Roads to remember with a smile

When I go travelling with my bike it is to ride the roads, the nice roads. Everything else is of less importance. That is why I try to stay of the highway, chose smaller roads with nice scenery and a tolerable distance to cover. Sometimes, of course, I plan to ambitious and it seemed like to many days of the “Heading north” leg of the trip was a bit to long to be really comfortable, but I sure did see a lot of beautiful countryside.

N 122 towards Soria, the adventure begins - Big Smile
N 122 towards Soria, the adventure begins – Big Smile

Spain is a fantastic country in many ways. When covering some distance it is fascinating to see how the landscape changes. Around Madrid the land was yellow and gradually turned greener the further north I got. There are several nice mountain regions to ride in and I headed up to the Cebollera national park near Burgo. Here, there are plenty of twisty roads, most of them to twisty to really serve as a road for travelling but the biggest roads were perfect. I love to be in the mountains, se mountain views from above and below. But I don’t nececarily want to ride the smallest roads and I do not like hairpins. I know it is like swearing in church to say it, but still, it is the truth.

Road N 111 between Logroño and Pamplona - Big Smile
N 111 between Logroño and Pamplona, 40 degrees and 6 hours later – Tired Smile

Riding north of Pamplona I soon entered France through the Pyrines, a bit west from the national park on road N-135. Riding on this hight feels cool and refreshing in the summer but I guess the riding season is short. It was foggy when I passed there and it was sure an exotic feeling but not great riding.

N 135 crossing the Pyrinees - Scared Smile
N 135 crossing the Pyrinees, hardly no vision and it was cold – Scared Smile

In France I managed to come a cross some really flat parts this time. Riding north from Mount-de-Marsan through the Gascone national park was a great disappointment, mainly because I had expected something else then flat, straight roads. Also this was when my problems with legs and feet started, so it is hard to tell what is what really. Later on, I did ride through  fields that  seemed endless and gave a fantastic view, and I did appreciate it. I rode in the French alp’s last year so I know that there is plenty of twisty bits as well, but this year I went a different route to see something new. I stayed in two fantastic places in France, which I had pre booked, Le Moulin de Saquet and Le Grand Chaume. Both these places where solitary B&B on the countryside with great nature to enjoy while taking my evening walk.

Le Moulin de Saquet
Le Moulin de Saquet
Le Grande Chaume
Le Grande Chaume

It was only my second time riding in France so it was still very exotic to me. All the views are new, none of the roads have been explored before. Add to that my non existent knowledge of the french language and that is enough to give me an adventure. After a few days in France I learned how to ask for a room, coffee and breakfast. With a stock of snickers bars in my tank bag and a few occasional visit to Mc Donalds I was doing fine. I did worry that I would need to see a doctor during the time when the problems with my legs and feet were at its worse, it would have been very tricky to explain what was going on, since I didn’t really know myself. Now it didn’t get worse than I could push on and see a doctor in Sweden. Unfortunately it did effect my possibilities to purely enjoy the roads I was riding, and that was of course a shame.

Somewhere north east in France - chewing a snickersbar and smiling
Somewhere north east in France – chewing a snickersbar and smiling

After France I accidentally passed a bit of Belgium, no smile there, just a big surprise as I crossed the border… this was followed by getting lost in Luxenburg but the smile reappeared when finally finding my way in to the lovely part of Germany called the Eifel mountains. This route was chosen because I was intrigued by the possibility to stay in a real biker hotel and, on top of that, the area around the Nurburgring is a well known destination for bikers.

In the area of the Eifel mountains in Germany - Nostalgic Smile
In the area of the Eifel mountains in Germany – Nostalgic Smile

I have been there several times in the past, to ride along the river Mosel, ride in the mountains and on the Nurburgring. I have always thought it was like coming to biker heaven, plenty of nice roads to ride all day and cold beer to drink at night. So while France is new territory Germany is an old favourite. This year though, my experience was a bit different. I was more aware of the speed other riders were travelling in, and the risks that they were taking. The road signs saying “Rasen ist out” gives a wink about it (the race is over). Some riders should definitely stay on the Nurburgring. Never the less this is a beautiful area of Germany and the smile was constant until I had to go further north. Getting up to Kiel is almost inevitable to use the autobahn, the small roads goes through village after village and it takes to long to actually get somewhere. These two days of riding between the Eifel mountains and Kiel I also had rather cold and rainy whether,. That in combination with being really exhausted somewhat dampened my spirit.

When people (generally non bikers) hear that I used 7 riding days getting from Alcobendas, Spain to Kiel, Germany,  the comment is often, “so you took it nice and slow then”. Hell no, I said, I might be driving slow (if keeping speed limits is ever regarded slow) but I was pushing every day. When riding a bike I have to do all the driving myself, no one to swap with for a rest, I have to stop for drinks, snacks and rest… Add to that the exhaustion from being in the wind all day, and being cold when cold and the heat when hot…  Actually, I don’t want to lecture, and probably most readers on my blog are bikers so you know what I’m talking about. I’m just tired of hearing that my grand effort was a lazy ride, but I guess it’s one of the things you learn from experience.

Visa Spain – Sweden på en större karta

Entering Sweden again surely put a big smile on my face. I was back on two wheels in my own country, it was 11 month since I left with my Ducati (I had brought it to Spain and done an import the previous summer) and it felt awesome to be back. Unfortunately, I was not able to ride all my old favourite roads due to the condition with my feet and legs. I had to rest and recover. I did take my bike in to the centre of Karlstad to pose with the statue of the “Sun of Karlstad” and riding the city streets made me smile of remembrance, since it was here I first started to ride Ducati in the year 2000, a Monster 600 Dark it was back then.

