By Björn Olin. English translation by Louisa Rolandsdotter Bichard.
Links to Original story in Swedish. Photographic notes. homepage.

I, Björn Olin, and Martin Nordstrand had decided to cycle through Europe. On June 20th our budget jet bound for Lübeck was waiting on the runway in Skavsta (this remote place is sometimes mixed up with Stockholm). We had not known each other for very long before we decided to do the cycle trip. But worse than that we did not have any idea what long distance cycling really meant. However we established a few fundamental guidelines:

  • The trip can last from three days to three weeks. We’ll take off without any preconceived ideas and without performance targets. If it’s boring we’ll pack it in.
  • The trip must not cost a lot of money! We googled and landed on an estimated 15 euro per day for two gentlemen.
  • Fast bikes and minimal packing. We don’t see the holiday in dragging around robust army bicycles, completely overloaded with a lot of mostly unnecessary stuff.
  • We’ll skip Sweden. Sweden does not have a cycle culture and the thought of going through Europe’s largest forest plantation was not inspiring.
  • The trip should head south. 150 kilometres a day seems reasonable if we’d trust previous adventurers.
  • We avoid all large cities.

The Equipment
Inspired by Jobst Brandt’s stories in “Tour of the Alps” we realised it was possible to go on holiday on a road bicycle. Björn brought his Cannondale R700 on Ryanair. That was around 200 SEK extra. Martin bought his dirt cheap 2Danger Cyclocross at in Lübeck for 700 €. We forced our packing into 24 litre saddle bags, Carradice "Super C" from Cykelnetto. We thought they were the cycling equivalent to the food shop Netto (where you buy oats and DVDs cheaply). But no, don’t judge a shop by its name, personal and professional service by Billy Guldager ensured we had all bits in place. Ortlieb’s 8 litre handlebar bags were bought from uncle Erling at Svima.

The trip
We started in Lübeck in northern Germany. We cycled on a south westerly compass bearing through beautiful well organized villages with cycle routes of varying quality. The average age in these villages appeared to be around 78. The aim was Holland which we thought was the Mecca of cycling.


Sticking to our budget was not a problem. Germany was rich in natural resources. Morning coffee and cake was served up by the local car dealer. Every field worthy of its name was equipped with a shower. Food grew everywhere. Our decision not to bring either sleeping bag or sleeping mat did come with a few inconveniences. One wakes up aching all over.

Riding easily pedaled bikes with minimal packing proved to be a brilliant strategy. We flew along at around 30 kilometres per hour with little effort. 150 kilometres per day was no problem to keep up. We invaded Holland already on the third day. The sun was beating down constantly; Europe was hit by a heat wave.


Holland, better known as the birth country of the microscope, pushed the standards of the trip up even further. In Germany we had learnt to camp by sports fields where like minded people would take pity on us and give access to showers and toilets. When we asked a kind older couple for directions to the sports field in Lochem we ended up staying in their house. Shower, local beer in the garden, beds and a real hotel breakfast was served up. The vagabond life had a re-birth. Thank you to Janny and Albert Blauw!

The cycle roads were excellent, the landscape beautiful and the people exceptionally friendly. As icing on the cake the local cycle shop had a pair of cool AMD cycle pants (a must have for an old AMD investor). Complete happiness! We surfed through Holland on a prawn sandwich (swedish expression). It ended with a grand finale when we stumbled across a posh party in one of the most beautiful mansions in Maastricht. Our bivouac estates were suddenly swapped for pool and vineyard.

From the amazing mansion you could spot a mean little white house at the horizon, just at the foot of the Ardennes. We heard this was the Belgian border post. Behind that little house the land was no longer flat and English no longer understood. We were warned about fat blue cows who had Swedish tourists for breakfast. We thought they were joking!

More about B*lgium some other time. Zero stars.


The heat wave held Europe in an iron grip. But after sunshine there is sunshine. We had not stumbled across shower opportunities for a while and had limited changes of clothes. The nights in the one man bivouacs were warm and sticky. Any nightly raindrops found their way through Björnes gore-tex barrier from the early 90s and on to Björne himself. These things together provided a good breeding ground for a hay infusion in the cycling pants.


There probably is a threshold value when society classes you as a bum rather than a tourist. We were heading that way. From being two quite charming nice guys we were now Mr Disgusting and Mr Filthy on bikes. I started to worry that this could hamper our progress. Will shops refuse us access and mothers pull their children out of the way when we turn up? All the nice people which we met along the way were our reward. Would those moments be a thing of the past? :-(


Fortunately society appeared to be inattentive and we could go into the discount grocery store and shop as usual without any problems…. almost…. Time for Björne to pay. But where is the wallet? It had disappeared. Björta reached for his phone to cancel his credit card ... but… Ooops, that had also been misplaced. The good: Björta’s packing was now 225 grams lighter.

The trip wore on. We really felt that different countries are different sizes (duh!) and were starting to suspect that France was one of the larger ones. The hygiene incident had forced us back to the trip drawing board. We developed new and more secure methods for finding showers and also invested in a new soap (+82 grams). With surgical precision we were now also infiltrating camp sites. The shower must not take more than 4 minutes, then it was time to head off to the getaway bikes which were waiting in a nearby grove.


In southwestern France the landscape was less hilly and we were fortunate with the wind. We took turns breaking the wind and resting in the slip stream. Märta, who is a big guy, forced his way through huge masses of wind. He was the homo sapiens equivalent of an SUV. I was the Dodge Neon of the trip. Anyway, both approaches gave speed. We now had an average speed higher than 33 km/h during most sessions.

We reached Spain already after two weeks. San Sebastian turned out to be our final destination. The trip was over. We checked into a hostel, started to get used to sleeping in regular beds and not doing anything during the days. Now it was getting to the point where we had to discuss an important question; how would we get home and with what money? Björta’s wallet was long gone and Märta was a man of limited means.



We had heard rumours that Fly Nordic did cheap flights from Bordeaux. It became our destination. On the train we loaded ourselves and the bikes into the special cargo hold. The hold was warm and without any ventilation. A few stations later we fell off the train completely dizzy, gasping for air. However, third class was our cup of tea.



After a final night, right next to the runway in Bordeaux, we finally caught a flight back to Stockholm.

Märta, who had skipped out on his summer job at Svima, was given the boot by Erling himself. Last time Märta was seen he was heading for Poland with a large sailors pack on his back, ready to join a giant trimaran and head off on new adventures.

Björta got hooked on cycling and headed for the Alps.