I am aware that a shed is not the perfect place to store a bike in a cold country like Sweden. It is, however, the best I’ve got. When I extracted the bike I was surprised that it didn’t look too bad, it was dusty for sure – I had chosen not to cover it as a cover could provide cosy spots for mice to nest and I was worried about them gnawing on the cables.

Winter parking together with bicycles, lawn mowers and other garden stuff.

The rubber grips had mould on them, urgh, I hate mould. Luckily, I found a bottle of vinegar to wipe it away and now there is no trace of it.

Unfortunately, there was mould under the seat as well. The taped cables were all mouldy and the plastic cover for the fuel pump too, but worse was that the connector had mould all over. I was worried that it would be damaged by moisture but luckily, no damage was done. It seemed to work just fine when I started it up after I’d wiped everything with vinegar and given it a layer of multispray as a moisture repellant.

Then I gave the bike an all-over wash of course. Fortunately, I had gone over it with AFC-50 to prevent rust and it seems to have helped, the chain and the spokes were fine which was a relief.

Following this initial cleaning I had some more work to do – I had purchased a new battery, and then I needed to change the oil and filter + the air filter. Firstly, I had studied the Haynes manual carefully and watched a couple of YouTube videos to make sure I knew how to do it, then I had to locate the tools I needed. I don’t have my own kit here so that meant going through all dad’s stuff which took some time as I needed spanners, hex keys, allen keys and cross headed screw drivers. I would say that this preparational stage took as much time as the actual work. I also decided to learn a bit more about oils so I started a couple of discussions in online forums. I tend to go all in when I do something.

So far so good! I managed to drain the oil tank without any problems. Prior to this I had taken off the bash plate and warmed up the engine slightly.

The next step was to drain the engine of oil. For this I needed the largest allen-key in the set and an extension to get more leverage. But regardless how much I pulled I couldn’t make it move, dad had a go as well with no success. It is an awkward spot as it is under the bike and there is very little room as the frame is limiting the space as well but, holy moly, someone pulled that freaky tight. I had to give up as I didn’t want to round off the screw. I opened the banjo bolt, this was light and easy, just a quick turn with spanner 22, and let out some oil from there. Then I just had to accept that it wouldn’t be possible to empty the engine completely this time.

The filter was next and for this I needed a specially made oil collecting carton, even with this I made a bit of a mess and got oil to clean up on the engine. The oil cover has hex screws, which I was able to unscrew thankfully. Then a new filter and rubber ring was fitted and new oil filled in . And yeah, the engine started and the oil pressure was normal. At this point I hade an ice cream break to celebrate this success 🙂

I had also decided to change the air filter as I had the bike naked anyway and it seemed like an easy enough thing to do for me. The first thing to do was to disconnect the air temperature sensor, which was a bit fiddly as I needed to bend the metal clip off before being able to pull it apart.

Then, there were two screws to unfasten the duct and take it apart to expose the air filter. To my surprise the fitted filter was a BMC multi-use filter which I can clean and re-fit next time. Without knowing it was there, I had bought a standard paper filter for replacement. There was some oil in the filter hosing that I needed to drain before fitting the new filter.

After having squeezed in the air filter I “just” had to pry the duct together without the filter flopping out and screw it on.

Then all that was left was to put the fairings back on again and fit the bash plate. Since I had removed the battery when I stored the bike away, I had not put back all the screws for the fairings. This is my normal routine for when I remove the battery, I just put back a few to hold it together, not the full 16 of them. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I put them. I had to get some almost but not quite the same looking screws as replacements.

Lastly, I checked that the bike starts ok, that all the lights are working, the horn too and the chain and tyres looks fine. Insurance and tax is paid. All that is left is the MOT, I hope all goes well tomorrow.

Summer, at last!

