Somewhere in 2017 I heard about a thing called the “Trans Euro Trail”, which was described as a “cultural dirt road adventure from deep within the Arctic Circle to the doorstep of Africa … and back, comprising of over 38,000km of dirt road, through some of Europe’s most remote, diverse and inspirational landscapes.”
To me, a motorcycle enthusiast and traveller who prefers to go off the beaten path, this sounded as music to my ears.
Plans were made, routes were plotted and by the end of 2017 preparations for my TET adventure were in full swing.
The route :
Belgium – Netherlands – Germany – Denmark – Sweden – Norway and then back to Belgium. On the way up north, I would follow the Trans Euro Trail, and on the way back I would take the smaller back roads, steering far away of highways and interstates.
The timeframe :
June 16th – June 29th, taking advantage of the long days with many hours of daylight to cover large distances, but to also build in multiple breaks from being in the saddle or on the foot pegs.
The bike :
Triumph Tiger 800XC (MY14), upgraded and modified to handle the dirt roads, carry my luggage and accommodate for a slightly larger than average rider.
The rider :
A 47 year old kid with little to no off road experience on motorcycles.
Day 1 : Belgium – Netherlands
With a little delay and a quick stopover at my local Triumph dealership, I headed out to join the TET track in the Netherlands.
From the start I knew the track would consist of long stretches of -at times very- soft sand. The theory behind riding (soft) sand is easy enough : bring the weight to the back, keep the front light and keep momentum.
The first kilometers in this soft stuff got me scared shitless, but as the day progressed I got more and more confident and increased my speed little by little.
When the track changed from sand into sealed roads, it was all small back roads leading you through nice scenery and small towns where you can get food, drinks and fuel.
With about 300 km in very nice weather, I was tired enough to go look for a campsite to enjoy a good night sleep.
Day 2 : Netherlands
As the Dutch TET track south to north spans a little over 550 kilometers, I decided to ride it in 2 days.
When yesterday I had the feeling there was a lot of sand, today I got the feeling there was nothing but sand. Of course, this is a slight exaggeration, as there was also a good deal of nice forest roads, single tracks, tracks on river banks and sealed roads.
For the novice off road rider I am, the stretches of sealed road were welcome resting points where I could get off the foot pegs and drop back in the saddle. Riding standing on the foot pegs requires some getting used to.
Again, the second section of the Dutch track leads you through small towns with ample opportunity to buy food, drinks and fuel.
Day 3 : Germany
Due to legal restrictions, the German TET track has no off road in it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it as an easy, relaxing ride along nice twisty roads, that brought me from the Netherlands to Denmark; a perfect way to recover from two days hard work on the Dutch TET.
Over the day, the weather got gradually worse and by the time I reached the campsite it was pouring. Of course, right after pitching the tent, it stopped raining and the sun came out.
Day 4 : Denmark
The Danish TET track brings more nice twisty roads with very nice scenery, mixed with some bigger an slightly less interesting roads.
Same as for Germany, off road riding in Denmark is prohibited so, apart from a few short stretches of gravel, the Danish TET track has no off road.
Connecting to Sweden the last 40 km were not much fun as there was a lot of traffic and the track takes you right through Copenhagen.
Day 5 : Sweden (pt 1 and 2)
The Swedish TET track consists of a number of sections in the south of the country that lead you into Norway and then continues going north after the Norwegian track brings you back into Sweden.
Today I had planned to ride section 1 and 2 of the Swedish TET track (south to north).
As the day started cloudy and as the weather app predicted not much good, I decided to dress for rain, hoping this way I would stay dry.
Little did I know that the first section of the Swedish TET was going to introduce me to real gravel riding and that I would be sweating my ass off trying to keep the Tiger two wheels down.
Keep in mind, the Tiger is no lightweight enduro bike. With the added luggage and the scale tipping at 250kg, it can even be considered big and heavy.
But, much like my introduction to riding in sand, I gradually got more confident and after some time I started to really enjoy it.
Between the long stretches of gravel, there were some nice twisty roads, single tracks and forest roads.
Halfway through the day it started raining cats and dogs and about 3/4 of the second section done I had to look for shelter. Luckily, the track passed a “barn” where I could safely park the bike and wait for the weather to improve.
