See also posts from different legs of our trip:
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 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.
Previous Post: St. Moritz to Innsbruck
Also see: Our European bike tour - people and equipment
I talked my mom into joining us for part of our trip long time ago. She expressed interest in the Donube River, and mentioned something about sleeping on a boat every night. That sounded a bit out of our price range, but I figured that a river trip in the area sounded like a good compromise. After a lot of time spend on the internet late at night I settle for Innsbruck to Munich via Achen Lake. My mom and her partner met us in Innsbruck the day after we arrived there, and Lisa's parents were generous enough to let us all stay at their house. We had a nice time chatting with Hans in the garden over several glasses of wine. We went out for dinner in the area, and the next day we all went back to Lisa's downtown apartment to pack up the bikes and get them ready for our last section.
The Inn River bike path follow the river crossing over occasionally. I was surprised by our speed, but I guess you cover ground pretty fast when it is dead flat. We made an afternoon stop at Alpenbad Wattens, which turned out to be a great decision. The place was a amazing. Lots of different little pools for the kids, a bigger pool with slides, and one with jumpboards. The water colour seemed extra beautiful with mountainous background. Both F and N had a great time splashing in the pools. F even tried the water slide a few times. Late afternoon we headed of again to find our campsite for the night and AirBnB for the night. We biked around Weer for a while looking for Camping Plankenhof Tyrol. No one in town seemed to know were is was, and town was no bigger than we biked through it multiple times. Eventually we found it tucked in behind the Hotel of the same name just were it was suppose to be. They could improve their signage though. The campsite was almost empty, but filled with plum trees of many different variaties. My mom and Leif also had trouble getting into their AirBnB, but we eventually figured it out, and everyone had a great sleep.
The following day it was time for our big elevation gain of 400m. I had made sure that my mom could take the train up the hill, and F decided to join her while the rest of us pedalled up the steep switchbacks to Achen Lake. In a strick of luck we happened to cross path with the coal fired steam engine going up the 128 year old cog railway. We waved frantically to mormor and F as they passed by. The smoke from the train settling in the valley was not the best for the high output cycling. We all met up at the lake for a swim and some playtime before we headed to our AirBnB for the next two night. It was a great apartment over looking the lake. That evening we celebrated N's first birthday. Mormor had presents and a dress for her, and I made sure she got her favourite, watermelon, for dessert.
The next morning it was my turn to run up a peak, and I chose Bärenkopf with lift assist. It was just 500m of elevation so I was up and down in 2hours. After taking the gondola back down I sprinted towards the lake to catch the ferry to Gaisalm where I was suppose to meet the family. The boat was just about to leave when I arrived to I didn't have time to lock of my bike, so I just wheeled it on board. Turns out that although bikes are allowed on board they are not allowed to exit at Gaisalm. I had to pay for my bike to be ferried around the lake while I was at Gaisalm with the family. The weather wasn't the best, and we had to hid on the terrase of the closed restaurant. We did manage to get a small hike in before taking the boat back.
We had a long day ahead so we started out around the lake early the next morning. The ride around the lake was really nice, and I wished we had more time to explore all the little play stations, but we just stopped at a few. We gained our first bit of elevation temporarily going into a side valley, and rewarded ourselves with a break by the Seeache River. We enjoyed throwing rocks in the water, but you have to be careful with my mom around as her aim is pretty terible, and you never know if you have to dutch a rock flying straight at you. The whole day we followed these nice gravel paths along the river up and and down small hills. I only notice crossing into Germany because I checked the map. The real challenge came as we biked around the South side of Sylverstein Lake. Christian and Leif headed of with the kids, and I stayed behind to take it slow with my mom. My mom has some problems with her breathing on the uphills due to her asthma, but she did really well; I was very proud of her. We all met up again in the town of Fall for well earned ice cream. We spend the night a nice little guesthouse in Lenggries.
