Naturally, the first ride of a three-month bike adventure across Europe to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief had to kick off with a bang.
Long distance? Da!
Hills upon hills? Mais bien sûr!
Halfway food and water supplies exhausted? Natürlich
Sleep in the last 48 hours? A lousy 5 hours
And my current mood after all that? Unfazed and chuffed because I smashed it on the first stage.
Things were dragging in Amsterdam where I was hunkered down trying to nail down my trip. But nothing was falling into place and I knew it never would. So there I was, sat in a café, booked a flight to Alta, Norway that was set to leave four hours later even though it was a 19-hour journey!
By the time I showed up in Alta, I was exhausted but I had another four-hour bus ride to catch to North Cape, my starting point. So by the time I got there and fired up my Wahoo GPS unit it was midday.
I knew I was flirting with fire or a proper blaze to be honest when I already felt knackered before even turning the pedals for the first time. However as they say, time waits for no one so best to zip it and get pedalling.
Out of caution, I splashed out on two extortionate salmon and smoked beef bagels, filled my bidons at the starting point’s visitor centre and headed to Alta (my bike looks light because I left my gear there for efficiency).
I shot down one massive hill and before I could even shift gears properly, a 6% gradient was waiting for me and that was how the rest of my very loooooong day went. But the never-ending day is actually what saved my skin because… it’s summer in the Arctic Circle so the sun doesn’t set. Not one bit.
So I rode from noon to 6:40 the following morning in broad daylight. The winds and hills wore me down but didn’t dampen my spirits which matters the most. I ran out of food because of a tactical blunder as I forgot that in this remote part of the world, petrol stations aren’t 24 hours.
To keep from bonking, I enacted the “pole pole protocol”. It’s my strategy for when I am running out of water and food – ride slow and cut my power output to basically burn energy at a slow rate. That’s what I did for the last 120 km!
If you’re still scratching your head, think about this protocol like how you put your phone on battery-saving mode when you’re out of juice.
I pedalled through the night which was actually all day. It was a wild sight to see the sun making its round in the sky without setting for even a second. Sure, some places darkened but that’s because the mountains were throwing shade and that’s about it.
Temperatures dipped and I wasn’t properly dressed because I didn’t think about it. Those hills actually came in handy as they kept me warm on the climbs and I descended a tad slower than usual to dodge the windchill.
The roads were peaceful as everyone was asleep so I had them to myself. Or should I say, had it to myself since there’s just one.
I arrived in Alta at 06:40, utterly dehydrated but surprisingly not hungry, as I can get by on little food. I went to the only spot open in town, a petrol station (the city ones are 24 hours, not the ones out there) and downed a bottle of juice for sugar and liquids and chowed a box of biscuits while waiting for a friend.
Last month in Kenya, I met a now-friend on the Savanna Cycling safari who heard about my trip and mentioned that if I was interested, he knew someone living at my starting point in the Arctic Circle. Talk about an unbelievable coincidence!
(I’m a professional DJ, so a fan from there also got in touch. Small world!)
So this new friend´s friend came to pick me up to fetch my bags from storage and took me to her place. In the car, I blacked out, woke up at her’s, met her partner, slept for two hours, woke up, had lunch with them, then it was back to sleep for another couple of hours.
As I’m waking up and writing this, I’m off to catch more sleep to prepare for another long ride tomorrow – another day in the saddle where the sun doesn’t set!
My North Cape-Alta leg was 240 km, 2161 metres of elevation and took nearly 19 hours.
I’ve got to say, I got through it all thanks to the never-setting sun. That’s why I decided to kick off with such a ride in the first place. Riding in the dark would’ve been pure torture and doing it half asleep would’ve been proper risky.
There were a few motels along the way so I could’ve booked one if the sun did decide to hit the hay.
Some observations: the area and the road were far from deserted as I had feared. It’s quite populated! In case of an emergency, you could always knock on someone’s door.
I spotted loads of Teslas. It blew my mind as well as seeing so many electric cars. I was told it’s because they’re tax-free so an electric car costs half the price of its petrol-powered counterpart. That explains it all.
I’ve always wondered what reindeer looked like and when I saw them, I was a bit let down. The Christmas tales big them up too much. I thought they were wild but they’re actually livestock and owned by people even when you see them roaming about.
Today was the longest distance scheduled on my journey across Europe to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief and to see the world on two wheels. It was hard going but I managed. I hope it sets the tone for what’s to come.
I might not have been physically ready as my last ride over 130 km was more than a year ago when I was touring the United States but my spirit is still sound and strong. Therefore, mind over matter ruled the day and I’m thankful to The Creator for protection and favour wherever I go, even in the most remote corners of the globe.
This is a post by JaBig, a Canadian DJ who is (as of this writing) cycling across Europe from North Cape, Norway to Tarifa to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief, in addition to embarking on a dream adventure of a lifetime.