Day 22: Why (Part Two)

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Sören drops me off where I’d left my bike. It’s almost eight in the morning, sunlight seeping into the sky. It’s ‑29°C, so I waste no time in getting going — I can’t afford to stand around. The first few minutes bring an uncomfortable chill to my extremities, but I soon warm up and settle into an established, comfortable rhythm.

Chilly morning

Which gets me thinking. What I’m doing probably looks somewhat extreme from the comfort of a desk or laptop. But it’s not. This is difficult to explain. Before I left England, bike and baggage in tow, I was pretty terrified by the whole idea. But now I find myself pedalling alone through Lapland at nearly thirty degrees below zero, realising that — actually — this is pretty OK!

OK, so it’s taken a steep learning curve to get here, and there have been times of utter misery on this trip, during which I frankly had no idea what to do, but by trial and error worked my way through them. These have been some of the most trying of times.

But this is not a polar expedition. Nor is it a pleasant cycling holiday down the Danube. It has some things in common with both: I’m in a climate which requires good planning and constant presence of mind, and I’m alone and in a relatively unpopulated place. 

But I’m on a road, for goodness’ sake — and this road is not the wilderness, even if the wilderness is passing me on both sides at all times. The Arctic is the wilderness, where you are alone for a month and carry a shotgun in case of polar bears. Here, there are towns and supermarkets and petrol stations and traffic, however spartan, and stray polar bears get shot for you. 

I want to clear up any idea that this trip is anything else. I’m a normal bloke with no athletic talent whatsoever. I’m crap at sport. And I’ve found that I can handle this OK most of the time, and struggle through the rest. I think anyone could.

The bottom line is that it’s an experience which has pushed me well out of my comfort zone, just as have previous travels. It’s like climbing a hill and occasionally stopping to look back; the view gets better, broader and clearer. Step by step. And that’s why it’s worth doing.

Warm up walking

Snow on the track?

Warning lights

Level crossing


Schwalbe bicycle tyres, Extrawheel single-wheel trailers


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8 responses to “Day 22: Why (Part Two)”

  1. Totally with you on the “But I’m on a road, for goodness’ sake “. Felt pretty much the same cycling the Kalahari and Namib deserts in the middle of summer. 

    Hard work, but if you get in the shit you can get a lift ( like I did when I got in the shit .…).

    Looking forward to checking out the other end of the thermometer scale soon :).

    1. Lots of hint-dropping Shane 🙂 I’m wondering where you’re headed… 

      Write-ups here, here and here on various aspects of winter cycling. Drop me an email if you want to discuss…

      1. Planning something similar to your Scandinavia trip for 2–3 weeks in Feb. Should I “enjoy” that then I’d like to do a longer cold weather trip in Canada next winter. Early days though, not even finished this trip until December :). Will need to bite the bullet and earn some freedom credits in between .….grrr

  2. Wow! Great going Tom. Enjoying reading your cold stories from my native Scandinavia while I’m fighting the heat over here in India. Best of luck!

  3. It´s been a big pleasure to follow your trip the last weeks. I have been thinking of doing a winter trip on bike and reading your blog it seems to be an excellent idea,

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  4. Erik van den Boom avatar
    Erik van den Boom

    Hi Tom,

    You are doing what I want to do one day. I love cycling and camping in the silence of the winter, and even though it is different and more straining than cyling along the Danube in summer, for me it is not so extreme as it looks. Very nice to do though.



    1. I wish I loved camping in the winter — for me it’s an uncomfortable and stressful, but often necessary, means of getting a night’s sleep!

  5. Mark Canning avatar
    Mark Canning

    Looks amazing Tom but despite what you say it does look tough

Something to add?