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 🙂
A local print cycling magazine her in Norway – Landevei – recently did a small survey of what their readers considered to be the “best of” in 2019. I was so lucky that they nominated Oslo Dawn Patrol in the category ‘Årets Nyskapning’. That translates into the Innovation of the Year.
The nominees were:
Førstevifta – a podcast by two young hopeful cyclists fighting for the pro dream.
Oslo-Mysen – a local early season gran fondo with a lot of tough gravel sections.
Uno X Development Team – the very first team in Norway to apply for a pro conti license and thus becoming the Norwegian team competing at the highest level so far.
Oslo Dawn Patrol – the one and only weekly open social ride for the early birds in Oslo.
Just being on the list of nominees felt pretty good. But of course you always hope to snatch the actual award as well.
But nevertheless, Uno X took the prize. But honestly, that is OK. First of all Landevei has readers in all of Norway. Not just Oslo where we have the Dawn Patrol. Secondly, Uno X is a big budget thing that gets a lot of attention in the media – mainstream media as well. So I’m actually pretty pleased to come in second with 27 % of the votes. Guess I’ll just have to come up with something else next year, so I can take the prize then. Suggestions are welcome!
Back in 2016 (I think) a guy called Christian Meier and his wife, Amber, started The Service Course in Girona. According to the website they give you a “world class cycling experience”. I’ve never been there, but from what I hear it’s a pretty cool place. And it probably doesn’t hurt that it’s in Girona, which is a pretty good destination for a cyclist. This weekend they opened up a branch her in Oslo as well.
I’ll admit that it’s not totally clear to me what exactly their business model her in Oslo is. It’s not a normal bike shop. Not a training studio. Not a travel agency. But a bit everything I guess. They have been pretty clear that gravel is the unique selling point here in Oslo. Attracting cyclists to Oslo to get the chance to ride some of the fantastic gravel routes we have just outside of town is certainly a good idea. But the season is short; the weather is not what Girona can offer; and Norway is an expensive destination for tourists. So it’s going to be interesting to see if they can actually get customers to pay the price for this.
In addition to the gravel tour guiding and selling insanely expensive custom built bikes they do actually have a Zwift training studio as well. For a place like Oslo with a winter lasting for six month and quite a bit of snow, I have no doubt that this is a good addition to the concept. I don’t just say that because the studio is fitted with bikes from my personal sponsor – DARE Bikes Norge. I honestly think its’ a good offer to the local cycling community for them to stay fit – as well as stay in touch – through the winter. Most have their own Zwift setup at home in a small pain cave in the garage or a shed in the garden. But being able to ride Zwift in more fresh surroundings is definitely attractive. It all depends on how much it’ll cost. Not everyone ride outdoor all year like myself. Even I could be tempted to sign up for that studio.
The Sunday Salida
On Sunday they hosted the first – of hopefully many – open social group rides, Sunday Salidas. It’s something they do down in Girona as well. I had been looking forward to this. After I started Oslo Dawn Patrol I’ve been hosting a lot of group rides with large groups of people. That’s hard work so I was looking forward to join as one the riders and just have a good time. But obviously, I couldn’t stop myself from taking a few mental notes on how they did things and what I would have done different myself.
Let me be clear: It was a great ride! Around 35 people on a cold and snowy Sunday. That’s good. We did a 2-hour loop on what is normally gravel, but was snow covered roads on the day. It was a good route that wasn’t too long or too difficult – apart from the fact that it was soft snow. But that’s just fun.
That being said, there’s room for improvement. The pace was high from the start. We dropped people already on the way out of town and after about 8 km, we turned into the woods. Unfortunately, a small group had been caught by a red light (and we didn’t wait), so they missed the turn and continued straight ahead. Out of pure luck they found us half an hour later when our paths suddenly crossed. It was a coincidence that basically shouldn’t be possible. It was not a social ride. It was a tough ride. I myself got dropped a couple of times and only managed to catch up when there was a short stop in the front group. The sequence below from Strava Flyby is a good example of how a left turn was missed by quite a few people. Where were the road captain and the lantern rouge? As I said: room for improvement. But it’s actually just minor adjustments that will make all the difference.
But still, it was a good day out for me. I met a lot of people, which is always nice. And I’m always impressed when someone takes a chance and starts something up. No doubt The Service Course is going to be good for the entire cycling community in Oslo. And I hope they will make it. Kudos to the team at The Service Course Oslo.
Photo credit: All the photos in this post are from the Facebook page of The Service Course Oslo. Give them a follow.
I’m a road cyclist by heart and passion, but on a regular basis I try to push myself outside my comfort zone. I’ve heard that’s where the magic happens!
Every year I try to add a few cyclo cross races – or CX as the inner circle calls it – to my agenda. It’s dirty. It’s hard. And it’s technical! Especially since it so incredibly hard, I’m not really that good at it. But it’s so much fun. And I’ve heard that someone has to finish last 🙂
I’ve done two races recently. The first one I did a beautiful face plant (literally), making me so confused that I had to abandon the race. But on Saturday I was back at Superpokal here in Oslo. No face plants this time and I didn’t even finish last. There were five riders (out 69) behind me. And I had the true honor of being called out on by the speaker as a ‘not so impressive 64th place’. Well – they say bad PR is better than no PR and he did add a good description of Oslo Dawn Patrol and all the work I’m doing there.
