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A Vagrant's Christmas


A Vagrant's Christmas

After several weeks of being uncharacteristically social, I yearned back to the life of sleeping outdoors as a vagrant with a bicycle. So before Christmas we spent a couple nights in a tent. On the second evening the wind was so strong that we had to take refuge in a half-built garage beside an empty house. Three walls and a roof protected us perfectly from the storm raging outside.

Stomachs full with a delicious sausage and pasta dinner, we settled down to watch a documentary. Halfway through the film our concrete cave was suddenly filled by car headlights. Crap. The house wasn’t so empty after all. I exited my sleeping bag nervously. My French vocabulary was wildly insufficient for explaining why there were suddenly two people, a Cocker Spaniel, and a tent with Christmas lights in whoever’s garage it was.

Garage camping, or "glamping" as I like to call it.

Outside there was a woman who looked scared enough to call the police, but fortunately she wasn’t alone. Neither she nor the man she was with spoke English, but he just laughed it off and wished us a good night. Our luck held up once again. This scene certainly could’ve played out much worse.

The next morning was December 24th. While having breakfast, I was wondering why the dog trailer looked strangely tilted. Then I realised one of the tires was flat. Presumably due to me digging out some sharp rocks and spikes from the rubber the previous day. Merry Christmas.

A gorgeous flat tire lit by the beautiful morning sun.

After changing the tube, we continued a couple hours to near Orange where we had rented an Airbnb cabin for the night. We spent the evening drinking champagne in a sauna and a jacuzzi. Not exactly a traditional way to celebrate Christmas, nor the type of life I’m looking for most of the time. But sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a little luxury, just for a change.

One of France's numerous castles in one of France's numerous sunsets.
Avignon at sunset.

A few days later we passed Avignon and its famous half bridge. I gained a sudden appreciation for old architecture, and decided to make a detour. Isabelle found a place to stay and I continued at night towards Pont du Gard, a famous Roman aqueduct. I arrived at midnight to find the gates closed and a guard’s voice in the radio phone telling me to come back at 9am. I wanted a photo of the landmark at night, so that was unacceptable.

Google Maps offered an alternative way in, via the forest nearby. I pushed my bike through footpaths, trying to be discreet and unnoticed with my headlight. When I found the aqueduct, I discovered it was lit by brightly coloured lights. The colours changed slowly, and I took a time-lapse of the show while looking around.

There was no-one else there, so I had the whole aqueduct to myself. For a 2000-year-old building, it was extremely impressive. The massive size, and the fact that it was still standing two millennia later. All that with the tools and materials that had been available so long ago. The Roman empire accomplished some magnificent things in its time. And yet it fell down, just like the aqueduct eventually will.

Everything is impermanent. This bike trip, our lives, and all the nations and empires around us. So it’s better to spend our limited time focusing on things that matter. Whatever that may be. Or at least to relax and enjoy the ride.

The lights of Pont du Gard at night.





Last year when I was cycling in Lofoten, Norway’s mountains wore out both of my break pads near the end of the tour. With a heavy bicycle in a hilly country, this is a big problem. I looked for a solution in a bike shop in Leknes, which didn’t have the right parts, but the nice mechanic recommended the lovely nearby Uttakleiv beach while waiting. I walked the bike there and enjoyed my stay, but had to end my trip there because I ran out of time and never got my bike fixed.

Well, on this trip back in Sommarøy I met nice a couple on holiday from South Norway. They were riding borrowed bicycles, and the man mentioned the brakes weren’t so great on his. Sympathetic to brake issues after my previous experience, I offered to tighten them. This lead to more talking, and me mentioning this blog. Later on I received an email from him, because he visited my Route page and saw the request for travel tips. The one place he said I should absolutely visit - Uttakleiv beach.

So I ended up in Uttakleiv because my brakes broke, which a year later made me fix the brakes of a stranger, who then ended up recommending Uttakleiv. There’s a funny symmetry to that.

A throwback to a morning in the Netherlands.

More recently in Luxembourg, we had trouble finding a place to stay after dark. In Bettendorf, Isabelle went to a flower shop with a café to ask for help. She came out with a big smile, which always means we’re in for a special treat. And we were - the two sisters who owned the place had told her we could sleep in their greenhouse. +12 degrees and dry was a huge improvement from the 0°C and raining that the outdoors had to offer that night.

