Tag Archives: bike touring

Evolution of a lightweight bike touring rig

Goodbye to the panniers

Goodbye panniers

Earlier this summer, my brother and I set off on what should have been a 3,500 mile bike tour around the mountainous west of the U.S. for two months. Things didn’t go to plan when I crashed badly on day 9 so we returned home to DC whilst I recovered. However, I’m now better and itching to get back out on the bike. We’ve spent the downtime going through our kit item-by-item, paring down to the absolute minimum and transitioning from panniers to full bike-packing setup. As I alluded to in this post, I believe my previous setup with two heavy rear panniers was a contributing factor in the crash. A rethink was needed.

Below is a brief history of my bike touring equipment, showing a general progression towards a lightweight setup.

Bike touring version 1 – 1997 to 2006

I began touring way back in my teenage years, on a 26″ mountain bike. This culminated in a 3 month tour across Norway in 2006, at the peak of my fully loaded setup:

Cycling above the Arctic Circle

Fully loaded above the Arctic Circle, on my 2006 Norway tour

I had two large rear panniers, two smaller front panniers, a bar bag, and a tent and sleeping mat attached to the top of my rear rack. I was certainly not in the lightweight category but I still encountered plenty of heavier laden cyclists during my travels through Norway. I did post some kit home during the tour and suffered numerous broken rear spokes, so the setup was far from ideal. Still, it was relatively stable fore and aft, but rather heavy going uphill. I carried a Terra Nova Voyager tent (2.2 kg), as well as a stove, plenty of warm clothes and food. I was still a novice tourer, carrying too many “spare” items and always an excess of food in my panniers. Overall though, the tour was a fantastic experience and hugely enjoyable.

Bike touring version 2 – 2013/14

After a long period away from bike touring (I spent most of my holidays mountaineering or trekking), I returned to cycling with a vengeance, as a way to explore a new region of the world, when I moved from the UK to Washington DC, USA.

Last year I started touring again – a lightweight tour on a road bike, with two small rear Vaude roll-top panniers and a Revelate gas tank on the top tube. This was a comfortable setup and didn’t dramatically alter the handling of the bike or add too much of a burden for the hills. I kept the weight low by not carrying a stove or too many additional clothes (it being a hot DC summer). I still carried a double skin tent however (a Mountain Hardwear Skyledge tent in this case), weighing a little under 4.4 lbs or 2 kg.

Lightweight rear panniers and a Revelate gas tank bag - works well as long as you keep the weight down

Lightweight rear panniers and a Revelate gas tank bag – works well as long as you keep the weight down

This year I’m riding a Cannondale Cyclocross bike. The riding position is very similar to the road bike and it’s supremely comfortable for long rides. It’s light and rides well over the rougher stuff. It’s inching closer to that mythical one-bike-to-do-it-all that we cyclists dream of.

For the No Rest Out West tour this summer, I went for the same setup that I used on my tour last year, namely two rear panniers and a gas tank bag, but added a bar bag as well. (At the time, I thought the lack of eyelets on the front fork was a drawback of this bike, but now I’m glad I didn’t go down that route of front panniers, and instead went in the opposite direction.) However, I had a lot more gear this time – a stove, warm storm-proof clothing for the mountains, an iPad for keeping in touch with home and telling the story, and a pair of trainers for trekking and days off the bike. Way too heavy to have on the rear of the bike only. The front wheel felt very light and squirmy. The photo below from the California coast shows this setup:

Large rear panniers and tent on the top of the rear rack

Large rear panniers and tent on the top of the rear rack

Bike touring version 3 – summer 2014

The transformation to this final bike-packing setup really began on day three of the No Rest Out West tour, at a campsite in California. My brother and I had rolled into Van Damme camp after a beautiful, but hilly, 68 mile ride, feeling pretty good and in the touring groove. We were soon put in our place when an ultralight bike tourer arrived at camp, having ridden 160 miles that day. He carried the bare minimum of equipment, in various frame bags. We looked in envy at the lightness of his setup in comparison to our seemingly monstrous panniers. A seed was sown, and we started discussing ultralight tactics that very night. We’d both been following the growing bike-packing movement with interest, so this encounter, and then my subsequent crash on an unstable bike, were the catalysts that set us off down that road.

