FENoMenAL Motorbike Meet – I’m trying my hand as a rally organizer

“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.  

The little cabins that make up the vandrarhems lodgings are taken from different parts of Värmland about 100 years ago and have before that been used as swineries, stable, food storage etc
The little cabins that make up the vandrarhem’s lodgings were taken from different parts of Värmland about 100 years ago and have before that had been used as swineries, stables, food storage etc.

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.  

The famous open-face prawn sandwich, or simply as we say in Swedish 'räkmacka'
The famous open-face prawn sandwich, or simply as we say in Swedish ‘räkmacka’

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.  

Värmskog's bakery
Värmskog’s bakery

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. 

We started the barbeque and the presentations at 7
We started the barbecue and the presentations at 7
and presentations ran on into the late evening.
and presentations ran on into the late evening.

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.  

Susanne leads the group ride out onto Värmland's Näs.
Susanne leads the group ride out onto Värmland’s Näs.
Luxury lunch and chill timeon Värmland's Näs
Luxury lunch and chill time on Värmland’s Näs
Even when you try to avoid gravel there is always some.
Even when you try to avoid gravel there is always some.

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.

I wanted to organise an event where people could feel this chilled haning out, I think I succeded.
I wanted to organize an event where people could feel this chilled hanging out, I think I succeeded.

Photo courtesies to all the awesome women participating! Photos are taken from our Messenger chat group.

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