Here we go, it’s been over a year since my last post and, frankly, 2020 was a rubbish year for me, both my partner and I got sick, he so much worse than me – he’s still recovering. On top of that and all the lockdown restrictions, we had to move as usual, a normal year that would have meant motorcycle vagabonding for 3 months or so but that wasn’t an option – my partner was too unwell for travelling and hostels weren’t keeping public spaces open so there would be nowhere to cook.  According to the pandemic protection law, tenants couldn’t be forced to move during the pandemic. Our landlord pretended to want to help us by offering us a new contract covering the summer, but also tying us into a more expensive rent for a longer period. Helping us, yeah, right – rather helping himself. We said thanks but no thanks to that shitty offer and with 3 days to spare I found a rental room in Barcelona where we could hunker down for a while. So we did the usual boxing of things and then I loaded up the bike for the move to Barcelona.

I spent my summer studying Halliday’s functional grammar to get some extra university credits and trying to solve our housing situation permanently. Having achieved these objectives, I found a new job and started studying for a masters in Linguistics and was extremely busy. Living in very limiting restrictions made riding for pleasure impossible. The only rides I did last year were for moving houses, commuting for work when working on site was permitted, and riding to charge my already faulty battery. For me, this was very depressing because it had been a year full of plans.

2020 was the year I had great plans. It started off great with the celebrations of WRWR in London (yeah, that feels like a lifetime away). In February, we saw New Model Army in Barcelona, which would have been the first of 3 concerts by our favourite British bands. In addition, we had tickets to 3 other concerts – we’d never had a concert line up that great. I also had 4 motorbike rallies to look forward to, the March Moto Madness organised by Miss Moto Maroc WIMA Morocco, the yearly events with Mujeres en Moto in Spain, and our 70th year anniversary with WIMA in Germany. All of these were cancelled, of course. In addition, I couldn’t go to Sweden to see my dad and my friends and naturally not attend the riding events and training days I had intended to.

Commuting to work

While just about everything I had planned was cancelled, I did achieve quite a few things, some of which were not planned. I solved our housing problem with a long-term solution, and because of this we could finally have our boxes sent over (the boxes from when we left Madrid 7 years ago) and rediscover possessions we had forgotten we had. I got myself some more university points and a new job. I learned how to teach online. I started enjoying running short distances slowly, and I bought a lemon tree. I wrapped up my work internationally for WIMA. It was bittersweet to hand over to Zara, our new international president, I knew I would miss it but I also knew that she had more time and energy than me and would be able to take the organisation forward.

This summer is the first in many years when we’re not packing and moving, and it is such a great relief. I’d never thought I would appreciate having my own permanent home this much as there were certain things of the vagabond style life that I found very appealing too – although I will not miss having to sleep on the floor of my classroom every autumn in search of a flat to rent.  And an extra perk with having my own flat is that I can now have a special motorbike gear station, this is my own biker-tidy solution, built from IKEA’s Ivar shelf system. It is just that the hanger for trousers and jackets that is missing – it was, of course, suddenly discontinued due to the pandemic. Well, you can’t have everything at once. Fortunately, they had some in stock in Sweden so my dad could pick one up for me, so I will be able to complete my shelf system eventually.

Since August last year, my main objectives have been to sleep, eat and work. I was mighty pleased that I could get a new job during the pandemic, then, in January, when restrictions eased off, I was offered a contract with my old company and was suddenly up to my ears in teaching hours. And of course, I was still studying for the Master. End of term was very welcome, I was very braintired.

During summer, I’ll be finishing off my work with the 70th anniversary book for WIMA. A project Sheonagh (former international president of WIMA) and I are collaborating on. This project has grown from booklet to book as there is so much to document in this fantastic organisation, over 40 divisions and nearly 60 rallies for a start. In addition, I’ve just had the privilege to be asked by WIMA Sweden to be responsible for foreign communications and, as I can’t resist the temptation to do extra work, I agreed to do it. It’s a similar set up to WIMA Curaçao and reduces the workload of the national president, who can then dedicate more time at a national level. I think it’s a great way of supporting a growing WIMA and I’m always happy to help – and while things are a bit quieter during summer, there’ll be some quality time with my motorbike, finally!