We sat in their Flower Power café / pub while waiting for closing time, before we could take our bikes and sleeping bags in. By the owner’s recommendation, we tried a new local cider called Ramborn. Not only was it tasty, but also well timed, since we’d been looking for cider in the store earlier that day, but hadn’t found any.

Another earlier photo. The weather hasn't been great for the camera lately, so recent photos have been few and far between.

Two days later, after the events of the previous update, we arrived in Junglinster. It was dark again with no camping options. Isabelle had a cold, so we chose to knock on doors and ask for warmer accommodation. The first person we asked only understood French, but we got lucky with the second house. A very friendly couple let us in and ordered Chinese food while we told our stories. They lived in a beautifully furnished modern house, with a line of Dior and Chanel perfumes in the bathroom, and quality whiskeys on the living room shelf. I wasn’t surprised to hear the husband was a bank manager.

I was surprised to hear about their other side project. For a few years, they’d been getting into the cider business with their own brand. They were the makers of the very same Ramborn we’d drank by the greenhouse. Completely randomly, we had decided to ring their doorbell out of the countless others around.

I don’t search for a deeper meaning or divine guidance in these little coincidences like many other people seem to, but they are pretty cool nonetheless.

Typical view in Luxembourg: Rolling hills and forest.
From Martin's photo tour in Goesdorf, Luxembourg.


A Night by a Lighthouse


A Night by a Lighthouse

As soon as I crossed the border into Germany, things started going downhill.

First there was an unrelenting headwind, which has kept blowing pretty much every day since then. I wanted to stay on the coast to follow the national park, and there wasn't really anything to stop the wind in these flatlands. In many places there was a road on both sides of the dike, and I could choose between a view of the farmland to the west, or the sea to the east.

In both cases, every kilometre or less was interrupted by a sheep fence. I had to unmount, open the gate, get the bike across, and close the gate, all the while trying not to step on too much sheep shit. Sometimes there was so much of it that I could barely see the road underneath. That’s because these animals are idiots and tend to congregate by the fences, even when they have tons of land to roam freely on. After a few days I was getting pretty fed up with the sharply stinging smell of sheep crap and urine blown on my face by the strong gales.

The views weren't great on either side of the dike.

The problem with cycling inland was that I couldn’t really see anything resembling a forest or a place to camp. Everything that wasn’t someone’s home or yard had been turned into farmland. On the coast I was at least able to camp on the hidden side of the dike, sometimes even finding a place without sheep. Since this probably wasn’t allowed, I had to pitch my tent at dusk and leave at dawn, to avoid being seen. Feeling like a skulking criminal, just because I want to sleep outside without leaving any trace, made me sad. I now have all the more appreciation for the free camping rights of Scandinavia and Finland.

The air was always covered in a haze. At first I thought it was just fog, but even on a sunny day I couldn't see far into the horizon. There was a smoky smell. I wasn't sure if pollution in Germany really is so visibly bad, or whether this was a remnant of the forest fires in Spain a month or two before.

It didn't look like fog to me.
This pier stretched over 100 meters into the sea.

Through the pedals I started to feel a slight vibration that suggested something might be wrong. The next day it got bad enough to hear, as a slight clicking sound, which soon turned into a horrible metallic grinding. The ball bearings in my bottom bracket were done for. Not the kind of thing you want to happen when pushing hard into headwind. I got off to walk the bike, just in case pedalling would cause wider damage.

Near Husum I found a camping ground for the night. The next day I continued to the city to visit a bike shop. The first place I went to said I'd have to replace the entire bottom bracket, the crankset, front cogs, and probably the chain. Right. Luckily in the second shop the mechanic was happy to fix only what was actually broken, and didn't take long to swap the ball bearings.

I also took the time to thoroughly clean the entire drivetrain: cogs, chain, and cassette. I even took apart the small pulley wheels to get every bit of grime out and oiled anything that needed it. The operation made me feel better and the bike was running smoothly again.

In bad winds, every little bit helps.

At a tourist information office I was given strict orders to not miss the Westerheversand lighthouse. And who am I to disobey a direct mandate? I cycled there to find an almost alien landscape of grassy flatness, with a tall 100-year-old lighthouse sticking out in the middle. It was only a few hundred metres from the sea, but without higher ground, you couldn’t see all the way to the water.

It does look unnecessarily phallic.

