An unusal bike fixing experience

Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
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Trip End Nov 20, 2010


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Where I stayed
Campsite

Flag of Norway  , South Coast,
Friday, July 16, 2010

Fixing my bike
So last time i posted i was stranded in Aalborg over the weekend waiting to get my bike fixed, well luckily now its fixed and I'm back on the road. It was a bit awkward because it needed welded and many bike shops no matter how good they are can't have welding gear (some stupid regulations apparently). Having spent the weekend chilling out, updating this and actually looking at a map for a change I got up first thing on Monday and headed to a bike shop. Luckily most people in Denmark speak pretty good English (apparently you are required to speak English if you want to work in a supermarket, makes getting a job in Morrison's seem easy, imagine if you had to be able to speak French to work there!). The guy working there was really nice and as luck would have it he used to be a welder. He said he could do the welding for me but not until the afternoon as he was on his own all morning. He suggested a steel fabricator who worked from workshop (typically a few km out of town and about 300m from the campsite i was staying in). "if it was me" he said "I would rock up with a six pack of beer and ask them if they can do it, would have worked with me when i was a welder!") a six pack of beer is quite expensive over here so I took a chance and headed over anyways. When got there I was a bit surprised because it was a massive warehouse with offices out the front and big signs, it was obviously a pretty big company. I gingerly went to the car park by the offices and wandered in though the open door. There appeared to be no one around I wandered down the corridor a bit when a man In blue overalls appeared. I asked him "taler de engelsk" (do you speak English in danish) he replied "a little" which is almost always the case. I told him I was cycling round Europe but my bike needed welding and I was told that he might be able to help (luckily for me I had happened across the boss) soon enough he was taking me into the massive warehouse. When we got inside it was full of welders (maybe 30) welding everything imaginable. He took me to a guy in a little booth. When we arrived the guy was wearing a massive welding mask with a neck shield and breathing gear and he also had an extractor fan, he looked more like someone that should be coming out of a space craft on a moon landing. He was welding what looked like part of a ship or aircraft but as soon as we walked in he stopped (this was when i realised I was with the boss). He explained in Danish that I was cycling round Europe and showed him what the problem was. He left me in his capable hands and said "you stay and help ok?". The guy spoke a few works of English and asked me to take the wheel off. Soon he was grinding down the surface ready to re weld it. The part that needed welding on was very small so he put it in some pliers and asked me to hold it. I was trying my best to hold it straight as there was nothing to rest on. He was busy firing up his blow torch and just about to start when he said " oh yeah, don't look, ok?" as he brought down his massive blackened welding mask I was a little scared, especially as my hand was only a few cm away and was getting peppered with blue sparks. Unfortunately for some reason (I can't think why) I wasn't able to hold it still enough. Next thing I know he had the grinder going sending a shower of sparks towards my legs (I was wearing shorts as usual so it was pretty painful). It took a few attempts but we managed to get it straight. The guy was obviously very skilled as I watched him grinding the tip in his welder down to just the right size. Once he finished welding I was dead chuffed and just getting ready to reassemble my bike when he took one if the bolts and said "I be back I just go.... you want a coffee?" and pointed over to a great big steel table where there were four or five big burly welders sat with a pot of coffee. He came back a few minutes later with a tap (its what you use for making threads in a hole) exactly the right size and re threaded the bit he had welded. I was really pleased i was just expecting a two minute rough weld and that would be it. I was just about to put the wheel back on again when he said "this one" and pointed at the other rack mount "this not so strong, I put more....." "yeah great" I replied it was obvious now that this guy was one of the best welders they had, this must have been why the boss took me to him. He finished strengthening the weld on the other rack mount, I was busy bolting my rack back on when he noticed one of the bolts was a bit worn. "I get new one, with one of these, ....so tight" he said pointing at a nut. "ok" I replied again and off he went and came back with a new bolt, he put the nut on and cut it down. All in all I must have used at least half an hour of his time, so how much does half an hour of expert welders time cost?.... Nothing, that's right I went to the boss afterwards asked how much and he just waved his hand and said good luck with the rest of your trip! It's one if the great things about travelling by bike, once people realise you have actually ridden all the way from England and the only way you are going to get back is by bike they are happy to help (but I still like to think my beaming grin and chirpy attitude helps!)

