Boris, the smiling man who wanted to cycle to Norway
by Jerome Homer on Nov 12, 2022
not really able to tell me how many liters of beer he drank during his trip, Boris is nevertheless quite precise and meticulous (see the questions relating to the choice of equipment). Boris is also persevering: apart from a few overnight stays with the locals, not a restaurant, not a B&B… for 2 and a half months. low helmet. and yet when he describes his menus to us, it doesn't really sell the dream 🙃: with great blows of a backpacker's fork in cans or incisors in carrots, would he have missed the essential when we travel: make all your senses work? not really…
besides, where is the essential when you embark on a journey of 6500km by bike? this is the question that hides behind each of those to which Boris was kind enough to answer.
because basically, the bike is just a pretext.
when you leave France for Norway via the British Isles, you know the objective, so admit it… how many liters of beer did you drink?
I am unable to tell you how much but a package! during the 1st month I did not have a night without it, normal, I was in the UK and I often drank and ate at the same time as they say when you drink Guinness, and what is it's good !
I took 2 and a half months to cover the 6500km with an average of 85km per day
can you quickly describe your route to me?
I left my native Normandy to join Norway by taking eurovélo 1 (England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Norway), the idea was to arrive before it got too cold and that the days aren't too short, without necessarily putting pressure on my pace or setting a precise arrival date. I took 2 and a half months to cover the 6500km with an average of 85km per day
why this destination?
a friend I haven't seen for a long time lives in Norway and the cultural difference I fantasized about between Scandinavia and France fascinated me, so when I saw that the ev1 allowed you to ride mostly along the coast, my choice was made.
I wanted this trip to leave room for discovery and the freedom to follow one's desires
you say you followed eurovélo 1, how did you prepare your itinerary?
I simply downloaded the GPX track without taking my head too much and without really looking at the points of interest. I preferred to trust the advice of people I will meet on the way (I did well), let myself be carried away, I wanted this trip to leave room for discovery and the freedom to follow one's desires. therefore, I mostly spent time on the equipment
can you explain to us?
it was a great headache, especially when it's the first time you've embarked on such a distance in autonomy, everything must be rather well thought out beforehand. Before, I used to do bikepacking on a small weekday using my vélotaf with small panniers and a backpack strapped to the luggage rack. so I bought a gravel and the right equipment for a solo trip and the complexity comes from the fact that the offer is almost too abundant. by doing it in advance, I was able to test on small outings. it took me 1 month and a half to develop the right mix but it was worth it because looking back, I'm very happy with my choices
moreover, for those who want to know in detail your equipment, we can advise them to read the interview that you gave to Hugo on his site and can be consulted here , but perhaps you can tell us quickly what you have taken as jerseys and shorts?
I had 2 jerseys, one in merino wool (top!) and the other in polyester that I would swap for a 2nd jersey in merino wool if I had to do it again. merino wool has the advantage of covering a greater range of temperatures and above all of naturally responding better to bad smells…!
for the shorts, I only took one short and without straps, which I find much more practical over time. my Brooks saddle, which is great and very comfortable without shorts, allowed me to alternate days with and without shorts, which offers the advantage of varying the contact points. that said, next time I will go with better quality shorts.
and now, where are you exactly?
I am on a very small islet in Naustholmen in Norway, run by the adventurer Rani Skaug who welcomes travelers like me who come to be inspired by her mountaineering experiences such as the ascent of Everest, to live to the rhythm of the nature within a very pleasant woofing.
I was generally amazed by the body's ability to adapt and withstand the load and the repetition of efforts
and how do you feel?
I'm going really well, mentally I feel a great serenity, a feeling of fullness, the satisfaction of "having done it" and without the blues that you sometimes feel at the end of a significant experience when you realize that It's finish
at the same time you are still “elsewhere” and not quite on the point of returning, what is next?
I'm going to go home quietly, mostly by train, stopping to see friends on the right & left. I had planned to return by bike from Stockohlm to Hamburg by eurovélo 10 but it's 2000km more and I don't necessarily have the time
nor the legs perhaps?