About an hour and a half later, the rain became less and the wind calmed down. As it was already getting late, I decided to go to the nearest campsite, where I arrived soaking wet and really tired.
Day 6 : Sweden (rest)
After 5 days in the saddle and on the foot pegs it was time to take a day off to rest, rethink my packing, stock up on food and let my gloves, helmet and goggles dry.
Day 7 : Sweden
Day 7, and what a day !
Section 3 (south to north) of the Swedish TET was by far the most beautiful section of TET I have ridden so far. Fast twisty hard pack, narrow single tracks, easy gravel, hard gravel, hill climbs, scary parts and fun parts.
Part of the adventure that riding the TET is, is that you never know what lies around the corner. In my case, today, it was a birch tree.
Since there was no way around it and it was too heavy to move it I had to take out my “saw” and start cutting those branches. About 30 minutes later sweat was running down my back and the road was “cleared”.
As a keen wildlife photographer, I was pleased to spot so much wildlife; dear, woodpeckers, pheasants, hares and elks (moose). Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle and taking pictures at the same time proved impossible. And by the time I could hit the brakes, the animals were already far gone.
Day 8 : Sweden
Day 8 had a difficult start.
Folding the tent proved to be a real challenge with the heavy wind and when I finally got packed, I noticed a leak on several clamps of the cooling tubes. Out came the tool roll and half an hour later all the clamps where tightened.
On to section 4 of Swedish TET (south to north) then. Wide smooth gravel roads brought me through the Swedish country side and along numerous beautiful lakes. Nothing really challenging, but a nice relaxing ride into Norway.
When looking for a campsite I was invited to set up my tent next to a group of Norwegian Africa Twin riders.
Free food, free drinks and good company … life is grand !
Day 9 : Norway
In my search for food, fuel and a campsite yesterday, I strayed away from the Norwegian TET. As opposed of what I have been doing before, I did not return to the point where I left the TET, but re-joined the track a bit further north.
This means that I can’t comment on the first part of the track, but I’m sure it’s worth riding if you’re in the area.
For the rest, I found the Norwegian gravel roads a lot harder to ride than the Swedish. Although they are as wide, there are a lot of potholes and ruts, that keep the bike moving and require more focus. For seasoned riders this shouldn’t be a problem, but for me another new sensation to get used to.
Apart from the gravel roads, there were a couple of smaller tracks that were a little bit more challenging and there was even a stretch of loose sand, but all still doable with the big bike and heaps of fun.
But, as it is pointed out on the TET website and as it is repeatedly explained in the forum and the Facebook group, the TET track is not a fixed route, but only a “guideline” provided by fellow riders to be ridden at your own pace and within your own and your bikes capabilities.
This became apparent when I arrived at a “very” overgrown decent with rather deep ruts and some slippery rocks. Although it wasn’t a very long stretch, I decided that the risk of tackling this section was too high and that it was safer and smarter just to go around it.
In the afternoon it was back to smooth, wide gravel roads with the occasional smaller tracks, all doable with bigger bikes. The scenery, once you get up there, above the tree line, is just amazing, but sheep and cows roam freely, so be careful and keep your eyes on the road.
Day 10 : Norway
Day 10 and also the final day of my TET adventure.
Today I completed the first section of the Norwegian TET (south to north).
For a novice rider on a rather heavy, fully loaded bike, the Norwegian TET track was at times challenging.
The Peer Gynt road was fun and relaxing but when the TET track steered away from it to lead me over old mountain routes, overgrown forest roads and rocky hill climbs, I sometimes had to work hard to keep the Tiger two wheels down.
By late afternoon, I started to feel really tired and just as I was looking for a nice place to rest and cook some food, I turned left at an intersection, lost balance and had to lay down the bike.
After a short rest, drinking some water and eating some cookies, I unloaded the bike to reduce the weight and put it back on its “feet”. Luckily, apart from some scratches on the crash bar and a little dent in the rider’s ego, no damage was done.
In the afternoon the track followed a small river and threw some dried-out river crossings at me. Although fun to do, they proved to be harder than they looked.
Arriving at the campsite that evening, I could barely setup my tent and fell asleep right after I inflated my sleeping mattress and unfolded my sleeping bag.
Sad that my TET adventure was over, but so thankful for the amazing time that was had.