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Rider: Leo Ranta. Photo: Greg Heil

Rider: Leo Ranta. Photo: Greg Heil

If you want to ride a trail system that is quintessentially Gothenburg, the Skatas Area is where you should head. In fact, a couple of our rides took place almost entirely in this area, and almost every single from-town ride connected to Skatas at least at some point.

Credit: Leo Ranta

Credit: Leo Ranta

As the map above illustrates, Gothenburg is surrounded by systems of interconnected trails… but lying just to the east of the city, Skatas is one of the most convenient areas. Of course, it depends a bit on where you live in the city, but even with just shy of 1 million residents in the Gothenburg metro area, the city is compact enough that you could pedal to Skatas from any point in town. Some folks choose to drive out and then ride from the parking lot to save their legs, but most will just ride from town.

All of the features I wrote about in this Gothenburg overview? Yeah, Skatas is ground zero for challenging, technical riding. Granted, if you want to pedal smooth, gravelly, graded paths, there are plenty of those in Skatas to be had… but they’re choked with runners, walkers, and bird-gawkers.

And I didn’t fly halfway around the world to ride crowded gravel roads.

No, the singletrack is where the action is at, and said singletrack is gnarly! Short punch-to-the-gut climbs with technical ledges and boulders seemingly-always found at the crux move will greet you, followed by fast, technical, and sometimes slow speed sketchy descents.

Leo riding the Ravine. Photo: Greg Heil.

Leo riding the Ravine. Photo: Greg Heil.

The trails here have every sort of technical feature you can imagine, except sand. Because yeah, the trails can be wet. Mud is a way of life in Sweden due to the dark soil, the boggy spots, and the rocks that seem to trap the water for days. So instead of just saying, “oh, we’ll wait until the trails dry out to ride,” the Swedes just ride, because the trails are never dry. Instead, they strap Mudhugger fenders onto their bikes and go for it!

One of many muddy spots.

One of many muddy spots.

Now, living in Colorado I’m no stranger to rock–they’re called the Rocky Mountains for a reason. I’m also no stranger to slickrock. But I am a stranger to riding slimy slickrock with mud-covered tires, coupled with ice-like roots located in the transitions from rock-to-rock.

But whenever you reach the top of one of the small Gothenburg hills, all of that slipping, grunting, sliding–and in my case, bike pushing–is worth it, because you get to rip down the opposite side: launching rock drops, sliding over roots, railing along the occasional section of dry slickrock, and threading your way through tight trees.

When the trail turns downhill, the descents are SO GOOD! Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Leo Ranta.

When the trail turns downhill, the descents are SO GOOD! Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Leo Ranta.

Words can only go so far. For a peek at what riding in Skatas is like, check out this video from our time there:

Day 1 & 2 – Skatås/Delsjön area from HillsideCycling on Vimeo.

You may have noticed that this ride report is different from most ride reports that I’ve written. Instead of giving you trail names, directions, and indications of what trails are best, I haven’t mentioned a single piece of singletrack by name.

Why?

Because Skatas is an absolute maze of trails. This holds true for all of Sweden that I experienced, really, but Skatas was the worst (or best… depending on how you look at it) in this regard. Within five minutes of pedaling off the pavement and on to the trails we’d taken no less than five turns and had passed at least three times as many trail options.

The climbs are technical, too. Rider: Leo Ranta. Photo: Greg Heil.

The climbs are technical, too. Rider: Leo Ranta. Photo: Greg Heil.

And almost none of these trails are signed or marked in any way. And in general, while there are a few good marked singletrack trails, most of the trails that have markings are the gravel paths mentioned at the beginning of this article.

So what is an intrepid explorer of Swedish singletrack to do?

Enter Hillside Cycling.

The Hillside Cycling Experience

Over the course of this week you’ll read much about Hillside Cycling, and for good reason: they played the single most pivotal role in getting me to Sweden, and they spent all week basically waiting on me hand and foot, showing me the trails, and escorting me around town and to dinner.

Seriously, the service was so good, I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t doing more.

Meeting Leo and Natasja of Hillside Cycling for the first time at the Landvetter Airport.

Meeting Leo and Natasja of Hillside Cycling for the first time at the Landvetter Airport.

If you want to have the best experience possible with your limited time in Gothenburg, hiring Leo Ranta of Hillside as your guide is the only way to go. Sure, you could wander around and get yourself lost and subsequently un-lost, but there is no way you’ll find the best trails that are best-suited to your skill level and riding desires, even with a year of exploring in this area.