And this is where we’ve ended up:

Cyclocross bike setup with Revelate bags, bar bag and touring tyres

Cyclocross bike setup with Revelate bags, bar bag and touring tyres

For the next phase of our summer tour, we’re leaving a lot of heavy gear at home (notably, the panniers, pannier rack, all the cooking gear, the iPads, spare trainers, warm clothing for the mountains) and swapping out other items for lighter versions (the tool kit has been slimmed down, lighter clothing is being taken). The revised kit list is as follows (summer conditions, north east US):

[Note – am working on weighing all the kit, will add to the table in due course]

Bike and items attached to the bike

Item Kit Weight Notes
1 Cannondale Cyclocross CAADX Disc Ultrega bike 9,480 g / 334 oz Fitted with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres for touring (700 by 35)
2 Ortlieb bar bag A 6 liter, waterproof bag containing spare clothes, camera, diary, food. Mine is around 9 years old now, still going strong
3 Revelate Gas Tank bag A 1.5 liter bag on the top tube, useful for food and misc. items
4 Revelate Tangle half frame bag Around 6 liters or so, currently packed with tent poles and flysheet. My brother is carrying the inner tent.
5 Revelate Viscacha seat back Up to 14 liters, packed with sleeping bag, thermarest, spare clothes
6 Topeak Mini Dual G minipump 158 g / 5.56 oz Attached to frame via bottle cage mounts
7 Water bottles One standard bike bottle and one soft drinks bottle (since bike bottle too large to fit under frame bag)
8 Cateye Strada wireless bike computer
9 Rear red LED light

Camping gear

10 GoLite Shangri La 3 tent Lightweight for its size and very comfortable for 2 people, carried between the two of us
11 Rab Neutrino 200 sleeping bag 580 g / 20.5 oz 4 years old and still going strong, a superb sleeping bag. Leaving stuff sac behind and stuffing directly into Revelate bag
12 Rab silk sleeping bag liner Not sure of the model, old. Leaving stuff sac behind.
13 Thermarest Neo Air Small Very small pack size and ultralight, this smaller size will be an experiment
14 Petzl Tikka headlamp
15 Mini Pac towel

Clothing (items worn on the bike indicated in parentheses)

16 Shimano Mountain Bike shoes Not sure of the model as these are a decade old now, but still going strong. So comfortable!
17 2 * Generic black cycle shorts (1 pair worn) Any brand will do, nothing expensive
18 2 * full zip cycle jerseys (1 worn)
19 2 * socks for cycling (1 pair worn) I favour thicker socks
20 Cycling gloves (worn)
21 Bontrager Helmet (worn) New – replaces the one that was damaged in recent crash
22 Oakley sunglasses (worn)
23 Cycling biretta (cap) (worn) We bought caps from Velo Cult bike shop in Portland, to remind us of our time in the west
24 Cycling jacket Something lightweight, no hood
25 Zip-off trousers (pants in the US) For town wear
26 Long sleeve layer For town use or cold days on the bike
27 T-shirt For town wear
28 Boxer shorts For town wear
29 Flip Flops For off bike wear

Other items

30 Maps From the Adventure Cycling Association
31 Canon G16 Camera, padded case, mini tripod and charger
32 Mobile phone (cell phone) and charger
33 Diary and pen
34 Toolkit and spare inner tube Relatively lightweight, left the heavy multitool at home, carrying separate, much lighter Allen keys
35 First aid kit
36 Toothbrush and small wash kit Half sized toothbrush and travel size body wash/shampoo
37 Spot satellite messenger Emergency contact beacon, in case of disaster
38 Cable and padlock Lightweight, shared item
39 Ben’s Insect Repellent (DEET) Small amount carried in 2 oz container
40 Chain lube Small amount carried in 2 oz container
41 Wallet with ID, credit cards

Shakedown tour and further refinements

Ahead of our upcoming east coast tour, my brother and I headed out for a short overnighter to test the new setup. A quick, evening blast 30 miles out along the C&O canal, chosen for its lack of traffic and rough surface, then an overnight camp and a blast back early the next morning in time for breakfast.

