Cycling in winter wonderland

There’s a special feeling about going out riding in the snow. It’s a very unique feeling. Even though it might be very cold sometimes it all basically comes down to being dressed properly. A few weeks ago I went out in the woods with a photographer and a two of my fellow road captains from Oslo Dawn Patrol. I wanted to make sure that we got some good coverage of how great winter cycling actually is!

Over the last 3-4 years I’ve seen more and more people riding all year round – also through deep winter as we have now. The day we took the photos it was freaking cold. Around -15-17 degrees Celcius. Admittedly, that was cold! Especially when on a photoshoot since you have quite a bit of stop and go. But during a normal ride you can actully stay warm on a ride like this. Ok – it might get a bit chilly on your toes and fingers from time to time. But trust me! It’s worth it.

Oslo tourist guiding done right!

Last week I got the chance as a tourist guide for the day. Not in the normal sense touring around the city taking in the usual sights. No – this was guiding tourists in the best possible sense! Two fellow Danes contacted me on Instagram and asked if I could suggest a ride in the Oslo area, since they were passing through on their way to the west coast where they were planning to ride some of the local monuments out there.

Instead of just giving them a GPS file I decided to simply join them for a ride. For me the alternative was yet another day at the home office on sunny day, so not a hard choice. A few friends wanted to join me and on Thursday morning, we took our two visitors out for a beautiful ride in Follo.

I had two key sights in mind for the day. First, Solbergfoss Hydroelectric Power Plant. There’s something about those waterfalls and power plants that is just stunning – and in particular when you’re from a flat country like Denmark 🙂

The second stop was Svartskog Kolonial for lunch. This place never gets boring and they never disappoint you for at lunch or coffee stop. And yes – they don’t fool around with just small pieces of cake. They take your craving seriously!

I’ll do this again anytime. Cycling never gets boring!

Oslo Gravel Grinder 2020

This weekend I completed my toughest ride to date! For the first time Oslo Gravel Grinder took place. A 261 km gravel ride with 5000 meters of elevation. That’s a lot! It was a rally – not a race. So there were no time keeping or numbers pinned to the jersey. 50 people had signed up (full booked) and we all started at 7 AM in the morning in one group. But quickly we were spread out and formed smaller groups. I had already agreed with few others that we would ride together, and a couple more joined us on the day.

For me it was the longest day ever on the bike. Not in terms of distance, but rather the amount of hours spent on the bike. And I’ve never done so much elevation in one ride. But I managed to eat and drink well all day, and the legs were pretty good throughout the ride. Obviously, I was very tired at towards the end but it would’ve been disappointing if I wasn’t.

My darkest moments were actually already after about 50 km, when we covered a section with some incredibly steep ramps. My Wahoo said 21% several times. You had to use all the power you could muster just to avoid falling off the bike. It was extremely exhausting, and when still having more than 200 km to the finish line, you really get the chance to practice positive thinking. I failed that a few times, but with moral support by the friends I was riding with I managed to survive this and could continue. For the rest of the day I never really doubted that I would make it all the way through.

Usually, I’m not into such extreme efforts. I’m not the kind of person that has any desire to tackle challenges just for the sake of it. For me it has always been about enjoying the ride. But with Oslo Gravel Grinder came also a huge social element. The organizers – The Vélo Experience – had arranged two superb food stops. Lunch after 85 km and dinner after 165 km. This made a big difference for most of us I think. It ensured that we all got proper food and it gave us the chance to sit down for half an hour or so to chat and just hang out. That was great!

Huge kudos to everyone who joined this. Not only those who did the full distance, but everyone who was out there spending time on the bike. It doesn’t have to be 261 km to be massive effort and a great day. Less can certainly do it. I’m gonna be back next year. For sure!

Midsummer Patrol 2020

On Friday I organised yet another Midsummer Patrol. This is the third year in a row I do this. One of the reasons I love the summer in Scandinavia is the incredible amount of daylight you have during the summer months. So roll-out was at 17.00 and then we headed out on a beautiful 153 km route around Follo south-east of Oslo.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions I had to be sure that I had full control over who attended and also limit the number of people That’s why I arranged three groups of 15 each. Everyone signed up via a booking page and there was even a waitinglist. Unfortunately, I had to turn down those on the waiting list that didn’t get a last minute spot after a few cancellations on the day.