While taking photographs at sunset, I met a couple local girls who turned out to be volunteer workers at the national park. They offered me some space to camp by their hut, right underneath the lighthouse! I’d never experienced a campsite like this before, so it was quite a special treat. I took whatever photos I could, before the rain and thunder chased me into my tent.

In the morning I was invited for breakfast. One of the girls, Annika, said that she had gone touring in Europe with some friends and been helped by strangers so much that now she wanted to pay some of it forward. I know that feeling well. After this trip is over, I’m going to have to work very hard to give back even a fraction of the help I’ve received.

I could never witness anything like this back home.


Trondheim and Entering West Norway


Trondheim and Entering West Norway

After waking up on a beach in Hommelvik, I continued west towards Trondheim. It was only 25km away, but there was a very uncomfortable headwind. After less than a third of the way I simply gave up and rolled into the nearest camping ground. Pushing through wind is a huge waste of energy when there’s time to wait for better weather.

Plus I needed to process some of the time-lapse sequences I’ve shot along the way. Which requires being plugged in to a wall socket. There are now 22000 RAW files from 90 clips in the first two months. That takes far too much computing time to make even a slight dent to that on battery power. I spent the day editing, stabilizing, exporting, deflickering, cloning, and rendering.

Ocean view on the way to Trondheim.

The next morning I was in Trondheim. First I visited a couple bicycle shops. The gears still felt kind of heavy, but less so than before. Lightening the panniers must have helped. In any case, the mechanics told me it’s not so easy to change the setup. The rear can’t fit a 40t cassette, as I found out in Mo i Rana, and there’s nothing smaller widely available for the front, at least without some digging to order online.

To make some changes the whole system might need to be swapped. Which is expensive and seems somewhat unnecessary now. I’ll be leaving Norway towards Sweden soon, and the landscape is going to be somewhat flat for months. So I’ll just wear out the gears I have, and revisit the issue before the Alps.

To my surprise, Trondheim was actually a very pleasant city! Perhaps due to the dedicated bicycle lanes, or the massive Burger King meal with a milkshake I was high on (probably both). Cycling through unfamiliar city centres is typically an ordeal, but this time I was even thinking I could easily live here for a while some day. Go figure.

Panorama of riverside buildings in Trondheim.

Through an online tip I had heard that the Atlantic Road near Kristiansund was one of the most beautiful cycling routes in Norway. I couldn’t miss that! It was a few days’ ride from Trondheim, and more or less towards Geirangerfjord, which was another major destination for me. So I head west.

After a tiring day in the city, I didn’t get very far. Somewhere before Orkanger I was ripe for some sleep, but no suitable tent places had appeared. I came across a camping ground, but it looked like the only available grass spots were in the middle of caravans. I can’t stand cramped spaces when camping - the whole point of sleeping in a tent is to be out in nature far from crowds. Hot showers and kitchens are nice, but the most important luxury of camping is space.

I was tired however, and still tempted to stay there. But the surrounding area looked promising - lots of pine trees and not too many houses, so I decided to cycle on to have a look around before paying to listen to somebody snoring in a camper van. (Or perhaps impose my own snoring on them...) Only 500 meters away there was a beach surrounded by forest. Perfect. I chose a great sheltered place to camp by the side of a cliff.

No camping ground could ever offer such a spot all to myself. It rained the next day so I stayed for two nights.

I considered camping on the beach itself until I realized the high tide submerges all the sand.

City lights reflecting in the water.


Uphills Are Hard


Uphills Are Hard

After Mo i Rana in Krogen, there was a 7km tunnel unavailable to cyclists. The only alternative route was almost twice as long and went over the mountain instead. It was the toughest climb so far, though still only 580 meters from sea level. It took me three hours of mostly walking my bike up.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve had some trouble with uphills on this trip. This is only partly due to my laziness. Especially at the end of the day, I often prefer to walk just because it’s slower and easier. I don’t need to exert as much energy, so there’s also less sweating. But now that the mountains are getting higher, it’s not just preference. It’s genuinely too difficult to cycle uphill.

The views are eventually nice though.

I was hoping and expecting to be stronger by this point. Usually after a month of cycling my legs feel better and the daily distances begin to grow. Maybe I’m getting old at mid-thirties, but that hasn’t really happened yet on this tour. So I'll need to lighten the bike somehow.

