During Christmas holidays of 2016 me and a friend went on a cycling trip from Eindhoven (Netherlands) to Bergen (Norway). During summer this is quite an achievement, but we did it in winter. Next to this, we would do it on second-hand racing bicycles from the 80s. In order to make it an even greater adventure, we decided that we would sleep outside most nights. Not using a tent, but using a tarpaulin.
At first, many people did not believe we were actually going to try this.
As time progressed and we made more solid plans people simply assumed we would fail. Given that we had no experience cycling long distances we gave ourselves a 30% chance of success.
Through hardship, resourcefullness and a fair amount of luck we succeeded in completing this endeavour! In this post I will explain everything we did in order to prepare for this trip. In other posts I will go into the details of the trip.
Origin of the idea
We have forgotten where the idea came from exactly. During the trip we have asked this question to ourselves numerous times. We do know that at some point people were complaining that we had not had a white Christmas in a long time. One of us responded by saying that there is a simple solution. This is by cycling to Norway. The following days we brewed more and more on this idea. Eventually our friends heared about it and they pushed us more and more. We agreed to cycle to Bergen, but our friends had to pick us up. They rented a van and for us there was no turning back anymore!
The picture on the right shows the route we were planning to take. This route takes us through 4 countries and we would cover a distance of 1600km. More than 1200 of which we cycled. The plan was to take a boat from Hirtshals to Stavanger.
We planned to finish the entire trip in two weeks. However, we wanted some days to celebrate New Years in Stavanger and needed some extra days in case of any issues. Therefore we calculated that we needed to do an average of 150km per day of cycling.
Along the way we had booked several Airbnbs in Oldenburg, Silkeborg, Stavanger, Hirtshals and Aksdal. Then we could at least have a warm shower every now and then.
We would arrive in Bergen on the 5th of January, where our friends would be waiting with a van. After spending a few days in Bergen we would all return to The Netherlands.
In order to prepare ourselves we needed to do some training. Although we had hoped to do more we only did two trips.
Eindhoven – Amersfoort
On a Saturday we cycled from Eindhoven to Amersfoort. This is about 100km so only two thirds of what we planned to do every day on the actual trip to Norway. Next to this the weather was good and we only had a fraction of the gear with us. Luckily the trip went smooth and there were no serious issues. We took it quite slow and the trip took us about 8 hours. We arrived at my friend’s house where we could sleep inside in a comfortable bed.
The following morning our knees hurt a little, but after some time on the bicycle the pain was gone. This time the trip took a little longer, about 9 hours. The reason for this is that my friend had sore thighs, because he did not have proper cycling pants.
This trip learned us a lot about cycling long distance, but did not prepare us well for bad weather conditions.
Eindhoven – Goch
Goch is located in Germany and is about 80km cycling from Eindhoven. One of the friends that wanted to pick us up in Bergen lives in this town. We would cycle there, have some drinks and then sleep outside in a forest near Goch. The tarpaulin had arrived the week before so we decided to bring it along. It was one of the coldest weeks of the year. Night time temperatures reached around -6°C. This would be good preparation for us.
Cycling to Goch went quite smooth. We only had one flat tire and our gear held up quite nicely. It took us about 4 hours to reach Goch. Around 1am we headed to a nearby forest to set up camp. There were no clouds whatsoever, so we decided not to use the tarpaulin. Instead we slept under a beautiful night sky.
Despite the fact that sleeping on a simple and thin air mattres is very uncomfortable, the icy winds will keep you from falling asleep. We stayed there for about 6 hours and I slept about 3 hours. My friend said he had not slept at all.
In order to get warm we decided to just head back to Eindhoven. Unlike what many people think it are not your fingers that are hard to keep warm. It are your feet. It did not take long before we had lost the feeling in both our feet. After 50km we were worried that our feet were cold for too long. We decided to stop at a small café to have a coffee and warm up. Luckily our feet did not sustain any permanent damage and after half an hour we continued our trip.
From this trip we learned that good socks and overshoes are essential!
Bicycles and gear
The bicycle I used is shown in the picture below. It is an old racing bicycle manufactured by Raleigh. It has several gears, but it was not set properly. Therefore, most did not work. For navigation I attached a Garmin with Openfietsmap to the handle bars. It uses one set of batteries a day and performend brilliantly. I also added a GoPro, which I hardly used. For lighting I mounted a 4€ flashlight underneath the handle bars. Using zip-ties and tape I attached two holders for water bottles to the frame. Underneath the saddle I attached a first-aid kit and a bag in which I stored my air mattres. The 30L backpack contains all my clothes, tarpaulin, spare parts, batteries, food etc.
You can start reading about our journey here.