Travel Diary: The Valdres Mistakes
Dave, I know what you did last summer.
Dave, my dear friend. Four days, about 100 kilometers in the Norwegian mountains. Mostly sunny. I delivered just what you wanted for your summer visit to Norway. What did we learn?
We are on the brink of a new season when the outdoors in Norway invites you inside (or is it outside?). If the season alone is not motivation enough, maybe a recap of one of the highlights of the summer of 2018 will help. Furthermore, this text will serve as a further reminder of mistakes to avoid in 2019.
Avid readers of this blog may observe that the texts tend to return to the familiar themes of hardship and failure. Starting at Fagernes in June 2018, however, I found myself in an unusual situation. I was suddenly the more experienced outdoorsy type, and had to look at my co-traveler struggle his way through the Norwegian wilderness. His name isn’t actually Dave, but in order to respect his privacy and protect him from ridicule, Dave is the name he will go by here.
First of all, a few words about the chosen destination. Offroad Valdres is a much acclaimed mountain bike race taking place in the mountains of Valdres. Our starting point was the map for the 2017 race. Contestants finish the 150 kilometer race in eight to 10 hours, but we were there the scenery, planning a shortened version of the route over the span of four days. We anticipated a relatively comfortable ride and yet had packed only the essentials for a bikepacking trip. For Dave, the essentials extend to some rather exquisite culinary choices, but I won’t use all of those choicest against him. There are so many other things to mention.
So let’s start our tour of lessons learned. Number one: The rack.
Choose your traveling racks for bikepacking with care
For the last couple of years, bikepacking has become increasingy popular, and more people preferring this rather spartan way of traveling means providers of packing solutions are like flowers in a spring meadow – everywhere and in all colours and shapes. In this analogy, Dave had picked an old dandelion of a rack.
Just remember, my dear friend Dave, that bikepacking in the mountains entails a rugged surface and the rack should be sturdy. It should not disintegrate into several pieces of aluminum and plastics while up in the mountains, because that makes it a bit more tricky to get back to civilization.
All things considered, we were lucky. Dave’s rack started dancing above his rear wheel already on the first day, but against all odds it kept its integrity until day three, when it started to fold.
Any experienced outdoorsy type packs duct tape (wrapped around a pen, for instance) and carries zip ties as a backup plan if something breaks. When bikepacking, these items are even more essential than when hiking. And I am proud to say that yours truly, he did appear as the experienced outdoorsy type, taping and temporarily fixing the fatigued rack. The improvised solution held the rack together to the bitter end, when it heaved its last breath and collapsed in a metal heap.
So, Dave, my dear friend. For the next trip I would recommend to invest in something a bit more sturdy and bikepacking-ready.
Spare tubes should be, you know, complete
Yes, I admit it: I am a bike snob. I don’t think Dave’s bike was the most appropriate for the trip. His ride was state of the art 10 years ago, but things have changed, and I was particularly worried for the narrow wheels that were going to support one man and all his gear across rugged terrain.
Yet credit is given when credit is due, and I admire Dave for getting through the whole trip on those small wheels. However, he could have made it easier for himself had he checked his spare tubes. I mean, Dave, you can blame your brother all you want for failing to maintain your equipment. If he is unreliable, I would recommend you to personally check the spare tubes before your next trip.
Three spares and all three punctured. Dave, we should count ourselves lucky it was sunny that day so that being outdoors patching up inner tubes wasn’t a wet, cold chore.
Bring your own toothpaste and spoon
I’m a stickler for mouth hygiene even when traveling light, and my routine is the same whether I’m in my own bathroom or in a thunderstorm. Rations are carefully measured, however, so my tiny travel tube of toothpaste is hardly sufficient for two people. Sure, you want to travel light and to carry double is a drag, but essential personal hygiene articles should stay personal. So, Dave, bring your own toothpaste.
The same goes for a spoon. It is of course possible to share a spoon and eat in turns. But is it worth it – in terms of weight and space – to leave your personal spoon at home? Dave, pack your own spoon for your next trip. It’s priceless. Oh yeah, that goes for the cup, too.
Eggs for breakfast?
Breakfast is always a complicated issue when traveling. Most experienced outdoorsy types pack, prepare and enjoy oatmeal, either as a gluey texture or in a semi-liquid form. I struggle with any option, and pimping it with dried fruit requires me to carry fruit in such an abundance that it takes up too much space.
Dave was not ready to compromise his extravagant breakfast routine – he is, after all, Spanish – and decided to carry sausages and eggs.
I’m not going to lecture anyone for carrying eggs. I sometimes do it myself, but normally I pre-mix them in a bottle. That requires some space in your bag, and space is a scarce resource when bikepacking. Dave carried them in the carton, 12 eggs straight as they come packed from the supermarket.
Did I mention bikepacking in the Norwegian mountains is a rugged affair? I don’t know if I have to spell out the subsequent disaster. Strangely, Dave did have enough eggs for breakfast the first morning.
Tl; dr: Carry duct tape and zip ties. Always.
What he lacks in bikepacking preparedness, he makes up in photo skills. Dave’s Instagram page is worth a visit.