The Promised Land.
Percentage: 90% Gravel 10% Road
Route designer: Michael O’Dwyer
I’ve always been into cartography and the study of maps. Even as a child I would spend hours poring over paper maps taking in as much information as I could. I would try to imagine what the landscape would look like and how it all links together. Years later, and after my University degree in Geography, my obsession continues.
For route building, whether for biking, kayaking, or hiking I usually start with something I’ve found on a map. No longer paper maps but today its Google, Strava and Open Source Mapping. This something could be a geological site, a town or in this case, a grass roofed shelter.
Often in Swedish forests gravel roads don’t link together. Often, they’re dead ends. We need to find links, a way to connect them together. It was on one of these links I came across the Djupkärret Kolarkoja Hut and the anchor to the route.
The Promised Land Tour relies on two single track links which are actually parts of the Sörmlandsleden hiking trail. Before you even get to the first single track link the route follows gravel roads which become smaller and smaller. You’ll get to a point when you’re wondering if the overgrown forest track will just disappear and leave you lost. It doesn’t, it’s just adventurous riding.
The first of the Sörmlandsleden sections is the longer of the two and begins being very rid-able. The deeper you go in the rougher it gets. You’ll want to get off your bike a few times, not that it’s overly difficult but more not wanting to risk it. Just as the trail becomes a little too rough for your bike you hit the gravel road.
The second single track part takes you passed the Djupkärret Kolarkoja Hut. The way into the shelter is 100% ride-able with the way out a little less, but its short lived.
This region in Södermansland offers hundreds of kilometres of car gravel and it’s just about picking the most scenic route that suits you. This tour brings you on the roller-coaster gravel along Harpsundsjön with its summer house island only reachable via rickety old walking wooden bridge.
The trail will bring you as close as 7km from the town of Flen, or more importantly to its train station which is now connected to Stockholm via the Mälartåg train service. You can bring up to 6 bicycles per train making this area a perfect bikepacking destination from Stockholm. If you are going to ride this route as an overnight bikepacking adventure, then I suggest sleeping at the shelter on Bruksdammen island just outside Hälleforsnäs. The route goes right passed it.
The northern section of tour is the most difficult and slower section. This ride is not meant to be a quick outing. It’s about exploring and discovering a new area and finding forgotten roads. I suggest at least 40mm tyres to handle the rougher sections.
If you’re into averaging 30km per hour along smooth car gravel, then maybe much of this tour is not for you. But if you want to take your gravel bike to the edge of what’s ride-able whilst still being gravel-biking territory then maybe, this might be, The Promised Land.