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Is it really possible to ride your bike from coast to coast through Sweden almost exclusively on gravel roads? Coast2Coast is a 450 km gravel adventure, from Varberg on the west coast to Kalmar in the east in two days, organized by Abloc for the second year.

We joined to find out.


A southwesterly gale is whipping up waves in Varberg on the Swedish west coast, the mecca for wind and kite surfers. The beach is yet deserted at 6 a.m, but the surfers will for sure have a good day. Anton Persson from Abloc, wearing a black suit and white shirt with a bow tie and blue cycling shoes, stands on the stone wall at the 13th century fortress and give us the guidelines for the first stage.
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He leads us out of Varberg on his bike and as soon as we hit the gravel roads Anton waves the flag to signal free speed. We are a group of 16 cyclist heading east with a strong tailwind.

In the accompanying cars, we have packed our bags with change of clothes and things we do not need during the bike ride. With us on the bikes, in addition to the necessary energy, we have repair kit for a puncture and other tools to handle minor problems with the bike, as well as a first aid kit in case of an accident.
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Soon we reach the region of Småland with its slogan ‘Sweden for real’. It is also the birthplace of IKEA and famed children’s book author Astrid Lindgren. We cycle pass typical Swedish quaint red cottages with white knots, we pass vibrant green meadows with horses, cows and sheep. We cycle through forests of spruce and pine and pass sparkling lakes with jetties waiting for their bathers, only to soon be engulfed by forest again. This is the old Sweden, a Sweden long before the cars occupied the roads and when the fields were still plowed with the help of horses. As in a story by Astrid Lindgren.
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I am amazed and impressed they have managed to find so many continuous gravel roads and forest areas with little or no traffic. The Swedish roads began to be asphalted in the 1920s with the progress of cars and today it's hard to find continuous stretches of gravel. But they have done a good job using various map databases and satellite photos to find a suitable route.
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In the middle of nowhere, after almost 130 km on the bike, we arrive at Södratorp museum. Here, the 50s have been revived with an old BP gas station, telephone booth and cars typical of the time. We take a break and look around. The manager opens the premises for us where he has collected all kinds of stuff from a bygone era.
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The last 10 to 20 km before the lunch stop becomes difficult. Many demanding uphills on forest roads and coarser gravel take their toll. After just over 160 km, it is finally lunch just outside Värnamo. The many miles of gravel require their replenishment of energy. In addition to the energy we have on the bikes, Abloc arranges several coffee stops with coffee, sandwiches, fruit and buns and much more.
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After the lunch stop, we cycle past the southern tip of the clear water lake Hindsen where some rowing boats are moored at the pier. We then turn north. The surface varies and is sometimes quite demanding with rocks and roots. With my limited experience of such technical cycling, I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with the more experienced cyclists. At a rocky part where previous rain created furrows, I get stuck with the front wheel and cannot avoid the crash. But everything ends well. With only a small blow to the hip I'm soon back on the bike.
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After more than nine hours of cycling, we arrive at Asa Herrgård outside Lammhult, beautiful located on the north side of the lake Åsasjön. We are treated with sparkling white wine on arrival and sit for a while overlooking the mirror-shiny lake and talk about the day, before I take a long-awaited shower. All the while Abloc washes off our bikes full of gravel and dirt.
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A group of tired cyclists gather for breakfast at 7. My legs would rather linger in bed, but plan is to be on our way early for the remaining 220 km to Kalmar. It is supposed to be an easier ride today, but I doubt. After loading our bags into the cars and lubricating the chains, we head east again. With a partly blue sky and slightly warmer than yesterday, I put the rain jacket in the steering bag.
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We finish with some serious uphills before lunch at the top of the slalom slop at Aboda Klint. From the outdoor terrace we have a nice view over the lake which is part of the nature reserve. While we eat our lunch, dark clouds pull in and suddenly we hear thunder in the distance. The wind slowly begin to howl and it does not take many minutes before the rain comes. We hurry into the restaurant where some German tourists also have seek shelter.
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With rain jackets on, we continue south and soon turn into forest roads that I would never have found without the help of the map from Abloc which I have downloaded to my bike computer. Roads and surfaces are of great variety. We ride on everything from wide and smooth gravel roads to tractor paths with blasted stone and grass and narrow paths with roots and mud. Some fallen trees across the road do not stop us.
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We pass small villages like Grönlid and Abbetorp, who's names have been given to IKEA furnitures, and ride through some of the municipalities that used to be part of the kingdom of crystal, or what in Sweden is called Glasriket, with a history from the 18th century. We are getting closer to the east coast now with only 60 km left.
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We make a last stop for coffee, cinnamon buns and sandwiches. I have lost count on how many cups I've had, but it's a perfect match with the buns. Now we are a group of four who work together the last stretch to Kalmar. Besides a puncture, our ride flows nicely towards the east coast and sun is now shining on us from a blue sky. Soon we can see the Baltic Sea and we follow the coast line south.

Look, Öland! Fredrik suddenly shouts as he sees the long stretched island and I get a feeling we cannot be far away from Kalmar. But even on this last stretch, Abloc have managed to find small technical paths over both stone, roots and footbridges.
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It is with great relief and satisfaction that we eventually roll into the streets of Kalmar, where people enjoy this warm and sunny Saturday night on outdoor restaurants and cafes. For two long days we have been cycling from the west coast, through Småland's dark forests on gravel roads and narrow paths, to finally reach Kalmar. We sit on the lawn outside the sunlit castle where we are served pizza and breathe a sigh of relief.

Exhausted but with a big smile on our faces.
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Images by Magnus Wiström, Eric Sjögren and Henrik Hågård
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