Besides brake pads, another reason I visited the bike shop Mo i Rana was actually to lighten my gear ratios. If I could just pedal more easily in the steep parts, it should do the trick. The mechanic tried to fit a much lighter rear cassette, but it wasn’t compatible with my shifter. In the end they didn’t have a wide enough selection of parts for the job, so we switched back to my old gears. I can try again in Trondheim.

Mountain at sunset in Helgeland, Norway.

Another solution is, of course, to carry less stuff. I’m sure I can still find many items in my inventory that I could easily do without. And some that could be replaced by a lighter version.

With a small amount of planning, my food and water weight could be reduced drastically. Right now I carry up to three liters of water, but that could easily be two or one by just checking ahead for places to refill at. Or perhaps I could buy a filter system that weighs an additional couple hundred grams, but means I’d need to carry hardly any water up the mountains.

Honestly, my food system is kind of ridiculous. The principle of having extra calories so I can stay camped when I want is fine, but there’s been no consideration for weight anywhere. My go-to breakfast is müsli with a banana, an apple, raisins and a nice 3dl carton of Norwegian coffee cream (10% fat for the calories). Now that’s a tasty and good meal, but the portion itself weighs quite a bit. I’d be better off eating away the water heavy fruit right after visiting a store. And in any case I’m still left with up to 700 grams of extra raisins and müsli for future breakfasts in the bottom of the pannier.

Or if I want to eat a few sandwiches during the day, I may end up carrying a huge loaf of bread, at least 150g of cheese, a cucumber, and a 475g squeeze bottle of spread. Compared to what I’m actually eating, most of it is just dead weight.

Then there’s tea. I like tea. But I need sugar in it. And you can’t buy sugar in a small package. Usually it only comes in a one kilogram sack. I try to look for the half kilo box of sugar cubes, but even that is a lot of excess to carry just for a cup of tea.

So it looks like I need to introduce some actual sense into my packing, at least as long as I’m in a mountainous area like Norway. I’m not in a hurry as such, but if I walk up every single hill from here on, it’ll be snowing before I get to south Sweden.

Fishing boat by a pier at sunset in Norway.
Bike camping spot at beach during sunset in Helgeland, Norway.


The Polar Circle and Mo i Rana

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The Polar Circle and Mo i Rana

The fair weather continued for days as I cycled southwards in idyllic Helgeland. Rain quickly became a distant memory. I didn’t even need to protect my gear from water whenever I camped, often leaving out the rain fly on my tent. Instead of camping ground showers, I started bathing in the ocean. The water was still too cold for actual swimming, but dipping in the Norwegian Sea to wash off the sweat after a hot day was extremely refreshing. I was always full of endorphins while drying off.

At one point I realized I had unceremoniously crossed the Arctic Circle in the ferry from Jektvik to Kilboghamn. I guess I can now say I’ve officially reached “The South”. After spending two great years in Inari far in the north, I won’t be coming back to these latitudes for a long time now. Probably for many years. Farewell, land of reindeer, long winters, magical northern lights, and vast open wilderness.

Sunset between mountains by the fjords in Norway.

I took a detour off the Fv17 to visit Mo i Rana. Mostly to find a bicycle shop for some spare parts. I had needed to tighten my brakes so many times due to wear that I figured I should buy spares soon. I wasn’t sure if the pads would last even to Trondheim - the next real city after Helgeland.

I entered the outskirts of Mo i Rana in the middle of the night after a long day of cycling. Just a few kilometers from the city centre, I was getting worried I couldn’t find a camping spot anywhere in the somewhat inhabited country suburbs.

Right then I came across a boathouse by the fjord, where someone had painted a big picture of a bicycle on the wall and some exclamation in Norwegian. I tapped the words into Google Translate and it came out to mean “Go for it!”. Presumably an encouragement for pedalling, but there was also some convenient level ground and grass nearby. I pitched my tent there despite being unusually visible from the road. At least whoever owned that particular boathouse surely wouldn’t mind a quiet and tidy world biking visitor.

Town in Norway at dusk reflected from the fjord.

The next day in Mo i Rana I got my new brake pads. You may remember how I feel about cities, so there’s not much else to report about that visit.

Except that on my way out, while waiting for the afternoon sun to dip lower so I could get on the saddle, I met a lovely old Swedish couple. They were on one of their numerous holidays of driving in Norway. These days even camper vans were no longer comfortable enough, so they traveled by regular car and slept in real hotel beds.

We shared a rest stop table and they generously gave me a huge piece of Danish to go with my cup of tea. We talked about various things, from pastries to taxes. They were both trying to make the world better in their own way through teaching and politics, and seemed to possess the wisdom to succeed.

