A few years ago I made a pair of crampons for F, and posted about them. I've since made a half-dozen pairs for her as she's grown and for a few other kids we've gone hiking with. I didn't really explain how to make them very well, though. So here are some instructions.
This post - June 25th to 26th
~ 70 km, 1000 m - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway Part IV - Jotunheimen National Park and Valdresflye Plateaux
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
I've started to develop some very itchy hives on my hands... it's not clear to me if I've become allergic to our sunscreen, or if it was the fibreglass, but I took some antihistamines and stopped wearing sunscreen as a precaution. I picked up some cheap cotton gloves and rigged up a neck flap for my helmet instead.
The climb up from Fagernes was gruelling in the hot sun, but we treated ourselves to a whole watermelon and tub of ice cream at the top. Maybe it wasn't so bad that the grocery stores in the valley were closed yesterday. Then we found ourselves on another gorgeous high plateaux, where we picked up the Mjølkevegen cycling route toward Gol. It's worth mentioning how amazing the Norwegian drivers are when it comes to cyclists. You could have a loaded semi behind you as you slowly crawl up a winding hill, and the driver will wait patiently a respectable distance back since there isn't enough room to safely pass. Only once there is a spot for you to pull over, or a clear view ahead, will the driver pass you with a friendly smile and wave. It suppose helps that we're mostly on back roads - everybody who is in a rush takes the tunnels under the mountains, not the old roads over them - but the drivers are all still very friendly and professional.
On the plateaux we found great biking for F as well, since the roads were mostly flat or gently rolling, and there was little traffic. We camped only one night on the plateaux, but Fenya had a great time biking where she wanted on the little side trails while I ran after her. Nova entertained everybody by making a poop so big that the potty couldn't contain it and the pile reached her bum. The next morning the mosquitos were horrendous, which inspired our fastest camp teardown yet - 1.5 hours (previous best time was 2 hours). Once we got biking it was fine, though. Fenya did a lot of biking on the plateaux.
The descent to Gol was a set of steep mountain switchbacks, and on a major road. I have overheated my brakes in the past, while towing F in the chariot bike touring on the Gulf Islands where the road was too windy to go quickly. Let me tell you - it was pretty scary. First you realize you can't slow down anymore, then you smell the burning and know why - but you are still on the hill. Anyway, to avoid brake overheating I usually do descents pretty fast. This may seem counterintuitive, but going slowly really is the easiest way to overheat your brakes, and I've got to dissipate the energy for > 400 lbs worth of stuff - the more of that energy that goes into the wind the better. Line and I actually had a long discussion about it - specifically whether or not it did actually reduce the chances of brake overheating to go fast - and I eventually googled these proceedings (PDF warning) from the tent, which confirmed my suspicions. They put a bicycle disk brake setup in a small wind tunnel and measured the power dissipation as well as brake temperature, in addition to some numerical modelling. Looking at their results you can see that cooling is more-or-less linear (if you go 3x as fast, the air helps carry heat away from the rotor 3x as fast - this makes sense since the rotor is mostly cooled by the air, not conductive cooling to the rest of the bike or radiative cooling). We know that the heat you need to dissipate also scales linearly with speed (if you are loosing elevation 3x as fast that's 3x as much energy you've got to be shedding somewhere). So, overall for a given descent grade, your brakes would be at the same equilibrium temperature, regardless of speed, if it wasn't for aerodynamic resistance. But aerodynamic resistance (drag from the air) increases with velocity (google it!), so the faster you go the more energy is soaked up by the air and the cooler your brakes. This makes sense since in the limiting case (you don't brake at all) you just reach terminal velocity and are kept at that speed by the wind alone. Also, if you are just slowing down for corners, your brakes may never even reach equilibrium temperature (an alternative is to stop and let your brakes cool, possibly assisting with water, which is a strategy we also employed).
Anyway... that's why I was going really fast (with both kids - F sitting on the back and N in the chariot) when I got the first flat tire of the trip. Full speed, on some busy narrow mountain switchbacks. At first the bike started to kick back and forth. I yelled to F that this was not a good time to rock back and forth and she should keep still. She retorted that the bike was doing it, not her... when the bike started to fishtail and the rear end (and chariot) started trying to overtake the front I knew she was right - the rear tire was totally flat. I told her to hang on tight. The driver behind me (god bless Norwegian drivers in general, and them specifically) noticed something was up and gave me plenty of space. Fortunately I have a reasonable amount of experience biking around on ice with a studded tire only on the front... I was able to slow down gradually and steer/lean to keep the mass of the bicycle behind the front tire and stay rubber-side down. It was the scariest moment of the trip by far, but soon enough I was stopped on the side of the road, had unloaded the stuff, and was changing out the tube.
