Bicycle touring gear.

Every day feels like Christmas at the moment, since I’m receiving several packages a week with fun cycling or camping gear. Since I’ve never camped in my entire life this is a whole new adventure for me, and I’m really enjoying shopping for my trip. I’m pretty sure my credit card is not loving it as much as I am though.

One of my favorite things that I have received so far is the MSR Hubba HP freestanding 1 person tent. As soon as I got it I had to pitch it, right there in my living room, and sleep in it for the first time.
The instructions for pitching the tent is stuck to the bag which is great because there is no way I can lose them. Not that it would really matter though, this is the easiest tent I’ve ever tried pitching, it took me less than 10 minutes from start to finish, despite taking a bunch of pictures. DSC04235
The tent weighs around 1 kg and consists of an inner tent, the tent canvas, one single stick thingy and a small bag of pegs for when you want to secure it to the ground.
DSC04246DSC04257If I really slept in the tent that night? Of course I did! And I woke up the next morning feeling great actually, maybe because of this next piece of gear I’ve recently bought; my thermarest sleeping pad.
It’s a Thermarest ProLite Plus Women’s mat, and it’s self-inflating which is absolutely brilliant. I kind of doubted that it would really work before I got it, but now I’m almost having a hard time deflating it because of the self-inflating power…
I’m going to sleep like a baby on this during my trip.

Next up: something that I know that a lot of people will have a very strong opinion on. But I’ve given it a lot of thought, and it felt right to me. Bicycle touring is a personal choice, and just because something is how it’s usually done, doesn’t mean that it’s the right decision for me.

So yeah, I bought a Bob Yak bicycle trailer. It might be a bit too early to say, but so far I LOVE it.
This is me building the Bob last Friday night.
Elsa and Bob, together for the first time. I really think and hope this is a match made in heaven. Bob can take a load of 30 kg and now I only have to find a Swedish flag to attach to the flag pole as well. The bag is completely waterproof and you can attach two water bottle cages to the very back of the trailer. Perfect for when you have such a small frame as I do, that can’t fit very big bottles.
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Last but not least, I ordered these really cool stickers a while ago, to give people who I meet along the way when cycling. I thought about ordering regular business cards, but these are so much cooler. I’m so pleased with how they turned out, now I’m thinking about perhaps ordering even more, in different sizes.
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Next time: my new merino wool clothes, and my awesome camping stove.

My worst cycling day ever.

I love cycling, but I have to admit that it’s not all fun and games every single minute. Sometimes having to pedal just one more meter can make you want to throw your bike away and sit by the road sulking because everything just SUCKS. This is a feeling I usually get when I’m hungry. When I’m really hungry I easily turn into the hulk, I simply get hangry (hungry/angry). I’m usually very chatty when cycling in a group, I can talk your ears off if given the opportunity. The first sign of my mood dropping is when I get quiet. When I go silent – beware.

Let’s skip to last summer. Day five of the cycling to Paris, we were in Belgium. It had been raining all day before, and the moment we got up in the morning we realized that the rain was still beating down on the pavement outside the hotel windows. As if the lousy weather wasn’t enough, this was the day when we had 220 kilometers to cover to get to the next hotel, including several steep mountains. On of them being Mur de Huy, a famous Belgian climb with the biggest grade being a fear-inducing 26%. The cycling race La Flèche Wallonne is usually decided on this slope. I was terrified.

We dressed in our fancy rain gear (huge black plastic bags) and set off from our hotel in Maastricht. We were pumped up and ready to go, despite the awful weather. A few hundred meters from the hotel we got out first flat. It was mid-July, 10 degrees and windy. I think you can all imagine my mood at this point.
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But we cycled on, it was slow and we had a lot of flat tires, and the Belgian mountains didn’t help at all. And then there we were. Mur de Huy loomed in front of us. We took of restricting clothes, we drank energy shots, we removed our water bottles to lighten the load and one by one we set off up the mountain. It didn’t take long before my legs were stiff with lactic acid, and my tires were slipping on the wet road and I had no power left at all. I was going so slow that I realized that if I didn’t pick up the speed I would fall over. Well, I jumped off my bike, just before hitting that last bend and seeing the goal line ahead. I was completely beat, and I knew that the time was ticking away quickly and we had yet to cover half the distance for that day.

This is me at the top. I can see so clearly in my own eyes how completely exhausted I am.

This is me at the top. I can see so clearly in my own eyes how completely exhausted I am at this point.

The entire team on top of Mur de Huy.

The entire team on top of Mur de Huy.

Huy is SO steep.

Huy is SO steep.

We kept cycling, there were more awful steep hills and I was completely silent. I didn’t say a word because I was so tired, I was hungry and thirsty because when it’s pouring down and you’re shaking on the bike from freezing so much it’s really hard to force yourself to eat and drink. Also it’s not very nice to undress outdoors (when you’re a cyclist you learn quickly that it’s very necessary to be comfortable with peeing outside) and remove most of your clothing to pee – which is why I didn’t drink. And I just had to keep cycling, because there were 30 people counting on me to keep on pedaling. All this time I was crying silently in the rain.