I might not be a good CX rider, but I’m quite confident that I’m becoming a better cyclist overall by adding things like this to my repertoire. I don’t care if finish last, as long as I get the training and the fun out of it. And generally, I believe that whatever you do, you should go out of you comfort zone from time to time. At least to get the feel of it. You may discover something great. And if not – it makes it so much better when you are back at your routine.
One of the things that I’ve learned about Oslo Dawn Patrol, is that when people share a passion there is a high appetite for socializing – also in settings that doesn’t exactly involve the shared passion. I’ve realized that a lot of the people who show up for Dawn Patrol are connecting with each other also outside the core setting of Oslo Dawn Patrol. Friendships have been made and I even have a feeling that some might have hooked up (but I’m not gonna pry into that – you’ll have to pick up your gossip somewhere else!). I don’t think you can imagine how good it feels when you see people build relations through something that you’ve arranged. That alone makes it worth it all.
This eagerness to spend time together was also why I decided to throw a fairly low key party on Saturday. I pretty much did it the easiest way possible: reserving a few tables at Calmeyer’s Hage – a cool sky bare at the top of the newly renovated Clarion Hotel The Hub in Oslo city center. The manager there happens to be one of the regulars at Oslo Dawn Patrol. Thanks Aaron! All I did was to invite people to come over for drinks at their own expense. Aaron pulled some strings and arranged a bit of complimentary champagne and some seafood snacks to get the conversation going. But from there we were on our own. And we had a blast! About 35 people showed up – both those who’ve done 30+ Dawn Patrols and those who’ve only done one! Again I saw people talking to people they’ve never met before like they were old friends. And it wasn’t just because of intoxication.
Obviously, I made sure that there was an option join a social ride in the afternoon. I have a theory that the longer the time span is between hanging out together on the bike and an off-bike activity the more difficult it is to convince yourself that it’s a good idea to go. And it seemed to work, since most of those who joined me riding in the afternoon showed up for drinks as well!
I get a lot of questions about how Oslo Dawn Patrol has grown into such a great success. There are a number of reasons to this that I’m happy to share. But before I go into that I’ll call out the most important one: Oslo Dawn Patrol would never have been what it is today if it weren’t for all the people joining and supporting it. I’m fully aware that someone has to drive it and make it an option to join. But still – the support from all the fantastic people I’ve met over the last year on the bike is what really makes all the difference!
That being said, I’ve identified three key factors: Predictability,
Consistency and Passion.
Every Tuesday morning we do the same thing. There are no changes. We depart 5.40 sharp (no hanging around for late comers). We take the exact same route. And the pace is the same (more or less). We have a bit of racing halfway through at a 2,5 km segment. After this we stop, regroup and split into groups of varying speed when heading back to town. And we have coffee at the same café every week – and they like us 🙂 When having the same setup, people know exactly what to expect. No one needs to worry about whether the route will include too many long climbs, scary descents or whatever. It’s the same and they know it. Just as they know what to expect in terms of the effort that is required. This is significantly lowering the threshold of getting out of bed early.
Just keep on doing it. No matter what! We ride all year in all kinds of weather. From -16 to +30 degrees. I admit that it may not always be just hilarious, when you sit there with frozen snot on your chin and gloves. But afterwards you are invincible! And by being consistent people get the idea that you mean it. It’s not like they have to check the weather forecast to figure out if there’ll be a ride or not. There will be a ride. It’s that simple.
You have to be pretty passionate about cycling to get up that early and go out for a ride. That goes for everyone who is there. But to organize it to the degree of success that we’ve seen in Oslo, it’s more than just passion for cycling that matters. For me it’s about the passion I have for organizing something and trying to give people an enjoyable experience. It’s passion for getting more people out on the bike. And to be honest… I just love to get the chance to be the leader of the group and managing all the people in it. I can’t deny it, but you need that when 65 people show up to ride with you! (I’ll write another post one day post all the leadership and management learnings from this.)
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Therefore, the success of Oslo Dawn Patrol as an open social group ride boils down to predictability, consistency and passion. But none of that would matter if it hadn’t been for all the people who keep showing up every Tuesday morning at 5.40am.
The name alone of this piece of road on the Norwegian west coast sounds promising. The core Atlantic Ocean Road is actually just an 8 km section crossing the gap of the fjord right where the open ocean begins and Iceland is next stop! When visiting a friend in the region last year, I brought the bike and we got the chance to ride this beautiful road. It basically goes from rock to rock for 8 kilometers. With the Atlantic on one side and the mountains and the fjord on the other side the scenery is stunning. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions of the area for reason!
When we rode it we extended the route to a 35 km stretch along the coastline and back again. No doubt, there are other options for longer or shorter loops which includes the Atlantic Ocean Road, but that will have to wait for next time. We ended up in a small village called Bud, where we found a much needed cafe and had some waffles with traditional Norwegian brown goat cheese. It sounds weird, I know, but it is good 🙂