There was surprisingly little damage to the tire/rim, but the tube was split down the middle and looked like it had been cut with a knife. In a variety of other locations it also looked like it had been cut, but not all the way through. I initially suspected it was a tube manufacturing defect, but (later in the trip, after a few more flats) figured out it was actually a rim tape defect. Under the weight of the bicycle the rim tape squirmed around and folded on itself, creating a small ridges that would slowly slice their way through the tube. After figuring this out I replaced the thin plastic rim tape on both wheels with heavy cloth tape (Velox - the best stuff) and the problem disappeared.
At the campground in Gol we had a buffet of pre-cooked grocery store food. Fish cakes are scary cheap in this country. From Gol we saved ourselves kilometres of valley biking along busy roads by taking the train to Haugastøl and the next leg of our journey. That train is really set up for cyclists, with a separate car just for bikes - complete with an attendant that you just pass your bicycle on up to.
Next: Bike touring in Norway part VI: Rallarvegen (coming soon)
This post - June 20th-24th
~190 km, 2200 m - biked with the whole family
440 + 600 + 800 + 1200, extracurricular hiking elevation
Follows: Norway part III: Poopville (Mysubytta)
See also: Our European bike tour: People and Equipment
After leaving Dønfoss camp we didn't spend too much time zipping down the valley until heading up into the mountains again. This time heading up some very steep switchbacks from Garmo towards Tesse lake. I was the only one who didn't need to dismount, and only just barely... we didn't quite make it to the top, and camped near the side of the road in the middle of the switchbacks. The combination of allemannsretten and long days makes for stress-free cycle touring. It was a beautiful forested campsite, and also the last night with Laerke, as she needed to return to her regular life. The next day we bade her farewell and then tried to go the low-elevation way around Tesse lake, but the track became unsuitable for our bicycles and we had to go back and around the high way - almost as high as the pass - before coming back down to a campground in Randsverk. That evening I had my best (running) time yet - 440 meters in just under 21 minutes up, 17 down, to summit Ørnkampen just outside of town. I was pretty excited about it until I realized that this would be a regular (overall) time on skis... but still good since I don't really consider myself a runner.
During the cycle towards the famous Jotunheimen National Park F complained about being itchy and we discovered that both kids were covered in fibreglass shards. We think it was an aging above-ground enclosure they were playing on/around at the last campground... we cleaned them up as good as we could and quarantined the affected clothing, but were pretty worried as this was most of their warm clothes. We rented a very small cabin at Bessheim, just outside the park, both due to high predicted winds, but also so that we could take a proper shower and attempt to wash all the fibreglass contaminated clothes. That evening I washed the kids/clothes while Line ran a loop through the park up to Bessvatnet and over the shoulder of Veslfjellet. Even though the high winds never materialized we thoroughly enjoyed our first non-tent night in a long time.
The next day I got up early, biked over to Leirungsbuin then did a running traverse over Knutshøe and back around the North side before breakfast. I expected to pass a lot of people, but only saw/passed a single German tourist. I think I was too early. I read a lot of warnings about it being a serious mountaineering objective, but as usual you need to modulate the severity of the warnings against the popularity of the route - there were only a few easy scrambling sections, but was important to go the right way. I think the South side is the more popular return route, as I found the trail around the North side to be largely nonexistent in places. Later that day, biking by the regular trailhead with the whole family, I ran into the same German tourist; he had just returned to his car. We chatted a bit and he gave Fenya a lot of gummy candies.
The pass to the South we biked over is a wide alpine plateaux, and unlike anything I'd seen before. We pulled over at a rest stop and watched a herd of reindeer roaming the plains; they moved much like a flock of birds. Beautiful. That evening we camped by the trailhead for the Bitihorn; Line climbed it that evening and I climbed it the next morning. F and N were very exited about the patch of snow beside the tent. Then came the long winding descent to "civilization" at Fagernes, stopping so that F could get an extracurricular climb up Smørkollen on the way. It seems that our planning was somewhat lacking, though, as we came down on the weekend and everything was closed except the gas station. The hot-chocolate powder I ate right from the package wasn't very good, but the only problem with the gas station pizza was that we only bought one of them...
This post - 17 to 19 June
~ 72 km, 600 m - biked with the whole family
~15 km, 1600 m - extracurricular hiking
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment
After a quick stop to pick up groceries we headed up the next valley riding up Bråtåvegen, past Liavatnet, to Mysubytta. Eventually the road became a toll road, and Mysubytta at the head of the valley was nothing more than a small cottage community, seemingly abandoned except for a rather large number of free roaming livestock. So we basically had the place to ourselves. Liavatnet was gorgeous, as was the whole valley, and Mysubytta appeared like a postcard dotted with sturdy turf-roofed cottages.
