IT ALL started with Ozzie, a Scandinavian male nurse who was doing some training (paid for by his government, of course) in Adelaide. He was pulled over on his Sporty by the state’s finest one Saturday night then grilled at length about his involvement with a well known and very serious MC. As it happened, they were a bit like the World Bank to Ozzie—he’d heard the name but didn’t really know who they were, where they were based, what they did or who they did it to.
A couple of years later his training was over, Ozzie was heading back home and a bunch of us were issued invitations to sample some Swedish hospitality.
Two years on and in one frantic fortnight I enjoyed unexpectedly generous welcomes from members of Inkslingers MC, Freja Freaks MC, Hells Angels MC Gothenburg, Hells Angels MC Goth Town, and Red Devils MC Gothenburg. People from other clubs—I’d guess about another 15—were as hospitable as time and circumstances allowed, and there was always a drink or a ride or an invitation or something to eat on offer.
The bike club world is very different to anything in Australia, and due to the splendid hospitality of the Freja Freaks and my own poor record when it comes to saying, “No thanks, I’ve had enough,” I may not have got a 100 percent clear understanding of how it all works. But to the best of my understanding, in Sweden back in the 1980s, it seemed that if you could muster about five people you could start a bike club. It soon spiralled out of control so they started the Region System (sometimes called the Swedish Model).
This is based on the idea of 10 geographical Regions that together cover the entire country, so bikers themselves can regulate the number and location of clubs. It’s an informal but widely accepted arrangement that actually works well in practice.
Anyone wanting to start a club now has to apply to their local Region’s committee to see if the name they’ve selected has already been taken, and to ensure that what they plan is a serious club and ‘not just a bunch of beer drinkers strutting about with a patch on’. This only applies to Harley type clubs; social clubs can put whatever they want on their backs, including a three-piece patch. This includes the females. You can probably assume that any really serious clubs will go their own way regardless, but there are other mechanisms in place to deal with that sort of situation.
As a rule there needs to be at least five members with bikes, a clubroom, and a commitment to only wearing a front patch for the first year before graduating to full colours. In that year it’s expected that they’d visit all the other Region clubs at least once to introduce themselves.
The rules are slightly different in Gothenburg where new clubs need to show more members and have a longer probation period. Gothenburg already has more than 30 clubs, some from the 1970s, and half a million people so there’s probably already a club that would be a good fit for most people.
There’s an element of Australia circa 1970 about all this: a time when clubs were establishing themselves and the ground rules that most could more or less agree on, but it’s allied with that Swedish genius for getting along with the neighbours.
The Freja Freaks from West Gothia, near Gothenburg, are a long established club, widely known and respected for their classic Swedish choppers. Their well equipped workshop turns out consistently high standard bikes that would hold their own anywhere on the planet, and the attached clubrooms have a bar that envelops you in stress free comfort straight away. Ozzie was a frequent visitor here and I tried to help out by boosting the bar takings—not easy when they keep refusing your money!
The down side to living in Sweden is that the riding season is a short six months, and that’s for the hardy cases. This year it started unexpectedly early in mid April but normally it’s more or less from May through to October when the sub Arctic chill really starts to bite and the old Volvo gets a whole lot more appealing. Looking on the bright side, this in turn means plenty of productive time can be spent at the bench— ‘three months around the clock’ in Torbjörn’s case.
To Australian eyes, the immediate impact of Torbjörn’s chopper has to be those beautifully extended forks. The law in Sweden is wonderfully vague about what’s permissible, and the only law governing the length of forks is that the rider must be able to control the bike in traffic. These are14-inch-over, meaning the front wheel sits 14 inches further forward than stock, although Torbjörn has a friend whose forks are a massive 32-inches-over.
The 1340 engine has a new racing cam and has been ported and rebored with high compression pistons and new valves, and the smooth lines of the exhaust are courtesy of Paul Yaffe in the USA.
The digital speedo and rev counter sit tidily beside the rider’s right knee, and there are 120 spokes on each of the 18-inch wheels. The rear’s a respectable 200 wide.
Apart from the locally built frame and the paintwork which he designed using computer graphics, Torbjörn did all the work on his bike himself which is a remarkable achievement for someone who’s never actually built a bike before.
Depending on family and work commitments, the bike’s covered a lot of miles in the four years it’s been running, and Torbjörn has no further changes planned as he reckons he’s got it right now. “It’s good to ride, no problems, got good handling and acceleration.”
Normal cruising is easy at around the130 km/h mark, and he’ll own up to passing 200 “once or twice, with a few wobbles”. And showing that bikers are much the same all over the world, he adds that “Now all my time and energy can go into the new bike: that’ll be 24-inch-over.”
words & pics by Chris Randells