Issue Twenty Five

To Whom My Bike Takes Me

The Story Of Friendship

WORDS x Hanna Jonsson
PHOTOS x Johan Haag - Petri Paananen - Martin Bütler - Steve Murphy - Niklas Wallner - Luca Mara

6 September 2017
Part One

There is this saying trending in the bike world – “Where my bike takes me” – referring to amazing places you travel to and discover thanks to mountain biking. And it is true, the places you go with your bike tend to be amazing, even mind-blowing at times. But to me, like many others, going to all these places wouldn’t be half as exciting without the people you are there with. I mean, a ride in the local forest wouldn’t even be as exciting if it weren’t for these people. A big part of riding, is hanging out with your friends on a mountaintop, in a forest, or after a ride at the local pub.

I’d like to make a stand for a new saying – “To whom my bike takes me”. I have mountain biking to thank for so much when it comes to the amazing people I find myself surrounded by. Some are just acquaintances, some riding buddies, some I only see during biking season. But some stick around. Some have become more like family. Some I see or talk to every day – they are the first ones I call when I want to go for a ride, drink a cup of coffee or just watch bad TV. One of those is Lina.

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Part Two

“Hej, my name is Hanna. Want to ride bikes?”

A lot of us probably have “a Lina” – someone we’ve met through biking, clicked with, grown stronger with, shared adventures with, became more than riding buddies with. I know it sounds cliché, but before I met her I had always dreamed of having a friend who was up for the same types of adventures as me, who wanted city life, but also wanted to escape into the wilderness. Someone who made life into something more than just 9-5 workdays.

I met Lina the way most people meet their partner these days – over the Internet. I had heard of her before though as my boyfriend bumped into her years ago riding bikes in Spain and had started the standard “Oh, you from Sweden? My girlfriend is Swedish”-conversation. So when I moved to Stockholm in 2012, and didn’t know anyone, I decided to send her a Facebook message: “Hi, my name is Hanna. I have just moved to Stockholm and I don’t know anyone. Would you mind showing me some of the local bike trails?”.

“Yes of course”, she responded. And that’s how it started

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Part Three

First Impressions

Although I tend to put on this brave, outgoing face when I meet new people, I always have to push myself to go outside my comfort zone and the morning I was meeting up with Lina was no different.

It was a grey and rainy when I made my way across the city. I remember being nervous because I wanted to make a good impression – I had just moved back to Sweden after 17 years abroad and really needed some friends.

She stood waiting at the car park when I arrived – she was early, I was late (the story of our friendship) – and I will never forget our first meeting. She spotted me and gave me a big smile and said “Hi, you must be Hanna. You know you’ve got your front tyre on the wrong way?”. God damn it! So much for first impressions.

But after a slightly awkward start, we ended up having a good day out in the forest. Although I felt like I made massive fool of my bike skills and myself – the place we rode was super flat and technical and I had never ridden anything like it before – Lina didn’t seem to mind and after the ride she even invited me up to the local bike park the following weekend. They had a spot over in their cabin, and I could have it if I wanted.

I still don’t know if she sensed that I was potential friend material, or if she just felt sorry for me. But that was the beginning of what would become an amazing friendship.

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Part Four

Equally obsessed about bikes

That first weekend away was a benchmark for the weekends to come. We would, together with the rest of the mountain bike pack from Stockholm, migrate up to the small town of Järvsö to ride the bike park. We would drive up, live, cook and ride together – there probably isn’t a better (or quicker) way to get to know people. We’d always be around ten people staying together in a cabin and every weekend it would be a different combination of people. Lina would introduce me to everyone and it didn’t take long until I had become part of the “crew”.

I guess I got lucky meeting Lina, and her taking me under her wing, because, as it turned out, she knew everyone. Having ridden, raced and worked with bikes for the last few years, she had grown a huge network. Industry people, bike park owners, professional and non-professional riders, photographers – she knew them all. She lived and breathed bikes. It just felt right from the start. “Here is a girl that is just as obsessed with the bike world as I am”, I remember thinking. “I am not letting her out of my sight”.

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Part Five

Starting up our own race series

Lina and I could have remained “only” riding buddies for some time if it hadn’t been for this one conversation we had going up the lift in Järvsö Bike Park. I had an idea about starting up dual slalom races in Stockholm, but didn’t know the scene or the right people, so I pitched my idea to Lina. “What if we create our own dual slalom races in Stockholm? They would be super chilled and just for fun?”. Lina, who’d already been involved in setting up underground downhill races in Stockholm, took the bait and got super enthusiastic. Pretty amazing really, considering she’d known me for about two days.

We spent many evenings at her apartment planning, getting sponsors and buying equipment. We were the perfect team – I had the plan and she had the connections and local knowledge. Even if only 16 people came to that first race back in November 2012, it was a success. People had loved it, we’d had fun and somewhere along the line, we’d become good friends. We still actually host a race or two each year and now get triple the turn out.

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Part Six

Going international

After that first autumn it was like we built up this connection to one another – slowly, but surely we were become closer and closer. It was just so easy to connect with her: she was obsessed with bikes, so was I; she had a foreign boyfriend who barley spoke Swedish, so did I; she loved to travel with her bike, so did I; she was always up for an adventure, so was I.