Segerstad, Sweden, my home ground - Very Big Smile
Segerstad, Sweden, my home ground – Very Big Smile
Almost at roads end and my parents house - Proud Smile
Almost at roads end and my parents house – Proud Smile

Generally I had hoped to be able to recall more of my riding memories while being in my home country but at least I was able to relive a few. When Anneli met up and we rode out I had the pleasure to guide her on Swedish roads for two days going on a very special road in the area of Dalsland and passing the aqueduct of Håverud. The road is so twisty that is passes the same railway track 3 times during a 10 km ride. Unfortunately, we did this ride in the rain but Anneli had a smile that went up to her ears when we took a break at the aqueduct so I was pleased.

Since the roads were to twisty to capture you'll enjoy the view of the aqueduct instead - Cheky Smile
Since the roads were to twisty to capture you’ll enjoy the view of the aqueduct instead – Cheky Smile. Photo: Anneli Pille

Riding further south to the area of Skåne there was some new riding experiences for me as well, the coastal road from Simrishamn was very beautiful and with the smell of the sea it hardly felt like Sweden at all. I’m from a forestall area of Sweden with sweet water lakes so being close to the sea is exotic. Even living in Gothenburg didn’t give as much coastal experience at lest not for riding as I always preferred to ride inland towards the small lakes in the forest. Yes, in Sweden there is a lot of forest 🙂 and I love it.


Where I come from the air is free

I went out for a ride today and as it turned out it got me thinking and reflecting on the differences between countries when it comes to riding and gearing up, traffic and traffic behaviour.

To begin with, I passed by the petrol station to fill up. Then I thought I might as well check the air pressure. I was amazed to have to pay for this service, something I just assumed was included in the services the petrol station provides. But coming to think of it, even though I have travelled in about 15 countries I have only filled up with air in Sweden and New Zealand, none of these countries charged for it. Things might have changed though.

50 centimos to fill up with air
50 centimos to fill up with air

While getting on to the motorway, I was thinking of my riding gear and the safety of my jacket. I was wearing my summer jacket which has a built-in back protection. But it is rather short compared to my loose back protection that I use under my winter jacket. Pondering this, I got passed by two boys in t-shirts and the wind turbulence blew their t-shirts upwards exposing their whole naked back. The sight of this made me hope that they at least had the brains to put on sunblock, not to damage the skin in case of no accident.

I’ve been raised as a biker in an environment with very high safety awareness. In the local club, Lo Cats MC in Karlstad, where I spent my first riding years the general opinion was that when you get out to ride you gear up, and if you don’t use back protection you’re an idiot. Still, today I have a hard time not telling people that they are idiots when they don’t gear up properly for the ride 🙂

In Germany, Britain and other colder countries riders do gear up quite well, I guess this has to do with the double function of the gear, both safety and warmth. But I have noticed that a lot of touring riders wear laced hiking like boots for riding, which indeed are both comfy and waterproof but don’t provide much protection for the ankles. Personally, I prefer to ride in race boots, since I love hiking and running and therefore want to wear the best possible protection in case of an accident.

Reflecting on this I was riding here, between Miraflores de la Sierra and Tres Cantos
Reflecting on this I was riding here, between Miraflores de la Sierra and Tres Cantos

While riding in Spain I have seen people wear next to nothing riding their bike. The general idea is that it is a convenient way to commute and then you wear whatever you want to wear when you get to your destination. Which could be suit and tie, jeans and jacket or shorts and t-shirt, depending on where you’re going. Since I’m Swedish and know what I know and have seen what I have seen, I gear up even for riding to work, witch makes me have to answer a lot of questions, all the time. I guess it is just a different way of thinking about life. I can’t stand up and say how Spanish people think and why they do as they do, but to me it seems like it is more about living every day in as comfortable and nice way while Swedish people tend to plan for the future. Having said this, I’m aware that there are lots of serious bikers out there in Spain, geared up in leather, taking security seriously just as there are Swedish people not using back protection. This is my opinion and I love to hear your comments on it.

When it comes to traffic and the behaviour in traffic, Swedish and Spanish riders and drivers behaves very differently. I love the way I’m allowed to surf the queue, drivers actually make room for riders to pass. In Sweden, there is some kind of envy that prevents drivers from letting riders pass this easily. Like it would be bad to use a benefit when you can. Swedish people generally drive very much according to the rules and we plan our riding/driving. In Spain, the traffic acts a bit more creatively and I have, to an extent, got used to things happening suddenly. For example, a car can exit the roundabout from the inner lane by just using the horn and turning right. Traffic in Spain is generally very loud. It seems that there are many different reasons for using the horn, not only to make someone move or signal that you are coming, but also to show annoyance with the traffic jam. In Sweden, generally, we use the horn only to salute someone we know. And second if someone is in your immediate way. In England, Anelli and I often got passed silently by cars getting impatient because we hesitated a few seconds before getting into the roundabout. This annoyed me because I thought it was dangerous just to slip past like that not making themselves noticed. But from what I have heard British drivers don’t generally use the horn. But I have to say I prefer the Spanish way –  even though if I get beeped at a lot I might get stressed.

The best view of Madrid is from far far away
The best view of Madrid is from far far away

Now, when I’ve got started thinking on gear and traffic, next is to reflect on roads and scenery and biking in general during the Grand Tour. But that is not for today, now I have to get ready for bed, vacation is long gone and daily life has taken over my life again.