Paper Dreams to Big Adventures – My Northcape4000 ride experience
I left England at the end of July to take part in Northcape4000. This is a 4,300km (2,671 miles) unsupported bike event that followed a set route through four checkpoints and 11 countries to end at Northcape in Norway. My plan was to average 265km per day and hopefully finish in 16 days.
147 riders from across the world assembled to be briefed, collect their cap and sign in. The anticipation and eagerness to start was palpable in the room. At 8am we all set off. Riders quickly strung out according to pace and the adventure began.
My journey began in Arco Italy, near Lake Garda, in 35-40 degrees which continued through mainland Europe with the route taking us out of Italy over the Alps into Austria. Crossing into Germany the ride became easier, continuing on to Prague and the first checkpoint.
From Prague, Poland beckoned and another checkpoint at Warsaw. From Poland I continued through to Lithuania skirting the Russian boarder, then to Latvia and into Estonia. I boarded a ferry at Finland and arrived two and half hours later in Helsinki. The next checkpoint was above the Arctic Circle and finally to the journey’s end in Norway.
I witnessed incredible sunsets and sunrises, saw reindeer roaming, saw women milking cows in fields, and had miles and miles of straight roads through forests and then tundra-type plains. The temperature cooled but was never cold. I avoided heavy downpours and slept outside during a thunder and lightning storm. Mostly, I slept under the stars, swam in lakes to cool off and was greeted with hospitality and warmth from the people I encountered along the route. It was a reaffirmation of the good that exists and restored my faith in humanity.
The most memorable experience was how I felt when I reached Norway, for the final stretch of the ride. The landscape was stunning and the realisation that I was going to finish was quite emotional. To ride along the coast with crystal clear waters, grazing herds of reindeer and huge mountain cliffs was truly magical. There were several tunnels to pass through and one was almost 7km long.
Whilst not strictly a race, I finished in position 49 and I am happy with my performance. It was physically tough and mentally challenging, with the cumulative lack of sleep the hardest part – an average of just three to four hours a night for 16 days.
There was such a spirit of camaraderie on the road and this became a special part of the whole ride for me. I have formed lasting friendships and have a network of contacts in many countries. I would do it all again tomorrow and the experience will stay with me forever.
My final day, after the event, ended with an unexpected lift from the Norwegian Police Chief (purely coincidental) to the airport after he saw me carrying my bike box on the roadside. Call it fate if you like but I just call it amazing good fortune.
I have so many stories and cannot convey the whole wonder of this ride in a short account. The solitude and shared riding were equally rewarding, making the journey special. I quickly learned that your needs are basic on the bike and whatever the day threw at you, it was possible to adapt and overcome problems on the move. This was 60% mental and 40% physical and any good club rider could achieve this with preparation and the right mindset. To be lucky to finish was immensely fulfilling but just to take part was an achievement in itself. I give due recognition to Sue and India Landy for their valiant efforts and to Stephen Butcher for getting me into this and his ride.
I could have ridden it faster (Jon averaged 269km per day – Ed) with shorter stops or spent more time resting, but I believe I got the balance right to walk away relatively unscathed and with a bucket load of memories. It was the grandest adventure and I hope this gives some insight.
The generous donations for Cancer Research in memory of a colleague have so far raised £1,170.00. I am very humbled by this.
The Just Giving page remains open if anyone would still like to contribute.
The bike (Kinesis Tripster Titanium) was perfect with hydraulic disc brakes, Hunt gravel rims and a Son deluxe dynamo hub. Gears were 50/34 and cassette 11/32 Sram Rival. Supernova E3 Pro lights front and rear. Powerbug USB converter and powerbank. All performed perfectly.
I ran tubeless Schwalbe 30mm G-one speed tyres. Also took an innertube as backup. I wore out the rear tyre on a combination of distance, weight, 60km gravel section and an emergency stop when some kit was sucked into the wheel. This required a normal replacement with a tube which was easy. Not a single puncture.
Kit was carried in a combination of large bikepacking Revelate saddlebag, Apidura under the top tube bag, Alpkit double ended drybag and Alpkit Big Roo pouch on the handlebars, plus a small top tube bag and a food pouch by the stem.
Sleeping kit was a Klymit Xlite ¾ mat, Alpkit XL Hunka bivvi bag, ¾ piece of radiator reflective sheet, OMM Raid Primaloft half sleeping bag with Rab Primaloft jkt and Alpkit down blanket. I took a silk liner but did not really use it with this setup. Would work for a full bag.
Spares/Tools – 2 spokes, tyre levers, 1 innertube, mech hanger (literally for £20 this will save your ride if needed), quick link, oil and rag, multi tool, Leyzne micro floor pump. Patches, curved needle and dental floss, tyre boot. Tubeless repair kit.
Clothes – 2 pairs of shorts, insulated gilet, 2 merino short sleeved tops, 1 short sleeved cycle jersey, 2 pairs of socks. Rain jkt, short gloves and thin long gloves to wear underneath, arm and leg warmers, buff, waterproof trs (would take ¾ next time) and shoe covers (wore out by walking).
Navigation – Garmin 510 and Garmin Etrex30s (batteries)
Phone for updates and access to Google for services – Invaluable
Basic washing kit – face and kit wash, toothbrush and paste, first aid basics (Sudocreme and Anthisan cream/Antihistamine tablets for bites)
2 bidons and a musette bag for food.
Cables for electricals/ SPOT tracker Gps.
Cafe lock and also 2 reusable zip ties (Hiploks) for security at feed stops.
Small tube of electrolyte tablets for the first 5 days in the heat.
I used it all except the spares.
Must have kit
Aero bars that saved my hands getting numb and for the comfort over the long distances.
Sudocreme and chamois cream literally saved my a**e
Waterproofs leg coverings for rain and wind.
Buff (neck warmer)
Revelate Visa preloaded card (avoids transaction charges) Easy to top up and used in all 11 countries.
Spare tyre ( I was lucky mine went in a town outside a bike shop!) Had I been on a gravel section or deep in the forest it would have been a long walk.
Needed Vaseline for fingers as even with suncream they dried out with the wind.
Considerations for the future
Lightweight one man tent (possibly Six Moons design – Lunar) but depends on weight vs comfort. I can see the benefits over a bivi if the weather is bad.