Historically, Stockholm is a city of voyagers and traders, and its strategic importance is closely linked to its location at the bottleneck between lake Mälaren in the west—Sweden's third-largest lake which extends well into the Swedish heartland—and the Baltic Sea in the east. While maritime trade is of minor interest to most modern-day Stockholmers, the city's seafarer heritage is ever-present, and living in Stockholm means to be constantly surrounded by water. Lakes, islands and bridges shape the city center and have earned Stockholm a place on the contender's list for the unofficial title of "Venice of the North". Yet, what helped to put the city on the map in the past poses a challenge for cyclists today: you can't go for a ride around town—literally.
While this isn't a big issue once you learned to maneuver the inner city's network of bridges, a closer look at Stockholm's surroundings reveals a similar picture on a larger scale. Setting out for a ride, you'll be reaching water within seventy kilometers in three out of four cardinal directions. Thus, cyclists looking for a day-long loop may find themselves beaten by the city's unique geographic location.
What can cause a headache for eager route planners, however, also gives an opportunity for adventure: forget about the route planning, leave your GPS computer at home, pick a direction and don't stop cycling before you reach a lake or the ocean. Simple as that.
Following this theme, this episode of #NorthernRides is decidedly going nowhere. Starting at the outskirts of the inner city, I headed south-east towards Tyresta nationalpark, a national park which is known for its old-growth forest. Since no roads lead through the park itself, I rode around its northern edge, following the road signs to Tyresö Palace. Built in the 17th century, the palace is open for visitors during summer and home to a small café.
On passing the palace, I continued southeast and soon found myself on a small peninsula that, as I found out later, runs in parallel to the mainland for about 10 km. Left with no choice, I followed the main road which, slightly elevated, leads along the shoreline and offers stunning views of the Baltic Sea. Riding through small forests and along open areas of water, the landscape is typical for Greater Stockholm; however, as I continued to ride towards the peninsula's southern tip, I found myself in strong need of a front derailleur.
At this point, it's probably worth mentioning that I long—and passionately—held the opinion that one simply doesn't need a front derailleur to ride around Stockholm. There just isn't a single hill of considerable size in the area (let alone mountain), which means that I spent the better part of this season on a 53 chainring and a 12-25 cassette (luckily, I re-installed my front derailleur just before I headed to England). Riding along the shoreline, however, I felt like I was ultimately proved wrong: while none of the climbs on this route is particularly long, they are frequent and some gradients easily exceed 15 %. Thus, I found myself in my lowest gear more than once as I made my way up the road.
Reaching the southern-most point on the peninsula, the road suddenly ends in a turning area in the middle of nowhere. What may feel anti-climatic at first is an epitome of cycling itself: it's not about the destination, but the road that leads you there.
What is your favorite ride to nowhere? Let us know by leaving a comment below or share your route by joining the NOPE! cycles cycling club on Strava.