The 2015 season has begun…

This winter has been a bit of a damp squib. Not particularly cold, not much snow, not enough sunshine. The warmer winters lead to lots of ice on the roads and paths sometimes several centimetres thick. As we live on a steep hill we generally do not take the bikes out when the roads are like this.

Still, the upside of the damp squib winter is that spring seems to have arrived very early. Pretty much all of the roads and asphalt cycle tracks in and around Gol are free of snow and ice. So yesterday, with temperatures approaching 10’c it seemed like a perfect opportunity to kick start our cycling season.

We decided to give our VSF T400s a spin seeing as they have been rather neglected in the last couple of years. They still have studded tyres on them which we decided would help if we did meet any snow or ice.

Damae, with Odd Egill in a trailer and our two VSF T400 Rohloff bikes in the spring sunshine

Moose Too and Troll Too together with out old HEMA bike trailer. Note this now has a Weber coupling which is an excellent upgrade if you want to go touring with children.

Why have the VSFs been neglected, you might ask? They are lovely touring bikes after all. Well the reasons are simple, in the summer of 2013 Damae was pregnant so we took the 16 speed Bromptons to the NSCR in Germany and Denmark. This gave us lots of options for escape routes using public transport, in case we didn’t manage to complete the planned route and the Bromptons made it easy to get to the start point by public transport.

Summer 2014, with a trailer in tow for the first time we ended up having to use the Moose and Troll. We chose to do this as it was much easier to get the trailer hitches to fit on the older bikes. I modified the hitches with plates to keep the hitches from rotating around the rear axle. The VSF T400 has horizontal dropouts and I ran out of time to try to work out how to bodge the hitches to fit these bikes.

We realised fairly early on in the 2014 tour that the basic hitch that the trailer came with was not suited to cycle touring. The flexible section is a combination of a coil spring and an elastomer element placed inside the spring which, under stress conditions such as climbing or pushing on, makes the trailer oscillate and thus tug in the direction of travel. It takes a lot more energy cycling with a trailer bouncing on the hitch like this with every push of the pedal. Especially when climbing.

I replaced the coupling with Weber coupling and put Weber couplings on the Moose and Troll and the Moose Too and Troll Too. I bought the Weber parts from hollandbikeshop.com who stock a good range of Weber parts at competitive prices. I intend to fabricate mountings to take Weber couplings for our Brompton and Dahon folders, although exactly when this will happen is not certain 😉

We are investing in some new gear for the 2015 season.The HEMA bike trailer has served us well and still works. However, the fabric is showing signs of wear, the plastic front window has cracked and the trailer is heavy. Without the front wheel it weighs in at around 17kg which is just too heavy for cycle tours. We have decided to get a Winther Dolphin XL with a Weber coupling. Whilst this is not the lightest trailer on the market it is a good four kilograms lighter than our old trailer. The XL has fewer ventilation options than the standard Dolphin trailer but importantly the XL has 6 cm extra headroom (76 cm). Given Odd Egill’s rate of growth that 6 cm might just give us one summer tour extra before we have to think of another way to take him with us on tour. I was unable to find a dealer in Norway that sold Winther trailers. I did manage to find a trade dealer who is the Norwegian importer who is willing to sell direct to us. We are waiting for delivery at the moment.

The second change is that we need a bigger tent that was easy to put up. The Macpac Citadel is the most convenient of the tents we own when traveling with a child. The way the doors are placed in the inner tent mean we sleep parallel to the doors which makes getting in and out so much easier. This layout also gives good headroom for everyone when sitting on a mat chair. The two vestibules mean we can separate “safe” and “dangerous” items (for example the Trangia and fuel).

We nearly bought a Helsport Fjellheimen Camp 6 but then changed our mind at the last minute and plumped for a Svea Camp 4 from the same manufacturer. This is a bit like the big brother of the Macpac Citadel with two entrances and two vestibules, (one small and one large) and like the Citadel you can sleep parallel to the inner tent doors. In addition the Svea Camp is part of Helsport’s “extreme” range of tents. This means that, although it is a bit heavy (6kg with footprint) it should give us plenty of space and stay upright in the worst weather that a Norwegian summer can throw at us.

Back to our first outing of the season, we cycled up to Rotnheim to the bridge that leads to Øygard pukkverk. The stiff headwind, studded tyres and gravel on the cycle track made it hard going. Up here there is still plenty of snow on the river.

White snow on the Hallingdalselva

The old snow is still white here.

Ice on the Hallingdalselva

Looking downhill there was still plenty of ice

Once stopped it was quite cold in the wind, there wasn’t really any shelter from the breeze. The first thing Damae did, after stopping, was to dig out her rain jacket.

Damae opening her panniers

Brrrrr!

The cycle back took half the time of the outward trip. Odd Egill slept for most of the way back leaning over sideways on his blanket. We used a Melia Toddler seat (I hope to post a review sometime soon) last summer with great success but he has now outgrown this. So we have to find a new solution to stop him falling sideways when he is asleep. There’s always something to sort out 😉

Now the season has started we can start planning shorter and longer trips. We need to start cycling as we were not able to keep fit by skiing this winter so our fitness levels are not what they should be. I would like to be able to do a five week tour in the summer to celebrate both my 50th birthday and five years of Life in Norway. However, we will have to wait and see what actually happens.

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