This is Part 2 of Frazer Goodwin’s 3-part guest blog about his 1 400km ride from Belgium to Sweden. If you haven’t yet, I suggest you read Part 1 first.
I finally completed a bike ride in the summer I’ve been thinking about and planning for years – riding from my home in Brussels to my in-laws place on the Swedish west coast north of Gothenburg. I’ve already described the planning and preparations I made, including a tour of the Netherlands last year as a practice ride. This post detail show the ride went and what it felt like as a 57 year old to cover more than 1400Km on the bike in just nine days.
Well, the first thing I did was to make sure that my effort over the first days were limited, taking my time and riding at a very easy pace to be sure that I wasn’t too fatigued for later on. And I also made an effort to take in the ride. To enjoy the journey and the wonderful route I’d so carefully planned.
So now, like Forest Gump had after his long stint running, my mind is full of images. They are of sand dunes in the Netherlands, canalside paths, golden sunny mornings on German roads through countryside and woodlands. And gravel paths in woods, through fields, and by the sea along rocky coasts. They are of bike paths and gravel, of tarmac and paving, of torrential rain and golden sunshine. But most of all they are of the delightful feelings of motion and movement I had in many wonderful places.
The ride up the coastline of the Netherlands is definitely one I’d recommend to anyone. Alongside riding over some sea defences which are impressive engineering achievements, there is a couple of hundred kilometres of bike paths next to the beach that take you through the dunes, the dune slacks and the heathlands or woodlands behind. It is truly wonderful riding and offers a plentiful supply of beach café coffee stops too.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed a lot of the ride through Germany too. The German privacy laws are strict, so Google street view is unavailable, meaning you can only check your route from arial shots on Google maps. It was a real pleasure to discover the route selected by my routing App Bikemap was such a delightful mix.
Some quiet roads, some separated bike paths alongside roads and some gravel through the woods or disused rail lines converted to bikepaths. I also crossed Hamburg for the first time and discovered it to be a very nice city. I’d only ever been to the city centre before and even though I liked it I was unprepared for how pleasant the ride along the north bank of the river Elbe was after crossing by ferry to the west of the city.
I had been well prepared for the ride in route planning terms too. There was none of the disasters of last year when I had to ride diversions due to river crossings by ferry being closed. This year my ride to the edge of the Port of Rotterdam was not in vain and I caught the ferry over to the Hoek of Holland. This certainly beats having to detour 25Km upstream to reach the next crossing point as I had to last year when the ferry was closed due to COVID restrictions. And not just because it avoids the extra distance, but also not having to ride more than once through the truly awful industrial polluted landscape that is the port of Rotterdam.
The experience of last year taught me to have the mental fortitude for such extra challenges. My readiness for the mental challenge proved useful towards the end of my ride as I arrived in Sweden. The ferry docked in Trelleborg at 7am after leaving Travemünde at 10pm. This meant the wakeup call for breakfast was before 6am. This, together with finding sleep hard with the unaccustomed noise and vibration of the ship, meant I wasn’t at all rested. I found a park bench near the ferry terminal and took an additional sleep so I would be ready for what was not just a hard long day (170Km with some climbing at its end) but also the long 170Km hard ride scheduled the following day. The couple of hours additional sleep proved extremely valuable and in the end I arrived in my campsite for the night in Båstad early enough to get a pizza from the campsite café. This was a very welcome feast after the climbs towards the end of the day where I ran out of gears and ended walking up the steepest 12% section at the top of the climb. Those ramps reinforced that in future I would add gearing as with my 50/34 and 11/32 set up I was under-geared. Stupid too, as at home I have 48/32 chain rings and an 11/34 cassette.
The next day my biggest concern was whether I’d be able to get something to eat late on a Sunday at my destination of Kungsbacka. I was staying in a rented “stuga” (a hut equipped with a bathroom, kitchen and bedroom – think deluxe Bothy. This was some way out of town and I needed to find it before I could head out in search for food. Luckily I discovered the Kungsbacka retail park was not only on the same side of the town and close-by, but also had a “Max” burger outlet – an indulgence I enjoy when in Sweden.
This only left one day on the bike before reaching my destination and my awaiting family. After getting lost in the diversions and construction works around the station in Gothenburg I found myself on roads I’ve ridden before and know well.
And at the end of the day I arrived to a welcoming committee (thanks to the “Husband monitoring device” that is a Garmin bike computer) of wife and children. I then had a very relaxing week of island life, enjoying the location of my marriage, some boating, and some gentle riding. And a chance to unwind in the glow of a challenge completed with a ride to remember.