We were now following the Isar River bike path the rest of the way to Munich - always on nice bike paths - often next to the river, but at times weaving its way through forests and country side. We had our first break of the day a bit earlier than planned, but the river banks just passed Bad Tolz were just took good to pass by, so we spend a few hours. We were to spend our last night together in Ickinger at a warmshower I had contacted long time ago. Joerg had found my very early request rather weird, but I wanted to make sure that we would all be able to have a place to stay together. I am sure he had also warned me that we should not cross the river at Ickinger Wehr, but I had long forgotten. It quickly became apparent why it might not be a good idea. The bridge is super narrow, so we had to take everything apart and carry it through individually. The chariot need to be collapsed to make it through. It was probably still faster than the 20km detour to go around though. The hill afterwards were super steep, so we again left my mom behind to later be picked up in the car. We met Joerg biking around town looking for us. He welcomed us all into his home with open arms despite it already being quite full as he was hosting a Syrian refugee family. His wife had made sure there were pizza in the oven for everyone, and we made a big salad. We all squished around the dinning table that evening, and then enjoyed watching all the kids play in their great garden. We later set our tent up in the garden, while my mom and Leif stayed in a room inside. The next day it was time to say goodbye as my mom and Leif were on to their next holiday in the Czech republic. We were so grateful that they decided to take on the challenge and join part of our adventure. It sure made it extra special.
We continued towards Munich along the Isar. As we approached Munich the bike path became increasingly busy until we entered out the other side. We had last minute secured another warmshower in Unterföhring with Daniela and Stephan. They returned home two years ago after 20 months of bike touring. Now they were expecting their first child. We enjoyed listening to stories from their adventures, and they were keen on getting a few ideas about bike touring with kids. I did find it a bit challenging to stay in strangers house with kids. The next morning we biked the last 30km to our airport hotel. We picked up some bike boxes about half way there, wrapped them in our tarp and tied them to the side of the cargo bike. It would have been nicer to just fly home that night rather than having to take apart everything to bring it into the hotel only to put it back together to bike the last 2 km to the airport the next morning. The evening with two kids in a small hotel room felt really long and not relaxing at all.
The flight home marked the final leg of our two month trip. It sure had been an amazing two months. I wasn't sure how we were going to like being on the road for so long, what we were capable off, or what we would enjoy the most, which is why I arranged such a diverse trip. I could have easy continued for many more months. I liked the cycle touring a lot more than expected, and it sure will not be the last time we go. I did expect that we would love Norway the most, but was unsure if we would be able to make it up the mountains. The mountains sure were challenging, but they were also so rewarding.
July 3rd to July 14th
~250 km, 1600 m elevation - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway part VI: Rallarvegen
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
We flew from Bergen to Zurich, and my bicycle never appeared in the luggage area. This had us pretty worried as it was the only bicycle we'd have trouble replacing, especially mid-trip, and it wasn't clear to us even we could manage to transport all our stuff and kids without a cargo bike. Still, if they were going to loose a bicycle, this was a good time for it - we had a day of slack and were staying with friends Joanna and Walter. It was nice to feel like we were at home for a change after so long on the road, and have an excuse to hang out for a day and relax. Fortunately my bicycle was later delivered to their house... it looked like the box had been dropped down the stairs and skewered with a forklift, but fortunately there was no damage to the bicycle or any missing parts.
This post - June 27th to July 1st
~82 km, 1000 m elevation - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway part V: Mosquito pass Mjolkevegen
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
Upon arrival in Haugastøl by train we set out immediately on the Rallarvegen - a beautiful 82 kilometres of closed gravel road, initially built to service the train line we'd just exited. It is immensely popular with cyclists (for good reason), but since it was still early in the season the throngs of cyclists were replaced by rumours that the road was still impassible due to snow coverage.
It seems that we'd saved the best for last. The terrain was breathtaking - the sort of stuff I'm only used to accessing by ski touring. And with the spring snow coverage still present and ice still floating in the lakes it almost seemed like we might have skied there... but here I was with the whole family on bicycles. Our first camp was by Finsevatnet, just past the first snow patch covering the road and across from the massive Hardanger-jøkulen, which sent long glaciated fingers down towards the lake. A german tourist came by camp the other direction and reported that there were many more snow patches, but that we should have no problems. From camp I ran up the nearby Store Finsenuten, which had only 4 entries in the summit register since it was started in 2014 (but was located on top of the summit boulder). There were also words spelled out in dirt with rocks, but I couldn't make them out. The run back down was amazing, with soft mosses that made it feel almost like skiing. It made me think maybe I could get into this running thing...
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.
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.