This summer I had one of the most unexpected adventures on my bike…but first let me catch you up on how this story started in the first place.
It all began on a British fatbike group page on Facebook. An English gentleman posted a question on winter riding in Sweden. He had tried to contact the tourist board to see if it would be possible, or even allowed, to ride the Nordic ski beds on fat bikes. The tourist board had no idea since they never had heard of fatbikes, and didn’t know that such a vehicle existed.
I took the opportunity to answer and suddenly had a new friend from the UK. We kept the conversation going and I informed him that the Nordic ski trails are not available for riding, but that the snowmobile trails and the ice are.
Soon after, Kevin came to visit our frozen trails here in Swedish Lapland. This was back in March and a few months later Kevin announced that he would be coming over to visit again, this time to visit the big mountains above the Arctic Circle.
Fortunately, I was able to meet up with him for a few days in Björkliden for some big mountain riding. But he also wanted to visit Luleå again and check out our little town during summer. Luleå is located far up in the bay of Bothnia. It is a coastal town with about 75,000 residents. We have an amazing archipelago with over 1000 islands.
One of the more remote islands is called Skvalpen. Actually, it´s more of a sand reef than a proper island. It´s located almost as far out you can get and is closed for visitors most of the summer due to it also being a bird sanctuary.
I was eager to show Kevin the archipelago during summer and made contact with another fatbike friend, Anders, who recently purchased a brand new Mukluk to ride the shores of Sandön were he has his summer cabin. The plan was to go to his island, which is quite easy to access. It´s just a narrow crossing that can be done with a dingy.
But late august good fortune was upon us and as Sunday was approaching Anders texted me and proposed that we should take his motorboat to Skvalpen instead. The bird sanctuary island was now open for visitors.
We´d been talking about riding fat bikes on Skvalpen for a couple of years and now we finally had the opportunity. We hooked up in the harbor were Anders got his boat and started the 45 minute trip at a speed of 25 knots. The last miles were across open water that can be pretty brutal but today the sea was quite calm. Poor Kevin, who´s not used to boats, was pretty nervous.
Arriving at an island far out at sea and unloading the bikes was quite a feeling. We decided to try to ride around the entire island with no idea if it would be possible.
Skvalpen is in fact two islands that have grown together due to land uplift. A narrow channel used to separate the two islands but now it´s just a few centimeters deep and easy to cross.
I spent my youth all around our archipelago; growing up in a family that spent all weekends and holidays yachting made me familiar with most our islands. Many of them have harbors and even residents, but this was my first trip to the sand dunes of Skvalpen.
We rode along the shoreline on the east side with just open water and Finland far away behind the horizon, our four-inch tires leaving gentle tracks and less impact than a human footprint. We rode silently, smiling, stoked by the amazing landscape. We stopped for our sandwiches and beer in the warm late summer sun and Kevin told me he could just not believe how we don´t have tides.
Kevin lives and rides in the Lake District at the west coast of northern England. “We have shores like this,” he said, “but you can only ride them for a couple of hours between tides.”
I, on the other hand, was realizing that all of this would once again be covered in ice in just a few months.
It turns out the Skvalpen is 21 kilometers of riding if you decide to go all the way around, hugging the shoreline. That was a bit more than we expected from an island that's just seven kilometers long and a few hundred meters wide.
To have the good fortune to live in a place where you can do a day trip to a place like this is a real blessing. To do it with new friends that share your passion is an even bigger blessing. Kevin has already promised to come back next winter. If conditions are right we´ll check out Skvalpen again. Only then, we will ride right across the sea to get there.
ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER: OLOV STENLUND
Olov Stenlund is a 43-year-old kid who lives way up in the northern part of Sweden in the town of Luleå, by the Bay of Bothnia. The love of his life, besides wife and kids is the bicycle. He's been riding his whole life: commuting, road bikes, mountain bikes...you name it. But lately, he's been riding mostly fatbike due to the very long winter. Olov is an amateur film maker, podcaster on www.mountainbikeradio.com, founder of www.bikelifeinswedishlapland and writer for www.Swedishlapland.co.uk. He lives by the motto: Summer, winter, always ride!
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