Discover Your True Inner Force

Bikepacking Spain 2 Sweden 3200K

"An adventure with a focus on freedom and the power of believeing in your dreams"

With Erik Olsson, Health & Adventure Coach

Published July, 2021 • 10 Min. read

Taking on a challenge and pushing your limits. To see what you are actually capable of. To discover your full potential. To stop fantasizing and talking loudly and instead act, implement and achieve results. This was my very own personal reason why I accepted the challenge. Maybe you can recognize yourself too. You want to get to know yourself better and you want to act and realize what you have been dreaming of for so long. However, you tend to have a small voice that questions your choices and you tend to listen to your surroundings and adapt to what you think is expected of you.

Not me. Not now. I felt that time had run out. I had been too passive, far too long. I had dreamed a lot and talked a lot, but did not act on my dreams. One day I woke up and felt how time had run out. There was no clock that rang, there was no countdown to anything that would happen. There was only the present. Based on this, I made the decision that I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to challenge myself properly.

This would not be a quiet trip, a sightseeing trip. This would be a real adventure, with speed, sweat, passion, and tears. Now I would push myself, through rain, scorching sun and over high mountains. The more tired I become, the better. I wanted to see what I went for. I wanted to seriously push through my own mental and physical limitations.

Purpose

With the adventure, I wanted to push my limits and get to know myself better. Because I think it is when we are the most tired, most worn out and most fatigued, that we grow the most as human beings. That's when we get to know ourselves, for real. What we actually stand for. Of course, with the adventure, I also wanted to inspire and motivate you, so that you also dare to take that very first step and to invest in your dreams as well.

Challenge

  • Cycling 3200 kilometers, from Torrevieja, Spain, to Gothenburg, Sweden. Through and over Spain, France, Germany and Denmark
  • To perform the challenge for 3 to a maximum of 4 weeks
  • To carry out the whole challenge on my own, "self-supported" where I bring everything I need for the whole trip, and get what I need along the way, such as food, accommodation, extra equipment

One of the very first days in Spain, in front of me I have over 3200 km to travel

Route

The route was planned north. That is, from Spain to Sweden. The length was estimated at around 3200 km, or 320 km. The purpose of going as straight north as possible was to speed up the journey itself and not be away longer than necessary. In this way, I hoped to be able to ride fast, with few rest days and a quick arrival.

Broadly speaking, these were the following distances in each country:

  • Spain - 700 km.
  • France - 1200 km.
  • Germany - 1000 km.
  • Denmark - 350 km.

Risk analysis

The analysis is done before the adventure. In addition, I also made a matrix where I lowered the probability of different calculated risks. In the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, I highlighted my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Note especially threats and weaknesses, which I worked with the most before the adventure. Here it is especially important to plan carefully. What can happen, and what can I do about these potential issues before the adventure itself. If an accident should occur, what measures could I take? The analysis on the left shows the current data for the adventure.

Equipment

The adventure was planned to last between 3 to 4 weeks. The purpose was to take me home to Sweden as quickly and efficiently as possible. That's why I wanted to ride in "bikepacking" style, that is, with special bags for road bikes. See picture below.

In addition, I only planned overnight stays outdoors in case I could not find suitable accommodation, for example with friends, relatives, airbnb and the like. Due to that, I did not bring a larger tent nor kitchen equipment. Everything that I brought with me would instead be as lightweight as possible and only absolutely necessary. The bike with gear and equipment weighed between 17-18 kg.

Overall equipment list

  • Bivybag bag, with air mattress, sleeping bag (front)
  • Change of clothes, shorts, t-shirt, linen (back)
  • First aid kit, notepad etc (back)
  • Electronics, hygiene, spare parts (frame bag)
  • Extra provisions for a maximum of 1 day (at the back, and at the handlebars)
  • Lock, GPS, speakers, mobile, distributed on the bike

Cycling clothes, shorts, shirt, gloves, everything I wore, except an extra cycling shirt. So I wore basically the same clothes throughout the trip, 25 days.

