Two months before his planned exchange in Norway, master’s student Yannick van de Klundert received a tandem bicycle for his birthday. Too bad the bike would remain stationary for six months, he thought. His housemate came up with a solution: let’s travel to Norway together by tandem bike!
He was already accustomed to riding a tandem bike, as he frequently rides with one of his friends in his home town. Thus, his year club decided to give him a tandem bike for his birthday, which he soon used for all his cycling trips. His housemate Moon van Asseldonk’s idea to travel over one thousand kilometres by tandem bike was not all that far-fetched. A matter of planning a route and taking stock of what provisions are needed. ‘A housemate’s father lent us a cart that we can latch on to the bike and use to transport a tent, sleeping bags and our luggage.’
Van de Klundert had already completed his master’s in Climate Studies but wanted to continue studying. He did not want to embark on a second masters’ programme and thesis but did look forward to the prospect of an Erasmus exchange in Ås to follow a few more courses. Ås is located in the south of Norway, a twelve-day trip by bike, including a few ferry transfers. ‘We cycled some eighty kilometres per day. More was not really possible on an old tandem bike from the 1960s. Not only the bike is heavy, there is also the luggage. On occasion, it was tough, especially when going uphill. If there was a lot of wind, we resorted to walking.’
The trip was not entirely without incident. On the tenth day, they had a flat, and some of the spokes broke. The one hundred euro’s the bicycle repair technician demanded was quite a blow to the budget. ‘To save money, we decided to disassemble the wheel and reposition it ourselves. But I don’t think we did so properly, as the wheel got stuck about one hundred kilometres further down the road, naturally, in the middle of nowhere and in the pouring rain. We rang the doorbell at the first house we saw, but the owner was not very helpful. Eventually, I found an abandoned house with a chicken coop in the next village. We had just decided to camp in the chicken coop for the night and call a bicycle maintenance specialist the following morning when we encountered some people willing to help us. They offered us a sleeping place in their basement, and the man fixed our wheel.’
‘We met many really nice people. Often, when we arrived somewhere, we were tired and would ask where the nearest camping site was. People would frequently offer us a spot in their garden. On the third day in Germany, we wanted to find a place to eat when an older woman invited us into her home. Her neighbour dropped in and immediately produced some half-litres of Weiss beer. We were actually planning to cycle a little further but cancelled that plan after the neighbour showed us around his house and offered us a sleeping spot in a hut in his garden, and presented us with homemade egg liquor from his own chickens. We are vegans but were happy to make an exception. I must admit that we cycled slower the following day. But, after an hour of exercise, most of the hangover was gone.’
Van Asseldonk will remain in Norway for a short vacation but will return to the Netherlands. The tandem stays in Norway. ‘I hope to find someone willing to cycle with me during the introduction days,’ And, at the end of the six-month exchange, will he return to Wageningen by tandem bike? ‘Good question. It is the middle of winter then. I’m not sure I’m eager to cycle back!’