Over three days in May, cyclists from across Europe gathered for the Dalsland Runt – an independent ride through Dalsland, Southern Sweden. Held since 2011, and growing from a group of three friends, the Dalsland Runt embodies the spirit of adventure riding, taking its participants over the remote gravel roads and forested terrain of Sweden’s ‘lake province’. Below, two riders share their accounts of this year’s Runt.
This year’s Dalsland Runt began with the closing of a chapter my friend Patch and I started last year: riding from Stockholm to the meeting point in Vänersborg. Back then, we “only” made it halfway and had to surrender to the headwind and rain. But the idea got stuck in my head. So this year, I borrowed a friend’s camping gear and panniers and set off two days before the race – the only way to satisfy this urge. To be frank, I underestimated how tough this solo adventure would be. It was a physical challenge to move my 22kg bike plus equipment over 500 kilometres but, moreover, it was also a mental challenge to ride continuously from morning to evening.
As soon as I arrived in Vänersborg, I had already forgotten about the exertion of my prologue and was psyched to find out what Johan (Dalslant Runt organiser) had planned to put us through this year. He’s well renowned for his passion for the road less travelled or, perhaps more accurately, the path never ridden.
Without surprise the meandering roads of Sweden and Norway dazzled every one of us. But riding on beautiful roads alone would almost be a bit monotonous, right? A little extra excitement for our small group would be found in the seemingly endless amount of punctures. Flat tyres are a mood killer for everyone – whether you’re on the fixing or the waiting end of the spectrum. But it’s these experiences that bind a team together. It’s this companionship that brings us home in the evening, and that’s probably the true spirit of Dalsland and why we ride our bikes.
Dalsland is for cyclists. And more than any aspect of the adventure that is the Dalsland Runt, it’s the cyclists that make it so very special. Three riders, three strangers, greeted me at the start. “Let’s have coffee,” they said. And upon noticing how sleepy I was from the journey across Norway, the offer changed from coffee to sleep. “We’re in a hotel over there, you’d better go have a nap.” These friendly vibes continued throughout the whole weekend as we rolled through Dalsland, riding hard while helping one another out, and sharing a lot of smiles.
It is all incredibly fun, but by no means easy. In fact it is rather brutal. One is at the mercy of Dalsland, the gravel, and route master Johan. That is Johan Bjørklund, a quiet and humble randonneur of the finest kind who has most likely ridden everything rideable in Dalsland. He has crafted routes through Dalsland and exposed its charm to all of us. On the Runt, you experience natural beauty and find pure and intense cycling joy, despite (or perhaps because of) the madness that the infamous Dalsland gravel roads throw at you.
Looking at the map towards the end of the 236km-day on Saturday, we wondered: “what’s that spike in the profile at the end there?” It was homage to the 2015 edition, a terribly steep, terribly long climb. The descent that follows is named “Döden”, Swedish for “death”. Johan stood at the finish. “What did you think of the end there?” he said with a warm grin on his face.
Adventurous, brutal and peaceful is Dalsland. From all of us who have experienced a glimpse of its magic, thank you, Johan.