The road was not only steep but also loose, and I had to dismount for the first time after loosing traction. That is when I discovered that, on loose surfaces, I'm actually better off on the bicycle! If I have to get off due to traction loss I can't actually push the ~250 lbs of bike/gear/kids up the hill; since I only weigh ~160 lbs I don't get enough traction with my feet to do so. I just hold onto the brakes and wait for assistance. Fortunately, such instances were rare.
This post - 14 to 16 June
~ 65 km, 500 m - biked with the whole family
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment
Line was pressed against the upwind side of the tent, supporting it from the inside, while I ran around on the outside making small rock bollards for the tiedowns. The weather was so nice the previous day that we hadn't even secured the tents properly, having completely failed to look at the wind part of the weather forecast. Now, Line and I are no strangers to weather in the alpine - before we had kids we'd hit the mountains almost every weekend, year 'round, and have been heading out on long self-supported expeditions together since before we were married. The kind of trips where you often spend days in a blizzard on the middle of some glacier. But, for some reason, we hadn't really taken the alpine seriously because we were on a road. I guess it was just a bit of a cognitive disconnect - for us the road has always meant civilization and safety. You get down from the mountains, reach the road (usually in the valley), and drive home inside the warm cocoon of your car. Here we were on the road already... but, of course, the weather doesn't stop simply because there is a road there. That was just our experience from over a decade of car-supported mountain trips. Our warm cocoon now is 3.5 kg of polyester, and it's not driving us home any time soon.
It was still in the wee hours, but fortunately we were far enough North that it never gets dark. I ducked back into the tent to discuss our options. The kids were fast asleep. It was already *pretty* windy, but according to the forecast this was just the tip of the iceberg. We could expect wind speeds in excess of 100 km/h - there was no way the tent could handle it in our current position. We had to move. Line started packing while I ran around the local area looking for a better spot. It started to rain. We carried the kids, still in their sleeping bags, into Laerke's tent (which is at least a real 4-season alpine tent); then we took down our tent and set it up again ~100 meters away on the lee side of some sort of road-maintenance shed. Then we put the kids, now slightly awake but still in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and wheeled them over there too. Finally we took down Laerke's tent and had the whole team crowded into our 4-person tent beside the roadworks shed.
We ended up pinned there for 2 days and nights in a driving wind that often carried a mix of rain and snow. Even in the lee of the roadworks shed sometimes we wondered if tent would be blown right off the mountain. We worked out the details of our backup plan in case of tent failure - piling the kids, in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and pushing them to a hotel just a few km away while we abandoning the rest of the equipment (or flagging down a passing motorist, if possible). We occasionally set up a tarp for cooking, and ripped a lot of holes in it by doing so. I noted how the wind could blow the tea out from your cup if you strayed from the shed and got caught by a gust (if it didn't just plain-old knock you over).
This post - 11 to 13 June
~ 35 km, 1150 m - biked with the whole family
~ 20 km biking, ~ 12 km hiking, ~ 2200 m elevation - extra-curricular
(and a long ferry ride)
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment.
On arriving in Bergen we picked the large outdoor (but covered) public area just outside the airport front doors for bicycle unpacking and re-assembly. We'd taken four hours to pack all four (Line's sister Laerke would be joining us) bikes in Copenhagen, but didn't have very much time for re-assembly as we had a ferry to catch. We needed to be efficient. F's bike was assembled first; this turned out to be a key strategic decision because it meant she could ride around in circles (entertaining herself) while the adults re-assembled the rest of the bikes, changed diapers, re-packed the luggage for biking, and kept the kids fed. Second bike was my cargo bike, which Line immediately took to drop the bike boxes off with the hotel we'd stay at the night preceding our return flight (we hadn't yet figured out we could easily carry them in addition to all our stuff). I had her bike assembled just before she returned, so she could take off to buy fuel and other supplies we'd need for the rest of our trip, and then sort out the ferry. One I'd finished up Laerke's bike (noticing it was in pretty pour repair) we packed all the kids and stuff onto them and headed off. Two hours - we were efficient.
We caught up to Line when she called Laerke's cell... "Hey, there is a bike store attached to the camping store - maybe we should buy enough parts to fix Laerke's bike? What size are her tires again?" "Wait a second - we're also standing outside a bike/outdoors store". Turns out we were meters apart. We stocked up on bike parts too (all the consumables on Laerke's borrowed bike were in poor shape - tires, brakes, cables) and hurried to the ferry. The ride through town was really nice, with lots of bike infrastructure.
