Yesterday my wife and I took a longer route than usual, and did a 100 kms over gravel, fire roads, and bike lanes around National Park Veluwezoom and Hoge Veluwe (Arnhem/Ede area).
It wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be, but admittedly it’s the first time I ever did 100 kms on (mostly) unpaved roads, and it’s definitely harder than doing it on tarmac. For Karolina, this was the first time she did a ride of this length on any surface, and she did really great.
Here a side-note about my wife’s aerobic capacity: its name is La Máquina. Basically whatever you throw at it, be it an assault bike, a rower, jump rope, or a gravel bike, her heart rate doesn’t really go beyond 130 bpm, most of the time it doesn’t even cross 100 bpm.
To those of you that enjoy bike riding, be it hard core MTB, monster cross or simply laid back weekend trips on a trekking bike, we can wholeheartedly recommend the Veluwe area. Best routes are available, as always, from Christiaan Warger at Gravelrides.cc.
I’ve been riding bikes for a very long time, and although I’ve had breaks, I can safely say I’ve been riding bicycles throughout my whole life. I am lucky to have never had any serious accidents or injuries while cycling, other than the occasional my-shoes-are-still-clipped-into-the-pedals thing,1 I’ve never been doored, I never smashed with my bike into things that generally don’t like being smashed into (that’s a lie; it’s just that injuries were never serious), and I was rear-ended by other bikers only on a few occasions.
Today I went for a quick ride. It was a short one, but since I only got a non-city bike a couple of weeks back,2 I’m still building up my strength and endurance, and, sadly, 50km-long rides are my standard for now. It’s a sunny Sunday in Munich, with a temperature of about 31°C (this is like 88°F, ‘Mericans), clear skies, and I decided to explore some trails around the Isar river. It was all going well, until I reached a part of the trail which was really more akin to a single track than a road of any sort. Riding there on my 32c tires, and climbing even small hills, and being in the proximity of a river which makes the climate hot-and-humid was very exhausting. When I reached the asphalt road and headed towards Neufahrn, I realized I’m running out of water. By the time I turned into Olympiastraße, I was getting a bit weak, and about 10kms from Munich I had to stop. Continue reading “Dehydration—a cautionary tale”
Last weekend, me and Karolina went on a bike ride from Laksevåg in Bergen, through Nesttun and Lysekloster to Fanafjellet and then back to town. It was a lovely, sunny day, and we had a pleasant ~50km ride, but what I didn’t realize that day is that it was our last bike ride in Norway, at least for the foreseeable future. The bike on the picture above, Kona Jake, has just been sold, because Karolina is moving to Munich this Thursday, and I will follow her in about two-three weeks. My contract at Bergen University College is over since mid-July, and my PhD education at the University of Bergen is almost finished (I will hand in my thesis within the next two weeks). We’re moving out, starting a new chapter of our lives in Germany.
There’s many, many things that I will miss once I move, but I think the absolutely fantastic nature of Bergen and its surroundings will be chief among them. If you like cycling and/or mountains, and you can afford it, you should definitely visit Western Norway. I’ve been to a lot of places around the world but in my opinion nothing comes even close to the beauty of this land.
I used to laugh at people paying $7k for bicycles with handmade steel frames and all the hype that surrounded the whole NAHBS community. After some months of reading PinP aka The Radavist, however, I’ve changed my mind completely.
Modern competitive cycling is, to me, completely uninteresting sport. I don’t watch the big races, I don’t care about the pros.1 Doping is so prevalent that following these events makes no sense to me, and in the same way I don’t give a shit about carbon frames designed in wind tunnels. What John Watson’s community represents is the opposite: yes, it’s nice to crush KOMs2 and go as fast as you can, but that’s not why we ride. We ride, because riding a bike is rad, because the experience of being outdoors in beautiful mountains is fantastic, and because riding a bike is part of our lifestyle – we love bikes. And yes, if I’m to choose between a Taiwan-made carbon frame wind-tunnel-developed bike from one of the major manufacturers versus a steel frame bicycle US/UK-made by guys who love the work, I’m gonna pay those guys, and I’m gonna pay them more than I should. And I’m still gonna be faster uphill than the 50+ overweight fellas on their Pinarello Dogma bikes.