Despite its minute scope, the tour delivered an out-sized portion of natural beauty as we enjoyed a stunning sunset, plenty of wildlife (deer, vultures, herons being the most interesting) and the peace of the woods.

The kit performed flawlessly. The Revelate bags are rock solid – the seat pack does swing side to side when you really stomp on the pedals but you don’t notice when you’re riding. The frame bag isn’t noticeable except for occasional brushes against the inside of my knees which is not a problem. We were able to carry everything we needed (see above list) but it was a squeeze, so we spent some time discussing further weight/volume savings, leading to the following modifications:

  • Small half-size toothbrush
  • Zip off pants (trousers) – saves on taking separate pants and shorts
  • Small bottles for liquids – e.g. take chain lube in a 2oz bottle instead of a 6oz bottle, ditto for bug spray
  • Leave mosquito headnets at home
  • Transfer the Advil (painkillers) from their container into a bag or much smaller container
  • Leave spare spokes and spoke tools at home – much less likely to suffer broken spokes with this lighter setup
  • Only carry the minimum number of tent pegs (6 in our case) and leave spares + stuff sac at home

Some photos from this mini-tour:

Pete on the C&O canal

Pete on the C&O canal

Evening reflection near Great Falls

Evening reflection near Great Falls

Sunset over the Potomac River

Sunset over the Potomac River

Further reading – some useful articles I refer to:

Joe Cruz wrote a superb post about touring on a road bike.

Legendary ultralight cyclist Iik talks through his own lightweight evolution – he is much further along this journey than we are, so there’s still plenty to learn here.

Bikepacking.net is a useful resource with plenty of gear and route information in the forums.

And finally, here’s a cool trip that beautifully captures the essence of bikepacking – bikepacking the Appalachian Trail.

Thoughts or comments on anything above? Further tips or any good resources you use? Let everyone know in the comments.

Overnight bike adventure out of DC – Day 2

Yesterday, June 16, Lexi and I cycled out of DC through the evening light to camp at Horsepen Campsite, along the C & O Canal, on our first bike tour together.

After a fun night camping beside the river, we were shaken from our slumber at 6 this morning by the unexpected sound of a truck rumbling into camp – the last thing I expected when we’re far into the woods with no road access. Turns out it was a trail crew coming in to empty out the port-a-loo (toilet) at camp. Following an inevitable snooze it was time to strike camp and return to DC. I’d been eaten alive by mosquitos the previous evening – I stopped counting at 30 bites.

The same slow puncture that caused problems yesterday evening persisted all the way home, so every couple of miles I had to stop to pump up the rear tyre, a rather frustrating process when repeated over and over. So it was that we returned home, stopping at various locks and sights along the way, taking photos, enjoying the woods and the river. It always amazes me that even on the shortest of tours, on familiar terrain, one always sees new things, enjoys new experiences or meets wonderful people. We saw plenty of wildlife, including herons, turtles, turkey vultures, northern cardinals, snakes, toads and fireflies. We met some fellow cyclists who had travelled all the way from Pittsburgh on the full C&O/GAP tour – an 8 or 9 day itinerary that is on our list.

We rolled into DC around lunchtime, having been out for less than 24 hours. In that time we’d cycled 60 miles and spent a night out in the woods. Pretty good for a Sunday evening.

Some photos from the day:

Lexi drawing up water from the well

Lexi drawing up water from the well

Idyllic conditions on the trail

Idyllic conditions on the trail

Heron fishing

Heron fishing

Resting outside one of the historic lock houses

Resting outside one of the historic lock houses

At Great Falls

At Great Falls

Getting close to Georgetown

Nearly home – getting close to Georgetown

No Rest Out West: a 3,500-mile summer bike tour around West U.S.

This summer I’m setting off to cycle around the mountainous West of the U.S. with my brother. We have two months and our rough plan is to cycle a big horseshoe route, heading north out of San Francisco late June, up the Pacific Coast of California, then riding up the Sierra Cascades through Oregon and into Washington. From there, we’ll turn right and ride east across Idaho and into Montana until we intersect the Great Divide Mountain Bike route. There, we’ll turn south, pedalling across Montana and Wyoming until we reach the vicinity of Denver, Colorado, where we’ll catch flights home.