Last weekend the weather was forecast to be beautiful, so we made a last minute decision to go camping, and convinced a few friends to come. After a few emails back and forth we settled on Joffre Lakes. The park website had some serious warnings about ice on the trail. We figured it probably wasn't so bad, but still decided to bring microspikes for all the adults, and Christian stayed up a few extra hours making kid crampons for the four hiking kids. In the end the kids ended up disappointed due to the lack of ice on the trail. One of them still insisted on wearing the crampons on a ice covered mud puddle at the upper lake.
We arrived at the parking lot around 11am and managed to snatch the last free parking spot. Scott and Sandra had to park at the new lower lot. The trail was busy. It seemed particularly busy when you are wearing giant backpacks and have four young kids blocking the way of other hikers. The kids did amazing though and we arrived at the second lake within a couple of hours with very little complaining. Christian had put his new hiking tactic - the "slow down you whipper-snappers you're hiking too fast!" game to good work. We had a long break and only lost a few gold fish crackers and half a bagel to the very aggressive whisky jacks.
The trail around the upper lake was more like a scramble for little legs and ended up taking almost as long as the rest of the trail. It was nice to leave the crowds behind at the far side of the lake though. At the campsite, the kids were off exploring right away while we set up tents and cooked dinner. It was a cold night, but once the sun had set the stars came out, and they were spectacular. I fell asleep while putting N to bed, so i did not notice that Christian and F had set up their sleeping bags outside. I woke up around 9pm and registered that they were gone, and then proceeded to lie there very still not to wake N up, while I worried were they might be. It was not until 40 min later that I finally realized that their mats and sleeping bags were also missing, and when I looked outside the tent I saw them sleeping under the stars. In the morning they both spoke about how special it was to stargaze together. F was excited to have seen her first shooting stars, and Christian was excited to notice the earth's rotation and the milky way were way out-of-plane compared to each other... but mostly they were both excited to have spent the night out doing something special together.
We had a very relaxed morning. The kids spent a lot of time playing hide and seek in the boulders and breaking the ice formed overnight on the lake. Around 11am we started heading down. We had a long lunch break at the other end of the upper lake enjoying the warm sun before heading down. Once we hit the improved trail I could no longer keep up while carrying N. The kids were running down the trail. At some point I heard some serious crying and I quickly caught up to Christian and Carter. S had fallen on the trail hitting his head on a rock. He had a big goose egg on his forehead, and a puncture wound under his eye. Luckily he seemed to be fully with it, and even slightly annoyed that Christian kept asking him what he had had for breakfast. Carter carried him the rest of the way down. We were all happy that he seemed alright when we got to the cars.
We "just" (ok - it's been a month) got back from 2 months cycle-touring around Europe. We toured through Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany (with a few flights, ferries, and trains in there). We took it easy in terms of distances covered, averaging about 40 km per day, so that the kids would have lots of time to play. But we still had some long days, and several days with elevation gains approaching 1000 m. Trip reports to come (spoiler - it was incredible)... but most questions are about the logistics and equipment, so let's start there!
Our youngest daughter, N, rode in the chariot bike trailer all the time. Our oldest daughter, F, had the option of riding her own bike, sitting on the back of my cargo bike, or sitting in the chariot. I would say that she rode her own bike about 25% of the time. Not surprisingly, she had a strong preference for sitting out all of the long uphills. She also never really went in the chariot unless she wanted to sleep or it was raining. Usually I would tow the chariot and we would just strap F's bike sideways across Line (mom)'s panniers. If we anticipated a lot of switching back-and-forth Line would tow the chariot and I would use the cargo bike to tow F's bike (riderless) as this was a faster transition. If I was already towing the chariot, but needed to take F's bike as well, I could also stick it vertically on the back along with all our stuff, or sideways on the front rack, but both of these took more time to set up than towing. So we had a lot of options.
All the listed weights were "typical underway" weights in the middle of the trip (specifically, when we weighed everything just as we left our friend's house in Zurich). We weren't carrying very much food/water at the time - only a day or two. Sometimes we carried for up to 4 days. We could definitely feel the difference. You can add up all the weights below, but I'll save you the trouble - all the stuff and kids together weighed in at 343 lbs being hauled around by 303 lbs worth of parents.
