How to make the most of the autumn in Swedish Lapland as a biking nerd. Follow Olov and his friends on an epic downhill biking adventure in Björkliden and Abisko, where the scenery leaves them astounded.
It is a grey and overcast Friday afternoon at the beginning of September. Luleå is cold and windy. The autumn winds creep inside the jacket, and I feel like going away, a trip to a warm sunny place is tempting. But being a biking nerd, I can’t think of a better way to conclude the mountain bike season than an autumn weekend in the unmatched fells of Swedish Lapland. The grey skies and drizzle are soon forgotten as I pack my bike and my bags in a state of euphoria.
It is not possible to grow accustomed to the magnificent scenery, not even when you get to see it every day.
I pick up three mates on the way: the Broman brothers, well-experienced bikers and also a certain Huring, a beginner warming to bicycling who has tried MTB on two occasions. The fully-loaded car is driven northbound floating on our longing for endless trail biking and wild downhill runs. We stop for the compulsory hamburger meal and a few hours drives later we pull in at the hotel in Björkliden. After unloading and some refreshments, we hit the sack.
Laughing all the way downhill
I have been to Björkliden loads of times. As a kid, I always used to spend Easter holidays at Hotell Fjället with my parents. In my teen years, I used to hang in both Björkliden and Riksgränsen. In short, I have spent quite a lot of time here, mostly in the winter, though. And still, when I step into the kitchen in the morning to get the coffee going, I am stunned by the view. It is sensationally beautiful. Later on during the weekend, our quartet will grow to a quintet with the arrival of Ulrika from Kiruna. She has spent a few seasons here and agrees with me: it is impossible to grow accustomed to the magnificent scenery, not even when you get to see it every day. I am thus left paralyzed with the coffee pot for a few minutes — even though the weather is not that spectacular.
The mates awake in due course. After some moaning from the Broman brothers on the lines of “apple sauce on the porridge belongs in the nursery”, we can start planning our adventures for the day. We are forced to revise our plans to some extent. We had planned to bicycle along the trail Rallarleden towards Rombaksbotn, take the ferry to Narvik followed by a return drive by bus. This tour is said to be fabulous. However the ferries are not running this late in the season, so instead, we decide to explore the old downhill course running from the Kitteldalsliften.
The poor sod will come across greater challenges — but of this, he is still unaware.
The course was built by seasonal workers and bikers three or four years ago, and we find it without problems, it is actually even signposted. We start walking uphill towards Kitteldalen and Svarta Björn. This is a good idea since we can also do some recceing.
After quite a walk mixed with some uphill biking, we have come to the conclusion that the course is in surprisingly good condition. Right, ?a few berms could have come in handy, but in principle, everything is intact, probably because it has hardly been used over the past few years. After a chocolate break and a few minor incidents with lost and recovered GPS and goggles, we drop into the course. This is more of a fast single track than a traditional downhill course. We set a high pace, and I catch myself laughing out loud as we careen along the trail between the mountain birch trees, this is easy fun downhill biking.
Huring, the rookie of the group riding one of Björkliden’s more basic rental bikes makes it down without any problems. The poor sod will come across greater challenges — but of this, he is still unaware.
So many trails, so little time
Adrenalin-pumped and childishly happy we pedal up to the hotel for a bit of lunch. The lasagne at Restaurant Lapporten hits the right spots. While we are munching we actually spot a few snow flurries, luckily enough only a few brief ones. The sun comes out, and we decide to go to Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge in the afternoon.
One good thing about Björkliden is that the hotel and cabin village is in a quite high situation. We only have to ascend a few hundred metres past Rakkasliften and the first tee on the golf course before reaching the bare mountain; remarkable to be this close to paradise.
Once over the first ridge, we are met by a trails web, making a choice almost tricky. We pick the northern trail to Låktatjåkka Fjällstation, a rather demanding climb over about nine kilometres. Along the trail, we meet several hikers. We stop to chat with a few of them and are told there are several decimetres of snow halfway up. We make it up to the snow where we are forced to turn back. Poor Huring is probably a bit shocked when realising how much you have to lead and carry a bike uphill.
I am dreaming about next day’s trip, Rallarvägen to Abisko, lift up on Mount Njullá and then the ride down to Björkliden.
However, the reward is awaiting us: a brilliant four-kilometre single track quickly obliterates all the hardship we suffered on the way up. If we had made it all the way to the lodge, this would have been the highlight of the trip — including the famous waffles. As we pedal into the hotel parking area, we have covered 1 048 vertical metres and the cold beer in the lobby at Hotell Fjället a couple of hours later is well deserved. Following a rich Boeuf Bourguignon à la Huring and a visit to the sauna, we have no problems going to sleep. I am dreaming about next day’s trip, Rallarvägen to Abisko, lift up on Mount Njullá and then the ride down to Björkliden.
This will be epic.