Over the years the Animal Bike Tour has crossed oceans and distant lands to exotic locations as far afield as Singapore, France, Spain, Kuala Lumpa and Ireland, and each year there tends to be at least one stop that takes us out of the realms of the UK. This year we put the Mercedes vans (and our driving stamina) to the test and headed to our most excitedly anticipated event, 1000 miles away in the capital of one of the most beautiful country’s in the world, Sweden’s first ever Scandinavian Fitness Festival in Stockholm.
It would be Robin and Blake’s first time in Scandinavia, but their excitement was easily match by that of Martyn and myself who have been almost regular visitors over the years. It’s a long 3 day drive from Calais to Stockholm, but the anticipation of what awaited upon arrival overwhelmed the early start and with the joy of passing through the gradually changing landscapes we soon settled into the road trip rhythm.
We covered a lot of distance on the first day passing through France, Belgium, Holland and a good deal of Germany. Stopping for the night in Bremen, which left us with just over 150 miles to the second ferry of the journey that would take us across the Baltic Sea to the Southern most reach of Denmark, and there would begin our time in Scandinavia.
We hit the road early and after the short crossing were quickly cruising thought the network of bridges connecting the Danish archipelago. The most popular way to cross from Denmark to Sweden is the Öresund Bridge. A magnificent display of modern engineering, at almost 5 miles in length – it’s the longest road and rail bridge in Europe and carries an average of 17,000 vehicles a day. The vast structure is in itself impressive, but matched with the views from 80m above the sea and a vast wind-farm churning away in the distance, it becomes a fantastic welcome to Sweden.
Jönköping was the next stop over, and we arrived early evening to give us time to ride the cliff-top pathway into town, overlooking Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second and Europe’s 6th largest lake. It was the first real stop, and it was nice to have a look around, skim some stones and enjoy being in a foreign country. The tranquility of the lake was a welcome contrast to highway transit we’d been embracing for almost two days straight. On the ride back from dinner we came across a new looking skatepark with some interesting features. An opportunity never missed we spent the next hour riding the concrete lines on our varying selection of bikes in the dark before retiring to our beds.
The final leg of the journey landed us in Stockholm just after midday. Here we were greeted with a warm Scandinavian welcome from the organisers of ScanfitFest who were very excited by our arrival at the Kistamässan Exhibition Center, and having seen a lot of our videos, were eager to see in person just what the rig looked like and what we could do on it. The show was quickly set up in it’s spacious new home for the next 3 days and we headed to the hotel to check in and attend the event meeting where we were welcomed by the event visionary Ulf Laurang. His words were really inspirational and it was clear that he has a huge passion for what he’s trying to create in Sweden. Everyone was introduced and it was clear to see that we were in the company of some of the elite in their field; Dance and Fitness instructors who had traveled from as far afield as America, Male and Female Freestyle Football World Champions, Stockholm’s finest Free runners and of course, two of the worlds best mountain bikers!
Our first show would be the grand finale to the opening ceremony which was hosted by former Miss Sweden, Annika Duckmark, we couldn’t understand much, but when she passed over to me on the mic I’m pretty sure she asked me if I was single!? Either way there’s no time for flirting when you’ve driven 1000miles to deliver liquid gold entertainment and introduce the Animal Bike Tour to a virgin audience. Needless to say we killed it, and even though heartbroken, even Annika was stoked out to the max as Martyn and Blake threw down some of their best moves, eager to prove that their performances taste of awesomeness in any language!
The opening day was free to students who had descended upon the event to join in the huge array of fitness classes – from Gangster Hip Hop Dance and Zumba, to Warrier and Pole Dancing. I chose to partake in a Military Workout – bad move! I have to say I wouldn’t like to go to war against Sweden, to call them fit would be an offensive understatement!
