In an instant, the fear and worry vanish. I’ve swung my leg over the bike and taken my first pedal stroke. In that moment, immeasurable familiarity takes over, earned during hundreds of long days in the saddle, and I am reminded of what I need to remember most: These journeys are taken one step at a time. I am already a hundred miles away from the flat I just left.
My bike is heavy with winter clothing and cheap food. I know I’ll tire quickly today, but I need to clear Oslo as soon as I can. I discover that Norway’s government actually snowploughs the country’s long-distance cycle routes, so I follow one of them out of the city, riding on a traffic-free cycle lane of hard-pack snow and scattered gravel. My Ice Spiker Pro tyres bite in and never once show signs of skidding throughout the day.
It’s clear and sunny, the temperature hovering above freezing. Merciful chance on my first day – it won’t always be this warm. In some ways it’s worse like this – I can sense the brutal chill waiting for its moment to descend, and in the meantime I must pretend to gaze happily at the sun as it travels a low arc across the southern sky.
I push on into twilight before camping. My most dismaying discovery of the day is made when I pitch my tent – standard tent pegs don’t like old, slippery, sugary snow, even when it’s stamped down into a platform. I plant them as firmly as I can and hope for the best.
The departure-day cramp in my upper legs decides to choose the moment when I’m removing my boots to show its face, and suddenly I’m a moaning, writhing mess in the snow by my tent. It would have been funny had anyone else been there to witness it.