Warming hugs during lunch break.

Warming hugs during lunch break. Too tired to even remove our helmets.

Food truck and frozen cyclists.

Food truck and frozen cyclists.

When we finally reached the place where we were going to eat lunch, the clock was approaching three in the afternoon, we had more than 140 km left and I had never been more exhausted in my life. I had no idea how I was going to make it, and I still couldn’t eat because I have a hard time eating when I’m too tired. I was sipping hot tea and wishing for the best. I was scared for my safety and for everyone elses because I was not the only one who was tired, we all were. The roads were slippery, it wouldn’t stop raining and the wind was picking up as well. And that’s when it happened.

We were told that there were 8 available spots in the core team cars, and they were for the ones who were suffering the most. And I promise, I was not the one who was in the worst shape, people were crying all around me. But when the team leader told me that I could grab the last spot, I just broke down in tears, I was so thankful. I put my bike in our giant food truck, crawled into one of the cars wrapped in a blanket and could finally relax. I was having a very hard time focusing though, I lost track of what I was saying and my mind was just as exhausted as my body. After two hours in the car we got to the hotel, and after checking in (they were expecting 30 cyclists and their bikes, not 8 shivering soaking wet cyclists with no bikes) we got our rooms and after long, hot showers we gathered in a room wrapped in towels and comforters because our luggage was still in the food truck that would arrive much, much later.

The rest of the team seen from a warm cosy car.

The rest of the team seen from a warm cosy car.

The waiter was a bit surprised to find 8 half naked ladies in a room I think.

The waiter was a bit surprised to find 8 half naked ladies in a room I think.

We ordered beers and snacks and talked and laughed and it was the best afternoon I could have wished for under those circumstances. The others arrived a few hours later, after having cycled for 50 more kilometers than us. Then they were forced to stop too because it wasn’t safe to keep cycling, and I felt so sorry for them when they arrived. This kind of exhaustion can really break a person down, and there were a lot of tears all evening.
This is a photo of me taken later that night during our team dinner. You can always see very clearly on me when I’m exhausted and looking at this pic it kind of breaks my heart. I hate being that tired.

So I (mostly) know what I’m doing. I know how hard it can be. Rain is awful, wind is awful, hills are awful but some good food, a beer and a good nights sleep and then I’m ready to pedal on again. The next day we had some rain, but it was mostly fine and I was my usual happy chatty self again. We got to shake President Hollandes hand as we finally made it to France and saw one leg of the Tour de France. It was pretty awesome. The day before was forgotten and everything was good again.

That was my worst day of cycling. I hope this will continue to be the worst day for a long time to come. But at least when I’ll be cycling by myself I can stop and take shelter from rain and harsh weather, I won’t have to push on if I don’t want to.

What’s your worst experience cycling?

A home is not a house. It’s a tent. It’s a MSR Hubba HP tent.

When I bought my apartment in Stockholm in March last year, I felt that this was a place where I would spend many happy years. It was the right size for me, had a nice kitchen and balcony and I loved the loft bed. At this point the idea to cycle around the world had not yet been planted in my mind so I was looking forward to living there for a long time and enjoyed buying furniture and making it into a real home.

But then again, life never really turns out the way you plan, does it?

When I decided to quit my job and sell my apartment, I got quite nervous because it’s in my nature to crave stability in life. I didn’t want that to stop me though, so I basically just went for it and refused to even think about any negative things this could bring. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to keep moving.
Of course it’s sad to let this amazing apartment go, but to be honest it’s just a place. Four walls, a floor and a ceiling and that’s it. When I’m ready for it I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find somewhere just as great again. I will have to, because yesterday I signed the papers to sell my apartment to someone else, and I will move out on the 4th of May, right after I’ve stopped working.

I have not felt bad about it for even a second despite my worries, because the house market in Stockholm is INSANE and I got some money for it. I probably wouldn’t have to sleep in a tent my entire trip if I didn’t want to, but camping is something I’m really looking forward to. So today I bought the “house” I will be staying in during my trip around the world, introducing the MSR Hubba HP 1 person tent:
Isn’t it a beauty? I’ve only camped twice in my entire life, both times at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark when I was a teenager. I’m not sure that counts as camping experience though, so I can’t wait for my tent to arrive so that I can try it out at home before I leave.
I bought it from a UK site for £273 which I think is very reasonable. It’s a lightweight freestanding tent and it’s been getting a lot of great reviews. I can’t believe that this will actually be my home for the next few years, and I’m SUPER excited about it. If you would have told me that I would be this excited over camping a few years ago, I would have laughed and questioned your mental health…
So now it’s suddenly very real. I’ve quit my job, I sold my apartment and new gear is arriving all the time. Most of the time I don’t think I’ve quite realized that I’m actually doing this, but then all of a sudden I remember and it kind of blows my mind. I’m so glad that I’m actually pursuing my dreams, and not letting life pass me by while I could be out on the roads riding my bike and meeting great people.

Next step: change my LinkedIn profile to say “professional adventurer”. Wow.