Blood, sweat and tears

Kenneth Olausson

Usually, it is cold, damp and wet. But snow and ice aren’t uncommon. The 24-hour enduro race named Novemberkåsan is more grueling than any 6-Days. Here's what ‘the Trophy of November’ is all about…

Suddenly, a flickering light comes dancing through the black forest. Then a bike comes to a halt, the light beam pointing up in the air as the bike has stalled in a water trap. There’s silence. With steaming motorcycle beneath him, a swearing rider announces he will never be back. Yet in his heart he knows that this is his life ambition. A few minutes later the rider restarts his bike, bringing the engine roaring back to life. He continues the race. He continues the Novemberkåsan story…

Novemberkåsan is the oldest and most well known race in Sweden. No other brand can claim as many victories as Husqvarna. The enduro to end all enduros began back in 1915 – just over one hundred years ago, when Swede Gunnar Enderlein won on his Royal Enfield.

One of the more remarkable races was held back in 1925 when Edvin Sagström was the sole competitor to reach the finish line. However he was so late – more than a whole day late – that the organisers cancelled the race and Sagström was not counted as the overall winner. The words uttered when he found out can, understandably, not be printed here...

As the name implies this macho male graduation test is held yearly in November when Sweden can be wet or icy, or both. Besides being a good rider, successful Novemberkåsan competitors have to be in great physical condition, have a perfect mental state and also be able to service their machine as a knowledgeable mechanic.

The first stage during the day is very tough - but it is during the night stage when riders get tired, thirsty, hungry and exhausted. It’s at night that the true adventure begins. It helps eating a lot of carrots for better night vision. "Like a rabbit," Rolf Tibblin, the five time Husqvarna Novemberkåsan winner used to say.

"You also have to be strong enough to carry your bike through the worst water holes,” told Tibblin, remembering his winning days for Husqvarna. “Patience is also needed since the engine is often full of water. Mentally, you have to think that things are surely worse for the other competitors in the race! If my bike sank to the motor, the others may have to save it from the height of the petrol tank..."

So, what's this super tough event all about? The enduro must exceed 400 kilometers (250 miles), which is covered once during the day and twice during the night! Generally, there are 10 to 12 special test stages on each lap, whereas the rest is considered to be ‘transport roads’ where the normal speed limits cannot be broken. In 1965 the temperatures during the night were below -25 degrees. And in this grueling weather Husqvarna showed their superior quality, dominating the race entirely.

Bike preparation is of essential importance. More often than not the tyres are studded with 400 - 500 spikes and water protection – to keep it out – is also cared for with extra love. Team mechanics follow their riders and can assist during intervals at service points. Throughout the years there has been no prize money paid out to the winners of any category or class.

So why bother? Well, this is among the truest art of motorcycling, where only the real fanatics compete. Winning Novemberkåsan is a real moral victory and considered to be a fantastic accomplishment. “To beat all competitors – around one-hundred nowadays – is a real treat", says one of the more successful modern riders.

These fantastic men on their flying machines... and mostly on Husqvarnas since the start in 1915. That's what we call brand heritage!