Rupe’s top tips
Don’t Continued over
••••••Get a sat-nav you can stick a
Google map into
Learn the lingo. It makes all the
Enjoy meeting your fellow road
rats. It’s half the fun Book ahead for hotels, they’re
Worry about it costing a fortune,
it just does
Go round a mountain when you
can go over it
British B-roads - you can keep up a pace which lets you cover huge distances off-road, which means that instead of just blatting about having a laugh you’re also touring the country, getting a glimpse of the varying culture.
I’m being guided by Mats Jonsson who runs Magic Motor Experience (MME), a company that runs numerous off-road tours around Smaland in southern Sweden. If you potter along at 30mph, it’s a doddle - an off-road novice would have no difficulty. I’m riding one of Mats’ Yamaha XT660S which has dual-purpose tyres on and at that speed it’s rock solid as the track sweeps through the forest. Think of it as an undulating gravel B-road with no hairpins.
Turning into corners I feel the front tyre scrabbling sideways on the fine layer of gravel on the clear line, setting up a slow weave through the whole bike. I’m doing about 45mph - enough to make any tree interactions deeply unpleasant. Instinctively I grip the bars like I’m trying to wring safety from them, my arms rigid and my eyes fixated on the gravel heaps of doom, but by the time I’ve wondered if Swedish hospital food tastes like that slop in Ikea restaurants, I’m round the corner. Slowly, my confidence builds and by the end of the afternoon I’m midway through a long left when I notice something’s missing, different. My mind blunders through possible causes but comes up with nothing - the XT660 sounds fine, the corner isn’t tightening and as usual the front tyre is doing its wafting-scrabbling thing.
I frown in confusion, concerned I’m missing something that will inevitably prove pain- ful. Then it dawns: I’m relaxed. At last my shoulders have descended from my ears and my arms are loose. After nearly a day of riding off road, I’m finally getting used to the vague, floating cornering feeling - my body finally accepting that despite neither tyre feeling welded to planet earth, a disaster may not be imminent.
This is a turning point. Without the tension I’m free to take in the beauty of the forest as southern Sweden rushes by in a blur of vibrant green and blue. Instead of holding my breath round every corner I’m gulping down the pine-fresh air. It feels like a switch has been flicked and thousands upon thousands of miles of tracks open up in front of me. Not only can I experience a forest wilderness I didn’t even know existed, but now it’s a playground too.
We’re riding on mud and grass that hasn’t seen another vehicle for years and it’s a relief to just chug along, let- ting the XT find its way between ruts and through pools of dappled sunlight. At this speed you notice more than just vanishing points and picturesque blurs, you see tiny pink flowers on what looks like heather, 50 types of mushroom and the occasional hoof print the size of your head. And when we stop for a rest, the silence slides over us like fog. No distant cars, no wind in the trees, just the ticking of the cooling bikes. Tranquil doesn’t even begin to cover it.
By the end of the tour I’m not just in love with several blonde and beautiful hotel staff but also with Sweden. The people quote Only Fools and Horses at you, the forests and lakes are designed by a tourist board, and the endless, humanless space makes Britain feel like a rush-hour Tube carriage. If you want to experience what an adventure bike can really do, put this trip on your bucket list.
‘I’m free to take in the beauty of the forest as Sweden rushes by
in vibrant blur’