Home Sweet Home

by Hanna Jonsson

I have come to realize something this last year – it is good to be home. Stockholm might not have the best trails, the warmest climate or be anywhere near as exhilarating as New Zealand, the Alps or Canada, but nothing beats calling up some friends and hitting the local trails. I am pretty sure there are lots of you who share that same feeling. How long or short, easy or hard, wet or dry your local trails are and even if you know every little rock and root and you get insanely bored of them from time to time, they have a special place in your heart. As do the people. And the city.

“Borta bra men hemma bäst”

We have a saying in Swedish “Borta bra, men hemma bäst” that translates to something along the lines of “Being away is good, but being home is the best”. You see, growing up as an international kid I never really had “a home” (in the sense of calling a specific city “home”). Moving around between Belgium, Canada, Sweden and the UK has always been very exciting, but I have never had that “ah, finally home” moment. Now I do. And I finally get what people mean. It is good to be home.

I moved to Stockholm four and a bit years ago and for the first time in my life I now feel like I’ve landed. I guess it is a sense of belonging (in a weird way). I love coming home from a trip, calling up some friends and going for a ride, and being amazed by the nature and the city I live in. I love being able to just “show up” at one of the local riding spots knowing I will most likely bump into a bunch of people I know. I love that the sun shines more than the rain pours. I love that I can go on a trail ride in the middle of the city and have a “fika” (i.e. coffee and cake) at a nice café in the city center afterwards. I love that I am able to call up at least 6 different bike shops or people if my bike breaks down and get quick, cheap and really good help. I have simply ended up loving home.

Riding in Stockholm

I have now made Stockholm sound like some kind of biking paradise. Don’t be fooled – it is far from it, at least if you’re into long flowy descents and big mountain adventures. The biggest “mountain adventure” you get around here is the top of Hammarbybacken at 93 meters above sea level or Flottsbro at 103 meters above sea level. We do have lots of great flat technical XC-trails around – both south, north, east and west of the city. Stockholm doesn’t lack forests, that’s for sure. What we do lack is altitude.

However, there is still lots of fun to be had on a trail bike around here. Both Flottsbro and Hammarbybacken has a T-bar lift open for bikes and downhill-ish trails for smashing down. Both have XC-trails close by so it’s easy to link it all together if you’d rather pedal than take the lift.

Flottsbro is currently my favorite riding spot around here. They have done alot of work with the tracks, it actually feels like a mini bike park (emphasis on “mini”!) with jumps, drops, berms and techy sections. I enjoy both pedaling around the trails as well as being dragged to the top by the lift. Just like most riding spots around Stockholm, the water is just close by so in the summer you can easily stop at the beach by the bottom of the hill and go for a cooling swim. And during the rest of the year you can just enjoy being so close to the water (I freaking love water!).

Then there is the never-ending trail system of Hellas which is part of a massive nature reserve south of the city. The flat and technical trails around here is something quite unique and its surroundings are really, really pretty. You feel like you’re out in the middle of freaking nowhere even though you’re no more than 15 minutes away from the city. However, I have a proper love-hate relationship with this place and in my head it is not so much “Hellas”, as “the pain cave”. My friend Lina has this thing where, when we are away riding some really good trails in some amazing place somewhere in the world - last time was Whistler - she will turn around and say “It’s doesn’t beat Hellas though, or what do you reckon?” and give me a cheeky smile. She knows how much I struggle in Hellas, she has dragged me out of there several times when I have just given up hope on life (well, not that bad, but yea, pretty bad….). Hellas has defeated me multiple times; I seem to always be the slowest one in the group, losing all my flow on techy uphill rock slabs or incredibly rooty sections, but I somehow also love the challenge, the lung-burning pedals and the feeling of being “lost in a forest”.

Then there is Haga, the complete opposite to Hellas. My happy place. It is a part of the royal national park and is a tiny park situated around a lake, with running paths, tennis courts and hidden bike tracks – in the middle of the city! This is my “after-work-need-to-get-out-on-my-bike-right-now” place. As much as I love riding with people, I really enjoy a solo ride in Haga. When I first moved to Stockholm I used to live close by and, since I didn’t know many back then, I used to go on solo explores in the park all the time. I now know the park like the back of my hand and, with the help of a friend, we’ve marked my favorite trails with blue dots so you can link together a quick, fun one hour loop.

The trails are kind of hidden here and I bet a lot of people in Stockholm don’t even realise that you can actually ride here – except for “Hagakullen” (or “Haga Hill” as it would translate to), which yet another “massive” hill in Stockholm. With its impressing 70-ish meters above sea level it actually has four of the most flowy and fun tracks around. When I go for a ride after work I always link it together with these tracks and, most of the time, I end up meeting friends on top the hill who are also getting some quick laps in before bedtime. However, you are equally as likely to only encounter deers and rabbits. Either way – it will be a good ride.

Since there is only three main riding spots for trail rides around Stockholm – Flottsbro, Hellas/Hammarbybacken and Haga – you will most likely always bump into people you know when you’re out riding. Stockholm might have a comparably small riding scene – but it keeps surprising me. Even if you think you know the majority of the bikers around, you always end up getting to know someone new. And even if you think you’ve ridden most trails around, you end up riding something new. It is pretty good.

After having moved around a lot in my life I have finally found a place where I know the quickest way to get to places, where I know people to ride with, people to drink wine with, and places to escape too and people to escape with. And even if the trails aren’t the best or the longest they are still fun and special to me. So, wherever in the world I will end up living, Stockholm will always have a special place in my heart - it will always be “home”.

All images: Johan Haag