From the outside looking in, the trail networks that infiltrate the city of Gothenburg are indistinguishable when you move from one to another. This is just one of many reasons why hiring an expert local guide is the best bang for your MTB buck here in Sweden (check out this article for more info).
But thanks to this killer map from Leo Ranta, and asking over and over again exactly where we were on the trail, I was slowly able to get a grasp on what types of trails each individual area held. And the Molndal Area was one of my favorites.
My Molndal experience was another installment in Leo’s series of ongoing group rides. Leo has been organizing group rides in Gothenburg for 12 years now. By his best estimation, he’s arranged about three rides per week on an average of 46 weeks per year, for 12 years. That puts him somewhere north of 1,500 group rides that he’s led!
The rides always meet at the same place: Fransson’s curtain shop, located just on the border of Skatas. So far, no one’s complained about anywhere from a handful to a hundred riders descending upon the curtain shop parking lot right about closing time.
On this Sunday morning, about a dozen guys gathered for the group ride. While one guy was proudly rocking a fat bike, everyone else was riding full suspension trail and enduro bikes with plenty of boing to go around—a testament to the immense technicality of the riding in Gothenburg. After a few minutes spent standing around exchanging introductions and talking about bikes and trails, we decided that everyone who was riding had arrived, and we were off, hard on Leo’s rear wheel!
While Molndal is quite similar to Skatas, instead of feeling like we were totally disconnected from the rest of the world, riding in Molndal felt more like we were riding in and around Gothenburg—in a good way. We crossed several roads as we moved from one trail to the next, following sweet, swooping singletrack next to a stream and just across from some buildings. As we climbed to the top of a slickrock bald, we were treated to sweeping views of the city below us, including Gothia Towers and Liseberg Amusement Park, where I was lodged for the week.
Even the trails themselves were unique from Skatas. To begin our transition into Molndal from Skatas/Delsjon, we stopped over at the largest rock roll feature that Leo and company has discovered in the region. I had been waiting all week to experience this rock roll, which I’d seen in at least a couple of Leo and Natasja’s photos before, and as I rolled up to it in real life, it looked way larger than I had envisioned it—of course.
Compared to doing rock rolls in a place like Moab or Colorado, where generally the feature is open and airy with an easy run out, nothing in Gothenburg is that easy. A tricky line into the top of the feature, complete with roots and loose pine straw, fed into the steep, total-commitment rock roll, finishing with a narrow escape at the bottom between a pair of tall pine trees standing sentinel over our shenanigans.
Like most rock rolls, it looks intimidating as you stand around and shoot photos, but eventually everyone worked up the nerve to try it—with several guys, myself included, going back to drop it with more and more speed.
Eventually we moved on, transitioning through some flowy singletrack to the Slickrocks trail, located in the heart of the Molndal area. While many of the trails around Gothenburg feature domed sections of bedrock, the Slickrocks trail takes it to the Nth degree, with literally miles of rolling, rippled slickrock that provides fantastic grip and—in my opinion—a breath of fresh air from all of the roots. The ground is generally very soggy in the transitions from rock to rock, since all of the water rolls straight off the rock and pools in the low places, but overall we ripped along at high speeds, whooping and hollering and making sure to stop to snap some photos.
While there were many junctions in the Molndal Area similar to Skatas, the junctions were further apart, allowing for longer, less-interupted riding segments. I definitely appreciated it.
All week long I’d been running myself ragged trying to keep up with Leo, but after getting together with a larger group of riders I realized that yes, I was out of shape, but I wasn’t the only one trying—and failing—to hang on to Leo’s wheel.
Leo has become a legendary mountain biking figure in West Sweden–so much so that he’s been a topic of conversation on Swedish mountain bike forums. People always want to know what the pace of Leo’s rides are, and the answer is, “fast.” Generally it’s a no-drop experience, but don’t be surprised if you roll up to the group and they’ve been sessioning a rock feature for 10 minutes before you arrived.
Getting to mix it up with a few other riders in the pack was refreshing, and offered a glimpse into Sweden’s mountain biking culture. That glimpse showed that it’s just like anywhere else I’ve been: mountain biking forms a bond between passionate riders of all walks of life.
An Epic Seafood Experience at Restaurang Gabriel
I’ve been accused of not being a culinary expert before. Well, those accusers were on point: I’m not a food critic. I’m not a chef. Heck, I can hardly cook a frozen pizza without burning it. What I am is an expert mountain biker, and critic of trails—not restaurants. So when it comes to relating my dining experiences, I can only tell you what I experienced and felt for myself.
And in my experience, the best seafood I’ve ever tasted was at Restaurang Gabriel in Gothenburg. Not only that, it was one of the most epic, involved dining experiences of my life.
