This website is very nearly ten years old. Back in the early days(!) I used to answer many emails that I received on the website. In more recent years I haven’t done it so often but I’m going to do it now as this week I received two emails that go together well. Nick lives in London and he has questions about cycling from Tarifa to Nordkapp; Štěpán lives in Prague and he has plans to cycle from Nordkapp to Tarifa. I would imagine that my answers to Nick will also be relevant to Štěpán and vice versa. Hopefully they’ll also be useful to a few others out there who might harbour similar adventurous plans. Here goes… Nick and Štěpán are in italicised blue, I’m in red (slighted indented) because, well, I am a qualified teacher (although not indented…):
Hi there Andrew.
I hope this finds you well and your riding hasn’t been too encumbered by the late winter weather.
Since you ask, I have a cold and I’ve spent the day sniffling and yes, I’ve been very encumbered by the late winter weather, especially in that it is now spring. Please don’t get me going…
I am in the last throes of organising things for my bike ride and was wondering if you could answer a couple of questions for me please?
No problem whatsoever. I hope you like indented red.
1. Bike travel insurance. Can you recommend anyone to help insure both myself and the bike on this trip?
Ah yes. That old chestnut. I could write a book about travel insurance although admittedly it probably wouldn’t sell well. I did, however, write a post for CyclingEurope.org that included some information about travel insurance prior to setting off from Tarifa. You can read it here.
2. Norway. Specifically north of Lillehammer. I have planned a route out on STRAVA but wanted to check with you if there are any tunnels or areas of accessibility that could be problematic. I want to avoid riding umpteen kilometres down a main road and then discover that there is a tunnel that forbids cyclists. Is there a website that lists them?
I think there is a website that lists all the tunnels… give me a second… no, can’t find it but you may want to read this which contains a few useful links. That said, don’t worry about tunnels; if you are following the well-signposted cycle routes from Lillehammer towards Trondheim and then to Nordkapp along the coast, you will never be sent through a tunnel that you don’t have the right to be in. The car drivers might think you don’t have the right to be there – read Spain to Norway… – but you do. The ‘no cycling’ tunnels tend to be further inland, well away from marked cycle routes.
3. What tent did you use?
That’s an easy one; a Robens Osprey II. Great tent that gave me many quality night under its roof. It met its maker earlier this year after having been erected much more than your average tent. You can see it here in action on 66 campsites. Here it is in Amboise, France (I think):
I am planning to start pedalling April 6 and thanks to you have gained access to the island on April 5.
That’s good to hear. I’m still dining out on the story of how I managed to gain access to the Isla de las Palomas…
I can be followed during my bike ride at thelaeman and you can rest assured I will be giving your book reference along the way.
That’s even better to hear; free advertising!
Good luck to Nick. I set off myself on April 7th 2015 although that was from my uncle’s flat in Estepona rather than Tarifa. It was April 9th when I left Tarifa. It will be interested to hear how long it takes Nick; I arrived in Nordkapp on July 28th.
Back to the emails, more specifically to Prague:
Hi Štěpán. Do you realise just how difficult it is for a speaker of English to find all those accents on his laptop? Sorry, I digress. Nice to be in touch.
Thank you again for responding to my tweet and thank you very much in advance for your answers. I hope you have a nice weekend.
Well, so far so good, but like I said above, I’m struggling with a minor bout of the flu (otherwise known as a ‘cold’).
Here is the list of questions:
- We’ve been to Norway last year, so I am aware of prices .. but when using the ferries, do you get charged as a motorbike or just as an adult?
Ahh… I see you’re a bullet point man. That makes my indenting more tricky but I’ll persevere. Taking the bike on all the ferries was very cheap, certainly when compared to taking a car. I can’t remember the exact prices but I do remember being regularly pleasantly surprised at the low cost. Even on the ferry from the Bodo to the Lofoten Islands – a trip of several hours – it didn’t cost very much at all.
- Was it for you more rough in the south of Norway, highlands, or near Nordkapp?
I’m guessing you are referring to the general cycling conditions. It did get more difficult the further north that I travelled but it was only in the last couple of days that I ever felt that I was in a remote place. The weather was by far the biggest factor in making the cycling difficult. When it was cold and wet, the cycling wasn’t so great, but when the sun came out, it was wonderful!
- Did you choose some extra wear, that was different from your previous tracks? I am thinking mostly of body functional clothes and shoes.
When I arrived in Hamburg, I stayed with some friends for three nights and I used the opportunity of an extended pause to buy some warmer clothes. This included some more sturdy trainers as up until that point I had been using some cycling sandals. For most of the cycling north of Hamburg I wore a pair of long hiking trousers which were perfect; very comfortable and when they got wet, they were easy to dry. I also wore my wooly hat!
- If possible, would you be able to disclose, how much money was the trip (without transport from Nordkapp, or to Tarifa), in terms of food, camps?
The honest answer is ‘I don’t know’. I’m guessing perhaps €200-€300 per week but I did, occasionally, use a hotel when I got too wet and I had to have the bike repaired a few times. On a good day, if all I paid for was the campsite and food, I would probably only spend €20-€30.
- During the passage, what was the most difficult part for you?
There were a few ‘Mercedes’ days (read the start of the book to find out how they got their name!) when I was simply unhappy. Usually it was down to the weather, for example one day in northern Spain. There were a few physically demanding days, for example cycling up into the mountains in southern Norway and some of the coastal roads in western Norway could be long and steep, but overall I would say that my second continental ride from Greece to Portugal back in 2013 was far more of a challenge than cycling from Spain to Norway which was mainly a flattish ride. The biggest challenge was keeping going to the end.
- What diet recommendation would you give, mostly for the expensive north?
Fresh pasta with pesto and digestive biscuits from the Norwegian Co-op. They were all about the same price as I pay for them back here in the UK and they contained lots of calories.
- Were you ever afraid, that somebody might steal your stuff?
Not really, no. I always kept my most valuable items with me – camera, iPad, phone… – and was happy to leave the rest of my things in the tent if needs be. Who would want to steal my clothes? The bike usually came with me wherever I went and I had a D-lock with me to secure it if I needed to do so.
- And lastly, what were the driving conditions in Spain, crossing the Pyrenees?
The ‘cycling’ conditions you mean? They were good although I was in for a bit of a surprise when crossing the Pyrenees as I cycled along the road from Roncesvalles to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port which never really climbed high into the mountains. The walkers on the Camino climb to a much greater height when they follow the walking path but I had it relatively easy on the road.
Hope all that was of use to Nick and to Štěpán and to anyone else who might be thinking of cycling from Tarifa to Nordkapp or Nordkapp to Tarifa. For the full story, you can of course refer to the daily posts I made to CyclingEurope.org – you’ll find them here – or, of course, read the book…