Bring your own bike or hire one. There is a growing interest in combining biking and mountains. This offers challenges and rewards.
Cycling is becoming increasingly popular, not least cross-country. Before cars became widespread, the bicycle was a common means of transport. In northern Sweden there was a network of cycle routes in the 1920s and 1950s. If you worked at the Laisvall mine when it started in 1943, for example, and if you lived in Västerbotten, it was not unusual to cycle there for your work period. That could be a distance of 200 kilometres, and for a person in good condition it took maybe a whole day to get there in the summer. Or when you wanted to go to a barn dance 70 kilometres away, it was handy to take the bike. Today every home has at least one bicycle, usually more, for all ages. Off-road cycling has become a great leisure activity and a popular form of competition.
“It’s a simple way to discover nature. You can cycle on ridges and close to water. There are countless places to discover in hilly terrain for those who want to try something extra,” says Joakim Armgren, who has bikes for hire at Experience in Arjeplog.
“With stout tyres and shock absorbers you can get around in new terrain. It’s exciting.”
Off-road cycles have extra stout tyres and usually 11–21 gears. Off-road cycling is a new form of exercise going back nearly 40 years. Swedes usually say “mountainbike”, another of the many loanwords from English. This is not strange, since the interest in off-road cycling exploded after people began racing down Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California. The success of Klunkerz, a film from those mountains, was the reason. The film came in 2006. By then off-road cycling had become established as a sport. It was an event at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Sweden won an Olympic gold in mountain bike in 2016 when Jenny Rissveds from Falun became Olympic champion in off-road mountain bike with a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. She has naturally inspired many people.
But there is a level for everyone. Joakim Armgren tries to find the right bike for the right person. He also offers cycle safaris to those who want a guide.
“It doesn’t need to be nearly as advanced as off-road, and we also offer electric bikes. I remember conversations with Dutch tourists who think the adventure in the wilderness begins as soon as they stop at the roadside on the Silver Road. The first elk or reindeer they see becomes a lasting memory.
Can you meet a bear?
He laughs. “No, that won’t happen, but if it did I think I would stop to look at it a bit. Or you could cycle away from it. Perhaps a little faster.”
Text Maria Söderberg