Grilled ribs in Germany, with good friends

Nutrition

Travel food

As a certified health food, I know more than well the importance of eating a good and nutritious diet, all to promote long-term health and a good energy level throughout the day. My focus when it comes to diet is to eat the type of food we are biologically adapted to. In other words, a great focus on meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables and plenty of healthy oils and fats.

The challenge from a diet perspective is that during an adventure it is so much more difficult to shop, cook and control what I actually eat. Out in the field, my focus is instead about meeting my daily calorie needs and making as good a choice as possible based on given conditions, i.e. what is actually offered in restaurants, bars, shops and the like. At the same time, I am well aware that the average human body has around 50,000 calories in fat alone, as an extra storage of energy.

My own test result, after extra supplements of omega-3 / polyphynols

Supplements

As I assumed that the quality of the food I would get would not be of sufficient quality during the journey, I considered supplements to be of extra importance. The picture on the left shows my own level of fatty acids, and the balance between omega-6 and omega-3. Something that strongly affects my cellular health, and consequently, how well my immune system works and how well my muscles work. The test result is my fourth in a row and shows that I have almost optimal levels of fatty acids, after taking supplements of omega-3 / polyphenols since 2016.

In addition to making sure I have optimal levels of my fatty acids before the trip, I also brought EEA (Essential Amino Acids) and Zinobiotic (food for the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract), both in powder form. I also included Xtend + (vitamins and minerals), as well as Protect + (beta glucans for the immune system). All to maintain optimal physical and mental health throughout the adventure.

Execution

Spain

The trip started on June 23. In front of me I had over 3200 km, all the way home to Sweden. The challenge was to push myself, to see what I was capable of, while at the same time I was very eager to take on a big adventure again. The trip up to Barcelona was quite special, as it was during these first days that I would truly get an idea of how I would be physically and mentally. The first few days would therefore give me an idea if I would manage at all, or even if I possibly wanted to cancel the challenge.. 

Traveling through Spain is largely characterized by high temperatures and lots of mountains. Often the temperature reached between 30-35 degrees. This combination makes any trip through Spain particularly challenging, while at the same time being a stunningly beautiful country. Once in Barcelona, I took a day off with relatives and friends. Then the journey continued straight to France, across the Pyrenees towards Perpignan.

France

The first 2-3 days in France went quite fast. I cycled northeast towards Germany. The goal was to cross France as quickly as possible to visit friends in Walldorf, Germany. After about 3 days, however, the rain began to pour down. For 4 days it then rained constantly. 

The massive rain pushed my limits considerably and it was like slowly being grinded down. On a particularly challenging occasion, I had to make a short stop in a small French village, just to stay warm and make a quick choice of clothes. I put on my merino sweater and my gore-tex gloves that I originally bought to cross Iceland in 2016.

France also offered tough climbs when I was close to Switzerland and the Alps, and more specifically in the Jura Mountains.

Germany

Once in Germany, I finally had two fantastic days of rest with some good friends in Walldorf. Here I regained my strength after all the rain in France. After 2 days I set off north. Now there was no longer a planned stop anywhere along the road. Instead, I wanted to increase the number of hours on the saddle each day, just to get further, faster.

With each passing day, the distance increased. I also ended up having to take an antigen test in Germany to gain access to accommodation, such as hotels and airbnb. Germany thus offered some logistical difficulties, something that was to be expected when I carried out the adventure during the corona year 2021. An antigen test was done in Hamburg. Then I set off for Flensburg.

During the route Hamburg - Flensburg, I also got the idea for the first time to cycle through all of Denmark in one single sweep, without stopping for the night.

Denmark

Denmark offered the shortest distance, and this is partly the reason why I wanted to complete a challenge within the challenge. The plan was to wake up in Germany and go to sleep in Sweden. That is, to cycle through all of Denmark without a single overnight stay. Staying for short breaks, for food, coffee and the like was of course perfectly ok. But this meant that I had to cycle all night. Something I've never done before.