It wasn’t a very long meeting, but random encounters like this are one of the best parts of bicycle touring. And traveling in general. You get to meet so many friendly, helpful, kind-hearted people that your faith in humanity receives a constant uplifting. While countries and cultures do have many differences, the underlying human nature is still more or less the same. If only more people took the time to see the world, we would have much fewer problems with prejudice and nationalism.

And that’s another way lovely old Swedish couples can change the world - just by being their friendly welcoming selves.

Sun setting behind a mountain on an island.

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Lightening the Load


Lightening the Load

My method of packing for a bicycle tour has always been a kind of “bring everything and see what happens” approach. For my first ever tour in 2013 I brought too much stuff, and I’ve only added more items and pannier capacity every year henceforth. Looks like I’ve finally reached the limit of what I can carry, though. Now it’s time to get lighter.

With my backpack susceptible to water leakage, I had to stop and think of an alternative. The backpack itself is extremely useful, even necessary, when I go hiking or even just buying groceries. I can take all the important stuff with me safely and easily. Carrying everything in a pannier would be possible, but very uncomfortable, and as always, comfort is something I don’t make unnecessary compromises with on very long tours.

I don’t think a plain rain cover will ever be 100% waterproof either, so the only choice was to put the backpack in the big red Ortlieb rack pack. Which meant I had to make room in it first.

Digging through every pannier, I looked for things I didn't need. The main culprit was my hammock. I don’t sleep in a hammock. The idea with bringing it was to see how it compares to touring with a tent, but I hadn’t used it once in the first month, and probably wouldn’t be needing it in the future either. I mailed it home.

I also tossed a tarp, an old extra spare tube that had been in my repair kit for years with no punctures (I still have three more), and various other small items that I deemed unnecessary.

All of that took up to 2kg of weight off the bike, and now the backpack could fit inside the rear pannier. With the lower weight distribution the bicycle feels steadier in addition to being lighter. Needless to say, I’m very happy with these little tweaks!

This should probably be a recurring ritual. Next time at the two month mark I’ll go through all my items, consider how many times I’ve needed them, and leave out anything I can live without. Letting go of unnecessary baggage is quite liberating.

In the first month I’ve cycled 1000km, which is quite a pleasant pace. The speed may increase after Norway, when I’m stronger and the land is flatter and less photogenic. But even at a lazy 33km per day average, I’d still be well ahead of schedule for 5 years and 50000 kilometers.

Looks like I’ll be able to take plenty of detours - or rest days - in the months and years to come.


Everything is Better in Norway


Everything is Better in Norway

As a Finn, I’m well aware of our inferiority to Norway in every way. Having such a perfect neighbour is almost unfair.

Norway has vastly better landscapes and views, everything is cleaner and better maintained, buildings look nicer, and the people are happier and healthier. The air smells cleaner and water tastes better. Even their borders extend further south, west, north AND east than ours. Norway is so rich and generous they are seriously considering donating a mountain to Finland. It would be Finland’s highest point, but doesn’t even crack Norway’s top 100. Everything is bigger and better in Norway.

Welcome to Norway - even our roads are pristine. All of them.

The headwind was still blowing when I started again, so I only cycled across the border and to the first rest stop. Obviously a very idyllic and tidy rest stop with sixteen rolls of toilet paper in a bathroom that was made of solid gold. The forecast said the wind would calm down in an hour or two, so I had a slow lunch and did some bike maintenance while I waited.

My brakes had felt pretty weak earlier, so I adjusted the pads. Then I lubed my chain, fixed the mirror position, tightened a few screws here and there, and taped up a couple points in the front of the frame that were rubbing against wire casings. Presumably there were likely to be very few bumps in the exquisite Norwegian roads ahead, so I pumped a little more air into my tires to increase speed at the cost of suspension.

The brakes in particular are very important in a place like this with many long downhills. This is something I learned last summer in Lofoten Islands when both of my break pads wore down to nothing. I had to either walk my bike downhill or brake with one foot dragging on the asfalt, which wore down the sole of my left shoe to a nearly patternless smooth surface.

Late at night I found a great place to camp called Lulledalen, next to the Lullefjellet Nature Reserve forest. I was back in a coniferous zone (as opposed to the sparse vegetation and dwarf birches of Kilpisjärvi). There was a 2.7km path around the forest with many informational plaques. Apparently among the various flora of the forest they even have the rare yellow Lady’s Slipper orchid, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe it wasn’t blooming yet due to the cold early summer.