Less than two weeks to go and I’m more than a little excited. I’m looking forward to a new adventure with my brother and a chance to hang out together (we live on opposite sides of the world, you see). The scenery promises to be spectacular on every level, from the remote Northern coastline of California, to the volcanoes of Oregon and Washington states, through to the drama and majesty of the Rockies. I’ve never visited the West coast or the West mountains of the U.S., so every day, every mile, will be a new experience. I’m looking forward to sleeping out in a tent again, living the simple life out on the road. I’m looking forward to it all.


I’ve used the maps of the excellent Adventure Cycling Association to create our route, combining their separate routes to create our own Frankenstein version, which consists of five distinct stages:

Stage Start End Adventure Cycling Route Terrain Distance (miles)
1 San Fransisco Crescent City Pacific Coast Route Road 420
2 Crescent City Medford Highways US 199 & US 99 Road 130
3 Medford Twisp Sierra Cascades Road 900
4 Twisp Eureka Northern Tier Road 550
5 Eureka Denver Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Off-road 1,500

This gives a route that looks something like this:

Approximate route of our tour around the mountainous W of the US

Approximate route of our tour

The plan is to spend our first month on the road section up to Eureka in Montana. That leaves our second month to spend on the Great Divide route, to cover approximately 1,500 miles. This should be achievable and leave us some time for side trips or hopefully some summit hikes. We’ll see!

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential. – Winston Churchill

How did this route evolve? For years my brother and I have dreamt of riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike route together. Separately, I’d been dreaming of seeing the Sierra Cascade mountains and the Pacific Northwest, so we put the two together to come up with this hybrid route. Another factor in our planning is the unbearable heat of the desert in New Mexico mid-August, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to omit this part of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and save it for another trip.

The riders:

Well, there’s me. And my brother.

Some kit notes:

I may do a geeky blog post further down the line detailing all the kit and decisions that went into it, but for now, this little snippet will have to do.

Suffice to say we’re going lightweight on this tour, inspired in no small part by the adventures of the Crane cousins and their ride across the Himalayas to the Centre of the Earth. (Any bike tourers out there – I fully recommend reading their book: it’s a fantastic account of a wild bike adventure, written in that self-deprecating style, favoured by the eccentric, slightly crazy English explorers through the ages.)

As for us, we’re both riding cyclocross bikes with rear panniers only, which should be a good compromise for riding on and off-road. The bikes and gear should be pretty light for this tour, which should translate into more fun on the road.

Cyclocross bike for tour

Cannondale cyclocross bike in touring mode

Regarding photography, this will be the first long trip that I don’t carry an SLR camera. I ummm’d and ahhh’d for ages on this, going round and round in circles weighing the pros and cons of taking or leaving the big camera kit. However, I couldn’t get past the weight of it all, the camera, then lenses, filters etc., it all added up to one big, heavy pile. So, it’s being left at home. I’m taking a compact camera (Canon G16) and my iPhone, both very capable cameras in their own rights, and best of all, light and easily carried so as to be accessible. I’ll be posting photos throughout the trip on my instagram account.

Whoop, whoop! See you on the road.

4th July Bike Tour

Day 1: Washington DC to Calico Rocks camp area, Maryland – 43 miles

Finding myself having a few days free in a row, I decided to make the most of the opportunity and head out for a little adventure. I strapped the tent to the back of my bike and pedalled out of Washington DC into the evening sunshine.

Heading W into the evening sun, beautiful but hot

Heading W into the evening sun, beautiful but hot

I didn’t end up departing until 4pm – work to do, then it took a while to get ready, hey it’s been a long time since I’ve been bike camping! – which left me about four and a half hours to reach camp. The light was gorgeous, the roads were relatively empty as people were getting in place for the fireworks, but damn, it was hot as hell out there. I had planned to do the climb up and down Sugarloaf Mountain en route, but didn’t have the time on this occasion.