Current methods of counting cyclists take a ton of time or a ton of money. The DOT can videotape traffic and have someone sit at a monitor and count cyclists, or it can send someone to sit on the sidewalk and watch them go by in real time. Neither method is terribly efficient.
You’d think that the problem of building cycling lanes is a simple one, right? Well, it’s not. Apparently most cities struggle with obtaining data; no one really knows where and how many cyclists ride, and the only method available until now was installing bike counters, but these are expensive and measure bicycle traffic only at fixed points. So now, apparently, you can buy data from Strava, and this is brilliant.1Continue reading “Strava’s Cycling App Is Helping Cities Build Better Bike Lanes”
I don’t ski,1 and every winter doing any sorts of sports becomes a major problem. This year I’m trying to change that. As anyone will tell you, riding a bike or running in bad weather is simply a matter of attitude. One should just embrace Rule #9 and keep on pushing, but I’ve never been able to do that myself. Every year I promised myself that I won’t be paying any attention to rain or snow, but year after year I failed, bought that monthly bus ticket and locked my bike at home.
This year, however, things are different. I just got the lamest Strava badge for 150km ridden in a month, but it’s the very first time I got any kind of badge for January.
The surprising thing is, once you convince yourself riding in winter is possible, it’s not that bad. Granted, my times on all segments are considerably worse, but I realized that neither rain nor cold bothers me that much.2 The trick is to convince yourself that it’s ok to ride in bad weather, and that still comes pretty hard to me, but I found another way – I take an indirect and much longer route home from my office, thus having some extra exercise, because I’m carrying a heavy bag on my back, and riding on a cyclocross bike. But it works, I am finally riding in the winter.
Which is kinda wrong. I’ve been living in Norway for almost 4 years now, and only went skiing once. I have a tentative plan of trying snowboard this year, but then again I have this plan every year. ↩
Most of the time winters in Western Norway are very wet, and not that cold, contrary to popular belief. ↩
That’s me riding the final climb of Bergen-Voss 2013 race, the famous road from Granvin to Voss and its hairpins around Skjervsfossen. It was the second time I did this race, and although I had a better time than last year, I’m still at the very end of the “top 4000” list.
It’s a relatively easy, amateur race. The distance is about 165 km, but there is some climbing on the way (about 1800m), with 3 distinct climbs, one of which is rather serious:
There are two types of reactions I get when I tell people I do Bergen-Voss:
‘Ooh, you must be amazingly fit/strong! I would never be able to even finish such a race!’
‘Why the hell would you do such a thing?’
Ad 1): You’re wrong. Any healthy person can ride 165 km in under 10 hours. Yes, it requires some training and yes, it’s best if you have a racing bike (although there are people on mountain bikes, cyclocross and even city bikes too), but no, it does not require superhuman strength, endurance or spending 30000 NOK on gear. You can just do it, if you really want to. Remember Rule 5 and Rule 6, and you’re good.
Ad 2): Because I can, and because my job require little to no physical effort from me. I’m an academic, and this means (among many other things) that if I don’t teach, I don’t even have to leave my house. As a kid I was very bad at sports (I’m the classic case of a football player who plays for the team that picks last), and never really liked any physical activity, but these days, at the age of 28, I feel restless if I don’t bike or run a couple of days a week. Karolina has the same.
Also, when it comes to Bergen-Voss in particular, I do it because it’s an amazing experience. The route takes you through the mountains, valleys, and along the fantastic Hardangerfjord. Breath-taking nature, people ringing cowbells on the streets, and great atmosphere all the way. I wouldn’t regret it even if I came last.
Next June I will probably no longer be living in Norway, and thus I probably won’t take part in Bergen-Voss again. You should, though. All you need is a roadworthy bike and some months of training. Riding all the way to Voss is not necessary, but doing a couple of 100km-long trips before the race is a good preparation. Get on your bike and ride!
I started adhering to Rule 12 and bought another bike. This time it’s a classic Dutch Gazelle from the 70s. Barely working drum brakes, beautiful brown paint-job with extra rust and a weight of circa 16 tons, but nothing beats the comfort of an opafiets. And you can get it all for only €40 (plus €20 in repairs) from certain philosophers in Groningen!