In fact, too busy. As a full time teacher, co-editor of WIMA’s anniversary book, WIMA Sweden board member, MA student and a lingustics researcher, riding has been something that other people did, but I had no time for.
However, it is time to listen to the master, Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by”. (Quote from The Salmon of Doubt”).
I shall now spend more time taking baths and drinking tea – preferably on the beach (although to my knowledge he drank his tea at home).
Also, we’ve instated the rule of weekend rides 😀 So we’re now exploring a new place in the Penedes region every weekend, this weekend was Santa Oliva, a village only 20 minutes ride from our house:
We have a very old GoPro camera which we use sometimes, and for this trip Christopher was wearing it. I love riding through little towns and villages, the houses are so cute and and the streets so narrow and winding. This was during the siesta time so there was virtually no-one out.
It was a windy day, as you can see on the flag. Christopher was nearly blown off the road on his little bike and I had to wrangle against some heavy gusts as well.
The Catalan text next to the drinking fountain says: the fountain, brings water – like a river of tears from the mountains far away to the foot of the castle – for me and for you and for the foreigner. What a beautiful message!
Gravel wasn’t something that I went out of my way looking for in the past. The perfect road used to be smooth and winding tarmac but while living in England I gravitated more and more towards the adventure segment of motorcycling. When Christopher started riding, his interest was geared towards the smaller roads and exploring, rather than following the asphalt ribbon.
We did some light trail riding (typically called greenlaning in local lingo) while in the British Isles and this lead onto getting equipped with a lighter bike, trading the Versys for the GS and then onto better tyres, putting on the Heidenau Scout. Lastly, better boots were purchased, and I now walk around like a squeaky robot in my Sidi Adventure 2 (but they are amazingly comfortable while riding, and have protected our ankles really well so far).
This summer Cool Cat, my blue GS, got a pair of Heidenau tyres as well, and crash bars too. Then I went out looking for gravel. In Sweden, unlike some other countries such as England or Spain, gravel roads are quite frequent in the countryside so enjoying riding them is a huge benefit. My native region, Värmland, has especially many gravel roads (and a strong tradition of rally driving too). As I mentioned in my previous post, the gravel road no. 673 in Värmskog (up to the bakery and beyond) is even a kulturminne, cultural landmark.
I ventured out on some stretches of the Swedish TET and, unlike the Prades mountains in Spain, where Christopher and I were riding TET earlier this summer, it was largely gravel roads, and some forest roads (we also call these tractor roads as they are made by and for forest machinery). In the Prades mountains we encountered mainly gravel or dirt trails, sometimes very gnarly due to rain earlier in the year and these trails require higher skills and greater precautions for us novices.
In Sweden, I both went out exploring for fun but also implemented gravel roads in my routes to go places.
Lastly, I’d like to mention the gravel course I took with SMC (the Swedish Motorcyclists Central organisation) where I improved my braking and cornering a bit. But there is only so much I can learn in a day and, unfortunately, I couldn’t join more courses during my stay in Sweden. It is so worth the money and time spent, I hope I can join them again next year.
“See you next year!” How amazing it was to hear this and know that the event I had poured so much energy and time into planning was a success and that everyone had had a good time.
It was exciting to welcome everyone to my region of Sweden, Värmland, and host this event for WIMA Sweden in Värmskog. It was a low-key event, building on the amazing location and the company. We rallied together with all our enthusiasm and knowledge and learned from and inspired each other.
Women from both Sweden and Norway took part and it was open to members of WIMA as well as non-members. We were 22 in total, which meant that we filled Värmskog’s vandrarhem (Swedish-style countryside hostel made up of separate cabins) and didn’t need to share the facilities with anyone else. In the evenings, we enjoyed barbecue and presentations in the garden – the first night we all introduced ourselves and got to know each other, the second night we had volunteers giving presentations. We were women all ages and levels of experience, ranging from holding the licence for only 1 month, to over 40 years. The parking area displayed a wide range of bikes, there were cruisers as well as race bikes and everything in between, including a motorcycle with a sidecar! Along with this diversity, a theme emerged: gravel! We all had our own relation to gravel riding – those who love it, those who avoid it, those who learn to ride it, and most remarkably – she who got told that “women don’t ride gravel”, by a sales person when wanting to buy a bike more suitable for gravel riding. Well, he ain’t selling no bike to any WIMA member after that, we all agreed.
Värmskog is a small village in the south of Värmland. As it is situated by the lake Värmeln, we had access to both a small beach with sand, cliffs and a jetty, as well as nearby possibilities to just dip into the water from the edge of the forest, and most of us took advantage of the lake at some point as the weather was very hot. The local café, Värmskog’s Café, is famous for its giant open-face prawn sandwiches and bikers have used this as a riding destination for decades – I must admit that this was why I was first attracted to the idea of hosting the event in this location. I rode there the first time in 1998, as a learner rider, and I return most years to indulge. To further take advantage of local facilities, I’d ordered breakfast buns, cake and cinnamon buns from Malin at Värmskog’s bakery. And, surprise, surprise, the road there was a gravel road, a rollercoaster gravel road! This is road 673, appointed a cultural heritage and one of Värmland’s most beautiful gravel roads. I got to ride it twice for the bread collection, you may call it ‘the organisers perk’, ha ha! If you pass by Värmskog, I recommend you pop up there, enjoy the road, and buy some homemade bread, cakes or why not muesli.
The slogan for the event was ‘for women by women’, building on the idea that we can all learn from each other. It was also important for me that everyone would be able to connect and make new friends, I wanted it to be an event you could go to alone but leave having made many new friends. In addition, everyone was asked if they wanted to present something, and thanks to our volunteers we got the opportunity to learn a few things. Monica held a presentation about WIMA Norway, which is one of the newer divisions in WIMA, built on the enthusiasm from the WRWR movement. It was truly amazing to hear about all the activities they are organising, and the way they run their division. When I was International President, it was one of my goals to get a division started in Norway, therefore the story of their success touches my heart. WIMA Norway has grown with record speed and is, with their 800 members, a powerhouse in the Norwegian motorcycle community. They are also, by far, the biggest national division, more than twice as big as the second largest division. Absolutely amazing, but if all their members are as positive and energetic as the ones coming to FENoMenAL, I’m not at all surprised! Other presentations were Merete’s inspirational story about how we can stand up for ourselves, ride our own ride, so to speak. Marie talked about Tapping, a way to reduce stress and anxiety and, in addition, I talked about riding in hot weather and introduced WIMA’s chosen charity, MJ Piki in Tanzania, and those who wanted could donate money towards training another woman rider for the team.
Susann contributed as tour leader for the Saturday ride out to Värmland’s Näs, about 10 riders joined her on a full day excursion. The rest of us made smaller explorations, involving ice-cream, beach and prawns. I appreciated the time we had to chat and share experiences and I truly felt I connected and made friends with everyone attending.
I learnt a lot from organizing and hosting this rally and now an idea is sizzling in my mind: how about incorporating a gravel training day in next year’s event?! I’ve just done such an event with SMC Värmland and I think a collaboration could work well. Food for thought, but for sure, WIMA Sweden will be back with FENoMenAL MC träff next year again.
Photo courtesies to all the awesome women participating! Photos are taken from our Messenger chat group.