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Sugarloaf Mountain

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This area is rich in history

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Long evening shadows

The C & O Canal is 185 mile National Park stretching from Washington DC to Cumberland, West Virginia, running along the Potomac River. There are camp areas every 8 – 10 miles so I aimed for Calico Rocks camping area, near to Point of Rocks, for my overnight stop.

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Riding along the C & O canal. Feeling the heat but happy to have arrived at camp

All I could think about in those final few miles was the prospect of cold, fresh water. With bottles almost depleted, it would have been a thirsty night if the well was dry. It took many pumps to draw up the first water, as the old-fashioned hand pump creaked, groaned and gurgled into life. There’s nothing quite like a drink of cool, fresh water when you’re baking hot and dehydrated.

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Water pump at Calico Rocks camp area, C & O canal

The sultry temps in the high 80s (around 30 degrees C) persisted well into the evening. The mosquitoes had a plentiful 4th July feast. Sleep was not easy until it cooled off, even after I left the flysheet off in a bid to increase the airflow.

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Home, sweet home

Day 2: Return to Washington DC via Purcellville, Virginia and the W&OD trail – 75 miles

My original plan was to stay out for another night and head down to Shenandoah National Park, but with another hot, hot day in prospect I decided against a second oppressive night in the tent. Plan B was to ride south for 30 miles through the Virginian countryside, pick up the W & OD trail and then follow it 45 miles to home.

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Early morning day 2 – pondering my strategy to cope with the onslaught of mosquitos once I exit the tent

Leaving camp I crossed from Maryland over the Potomac river into Virginia by the Point of Rocks bridge. Immediately afterwards I turned off onto quiet side roads, through rolling farmland along the base of big hills. This was the most enjoyable and scenic stretch of the tour.

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Mountain Road, Virginia, about 30 miles North of Shenandoah National Park

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Old corn dryer, Mountain Road, Virginia and yup, starting to get damn hot

There were plenty of other cyclists about at the start (or end) of the W & OD trail at Purcellville. I stopped to top up my water bottles and take a break from the sun.

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The Town of Purcellville and the start of the W&OD trail back to Washington DC

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On the W&OD trail

I was really struggling with the heat by the early afternoon; the hottest part of the day and no shade to hide. I rode at a leisurely pace, within myself, to ensure I’d make it home. Big grin on my face of course, I was thoroughly enjoying being out bike touring again.

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Keep on pedalling

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One of the old rail cars that would have served this route

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A family of deer on the trail (blurry photo taken whilst on the move)

Half the fun of these sorts of trips is the return and being able to feast on whatever you’ve spent the past few hours dreaming about. A cold beer and pizza on this occasion!

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Reward for all the effort

Mountains, fjords and bike touring – the Arctic Bike Tour 2006

[Editor’s note, January 2014: this is the story of a 60 day, 3,000 mile bike ride from my home in England to the northern tip of Europe, Nordkapp, in 2006. Sadly the bike I toured on (which by the end of the tour felt more like a friend than a mere mechanical object) was stolen in 2013.]

Mountains and Fjords III

Mountains and Fjords, my constant companions on this tour

I rushed home, clutching my map of Norway and yellow highlighter with a fervent grip, determined to mark out my route and commit myself to this project whilst the momentum of the adventure overwhelmed my faculty of reason.

Route of my Norway tour

Route of my Norway tour

Spread across the table, the map of Norway looked both exciting and intimidating in equal measure. The yellow line of my route from Kristiansand in the South to Kirkenes in the North seemed to take an inordinately long time to wind its way around, over and under mountains, fjords and islands. I booked the ferry that very day, ordered some pannier racks and tyres and told my family I would be going away for a long while.

Setting off from home

Setting off from home

Despite thorough preparation in the weeks prior to departure, I suffered a potentially catastrophic setback less than a mile from home. The rear pannier rack with my tent, roll mat and rear panniers on, fell apart on the first hill; a rather auspicious start but luckily not a sign of things to come. It transpired that I had merely forgotten to tighten up two crucial, but well hidden bolts so the problem was easily rectified and never again reared its ugly head. It took me four hard days to cycle across the country from my home near Liverpool to the ferry terminal in Newcastle. By the fourth day my body (actually mainly my backside) was protesting strongly at the whole idea of this tour but the great variety of scenery, challenges and emotions that I felt in those first four days convinced me to continue on to Norway.