DARE Bikes Norge was there to support us with a service car. That feels good when you’re our on 6 hour ride with 45 cyclists.

We all did the same route, but one group rode at a bit lower speed than the other two. This way I managed to make the ride attractive to most cyclists – though a certain level of experience will always be a requirement when doing a 150 km ride. A learning for next year is to be more clear on the level in each group so people don’t sign up for a group that’s too fast. But interestingly, it is those who suffered the most during the ride that has come back with most enthusiastic feed back. And they’ve done so without even being asked to give feedback.

After the ride a lot of us (at least 25) met at The Hub bar at Clarion Hotel The Hub in central Oslo. They had an out door seating area where we could be and have a good eye on our bikes. Out door was good for Covid-19 reasons, but also since we were pretty sweaty after 6 hours of cycling in 25-30 degrees 🙂

All in all this was absolutely fantastic. For sure a tradition that will be back next year!

#DareToRideSolo

As you may know I have the privilege of being an ambassador for DARE Bikes Europe. About a month ago we went out to do some filming about solo riding. This was at a time when the Covid-19 lock down was pretty strict, riding solo was the only option at the timme. The result was pretty cool. Check it out here:

Thanks to DARE for making this great film 🙂

Oslo Dawn Patrol slowly coming back to life!

Since Covid-19 struck and restrictions were imposed throughout society Oslo Dawn Patrol has been on hold. It hasn’t been the time for group rides with 30+ people.

But things are turning to the better know, and on Tuesday we took the first small step towards getting Oslo Dawn Patrol back on the road again. There are still quite strict limits on how many people can gather and the Norwegian Cycling Federation does not recommend group rides just yet. But I had an idea of getting people out cycling early and keep the spirit around Dawn Patrol alive. I thought about doing it already early on in the lock down (back in the beginning of April), but realized that we weren’t ready for it then. But now was the time!

Svartskog Kolonial is a small countryside cafe and shop, which sits very close to the normal Dawn Patrol route. But obviously it’s usually closed when we pass it around 6.15am. But this week they were so kind to open their cafe and out door seating between 6am and 7.30am for us. Within that time frame early birds arrived for coffee, waffles, cinnamon buns, smoothies etc. had a chat with all the people they haven’t been able to ride with for two months. I didn’t arrange any group riding out there. People were to make their own way and I set it as a requirement that they arrived alone or maximum 5 riders together. I think most people actually respected that.

Throughout the morning around 40 people dropped by and it was super cosy. The feedback was phenomenal and there has been numerous requests to do it again. So I guess we’ll do it again soon 🙂 An out door coffee event with social distance was superb. Just what we needed!

The love of the fjords – Hardangerfjord

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to bring my bike to the west coast of Norway. More precisely Jondal by Hardangerfjord, where my wife’s family has a cottage. And let’s be clear: the area has a spectacular Norwegian nature that is just waiting to be explored on the bike.

From Jondal you there’s a 19 km climb (https://www.strava.com/segments/2015349) up to Folgefonna Glacier and the summer ski resort. It brings you from sea level to 1190 meters and at this time of the year there’s quite a bit of snow at the top. But they clear the road up to the ski resort and on a sunny day you can easily ride up on a road bike with 25mm tires. Riding through such a tunnel of snow is out of this world. It’s a surreal experience!

After having done such a majestic climb you can stay low and ride along the fjord. That is truly amazing. The curvy roads along the waterfront with the spectacular mountains in the background is good for your mind. I did a 6 hour ride around Hardangerfjord via Utne-Kinsarvik-Ulvik-Norheimssund and back to Jondal. This included two ferry crossings (Utne-Kinsarvik and Tørvikbygd-Jondal). Make sure to check the timetable and plan your ride in accordance with that. I had to get up for an early start at 4.45 am to catch the first boat from Utne to Kinsarvik since I had to drive the car all the way back to Oslo in the afternoon. But that just gave me the opportunity the enjoy the sun rise as well. Not a bad one!