Yes, on this side it's going well: I held on without any worries until my arrival in Norway but from the moment I stopped I felt a huge wave of fatigue invade me, as if the body imposed on me a forced rest after having accepted repeated efforts for 2 and a half months! it is all the more impressive that I had no cramps, no aches during the trip. However, I did not do any special preparation beforehand. I felt, every morning, at the start, the need for the body to get back on the road, but overall I was amazed by the body's ability to adapt and withstand the load and the repetition of the efforts.
precisely, you want to tell us how you punctuated your days?
it was pretty much the same sequence all the time: breakfast, tidying up the bivouac then setting off and cycling all day with a lunch break around 1 p.m. depending on hunger, the distance covered.
around 6 p.m., looking for a pub where I can hang out to charge my phone, meet nice people and get some Wi-Fi.
I pitched the tent after the pub, in summer it is late in these regions but it is true that I let myself be surprised a few times by the darkness or the showers while hanging out a little too much at the bar;)
since we are talking about advertising, you have traveled through countries that are not well known for their gastronomy, culinary, what will you keep as nice surprises?
Scottish sticky toffee pudding! (Yes sir!): a super gourmet date pudding covered with a caramel sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a killer, full of calories guaranteed! I also discovered the porridge that I adopted for the whole duration of the trip for breakfast, it sticks to the body and you can decorate it differently every morning!
and the worst discoveries?
in Norway… there's a lot of stuff in tubes, especially a fish paste they call “kaviar” to spread on bread, it's chemical and terribly salty, maybe a matter of habit but that I don't take them!
and what did you eat while pedaling?
in general I am very greedy and I snack all the time during the day, I always have fruit, a mixture of seeds and peanuts at hand and also… carrots that I crunch while rolling
besides, eating while driving is sometimes risky, isn't it?
yes… I gave myself a huge fright trying to open a packet of peanuts without taking the time to stop. I wallowed nicely but fortunately without too much breakage. I felt my left hand and shoulder for several days but luckily it didn't stop me from continuing. a posteriori, I said to myself that everything could have stopped at that moment... on a stupidity and because I thought that I could do everything while driving, a little too much confidence and a call to order that m calmed down for the rest
it would have been a real shame, for you as well as for the beautiful cause you supported in parallel with this personal experience... the support for the Nav'Solidaire association
yes, it is an association that collects lower and upper limb prostheses arriving at the end of their cycle in France to send them to Africa in order to equip people who do not have access to these medical devices. the collection is done by blablalegs (carpooling), the sorting is done voluntarily in the English Channel and yachtsmen, sensitive to the cause and having planned to make this trip, convey the prostheses to Gambia or Senegal. there is therefore a humanitarian aspect but also an eco-responsible aspect in the whole approach of the association, which particularly touches me.
I wanted to take part of my home on this adventure, support a local association
Why did you choose Nav'solidaire?
in addition to the reasons that I have just mentioned, I wanted to bring a part of my home on this adventure, to support a local association and I had met Antoine, its founder, himself an amputee, a few years ago, through work. he realized that in France, the prostheses were replaced every 3 to 5 years and that they were not given a second life even though many countries lack them... well, I think that once again, the choice wasn't hard to do
I imagine that pedaling for such an association, it helps when you have a less good shot?
it's clear ! and it happened that the people I met and to whom I spoke about it, wanted to give directly to support the actions of the association, all this generosity gave strength, to see the pot that was rising, it motivated to pedal and to continue to share on the networks!
you say you are sensitive to environmental issues, how did you manage to travel responsibly?
for me it was super important, it was natural. choosing a bike is already a responsible commitment in itself. I only flew from Scotland to Norway once, not without trying to make the trip by boat, but after 2 days of being refused by all merchant ship captains (he didn't there is no longer a ferry connection between the 2 countries) I resigned myself to taking the plane.
on site, I tried to buy as little packaging as possible, not to eat meat, little fish and to buy fresh produce from the farmers I met on my way. unfortunately I only found very few bulk products on my journey, so I bought a lot of canned goods knowing that they can be recycled ad infinitum. but it's true that the countries I've visited produce little food locally and everything that's imported there is wrapped in plastic. I was moreover terrified to see the waste on certain low sides: for example, I remember a road in Ireland of which a portion of 40 to 50 km crossed a totally virgin area, populated only by cattle and wind turbines. I saw cows there chewing plastic bottles…! so during some lunch breaks, I picked up trash.
and then finally, for the anecdote, I used the morning dew on the tent to wash myself 🙂
one day, while looking for a pub in a village, I pass near a house and I see a guy, alone on his terrace, staring at the sun straight in the eye with a huge smile
you also talked about people you met, it seems that traveling is going to meet the other. so, for Boris, what were the “other” highlights?