Trying to picture the whole route from Kristiansand to Kirkenes in one go was too much to deal with at this stage so I broke it down into week long sections as follows: Kristiansand to Bergen, then Bergen to Trondheim, Trondheim to Bodø, Bodø to Tromsø, Tromsø to the North Cape and finally from the North Cape to Kirkenes. For the first leg I enjoyed the luxury of a well signed cycle path, the North Sea Cycle Way, which would lead me all the way from Kristiansand to the centre of Bergen. At least that was the theory but how did it all pan out on the road?

Pushing through the snow

Pushing through the snow

Rather ominously it snowed twice during my afternoon in Kristiansand and less than 5 kilometres outside of the city I found myself pushing my bike through deep, lingering snow patches on the minor roads through the hills. I soon returned to the coast though, on minor roads that were continually undulating. This was a feature common to all of Norway’s roads and one that I came to love and hate depending on which way the gradient pointed. I suffered several broken spokes in the rear wheel (fixed in bike shops en route), many heavy rainstorms, headwinds and wet camps during this first week in Norway. When the sun did shine though, the scenery was stunning with mountains, fjords and pretty little fishing villages to keep my spirits high. I arrived in Bergen after 7 days of cycling and just over 1000km completed.

I spent three glorious days in Bergen and the sun shone every day which was quite remarkable for a city where it is supposed to rain four days out of five. Over drinks, I shared tales from the road with a host of other travellers from as far away as Australia and South Korea. Bergen was a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with many hidden corners to explore like the fascinating wooden warehouses in the Bryggen. These old Hanseatic merchant’s trading houses from the eighteenth and nineteenth century leaned this way and that seemingly defying gravity in their old age.



Beautiful fjords

Beautiful fjords

It was a lonely road out of Bergen but the sun shone long into the evening and it was exciting to be out on the road again. The route to Trondeim took me along Highway 7 and then Highway 55 over the Sognefjellet, the roof of Norway. With each passing day I penetrated deeper into Norway’s mountainous interior. The road climbed to over 1400m with snow lying thick all around as I rode under the shadow of Norway’s highest mountain, Goldhøpiggen, 2469m high.

Climbing over the roof of Norway

Climbing over the roof of Norway

The road had only recently been cleared after the winter

The road had only recently been cleared after the winter

Of course, the reward for all the hard climbing was the stunning vistas of great jagged mountains heaped up above the frozen lakes and snowy valleys. The downhills were as exhilarating as they were cold and I was glad to have my winter clothing with me. I joined the E6, the road that went all the way to Kirkenes, and followed it over the high plateau of the Dovrefjellet which reminded me greatly of the A82 over Rannoch Moor in Scotland, pulchritudinous but desolate, sunny but bitterly cold and not somewhere to linger. I was elated to have made it across the mountains in one piece and an easy day’s riding across flatter plains took me into Trondheim. My one and only flat tyre of the whole sixty day tour occurred on this approach into Trondheim. I must have looked a pitiful sight crouched on the roadside mini-pump in hand, panniers cast to one side, fixing a puncture in the heavy rain.

Camping in the snow

Camping in the snow


Waterfall seen en route

May 17th is Norway’s National Day: a holiday to celebrate their Declaration of Independence and formation of a Constitutional Government in 1814. The residents of Trondheim were out in throngs on the streets to partake in or watch the colourful parades up and down the main streets. It was a treat to bear witness to this celebration of such an historic moment in Norway’s past and one of the few times I really saw the Norwegian people letting their hair down properly. This was also the day that I met Markus, the German cycle tourer, also en route to the North Cape and staying in the Youth Hostel.

Markus with the bikes

Markus with the bikes

We shared the road together from Trondheim to Bodø, nine days of beautiful coastal scenery. Rather unfortunately there was a ferry strike in Norway and as we were following Highway 17, involving many ferry crossings, this made our route a rather dicey proposition. Several times we found ourselves at a dead-end waiting at an empty ferry terminal for a ferry that would never arrive. Somehow in each case we found locals who were able to help by offering lifts in their private boats thus saving us the unappealing prospect of back-tracking our route to the South (the very word became an anathema to me as my journey progressed!).

