Bikepacking with Banjo

New YouTube video out, this time bikepacking with Banjo, our Jack Russell Terrier, to one of our favourite bikepacking campsites in our neighbourhood while philosophising about what really matters in life.

Can anything good come out of the Covid pandemic raging through the world? Does a Jack Russell Terrier have anything to teach us about how to live life? And what has biophilia to do with it all?

Mikkel Soya goes Backwoods Bikepacking

After several years of intense book writing, I have finally had the time to consider what to do with this site. Though I dabble a bit with canoeing, snowshoeing, hiking, packrafting, backcountry skiing and what not, the bicycle is such an integral part of my life that there is no wonder bikepacking is what’s closest to my heart.

I have chosen to dedicate the site completely to bikepacking (not much change there), but maybe more importantly, I have started to publish a bit material on YouTube and the interwebs, either on this site (which is undergoing a slow transformation. I rather be outside than spending time tinkering with my homepage), or in collaboration with established sites.

It will be a gentle transformation. After many years of intense writing and bringing up two kids, there’s one or two things that needs to be fixed on the house and stuff to be cleared out, so expect a gradual increase in material and not a flood (with the long pauses I’ve had on this site, any post will be a step in the right direction, I suppose).

Why Backwoods Bikepacking? Because that’s what I mainly do, bikepacking the backwoods and beyond, here in Norway.

Winter bikepacking to local mountain in Norway

Do you remember that feeling way back when you learned to ride a bike? I had just begun school when I got my first bike. Day in and day out I would sit on the seat and push myself along the roadside curb with my right foot. My strides became longer and longer until one day I put caution to the wind and took my first pedal strokes. That day, the bike became my freedom machine. The world suddenly grew bigger, right in front of my tiny handlebars. I never looked back.

Check out my new video about why I love bikepacking:

The rolling bikepacking gourmet show

Mountain biking. Adrenaline rushing descents, steep climbs, tortuous rock gardens, blood taste in your mouth, knobby tires and mud? Yes, it certainly can be. But on a three day bikepacking trip through Nordmarka forest north of Oslo with Stian, Christian and Sverre in May, it was obvious that mountain biking could be so much more:

– Has anyone seen the rubber spatula? Stian makes ready to bake bannock, a round, flat bread with roots back to the North of England, Scotland and Ireland.

– I guess that question hasn’t been asked many times here in the Nordmarka forest! Christian exclaims.

Food

He is probably absolutely right. A rubber spatula is hardly the standard equipment for most outdoor people. But then again, neither Christian, Stian and Sverre are your average outdoor person. Out of tiny backpacks and frame bags, they pull out sausages of several kinds, homemade meatballs in gravy, cured meats, flour, a couple of cans of beer for dinner, olive oil, olives, prunes, Norwegian Røros butter and cheese. Lots of cheese. I lose track somewhere after cheese number five. The whole scene reminds me of when magicians drag one white dove out of their sleeve after another. Not long after, we sit around the fire in the night and eat tapas. The last remnants of sunlight filters through the spruce branches and lichens in the woods behind us. The light from a few campfires flashes vaguely on the other side of the quiet forest lake.

Sverre enjoys his coffee

These guys aren’t only more into food than your average mountain biker. They can bike, too. Next day, they throw their fully laden bikes around bends, bombs down rock gardens and climbs stuff that would be tough for most people even without the gear strapped to the bikes. And how do they celebrate bagging the crux at the top? With a piece of exclusive Pascal chocolate confectionery.

Bikepushing the last remnants of winter.
Bikepushing the last remnants of winter.

We stop for lunch and coffee. With cream.
We stop for lunch and coffee. With cream.

Christian leads the trail.
Christian leads the trail.

Stuck.
Stuck.

Through old growth forest.
Through old growth forest.

Christian digging in.
Christian digging in.

Seat post
Believe it or not, but the guys had actually brought a spare seat post.

Puddle
Puddle.

Sverre charging up the hill.
Sverre charging up the hill.

Chocolate confectionary celebration.
Chocolate confectionary celebration.

Winter solstice

– I want to go on a trip! She says.

– Ok, let’s go, I say.

– Promise?

– Yes. Promise.

And I really do promise. Some promises you just have to keep. Even though December is probably even more jam packed with busy days than in the autumn, when we didn’t manage to go on any trips.

– Your backpack is bigger than when we went hiking across Norway last year, she grins when I put my backpack on my back.

– A bit of comfort is in order, I smile. It is winter solstice after all. And it doesn’t matter if we’re a bit slow getting out the door. The longest night of the year is ahead of us.

I tried to get hold of a couple of kerosene lanterns before leaving, thinking it might be cozy to bring them with us, but my search ended in vain. The closest I came to in our little town was a lantern at the local Clas Ohlson hardware store. It definitely looked like a kerosene lantern, yes, I would easily have thought it to be a kerosene lantern had it not been for the fact that it ran on batteries and lit using LED bulbs.

– LED bulbs? Bah!

I went for two 49 kroner Christmas lanterns instead.

– Should we light our headlamps? I look at her questioningly.

– No! Let’s walk without them! Let’s stick to our Christmas lanterns!

Just for the record: There’s an incredible amount of natural magic in a candle. Especially when it is inside a 49 kroner Christmas lantern. That is apparent the moment we turn onto the small path behind the house and see the pine trunks emerge from the darkness of night in the dim, flickering red light from the lanterns. We tumble into the dark on the black path, fumbling onto a diminutive track, crawl up a ridge, putting our backpacks on a tiny ledge on a steep, small hillside with a view to the sea of forests to the north.

Winter solstice campfire

We light a small campfire, eat our simple meal, making ready to sleep under the open sky and try not to think to hard about the fact that we have to be up at six the next morning so Siri can arrive in time for this year’s last day at school.

– See, that’s why my backpack was so big, I say, pulling a small ukulele out of the pack. There is an incredible amount of natural magic in a ukulele too. Even in one that’s not completely in tune. We round off our little celebration of the winter solstice with gentle tones under the thin grey duvet of clouds quietly resting over the forest.

– Play some more, Dad.

I play some more.

Snowriding in Norway

What happens when you mix a grumpy snow groomer, Norways national sport skiing and a couple of more or less bearded bikepackers on fatbikes and grind that with four days of riding along an almost 150 km long stretch of prime ski tracks in an alpine environment?

A whole lot, I can tell you.

Three things I like: A Hilleberg Soulo tent, a Surly Moonlander fatbike and the Milky Way.
Three things I like: A Hilleberg Soulo tent, a Surly Moonlander fatbike and the Milky Way.

Long day of riding.
Long day of riding.