Day 45 – Thursday 8th of August – Tronboholmen to Stockholm (370km)
As I was falling asleep the previous night, hearing the faint sound of singing teenagers through the earplugs, I thought that I would get up early, pack things and then fire up the engine and let it run for a while, just to wake them up before leaving. When I woke up it was raining again, so I had to wait and wait until it stopped at about 10 am and when I stepped out of the tent, there was no trace of the teenagers.
I got the tent dry enough to pack it and left for Stockholm after programming in the GPS the addresses of two bike shops that were listed as Suzuki dealers. I got to the first one, which was on my way into the city, at about 3 pm, it was an enormous place, with lots of other brands as well as Suzuki. I walked into the workshop and told the guy there about the noise the chain was making, and after checking it he said that it was completely worn and needed replacing. I had also decided to replace the back tire, it still had some thread on it, but definitely not enough to last all the way back to Barcelona, and even less so with a passenger. They checked and they had a Metzeler in stock, as well as a chain and sprockets kit for the V-Strom, which meant that I could get everything done before heading to Helsinki. I told them I would come back the following morning to get it done, but the mechanic said he would be too busy and told me to come back in an hour and a half, so I went to the hostel, dropped my bags, met a Canadian guy called Andrew who was staying in my room and rode back to the workshop.
I have now ridden in lots of different countries, and if you asked me about the best and the worst drivers, I could probably give you a pretty accurate answer, albeit probably a surprising one. I was expecting Swedish drivers to be one of the best, but it turns out they are not. Sure, they obey traffic signs and they stick to the speed limits as if their lives depended on them but that does not make them safe drivers. If I had to choose the best drivers of all I have seen, that would be the Italians. Now, this might surprise a lot of people, but let me explain. It is true that Italians drive fast, very fast, and also aggressively, but contrary to what most people believe, it is not speed that is dangerous. In good roads, with good weather and a good car, you can go fast and it is perfectly safe. No, it is not the speed that is important to safety, what really is important is being aware of what is happening around your car. All around it, in front, sides and back, and the Italians do, they know what is going on around their cars and drive accordingly. Swedes, however, do not. They keep their eyes straight ahead, too busy reading speed limit signs and talking on their mobile phones to notice anything around them, happily sitting in the middle or outer lane while there are faster cars behind them, causing tremendous traffic jams in the way into the capital.
To make matters worse, by the time they were done with my bike and it was time to go back to the hostel, it was pouring down again, and I got there with suit completely wet, dripping all over the place.
The whole thing had cost quite a lot of money, but it had to be done… Now the bike was ready for the last part of the trip.