Ferry ride with a local

Ferry ride with a local

On day 29 I encountered my first and sadly, only elk of the tour. It ran along the stony shore beside the road clearly startled by the sight (or perhaps the smell) of two cyclists, before leaping the barrier and then crashing off into the woods above the road. It was an enormous creature with a great big ugly head and it looked perfectly at home in this woody, mountainous countryside near the Arctic Circle. This was duly crossed on day 33. This was something of a milestone in the route, marking roughly the half-way point and justifying the title of Arctic Bike Tour that I’d told my friends and family I was going on.

Markus and I stayed in Bodø for just one day which was time enough to take in the Aviation Museum and rest our weary legs. The next stage of the journey began with a ferry journey over to the southern end of the Lofoten Islands, somewhere I’d long hankered to visit.

Fishing harbour in the Lofoten Islands

Fishing harbour in the Lofoten Islands

We stayed in the Youth Hostel at Å on the first night. It was an arrestingly beautiful, peaceful little fishing village lying on the southern extremity of the island chain. It was here, of all the places I visited in Norway, I felt most enchanted with. After a stop that I felt was too short, we were once again underway, heading north and battling headwinds. At Stamsund Youth Hostel on day 38, I bid farewell to Markus as he stayed put to await his girlfriend, who flew out to join him in the Lofoten. I continued onwards, alone again.

The Lofoten Islands

The Lofoten Islands

Typical day in Norway

Typical day in Norway, not a bad place to cycle!

The islands were like a miniature version of mainland Norway exuding the wild beauty of a land unchanged for hundreds of years. As I progressed North onto the Vesterålen Islands the terrain mellowed with the spiky mountains giving way to rounder hillocks. A rare treat awaited me in Andenes at the northern end of the island chain. I camped next to the beach and watched in awe as the sun shone all through the night. The midnight sun was a phenomenon I had dearly looked forward to seeing and it didn’t disappoint.

Mountains and Fjords I

Mountains and Fjords

Mountains and Fjords II

Mountains and Fjords II

One ferry journey and two further days of riding saw me to Tromø, the last city I would encounter on my journey. Here I met Flip, a Dutch cyclist with many fascinating theories about “Bermuda Tunnels” and the age-old headwind vs. tailwind debate. His theory was as brilliant as it was simple. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that most cyclists would consider themselves headwinders (ie. always fighting a headwind). Now, Flip reasoned that he was more likely to meet cyclists approaching from the opposite direction and so if they were fighting a headwind he would be enjoying a tailwind. We cycled together for two days in still airs which was in accordance with Flip’s theory as my headwind had cancelled out Flip’s tailwind. At the town of Alta our routes diverged and I was alone on the road again. Alta marked a turning point in the weather which steadily worsened over the following days into a settled pattern of rain and strong winds. All of my equipment became wet; the mountains were swathed in clouds and appeared foreboding rather than beautiful. The allure of wild camping quickly disappeared when the first puddles started appearing in the tent.

Cycling above the Arctic Circle

Cycling above the Arctic Circle

Steady progress north though had finally brought the top of Europe within reach. After a night in a hostel in Honningsvåg, I set off to cycle to the North Cape, accompanied, as I had now come to expect, by rain and wind. Reaching the North Cape on day 52 was nothing of the anti-climax that such hyped moments often are; instead I was full of joy and wonder at the very adventure of being here on my bicycle.

Approaching Nordkapp, the top of Europe

Approaching Nordkapp, the top of Europe

Nordkapp, journey's end

Nordkapp, journey’s end

Suitably buoyed, the final leg of five days to Kirkenes was completed with a broad grin that not even a broken chain or further inclement weather could remove. I was not only weary and happy but also deeply sad that the adventure had come to an end. I had spent 60 days amongst the great fjords and mountains of Norway, met many great characters along the way and covered over 3,000 miles on my bike. All that remained was to creep back south again using a combination of planes, buses and ferries to see me home.

The trusty old steed gets a badge of honour

The trusty old steed gets a badge of honour