And what a day on the bike it was! 6 hours of riding and just enjoying my own company and the nature. For sure I’m gonna do this again. Soon!

Solo Dawn Patrol during COVID-19

With the strong COVID-19 restrictions that were implemented 10 days ago in Norway came also the inevitable cancellation of Oslo Dawn Patrol. This was a very easy decision! In the Facebook group for all who’ve joined Oslo Dawn Patrol at least once, I immediately posted the below message:

Shortly after, this was followed by restrictions in the group to organize group rides. It’s such a shame that I had to limit the activity in the group this way. But there was no choice. I cannot risk having Oslo Dawn Patrol connected to violations of the COVID-19 restrictions in Norway. I just hope that the algorithm of Facebook doesn’t kill the group completely over the next weeks or months due to lower activity.

Luckily a good friend – and graphic designer – (www.jenskruse.dk) was quick to re-design a temporary Oslo Dawn Patrol logo for us. So until further notice its Solo Dawn Patrol.

Oslo Dawn Patrol becomes Solo Dawn Patrol

All that being said, I’m already in planning mode for a big come back social ride. DARE Bikes Europe has committed to provide service car and I hope to come up with something that can really bring us all together and out on the bike again. Can’t wait!

Now hiring: Road Captains

In order to meet the demand for early morning cycling in Oslo in 2020, I’m looking for 2-3 people who can assist as road captains at Oslo Dawn Patrol rides. You will be responsible for organizing and leading Oslo Dawn Patrol once or twice every month. In addition you will be co-leading the group when the turn-out is high during summer.

The ideal candidate can say yes to the following:

  • Cycling is your passion!
  • Experienced group rider.
  • Never late but always on time.
  • Ability to verbally and clearly communicate important information to a large group of people (in either Norwegian or English).
  • Comfortable giving feed back and directions to less experienced riders on how to ride a bike most effectively.
  • Equally comfortable giving directions to riders who are much stronger and more experienced than yourself as well as tell them to shut up and slow down if that is needed.
  • Basic first aid skills.
  • And you can ride up Kongsveien in 6½ minute (7.45 with studs) without being pushed beyond your limit.

This is your chance to get to know a lot of great people and get well connected in the Norwegian cycling community, as well as developing your organisational and leadership skills. I’m also working on a compensation model, where you will be rewarded for your time and efforts. However, this will mostly be of a symbolic character, so don’t quit you day job just yet.

If you’re interested let me know by you preferred platform of communication. E-mail works fine (hello@hansflensted.cc). You can also go here: https://www.hansflensted.cc/contact/

Anyone who might be interested is encouraged to reach out, regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, nationality, number of years you’ve been cycling etc. Nothing should hold you back.

And another thing: just because you might not think you fulfill all the points listed above doesn’t mean you aren’t the right person. None of us have it all.

Winter Wonderland by bike

Back in the days – when I lived in Denmark – I wasn’t a big fan of winter. To go out cycling on a grey and rainy day wasn’t exactly attractive. But since then I moved to Norway and about 3 years ago I discovered that when riding in proper snow is so much more rewarding than the grey and winter days that are so common elsewhere. Outside Oslo we have a huge natural park called Nordmarka. It’s closed for traffic but have a large network of gravel roads. These are fantastic for gravel riding and during winter quite a big part of them are actually cleared for snow, so the local residents (yes – there are a few of them) and the tree logging machinery can get access. That makes it possible to ride on hard packed snow. And with studded tires (spikes) it is just plain awesome. Much better than riding on roads that have been salted. And on a very good day it can actually be better than summer…

In about a weeks time I’m organizing my Mid Winter Patrol. I did a similar long ride at Midsummer in June. Back then 45 people joined me for a 7 hour ride ending at around midnight at a local bar for beers and snacks. Now we are approaching solstice and why not celebrate the return of the sun with a ride? That’s is Mid Winter Patrol.

So December 14th I’m taking those who haven’t parked the bike for the winter out for a 3-4 hour ride. We’ll do 50/50 road and gravel roads. The latter hopefully being covered in snow. On Sunday I was out with a friend to check out the conditions. And I think it’s safe to say: it looks promising 🙂