Dad's setup - Haul-A-Day (cargo bike), by Bike Friday
Rider Age: 35 years
Rider Weight: 158 lbs
Bike Age: 2 weeks
Bike (+ gear) Weight: 124 lbs (or 251 lbs if I also had F on the back and was towing N in the chariot - the most common configuration)
Drivetrain: 3 chainrings (30-50), 8 cogs (34-11) (with 20"x1.75" wheels and 170 mm cranks)
Lowest Gearing: 1.29 (ratio of pedal to pavement movement)
Highest Gearing: 6.64 (ratio of pedal to pavement movement)
Accessories: Beefier frame option, massive kickstand, dynamo-hub powered lights, "BigFoot" footrests with slot for towing, passenger railing / cushion, front rack (frame, not wheel, mounted).
The family reunited
I left Vancouver with the girls prior to Christian, and after two weeks he was finally joining us in Denmark to start the first leg of our 2 month long bike trip. We spent a day at my dad's house to get the bikes ready, and pack all our stuff into panniers and dry bags. We were all very excited and a bit nervous. We have gone on a few weekend trips to the Gulf Islands, and one 5 day trip to Vancouver Island previously, but this would be our first long distance bike tour. I always thought that we should save the bike touring for when we had two kids, so here we go...
In the evening of Christian's arrival day my dad drove the family to Freltofte, where we set up camp. I took the train as we didn't all fit in the car. Here we enjoyed our first night at one of Denmarks many shelter spots. Denmark is littered with these small shelter spots, where you can sleep in a small shelter or set up your tent for free (or very cheap). It can be on public or private land. Freltofte Lejrplads just North of Ringe were located at the back of a private property. They had sheep and bunnies, there were an outhouse and water available. Only problem was the many moquitos coming out at dusk encouraging us to set up camp quickly.
The next morning we packed the bikes for the first time. It was definitely not efficient, but we managed to fit it all on. We set off towards Ringe on the country roads. In Ringe we had our first and only bikeshop stop (in Denmark). F's seat on the Haul-a-Day was lacking an essential snacking station and a bell. After a few quick upgrades we joined the railtrail towards Korinth. 16 km of flat trail with no cars. F biked the first kilometer or so, but quickly decided that the Haul-a-Day was more attractive.
The weekend after returning home from two months of bike touring in Europe a big group of our friends were getting together for an overnight trip at Brew Lake. We thought it would be a great way to see everyone again, and get F out hiking with her buddies.
We left town at 8 am and it was already super warm. Our family does not do so well with warm, which is my we tend to pick places like Alaska, the Yukon, Greenland and Norway for our holidays. F in particular does not deal well with heat as she does not like getting sweaty. Turns out that our car also did not like the heat, because as we were driving up the logging road the clutch started failing to engage after changing gears. Luckily it still (almost) made it to the trailhead before we had to abandon it in hopes that it would be better once we got back.
F started hiking up the road with our friend Tim and his daughter, T. I didn't catch up to them before we got to the trailhead, where everyone were busy getting there kids ready for hiking. The trail is more of a route. It is overgrown in the clearcut and goes through several boulder patches. Normally challenging trails tend to keep the kids entertained, but that was definitely not the case for F on this day. Things quickly went down hill on the way up. It seems that everything was wrong if you asked F. I must admit that I also thought that it was way too warm and way too buggy. I think both Christian and I had this expectation that F could easily hike this particular trail, and F was very determined to show us how incapable she was. After a two hour meltdown F had convinced us that it was best to go back home to do the laundry and clean the apartment (it sure could use it). They say that you can't make them eat, sleep, or poop... but I guess you also can't make them hike. We have later determine that there were lots of things that we could have done better in this situation, but I was still impressed with Christian's calmness and compassion. Our main lesson for the next trip was to change our language. We would like to keep it upbeat and positive, and not try to bring any time constraint into the situation (like, we have to keep going to catch up to your friends, or before it gets dark, etc.). We (more recently) did an overnight hike into Conflict Lake which went very well, so maybe we learned something.
I decided to continue the trip with N, so we had a snack and rearranged the gear. I quickly made it up to the lake and not so much later all the families had arrived. The lake provided a perfect, cool swim, and a small breeze kept the bugs away. And despite the heat it was really nice up there. Kids all enjoyed playing, some in the lake and some on shore.
The Nelson family had left their tent pole at home, so Scott shared the tent with N and I, which made me feel better about carrying a four person tent up there. In the morning N crawled over and cuddled Scott, but later woke up surprised that it wasn't her dad she was snuggling.
Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of mosquitos buzzing and although they got better later in the morning the nice breeze never came back to take them away. The heat was also pretty brutal, so I was happy when my ride, Maya and Gili, decided to make it an early departure. I took my time packing, while they started heading down with their three year old. At two we were back at the car driving back towards Vancouver.