I am happy; the bike is clean, the flapjacks are baked, the maps prepared, and the forecasts is dry. Cold, but dry.
The calm is interrupted; on the way to the start I find Jo with his bike in bits by the road side. Tire trouble. With help from the others, we get it sorted, and five of us roll out, into the quiet, bright morning. Our spirits are high, we are excited, partly the weather, partly the thought of riding our bikes for the next 24 hours, and maybe, just maybe, a bit of nerves.
This is a big day out; for Jo and me, it will be our longest nonstop ride. The pace seems easy now, but we are uncertain how we will be feeling as night falls, our bodies tire, and the temperatures drop towards freezing again. We don´t talk about it, but I know we are thinking it. Our focus moves to other things as we head up the first climbs of the day.
Up and over Kvamskogen, the forest of Kvam. In winter it´s a popular skiing areas and dotted with Hytte, typical wooden Norwegian holiday cottages. There is still evidence of winter here, the peaks are white, and the land has not yet exploded into green as it has in much of the rest of the country. After the long monochrome winter, the sudden appearance of green growth in May is almost shocking.
By now Jo and I are riding alone, our Norwegian friends Rune and Jimmy ride just a bit faster than us, once the elastic snaps, we don´t chase. We are happy stopping for a few photos, and riding at talking pace. We are taking it easy, preserving ourselves for the efforts we know will come later, so long as we are within the time limit, we are happy.
Photos by Jo (@thunderinthenight on Instagram)
The descent down towards the Hardanger Fjord and Norheimsund is perfect, it´s this sort of road we ride for: in and out of tunnels, never straight, but flowing. It´s challenging at speed, so we don´t push it, we just enjoy the synchronicity between man, machine and the road.
Down by the Fjord, every corner gives us a new angle on the mountainsides rising straight up out of the water. This area is famous for its fruit, due to the micro climate; it´s sheltered, and gets lots of sun, the apple trees are in blossom, a good few weeks ahead of those in Bergen. We are reminded that for all man’s efforts to mold the physical environment to our ends, water, in its various forms, is king out here.
Waterfalls spray onto the road and we ride through the rainbows, but further along, a long section of the main road has been washed out. It doesn't affect us; we ride the cycle path on the other side of the lake, but it´s a reminder of who holds the balance of power.
Photos by @thunderinthenight
Tailwinds; we are close to half way, and we have a tailwind. We are happy. It´s not that we were not happy before, but now, we are really, definitely happy.
Photo by @thunderinthenight
The afternoon is now behind us, we have eaten service station hot dogs for a bit of variety and now ride on into the dusk, unknown roads for both of us, and unknown territory for both the mind and body. Our conversation reduces to a minimum; we are both tired, but making good progress nonetheless. Then we come to Fusa. Three or four climbs, I don´t remember clearly, each slightly higher than the one before.
Photo by @thunderinthenight
It´s around midnight when I hear Jo talking to himself. “No, No!” Don´t stop, don´t get off the bike. We are pleased we packed winter gear for the night, it´s cold. These are the dark moments, but isn´t it these moments we came for? There´s no traffic, no witnesses, only us, the moonlight, and our choice to ride. We have broken out of the day to day, only for a few hours perhaps, but it´s an escape to cherish.
By dawn we are approaching the last control. It´s a 24 hour service station full of drunk teenagers. It´s party season here for the school leavers, feeling out of place amongst the hubbub of the crowd we don't linger. The home stretch seems easy now. The pale light of dawn hardens into daylight, we share these still early hours with deer, a startled mink and fishermen casting flies.
The last climb which we have been dreading doesn´t seem as big as we had let it grow in our heads and a few minutes after we crest the rise, we roll back to where 23 hours ago we wrestled with tires, and uncertainty. We made it and well within the time limit too. Service station tea and coffee are our champagne today. We roll home tired and happy.