Restaurang Gabriel is located in an upstairs loft overlooking the Fish Church. The Fish Church is an experience in and of itself, with fresh seafood out of the nearby ocean on display. But if you want to sit down and have a meal there, Gabriel is the place.
The proprietor, Johan Malm, grew up working at the restaurant and took over the business from his father. He waited on us personally, and simply served us what he thought we’d enjoy—both food and drink. When he found out that I’m a lover of fine beers, he paraded some of Sweden’s best in front of me, insisting that I try several of his favorites. The strong porter from Grebbestad was absolutely delicious, and I also enjoyed a few more brews from Ocean, a Gothenburg brewery, along with a couple other breweries that I hadn’t tried before. While the craft beer scene is on the rise around much of the world, few places are as developed as my home state of Colorado. I was delighted to finally sup at a Gothenburg restaurant that knew its beer and had a good selection. Over the course of the trip, no restaurant bested the beers found at Gabriel.
But I digress. The main reason to visit this establishment is, of course, the seafood. Johan knows a thing or two about seafood. That is to say, he may be the most knowledgeable connoisseur of seafood I’ll ever meet in my entire life. Not only was he raised working at the restaurant, he’s a world champion oyster opener, and can divine the differences in oyster taste based on water quality, temperature, and a host of other factors. In his opinion, the best oysters in the world come from the sea right outside of Gothenburg. Johan has a few personal suppliers who are some of best oyster pickers around, and he purchases the vast majority of the oysters that they pick.
Our meal began with an oyster, of course. It was my first time eating an oyster and I have to say, it’s probably an acquired taste. Since this was my first exposure to oysters, I’m not going to write them off completely, but I will say that personally, I enjoyed the rest of the meal more. 🙂 We moved on to an amazing clam soup, followed by beautifully-presented crayfish. While this wasn’t my first time eating crayfish on this journey, Restaurang Gabriel’s was definitely the best!
Along with a couple of other courses, we finished the meal with a small desert, coffee, and shots of rum. What did I tell you? I’m not a fine chef. But I CAN tell you that I had an otherworldly dining experience that both took me way outside of my comfort zone and also provided a delicous, entertaining, and simply stunning meal. If you visit Gothenburg, this is the one restaurant that you simply have to patronize! For their menu and hours, be sure to visit their website.
Lodging at Gothia Towers
For most of my stay I slept in the newest of the Gothia Towers. Gothia Towers is a hotel in the middle of Gothenburg, comprised of three skyscrapers—the tallest of which is the tallest building in Gothenburg. While it’s hard to imagine a hotel so radically different from Tidbloms, I found Gothia to feel like my home away from home almost immediately.
Modern styling and technology has been built into every facet of the room that I stayed in. The tower that I was in had just been built the previous year, and in fact some of the conference rooms were still under construction. The room was so modern that I had to call the front desk to figure out how to turn the lights on. Hint: insert your room key, which has an RFID chip instead of a standard magnetic strip, into the lighted pocket near the door. This activates the lights and air conditioning in the room—meaning that if you leave, and assuming you remember to take your key card with you, everything shuts off.
This is just one of many ways that I found Swedes to be environmentally-minded. Almost every toilet I saw in Sweden was a high-efficiency model, with two flush choices (small and large) to help you manually conserve water. After talking with Leo and Natasja about it, I learned that Sweden is so efficient at processing trash that they import trash from other countries. Unique facilities allow them to actually burn the refuse to generate electricity, instead of burning fossil fuels like coal and just burying the trash underground. Of course, they have excellent recycling facilities as well, and windmills cover the landscape of the windy interior.
So Gothia Towers does their part to conserve as well. In addition, I found the food and the service to both be fantastic, and the rooms very clean and comfortable. Also, the totally-free wifi was blazing fast—faster than I have at home, and putting every hotel I’ve stayed at in the US to shame.
Pro tip: you may want to avoid staying at the Towers when there’s a music festival just down the street, if you’re not down with drunken madness, cops running around to break up fights, and bodily fluids spread everywhere. I felt sorry for the havoc that was wreaked in the course of two chaotic days on the brand-new tower, but after the festival was over, it was remarkable how clean and tidy the staff made the common areas. For instance, you couldn’t even tell that a group of drunk frat boys, sporting a selfie stick, and without a lick of facial hair between them, had torn the ceiling out of an elevator right as it opened in front of me on the ground floor. So kudos to the patient hotel staff for putting up with that mayhem.
As mentioned in my overview of Gothenburg amenities, Gothia Towers is also conveniently close to Liseberg Amusement Park, as well as restaurants in downtown, and the restaurants and bars located in the hotel itself. All in all, it’s a great place to base your Gothenburg experience!