I had an interesting experience with a German man at the campsite. He came across at first as being very German (I think you probably know what I mean). He was driving a massive camper van which was more like a small bus. Later that day I was cooking outside my tent and he came and said hello and started talking about my trip and cycling, he turned out to be quite nice dispute his pretty abrupt manner. He had been driving up north in Norway and recommended that I try smoke whale mean (slightly contentious). He then said "I have one recommendation for you on your bike, many cyclists you cannot see them you must wear a reflective band or have some big reflector on the back of your bike" I Said I had done a lot of night riding and that I had some reflectors on the back of my panniers. He was very insistent but after a while he said good bye and disappeared off and I thought nothing of it. However when I came to collect my camping pass before leaving who should be there but the German man. I was talking about my trip with the lady that ran the campsite when he came over and said "I told him he needs something reflective so people can see him" and was then saying how dangerous it was. I was busy sorting out my camping pass when he came to the counter with a fluorescent jacket in his hand and slapped it down "you need one of these he said". By some bizarre coincidence the tiny camp shop which sold some pretty random things happened to have them. I wasn't sure what to do. I was considering maybe getting something fluorescent at some point but not an XL vest that wouldn't even fit me. I couldn't exactly refuse as it only cost about 2 quid and if I refused it would be like saying "I'd rather die thanks". So I now have a nice fluorescent vest attached to the back of my panniers. Its very sensible and could save my life I just was quite amused with how I was practically forced into buying it.

Ferry ride to Norway...
The ferry ride over to Norway from Denmark was interesting. The crossing from Hirtshals to Kristiansand is quite long when looked at on a map however the ferry only take a couple of hours. I soon found out the reason for this, the ferry was a super fast catamaran. I was slightly worried when I got on and found 5 or 6 sick bags on each table. Although the sea was pretty
calm, the ferry was quite small and did rock and sway a fair bit. This didn't however seem to stop the first class passengers who had a large buffet laid out for them. They had their plates piled high which was fine apart from the fact the boat was rocking so much they could hardly walk back to their table. How they were able to stomach it I don't know. I was for some reason in comfort class which was the same without the food. Later into the trip I spotted there was no one collecting tickets I was stuck with an awkward situation, lots of really nice free food but for
some reason I didn't seem to have much of an appetite.

Norway
Three things are very abundant in Norway trees, water and rocky mountains. This leads to three other things being abundant flies/Mosquito's, tunnels and bridges all of which make riding round
less than simple. The tunnels are the main problem, they are found on many of the routes, can be very long (up to 24 km) and bikes are banned in many due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This makes route planning a right pain so I have decided to follow the national cycle route up the cost so I don't get stranded not able to pass through a tunnel. All these things also mean the scenery is always interesting and amazing. Even in the towns there are rocky out crops and trees everywhere the first campsite i stayed in was in the middle of Kristiansand but could easily have been a welsh mountain in the middle of nowhere. Having been on flat or rolling terrain with long straight roads for most if my trip the roads here are a bit of a shock. They are all hilly and nowhere near straight. So much so that I found a place 75km away as the crow flies, normally this would mean about 90-100km on the roads, here it was almost 150km! (i.e half your time is spent going in the wrong direction which is very frustrating).

I am not a morning person and struggle to get up at the best of times but when your alarm goes off at 7 and you can hardly hear it over the sound of rain it is very hard to find the motivation to get up. It could have been worse though when I finally got to the facilities block (about an hour
later!) I was confronted with two poor Dutch girls in the kitchen trying to pack away a sopping wet tent. Their tent had been leaking and so was wet inside and out what's more they were using buses to get around and today was the only occasion they had actually booked a bus
(leaving soon about half an hours walk away by the side of the road) so a few minutes later off they trudged clad in waterproofs with massive packs, at least I was able to wait for the rain to stop before leaving.
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