They even have laavus in Norway.

The nearby stream was so flooded even the spruce trees were in the water. (Long exposure shot)

While doing some customary typing in my sleeping bag before bed, I suddenly heard a deep loud rumbling sound that lasted a few seconds. At first I presumed it must be thunder, but it was far too cold for a lightning storm. Then I realized the sound was actually rocks - or more likely huge boulders - falling off the mountain on the other side of the river! Ho-lee crap. I hope no-one was camping under that. And there’s a lesson for me to steer clear of rocky walls when finding a place for my tent.

The mountain still seemed to be mostly there in the morning.


Cycling Under the Auroras


Cycling Under the Auroras

I think I can call the first trip a success!

The temperature was at -10C and promising to get down to -15C during the night. I packed the bike and wore four layers of my best winter clothes, plus a beanie, scarf, and boots that can withstand -40C weather. Now, some people are probably thinking that sounds like too much while pedaling. And sure, when you overdress there is the risk of sweating, which is outright dangerous in the cold. But the solution is simply to go slowly. And this way I can take frequent breaks for resting, eating, drinking, or photography without looking like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining.

The bike, on the other hand...

I didn't go very far, probably cycling less than 20km total. The original plan was to sleep in a "laavu" (a Finnish lean-to, free for any kind of trekking use), since they always have firewood. But the ones I visited turned out to be rather difficult to get to. They weren't far from the road, but without an easy path, even a few hundred meters takes an unreasonable amount of work in 2-3 feet of snow and a heavy bicycle. As the northern lights lit up above me, I head back to look for snowmobile tracks and a quiet place to camp off the road.

I did bring a tent with me, but wanted to try sleeping in a hammock. First of all, it's much easier to set up, plus there's the huge benefit of gazing at the stars and northern lights when falling asleep. Unfortunately I don't have an underquilt, which is pretty important in the cold. So here's what I did: I put a space blanket in the hammock, a sleeping mat on top of that, a folded up fleece blanket under the bum area (since that's usually where the cold comes through first), then a winter down sleeping bag, and the other half of the space blanket wrapped around everything.

Then I wore a second beanie, a second pair of gloves, and walked around to warm up my body before diving into the sleeping bag. Despite all of that, I won't claim it was particularly comfortable. It was fine at first, but after a while of sleeping, the chill would creep through and wake me up. So not exactly the most restful night I've ever had. The next time I'll just use the tent.

The bike itself felt good on its first journey. The aforementioned winter clothes made getting on and off a little difficult, and the tires obviously aren't made for thick snow. Still, I had no trouble staying upright. When I got onto the snowmobile tracks, I just walked the bike without even trying to ride. In any case, much more testing is required, and I certainly don't mind!

And it's not until spring and summer bring the proper touring season, that I can really start to get acquainted with my new companion.


The Joy of a New Bike


The Joy of a New Bike

Exciting news: My bicycle has arrived!

For so long I’ve dreamt about this journey, and now for the first time it actually feels like a real thing that is going to happen. Because it's finally here. This is the bike I’ll ride around the world on. And it’s a beauty.

It’s a Finnish brand called Chebici, made by Vesa Rauttu. He is quite a character - 69 years old and still building some of the best custom bicycles around. I met him a year and a half ago when I needed to replace a rear tire while touring and a friend recommended his shop. We got to talking and he pointed out some issues with my riding position. Quickly impressed by his knowledge and skills, I brought up this project and that I was looking for a new bicycle. Soon enough, he took my physical measurements, and after some months of discussion and planning he designed this unique frame specifically for me.

It has disc brakes, 2” tires, an 11-speed cassette and brifters - finally I don't have to take my hand off the handlebar just to shift gears. The saddle is a Selle SMP and from preliminary testing, it feels better than my old Brooks. Which would be great, since the Brooks requires a bit more maintenance and isn’t as comfortable as I would like.

All the pieces work really well together and there’s nothing so fancy that it can’t be fixed in a third-world country. And best of all, it’s great on both asphalt and gravel roads. Unlike my old bike with 32mm tires, which always caused frustration on uneven surfaces.

So now I have about three months to get accustomed to the bike, test everything, and make minor tweaks where necessary.

I can’t wait for my first tour.