there have been a lot of them in reality and if I had to name just one it would be this globe trotting cook who returned to his native Ireland to spend his retirement there: Kit the mad collector.
you want to tell us?
one day, while looking for a pub in a village, I pass near a house and I see a guy, alone on his terrace staring at the sun straight in the eyes with a huge smile, I call out to him and… spontaneously, he invites me to come up for a beer, prepares us for dinner, we change the world while listening to Bob Marley, he puts me up, makes me breakfast… afterwards he will often even hear from me. this spontaneity and this generosity, both material and in his stories, struck me all the more since his retirement in Ireland was very modest (he mainly worked abroad), and he lived on very little, without Hot water…
the bike as a pretext…
yes it's clear, the bike helps for that, it generates a kind of benevolent curiosity and empathy in the other. and it's curious because it also causes a change in behavior in the traveler. I am not the last to reach out to others, but I notice that I did so with all the more ease during this trip, my curiosity was expressed even more naturally in lands from which I am not a native and by traveling there alone.
the bike is an excellent compromise in terms of travel speed (...) you can cover the country and (...) it's slow enough to enjoy the landscapes
and why the bike? you could have made this trip on foot…
the first point is that I love cycling, then I find that it's an excellent compromise in terms of speed of movement, you can cover the country, easily take detours and at the same time it's slow enough to enjoy the landscapes while carrying weight without loading the body
you say “cross the country”, what does that mean for you and what are you looking for when you want to “cross the country”?
it means to live an adventure, to have the assurance of seeing different types of landscapes, in our imagination, I think that there is in the notion of adventure an inseparable dimension linked to space, to distance... which does not is not an objective in itself, but on foot I would have gone less far and I would have come across less diversity and finally, traveling around the country is a shortcut to say that we are going to meet other cultures.
today, I feel that some cursors have moved on this aspect (...) the bicycle allows this meditation, to feel more present here and now and to decorrelate the pleasure of living from that of owning
it is also said that travels form youth, in what way was this journey also internal?
it's true, I feel different after this trip, freer, I also feel a sense of accomplishment coupled with a form of lightness. I took a different rhythm, in this daily routine which was basically not one and thanks to the fact of being open and curious, of being tempted by the surprises and encounters that travel brings to your road. they punctuated my journey.
another change comes from the fact that I lived for 2 and a half months in fairly rudimentary comfort. today, I feel that some cursors have moved on this aspect.
Basically, it seems to me that the bike allows this meditation, to feel more present here and now and to decorrelate the pleasure of living from that of owning things.
I also remember that the generosity of the people you meet often only requires a smile to express itself, it is enough simply to go towards them by being animated by a sincere curiosity.
just stop, observe and enjoy.
and what about the immersion in the wild nature of this itinerary…?
yes, it's incredible to witness this richness and to feel this indifference of the elements to our presence. I became even more aware of the importance of taking care of them, the emotions caused by the immensity, the luxuriance and the turbulence of the coastal weather which burst the landscapes with great blows of contrasts, gusts, colors or tongues of mist… just stop, observe and enjoy.
what did you feel in those moments?
basically in these moments, we feel quite simple things, a desire to stay there, it's just beautiful, it made me smile to contemplate this incredible nature on a daily basis.
you tell yourself that you are nothing, yet it is also what allows you to realize that on the scale of a lifetime you owe it to yourself to respect all of this and to make sure to take care of it
yes, this nature which is totally indifferent to our presence
it's true, whether you're there or not... it's going to rain, the wind is going to blow, the water is going to flow in the streams... in Norway, by the way, the immensity grabs your guts, you feel very small, you say that you are nothing, yet it is also what allows you to realize that on the scale of a lifetime you owe it to yourself to respect all that and to make sure to take care of it.
for you, what is it now, how do you envisage your return?
I want to try a less sedentary life starting with a season in the mountains, take advantage of this natural environment that attracts me as well as the range of possible activities in summer and winter and see if I plan there
I've been working as a manager for 10 years, I feel the need to test a different lifestyle, to start again on a more concrete position, more authentic in terms of exchanges and closer to my passion for the outdoors.
I therefore landed a position as a facilitator in a UCPA center in Tignes for this winter!
all the best, Boris, thanks for sharing all this!