The Forest Fighters

Bikes

Swedes: outdoor types. Your Swede is not intimidated by a bit of inclement weather. While the majority of British motorcyclists hibernate (some, it has to be said, to save their bikes from being eaten by road salt), Anders Nordén and his friends are sump-deep in fresh powder on three generations of lairy motorcycles.

Anders is the founding member of the Forest Fighters, a loose-knit, ten-strong bike club who get their two-wheeled kicks in the most extreme conditions.

As soon as Anders and his mates discovered their fellow countrymen had campaigned hard to ensure Sweden’s lakes remained free of speed limits, they realised this lack of restriction applied when the lake was frozen too.

Sweden has Draconian speed enforcement. Therefore the liberation of nailing a bike in a winter wonderland was too much to ignore. And it wasn’t long before Anders had fitted his first generation Suzuki GSX-R750 with studded knobbly tyres and learnt how to drift his sportsbike on ice.

‘The thing is when you ride on the lake,’ Anders explains, ‘especially if you have black ice – which is very seldom because you normally have snow on the ice, you have consistent grip. So you can do what the big guys do in MotoGP. And you can gear up in the middle of a turn when you are going sideways. A quick gear change and the rear keeps spinning. Try to do that on tarmac and you are in orbit.’

And accuracy isn’t an issue. ‘On the lake you can miss the apex by 50m, so what? You end up somewhere else.’

The Scandinavians, Russians and North Americans regularly hold motorcycle races on frozen lakes, but Anders is pretty sure he’s the first to choose to ride GSX-Rs on ice rather than more specific race bikes, or more sensible motocrossers. But even the GSX-R’s lunacy pales next to what some of the Forest Fighters choose to ride. How would you fancy throwing 300-plus kilogrammes of six-cylinder Kawasaki Z1300 into an 80mph powerslide? Nope, me neither. Perhaps a Gold Wing GL1100 then?

The club do not exclusively use old muscle bikes. A brand new Ducati Hypermotard made it onto the lakes this winter, but cutting edge machinery isn’t ideal for frozen lake frivolity.

‘Most sportbike rims are too wide for the tyres we use,’ says Anders. These are Trelleborg knobblies with over 100 short metal studs to grip the ice. The Forest Fighters know that the tyres disintegrate at 130mph… ‘The old GSX-R750 rim is narrow, it’s perfect. The Hypermotard is running a 5.5in rear rim. Fit a motocross tyre and the profile is very flat. And the more modern bikes don’t have enough clearance between the tyres we need to use and the radiators, swingarm and bodywork.’
Still, there are very few barriers to pen the Forest Fighters’ insanity. The point is illustrated clearly by their next plan.

‘I also scuba dive,’ says Anders. ‘I have been training to do ice diving. Next winter we are going to put up some cones to make a track, then dive under the circuit with a video camera to film from below as the bike is going sideways above us. I think the sound would be awesome.’

Anders rides in summer too, touring to motorcycle Meccas like the Nürburgring and the Isle of Man, but winter riding is what he loves the most.

‘My absolute favourite kind of riding is up a ski slope. You can’t have any more fun than that. You need to know the guys who prepare the slope, though. If you hit a skier…’

Photography by Anders Norden

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