It didn’t take long until we started traveling together. We’d race Swedish enduros all over the country, we’d go to the local bike parks and we’d soon venture abroad. Our first destination was Visp in Switzerland. I’d been asked if I wanted to do a travel story out there and said yes (of course), but only if I could bring Lina. Traveling together was easy; we’d been away together so many weekends back in Sweden, that this was no different. Riding together was also easy. Lina has always been a better rider than me, but I wasn’t too far behind and was always up for the challenge of trying to stay with her.

That trip to Switzerland was the beginning of a new chapter in our friendship – suddenly there were no barriers, the world was ours. Over the years we’ve travelled to amazing places in Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand and Norway. We’ve lived, ridden and raced together.

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Part Seven


In-between planning rides, trips, our own races and riding bikes, we would also just hang out. A lot. To hangout without bikes is, to me, what differs ridding buddies from real friends. It is easy to hang out with someone when you’re riding, but you don’t become real friends until you stop hiding behind two wheels, because that is when you really get to know someone.

Lina and I did just that. And it was never weird, it came naturally and our bonds have continuously grown stronger. Over the years, we’ve become intertwined in so many different ways. We don’t just ride, we also have dinner parties, go out for breakfast before work, go for coffee, go to the gym. I can open up to her in ways I don’t do with many people. Steve, Lina’s partner, have helped me out with my bike more times than I remember. I think I know their kitchen almost as well as my own, and I don’t know how many times I have cooked dinner there. When Lina quit her last job, she recommended me and I got to be her successor. Then she came back for a while, and we actually worked two desks down from each other. Our lives have become crisscrossed in ways I would never have imagined.

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Part Eight

More apart than together

I make it sound like we hang out 24/7, but that is not actually the case. For large portions of time we have not even in the same country. We’ve spent whole summers apart because I’ve be out adventuring in Europe and she’s be off to Whistler. She’s gone to New Zealand for three months one winter, and I’ve gone off the next winter. We have probably spent half of the time we’ve known each other apart, but it has never mattered. It has never been weird seeing each other again; it is more like the best thing ever catching up on everything that’s been going on. Steve once refused to go in the car with us to Norway because he knew we would talk non-stop for the entire eight-hour drive.

He was right of course. We do seem to have never-ending conversations. It is like we never run out of things to say to each other. At one point Steve stopped going on evening rides with us because he thought we talked too much and rode too little. “No point going with you two, you never get any riding done”, he used to say.

But we do get some riding done. Together we seem to never run out of ideas or new places we want to ride. Writing down all of our adventures would take too long, we’ve been through so many different phases. There was the enduro phase, where we’d travel all over Sweden to race the local series and also go abroad to race a few EWS races. That phase involved a lot of intervals and no wine. There was the injured phase, where one of us was injured, frustrated and couldn’t ride. That phase involved gym work, rehab and a lot of wine. Currently we are in the lifestyle phase, where we just ride bikes and have fun. It involves a lot of laughs and, once again, a lot of wine. How we’ve managed to fit all of this in to five years is a mystery. I feel like I have known her forever.

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Part Nine

Perfectly compatible

From day one, I have looked up to Lina, and I will always continue to do so. But I think the feeling is mutual. I see so much of myself in her, and in some aspects we are alike, but in many ways we are also completely different. Maybe that is why we work so well together.

We are obsessed with bikes, love a bit of gossip and need to challenge ourselves to not get restless. But we are also different. Lina is straight-forward, knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks. After an enduro race a few years ago she exclaimed after seeing our results “HOW can we only be 4 seconds apart, I am so much faster than you!”. I remember one of the girls next to us looking a bit chocked, it might have sounded a little harsh – but that is one of the reasons why I love her, I always know where I’ve got her. Just like that first day we met and she started off our friendship by telling me I had put my front tyre on the wrong way. There is no bullshit with Lina, and it is so refreshing.

I, on the other hand, might be a bit more flexible, not too fussed about when things don’t go my way and a little bit more unorganized. When we most recently met up in New Zealand, we went to watch the EWS race in Rotorua, and as soon as we stepped on the shuttle bus to get to the start of the race, she got her phone out and said “So, I’ve taken a photo of all the different race times so that we know when to be where”. I, of course, hadn’t even thought about that and couldn’t help but give her a hug a say “Oh, how I’ve missed you”.

That is how we work. She teaches me to stand up for myself and get my life more organised, and I teach her to take a step back and maybe enjoy another glass of wine.

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Part Ten

To all the “Lina’s” out there

In the end, there is no other riding partner I trust more than Lina. If she says jump, I jump. I know she knows my riding skills better than myself. But there are also few others that I trust in life, as much as I trust her. She has become one of my best friends, in the shortest amount of time, and I have mountain biking, and only mountain biking, to thank for that. There is no other way we would have met. With a 16 years age gap, we would have gone our entire lives without even knowing about one another. I would have lost out on one of my most precious friendships – on AND off the bike.

So let’s make a stand for all the amazing people we’ve met through biking. I am sure I am not the only one with “a Lina” out there. I bet our amazing, inter-aged, inter-cultural bike community is overflowing with unusual, but amazing friendships, that all started out on two wheels. In the end, the places our bikes take us are only as amazing as the people we go there with.

To whom my bike takes me.

The End
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