Day 9. Alta. 40 km

Posted: July 16, 2012 in Cycling, Norway
Tags: , ,

Today was a day of frustration. Cycling from one bike shop to the next in the glorious, sunny weather, finding someone to fix my spoke. I was in my civilian clothing, passing cyclists kitted out with their cycling clothes and luggage clearly heading for the north cape. I couldn’t help but tell them I was just getting a spoke fixed. I was one of them..

The first bike shop only sold bikes, but pointed me to a second, some 8 km away at the other end of the town (with a minor hill in between). They couldn’t help, but perhaps a third. Back over the hill. The third does repairs, but the mechanic is on holidays. I took to their workshop, and changed the spoke.

I only had spokes that were the wrong size, collected on the way. After some time I had the spoke replaced (after getting frustrated several times at my failure at being able to carry out particular actions and seeing my cycling time ticking away).

I went to an all you can eat pizza place to fill up with the fuel that would take me over the tundra wasteland to the next camping ground some 80 km away.

3 km further another spoke broke. I fixed it and continued. At last on my way. The north cape is in sight!

The North Cape in sight.

The North Cape in sight.


I passed a sign: the climb to the tundra plains.

Up to the tundra plains

Up to the tundra plains


And up I went. At the very top, just before the descent down, another spoke broke.

Yet again: *sigh*

Yet again: *sigh*


Unlike the others, it was a spoke on the side of the gear wheel. I couldn’t change this one even if I had tried. It was cold and windy and the clouds were looking threatening. I was 20 km out of Alta and 60 km from my planned camping ground: a tiny village with no facilities. In fact, the next bike shop is at Honningsvåg near the north cape or at Hammerfest, some 130 km away. What was I doing here at the start of the arctic tundra? Alone, with my (non-existant) technical prowess and with a wheel clearly past it’s prime. If another spoke broke and the wheel was unusable, what then? I tried to straighten the wheel with one broken spoke by tightening and loosening other spokes. The wheel got worse.

Time to quit while the wheel was still rideable. Dejected, I turned and cycled back to Alta.

Having dinner at the camping ground, I was speaking to two Serbians who have just returned from the north cape. They were early and are now killing four days of time. They had a lot of stories to tell. Some were hilarious: particularly about mosquitos.

But, dear readers, I have a question. Can you help? What should I do?
1. Call around and find a nearby cycle shop with a mechanic. The nearest one may be 100s of kms away. Then rent a car and take the bike to it.
2. Try to rent a bike. I doubt this would be possible.
3. Try to readjust the spokes and cycle the last 250 kms.
4. Buy a new bike. (this is not a really serious option)
5. Something else..

As you can see, I don’t have any options I like. The Serbians told me of another bike shop in Alta that sounds promising. I will try that. Other than that, please help me with your ideas. I could think of nothing worse than cycling all this way and joining a tourist bus trip to go to the north cape from here.

By the way, I asked the last bike shop if they had a replacement wheel. They didn’t but could have one in by Thursday. I guess that would be Friday now. Maybe another one of the shops has a wheel. The gears will need to be mounted which may not be possible without a mechanic..

  1. Marco Janssen says:

    Hi Matthew!
    My advise: try to buy a 28-inch 38-spoke wheel. The wheels currently mounted at your bike, with less (and non-equally distributed) spokes are unfortunately less stiff, especially when carrying the luggage for a bike-trip.

    Mounting your gears on the new wheel is like a 5 minute trick.
    You need two pieces of equipment:
    (1) this tool has a piece of chain mounted on it, this to hold the sprocket (gears) fixed when dismounting it from your current wheel.
    (2) a toothed ‘socket’ which is inserted into the ‘locking ring’ of your sprocket (gears) to disable it from your current wheel. (first remove the quick-release!)

    Note: the sprocket should be mounted on your new wheel with about 40 Nm, otherwise the sprocket can get loose during the first rides with your new wheel!

    Even though you have some technical problems on your trip, I’m still jealous!

    • Hey Marco. Thanks for the reply. My plan was to try to find a new wheel. One shop where I was didn’t have the right wheel when I asked. I will ask the others when they open in 2 hours.

      Can you comment on my plan B? I am tightening/loosening all the spokes do they make the same note when you pluck them. I will then make a final adjustment to remove a wobble. Would that have a chance of working if plan A above fails?

      Thanks for your help!!!!

  2. Marco Janssen says:

    When tightening/loosening spokes, make sure that the rim stays at the centre of the hub of your wheel. Durnig a repair during a journey, this is ofcourse difficult to check. An off-set of about 2 mm can cause spokes to break over an over again.

    The trick is to put two tie-wraps at the seat-stays (one left, one right side) or at the chain-stays (if bicycle is upside-down when working on the wheel. Cut the ends of the tie-wraps and turn them towards the rim (with wheel mounted in bicycle). In this way, you have two markers (one on left side, one on right side). This works like an improvised version of the equipment they use in a bike shop to fix your wheel.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

  3. ju says:

    Dear matthew, reading your blog from the aragonese pireneos and we could not help being amused. Were very sorry for all your troubles…. We (jochem, inge, edward and judith) would all buy a new bike… It’s a waste of your holiday to be stuck 255 km from the Nordkap. We are currently suffering from a nasty heatwave (34 degrees c)
    Love from us all and the kids….

  4. […] Day 9. Alta. 40 km No bike mechanics in Alta, and my spoke replacements aren’t doing the job. An attempt to leave Alta failed, and I return, dejected, not knowing what to do next. […]

  5. Jeffrey F says:

    Hi great reeading your blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.