To give you an example, the last ride of the week was a group ride with a bunch of local riders, organized by Leo. Leo has been leading group rides three times a week for 12 years, and as we began our pedal and finished one of the first sections of singletrack, one of the riders next to me said, “I’ve been doing Leo’s rides for 7 years, and I’ve never ridden that trail before!”

There are always new trails to find and explore, but hiring Leo’s professional services will save you all the headache that blundering through this maze on your own could cause.

Enjoying a delicious lunch, on the go. Photo: Leo Ranta

Enjoying a delicious lunch, on the go. Photo: Leo Ranta

But the Hillside Cycling experience is so much more than just mere guiding. Rather, they bill themselves as a full-service outfit. If you book a full-day tour, your fee will include a delicious lunch as well as afternoon fika, homemade by Leo’s partner, Natasja.

What is a “fika,” you may ask? Well, fika is a Swedish word that means to take a break during the afternoon for coffee and cake.

And it’s my new favorite word.

Seriously, as if I needed an excuse to sit around and drink coffee and eat cake, the Swedes have a word for it and a time built into their day to do it. How perfect is that?

Fika on the seaside = best thing ever

Fika on the seaside = best thing ever

Photo: Natasja Jovic.

Photo: Natasja Jovic.

The only thing that makes fika more perfect is how epicly delicious Natasja’s cakes are. All of the cakes that Hillside serves are handmade by Natasja from recipes passed down to her from her mother. Over the course of my trip I got to experience about a half a dozen different cakes, and each one was incredible! With flavors all across the board, from chocolate to saffron to Swedish roll cake, every single one was mind-blowingly delcious.

Not only are the cakes homemade, but all of the food for lunch is also shockingly tasty, yet healthy. I don’t know about you, but when I make tasty food, it’s because I put so much grease and butter in it. Natasja’s food, on the other hand, doesn’t sacrifice taste for healthiness, or vice versa.

Lunch break on the shores of one of Sweden's many lakes. Photo: Natasja Jovic.

Lunch break on the shores of one of Sweden’s many lakes. Photo: Natasja Jovic.

And then there are the smoothies.

As if fika wasn’t already great enough, Natasja will often include homemade, delicious smoothies along with cake and coffee, making fika a bonafide fourth meal of the day. But if you’re riding all day, you need to replenish those calories, right?!

A taste of France in Sweden. Photo: Natasja Jovic.

A taste of France in Sweden. Photo: Natasja Jovic.

On top of the food, Leo and Natasja handled all the logistics for me, including transportation to and from the airport, bike setup and cleaning (I’ve never seen anyone clean a bike as thoroughly and efficiently as Leo), and all the local knowledge and advice I could want.

If you were to book a tour with Hillside Cycling, exactly what they would provide depends on the length of the tour that you book. For instance, if you were to book a full-week tour, they’re more than happy to pick you up and drop you off at the airport, making your stay in Gothenburg as easy as possible. Accommodations and bike rentals are not included, but they can either recommend accommodations and a place to rent a bike, or even rent you one of their own if you’re the right size.

Finally, Hillside Cycling also offers custom bike build jobs, tech classes, skills clinics, and they even organize a race every year. For more information on the exact length of tours they offer and all the pricing, be sure to click over to Hillside’s website.

Dining in Gothenburg: Restaurang Sjobaren in Haga

My wife’s family is from Florida, and I’ve learned from them that the best–and really, the only–time to eat seafood is when you’re sitting right next to the ocean. The further you go inland, the less fresh the seafood gets. Since I now live in Colorado, I just choose not to eat seafood, because I know it’ll be disappointing by coastal standards.

One of the things I was most looking forward to about my visit to Gothenburg was sampling fresh, local seafood. Restaurang Sjobaren in the Haga area is a great spot to do just that! They have a wide variety of options to choose from, but we went with the catch of the day, along with a delicious appetizer.

The beer selection at Sjobaren was also quite good, and I enjoyed a local brew from Ocean brewery, located right in Gothenburg.

Photo: sjobaren.se

Photo: sjobaren.se

Even if you don’t visit Restaurang Sjobaren, you have to visit the Haga area. The streets in this area feature historic cobblestone and are only open to foot and bicycle traffic, and the 19th-century wooden houses are unique to this area and this time period.

Sweden week isn’t over yet.

There’s so much more to come from my time in Sweden, including seaside slickrock, castles, inland seas, roller coasters, and much more! Stay tuned right here to Singletracks.com for the rest of this series.

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