NORDKAPP IN WINTER – PART 1
AN EPIC RIDE IN FREEZING TEMPERATURES
One of the most popular biking destinations in Europe and quite possibly across the globe, Norway’s North Cape welcomes hundreds of motorcyclists in spring and summer. As the northernmost point on the European mainland, it’s hammered by heavy snowfall in winter, which makes a mid-February ride to the Cape even more challenging…
If you want to reach Nordkapp on a bike, you’ll need to ride beyond the Arctic Circle, which is a remarkable journey by itself. Doing the trip in winter is something not that many people would even try. With the roads covered with ice and snow, the addition of strong arctic winds requires a special dedication to achieve this goal. And if you are lucky enough, you can sleep under the magnificent northern lights.
I’m Tugce and together with my riding partner Fatih, we’ve been traveling around this earth for eight years already. For the last few years I’m riding a KTM 690 ENDURO R, while Fatih is riding his KTM 790 ADVENTURE R. For two years from 2016 to 2018 we rode around the world and that was just the start of many more epic trips that followed.
Key for every daring biking adventure is good preparation. But this time, expecting the unexpected was crucial. The route was planned to circle around the Baltic Sea. Starting from Poland, we would ride up through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland, and come back through Norway and Sweden. Since this part of the world is getting extremely cold in winter, both us and our bikes had to be prepared accordingly.
Selecting the proper gear for such a trip was never going to be easy. The main objective was to keep ourselves warm, comfortable, and safe. On top of several bottom layers and motorcycle gear, we decided to go the extra mile with some proper high-visibility trousers and over-jackets.
Next step was the helmets. Under moisty and cold conditions, helmet visors tend to get foggy, which drastically affects visibility. Sometimes, even it’s very hard to see unless the visor is open, something not ideal in really cold conditions, so a good anti-fog system is needed. For our feet, we bought new pairs of rain covers to stop water to soak into the boots and hopefully keep our feet dry.
Not knowing exactly what our average daily speed will be in such demanding conditions, we opted to carry our full tent and camping gear. Initially planning to use that as our last resort, it turned out to be a life saver when one evening we realized it’d be impossible to reach the nearest village. Despite that being only 30 to 40 km away, our average speed of 40 km/h made it clear that spending the night in our tent was the best option.
Finally, the food… To reduce the daily costs and be prepared for the worst, we took some dry and canned food with us. We planned to use the kitchens in hostels or our camp stove to cook our own meals.
As we always do prior to any long trip, a visit to our KTM dealer was a must. We explained the nature of our trip, so they went through a thorough check for potential problems on the road. Both bikes were already in good condition anyway and they needed main maintenance
During our visit at the dealer, we also installed two sets of heated grips and that proved to be a great addition for the freezing conditions of the trip to the north. On top of the heated grips, we installed hand muffs so that our hands will be protected from rain and wind. Adding the hand muffs also massively improved the efficiency of the heated grips. Tire selection was also important. For this trip, together with a good set of all-condition tires, we also got some extra tire studs that we installed ourselves during the trip.
Setting off to ride long distance on a motorcycle is mentally challenging by itself. But if you plan to do so in hostile and freezing conditions, this can certainly add some pressure mentally. For us, staying dedicated to our goal to reach Nordkapp on our bikes was important throughout the process. Our experience traveling around the world has shown time and again that no matter how well you might be prepared, there is always a great mental challenge that you’ll have to overcome before setting off for the trip.
To overcome any moments of doubt, it’s always helpful to plan as good as possible, as for expert advice and stay focused on the end goal. Dedication is the key; mental strength is the fuel.
Our humble advice for all riders potentially planning to ride in such conditions is:
- Check weather movement around the places you will be riding. Weather can change very quickly so any information you might be able to collect is key.
- Always have an offline map application or a printed map. There are some good offline map applications in the market, and they have quite good POI databases. Do not trust GSM coverage. Generally, it doesn’t serve when it needs to.
- Try to have as less doubts about parts on your bike as possible. Ask for advice or support from your dealer and make sure you got all parts tested properly before setting off.
- Download the user manual of your bike and read through it to get an understanding of what is where and how you might be able to resolve any issues by yourself if needed.
- Reach out local motorcycle groups to have people around whenever you need help or even to socialize.
At the end of the day and after all the actual and mental preparation, you’ll just need to get on your bike and ride towards the unknown. And in our case, this trip through to the northernmost part of the European mainland proved to be an adventure of a lifetime.
Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of the adventurous ride to North Cape.