Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Cycling the Sjuharadsrundan

Sweden is a wonderful destination for easy cycle touring.  The main problem is knowing the best routes and getting enough information to plan to the trip in advance.

A few years ago we cycled part of the Gota Canal which was very pleasant, so this year I decided to plan another cycle touring trip to Sweden.  After some Googling, I came across the Sjuharad Bike trail:   This is a circular route of 150km of generally well signposted mainly traffic free cycle paths.  Most of it is on disused railway lines, through forests and around lakes, with a small part on minor roads.

The above website gives you quite a bit of information about the bike trail itself, but it doesn't list accommodation or where to hire cycles.  Fortunately in Sweden many campsites have stugas - cabins which are like micro-youth hostels - you just need to bring a hostel sheet and everything else is provided (cutlery, plates, cooking facilities, duvets etc).  You normally have to clean the stuga afterwards and they provide you with a hoover and mop and bucket.

After some more googling we established that there is a big campsite at Boras (one of the starting points of the trail) which has both stugas and a youth hostel.  You can get to Boras easily by train or bus from Gothenburg (around a hour).  We stayed at the youth hostel at Boras Camping, then a stuga in Prangens Camping at Ulricehamn, a youth hostel in Limmared and then another stuga in Svenljunga Camping, before finally cycling back to Boras for another night at the youth hostel in Boras Camping

As it can be difficult and expensive (although not impossible) to take bicycles on flights, the next thing we needed somewhere to hire bicycles.  There is only one cycle hire place in Boras but they have a very wide selection of used bikes:  mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, dutch style sit up and beg bikes.   They don't hire panniers so we brought our own and selected bikes with rear racks.  We found it was very important to choose bikes with working gears and brake before taking them (not all of the bikes were in a good state of repair).  If I was doing this again I would also bring some basic tools, although the bikes we chose were very well behaved on the tour so we were fine.

I chose a 6-speed road bike (2-speed derailier and a 3-speed hub), probably dating from the 1970s or 80s.  There are few uphill sections on this trail so the limited gearing wasn't too important.  This old bike really grew on me during the trip and I was sad to part of it at the end.  Centre pull brakes and "safety" brake levers - so iconic.

After finishing the Sjuharad cycle trail we caught the train back to Gothenburg and spent a few days sightseeing and visiting some of the nearby islands. A great way to finish the holiday.  You can get a City Card that covers buses, trams and ferries as well as providing free entrance to many museums.