There was still some light until around 11PM in the evening, enough to ride unhindered. Between 11PM and about 3AM I had to use my bike lights. Sometimes when I cycled on smaller bike paths or country roads, especially through forested areas, it was really completely pitch dark. The only thing I saw was the road in front of me, and the only thing I heard was the music from my speakers.

The journey was 347 km long, without a single stop. I successfully made my way all the way to Frederikshavn and was able to get on the ferry at 8AM in the morning and could thus easily travel back to Sweden again.

Is there anything that can be more important than living your life to the fullest? You only have one chance and time rolls on relentlessly. All you need to make a difference is to act, to do something now. You decide yourself what sort of an adventure you want to do, but do not wait. I had been waiting far too long myself. Other things came in between, and I constantly postponed what I was actually passionate about, the great epic adventures. Sometime in the last year, I realized that time was running out. There was no clock ticking, there was no tomorrow. Everything that existed was the present. I did not have time to wait any longer. Neither do you. All you have is your life, there is nothing else. So do not wait, and instead make a decision and take full responsibility for your life, today!

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Results

Lessons learnt

As for the trip itself and practical details, I will change some things regarding the equipment and the bike. I realized that there are great benefits to a minimalist tent, instead of a bivybag. To simply have somewhere to rest in the evenings, but not necessarily to sleep. And that I need more space for food and possibly some form of minimalist gas stove. Everything to become as independent as possible during the trip. This will increase the speed and the number of kilometers I can get out of each day. 

Recovery

About a week after the adventure ended, I am basically fully recovered. The first 2-3 days were extra heavy, with low energy, a lot of sleep, and an appetite that never seemed to go away. I started my training routine again on day 4 with running and then again with the bike. In retrospect, I put extra emphasis on how I completed the trip with a relatively stable speed (not too fast with too high a heart rate), and long distances, with many hours in the saddle. This saved energy and kept me away from injuries. I also put a lot of emphasis on the importance of supplements which has normalised how well my cells actually work. My comparison here is primarily with, for example, the trip across Iceland in 2016, and the Iron-Man Kalmar I completed in 2016, before I took any supplements at all. Then, as far as I remember, I was tired and weaker for longer, with a constant feeling of getting a cold or getting sick. Something I did not experience at all this time, while the adventure was much longer and harder in effort.

Insights

Cycling, and cycling long distances, is very much about giving in, taking time for something bigger. You have only one task, and that is to move forward. Life is simplified immensely. Suddenly you are in an environment without a boss, no deadlines, no commuting, no projects, nothing. All you have to do is cycle and get to your destination. During this time, your everyday life is also filled with finding accommodation, food, rest when needed and enjoying the surroundings and the journey itself. Life is simplified. At the same time, this creates perspective on life and you can see your other everyday life with completely different eyes.

For me, one of the biggest insights is a reinforcement of what I already felt. That I love the adventure. But for a while I was unsure if this was what I really wanted to do and if this is the lifestyle that I wanted for myself. But during the trip, especially when it was tough, and I felt totally drained, that is when I knew that this is what I want to spend my life doing. To use my own muscle power in order to move around and to discover this fantastic planet we live on. And, to inspire and motivate others to do the same. Together we will go further and can achieve so much more.

"Time is over. Discover your true inner force"

- Erik Olsson

About the author

Erik Olsson is the founder of the concept 2strongarms, which revolves around how we can rediscover our natural instincts to live an optimal life, with adventure and real joy of movement. Erik is also a co-founder of the podcast Lev Ditt Drömliv (Live your Dream Life), as well as his own podcast the Digital Freedom Coach which focuses on personal development and international entrepreneurship, all to achieve increased freedom in life. When Erik is not recording podcasts or developing the business, he usually runs around in shorts, regardless of the season. Some call him crazy, others see him as a visionary.