A couple of local friends who had come to the event invited us out that evening to join them in a training session of the national sport called “Pingis” (‘round the table’ – a form of table tennis) and be part of Team Licha for the night. Martyn and Blake decided to conserve their energy, but myself and Robin headed into central Stockholm to represent for the UK. The venue for the training session, all though turning out to be what can only be described as an underground bar, was packed with Pingi competitors, and we were soon in the swing of the game playing with somewhere in the region of 30 others at the same time on the same table! Even the Pingis National Champion made an appearance! Robin strapped a Kodak Playsport to his bat for one of the games – the footage should be amusing! Thanks to Alicia and Emily.
The weekend progressed with people coming and going, and between shows we had the opportunity to experience the other activities at the festival, a little bit of Zumba with the Zumba Twins, celebrities in that wild and crazy world! There was a basketball exhibition match between the two best teams in Stockholm who were quite happy to let Blake and I shoot some hoops with them. Bake had a little try at pole dancing, apparently a lot harder than is looks, and for onlookers, a lot less arousing! He also became rather smitten with the sport of Power Hooping, as you’ll see from the video…
We played keep-me-up’s with the worlds best freestyle footballers (who were completely un-judgmental of our lack of elegance). There were a variant of inflatable games which we took full advantage of, and an awesome parkour/free running/tricking area which was filled with not only Stockholm’s best, but athletes who had come as far as Russia to inspire the Scandinavian people with their smooth fusion of acrobatics and street influenced style.
We joined in with some of the freerunning workshops and were taught a few things – including backflips off the floor, which for me has been a lifetime ambition. It was interesting to see Martyn and Blake joining in the various challenges of gap jumps and leaps of faith. The styles they employed as they worked out how to utilise their body’s as the tool to launch across features when very much used to being on a bike in such situations.
Having bonded with the guys we got chatting and came up with the idea of trying to integrate the guys into our show. They were really keen, and after a bit of experimenting we performed our most enjoyable shows of the weekend. This could well be a part of the Animal Bike Tour in the Future – watch this space!!
A special mention has to go to the Pièce de résistance at the festival, the Segways! Having befriended the owner of Segway Sweden, who in his day was a motorcycle stuntman, Robin found his new calling as Segway Stuntman – bringer of doom and world Segway firsts, I shan’t give too much away, you’ll have to watch the video, but lets just say that some of the Animal Bike Tour features were put to full use and lot’s of fun was had!
So as the event came to an end on Sunday evening we all felt that had been a positive experience, and as we said our goodbyes having gorged ourselves on Max Hamburgare – the finest Swedish fast food, we were filled with nothing but good memories and hamburgers!
We changed our travel plans slightly and headed off that evening back to Jönköping, 3 hours south, to try for an early session the next morning at the skatepark we’d discovered on the way over. We were super lucky with the weather as after an hour session the heavens opened and the rain poured like you’ve never seen!
The plan had always been to get to Malmö in time to get a session at their skatepark, another 4 hours further south, one of the worlds best bowls, and a regular feature on the Bowlmasters skate series which only has 3 stops. We headed straight there and arrived to a bone dry concrete park! Not believing our luck the session began and it definitely lived up to it’s reputation as one of the worlds best!
We were again graced with the companionship of familiar Swedish faces, and blessed with local knowledge had us booked into an amazing restaurant at the main square in the centre of Malmö. Having felt like all he’d seen do far were the inner walls of the hotel, the Kistamässan and Max Hamburgare, Martyn was over the moon so see the such beautiful examples of traditional Swedish architecture. The food was beautiful and the company delicious! It was a great last meal in Sweden. Thanks to Nicole and Anna.
Following an early morning walk around town for some sightseeing, and to pick up our final presents, we were back on the road for the homeward journey with plenty of time to reflect on what had been a fantastic stop for the Animal Bike Tour. The event may not have had a large attendance, but we had made new friends, learned new skills, come up with new show ideas, learned a little Swedish, a lot about Swedish table tennis, and fully confirmed our opinion that Sweden is one of the friendliest and most pleasant places in the world.
Upon our return I think we all enjoyed the one night we spent in our own beds before heading to Newquay for the next stop of the tour, but that’s another story!….