north sea loop

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Adventure no.2 – A loop of the North Sea by Nik and Leif

Our very first adventure together was a tour in our home country of Norway, riding it from top to bottom. Two years have passed since and it was it was time for us to get out there again. We brainstormed and eventually landed in Edinburgh, Scotland. From here we set our minds to riding a loop of the North Sea from Edinburgh to the ferry to France, then into the cobbles of Roubaix and Flanders, through the Ardennes, across Germany and northwards to home, Norway.

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We landed in Edinburgh and nervously, helplessly watched the luggage handlers throw our bikes around. We rode out of the airport. The roads were a scary place. Not because they were scary, but because they drive on the left side here. This was new to us, and took some time to get used to!

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Gloomy grey clouds lay low as we made our way around and out of Edinburgh. On the outskirts of the city we met a group of old men, cyclists. They were touring from Newcastle. Roger, a tall old man full of energy and cheek introduced us to his friends.

One of the old men was wearing ski goggles. “That’s Mike, he’s looking for snow.” Roger said with a grin. “We’ve been doing these trips every year since the 60s.” another one of the guys said.

We chatted more, shared some food and waved goodbye. Meeting these guys really made us smile. It was clear to us that they were having a good time, simply doing what they enjoyed doing, and we wondered what these dudes looked like in the 60s.

Before long we were on roads free of cars, and landscapes free of houses. That night we set up camp deep in the Scottish Woodlands, along a gravel road that seemed to lead only deeper and deeper into the forest.

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The next morning I was pumping up a tire when it exploded. It was then that Leif discovered he had brought the wrong tubes. It took many tries, but we eventually patched it and carefully made our way out of the forest.

Leif and I are big believers of overcoming any challenge through creativity and sheer willpower. Things will work out simply because they have to.

The route I had drawn up was a goofy one, full of tiny gravel roads and trails. I had done it so on purpose, but not quite thought through the consequences. The idea had always been to take the road less travelled, and we were always thankful for our beautiful surroundings, but it got ridiculous some times. One day we went for a solid hike with our bicycles in the mountains of the Pennines. Looking back however, all the silliness was worth it, even despite all the resulting mechanicals.

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When Leif and I think of adventure we think of a simple pleasure. For us it means making the silliest of mistakes, learning from them, and being thankful all the way, regardless of how things turn out. Here is Leif’s definition.

A Definition of Adventure by Leif Lundberg

Adventure is one of those words for which there are many definitions. It depends on who you ask. To me, adventure is being 10 years old and riding my bicycle around the neighbourhood. Finding out and exploring where that one small path leads. Some say that I was born too late to be an explorer, but the world is far from being fully explored. Moments, places, people, mountains, rivers, valleys, forests, fields, roads. I want to see them all.

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The challenge is to be an explorer in a busy and confusing world, where it is easy to get trapped into only doing what is expected of you. I have found my escape in riding my bike with my good friend Nik. Our bikes and trailers stuffed we head out to cycle for 10-12 hours a day for weeks on end. We sleep in fields, forests, on top of mountains and the occasional camping place.

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Physically pushing myself up large climbs and over long distances with a friend I trust fully gives me a sense of freedom that I have yet to find elsewhere. The people you meet, the places you see and the experiences you make cannot be bought with money. Memories I will never forget. Personally, that defines it very well and I am eternally grateful for the adventure.

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Having made it through a rainy England and over the channel, Leif rode off the ferry and into France on a flat tire. Two days later and we were stood staring down a cobbled road. Having watched the pros fly over the cobbles of Paris – Roubaix, we needed to try it for ourselves. We had no idea what to expect. It was brutal.

The vibrations course through ones entire body, every cobble is out to take away all your momentum, and it began to rain. Finally we made it to the velodrome. We were told not to ride it. We may have done so anyway. It may have been quite a magical experience. Next time we watch Paris -Roubaix we will understand, at least a little bit.

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Next up was the cobbled bergs of Flanders. Thankfully, the cobbles were friendlier, but steep and slippery in the rain. At the top of Oude Kwaremont an old man on an e-bike asked us what we were up to. We told him we were riding the bergs around here. “Aha, I will guide you.” he said, and rolled off.

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We followed. He was terribly fast on his e-bike, pacing us across the flats and zooming away from us on the climbs. For three hours we rode around Flanders with this friendly 78 year old, not stopping once for food or water.

We suffered for sure, but were thankful to have such a special guide. Eventually we reached Oudenaarde, a city where we would go our separate ways. But before we parted, he insisted we join him for the fanciest lunch of our trip. He told us about his 13 grandchildren, his 8 horses, his farm, the factory he started, and his wife. We never even caught his name.

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More defining of this trip than all the misfortune with our bikes, the countless flats, a snapped chain, a loose headset and so on, was the friendliness we were met with.

We asked for floors to sleep on and got beds, warm meals and showers. We asked farmers for fields to sleep in and got their lawn. We greeted people from afar and were approached with conversation. Every day and everywhere we were overwhelmed by the general kindness of those we encountered along the way.

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As we left Hamburg, Leif hit a car. He was alright, but the fork had broken in half and damaged the frame. The cycling journey was over in an instant. We took the train home, reflecting on an eventful adventure, terribly thankful that things ended the way they did, and not worse.

Looking forwards, Leif and I see ourselves going on adventures for as long as our legs allow us to do so. Sort of like Roger and his friends. I wonder what we will come up with 50 years from now.

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