Dealer
Login
English EN

Riding bikes at -30 degrees

A winterly trip to Greenland

Cold, colder, Greenland. The island in the North Atlantic is not exactly known for its pleasant climate and flowy trails. Have you ever heard of anyone “biking in Greenland” before? Tobi Woggon wanted to find out and set out to ride the Arctic Circle trail – a long distance hiking trail on the Western Coast of Greenland. To top it all off, he didn’t want to do it in the summer, but in January at -30 degrees.

Through Greenland by bike. In January.

 

 

The Arctic Circle Trail is the longest connection between inland ice and coastline in Greenland which can be ridden (or hiked).

When I first mentioned the idea of traveling to Greenland to Philip, he was hooked instantly. “Sure, let’s do it, I have always wanted to go there. It’s supposed to be really green, but the mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Do you remember our trip to Alaska? The bugs were really bad there.”

When I explain that the bugs won’t be a problem, but that the downside would be that he won’t see much green, he was intrigued. I told him of my idea to ride the Arctic Circle Trail: starting in Kangerlussuaq, a town situated deep inland, right on the Inland ice, all the way to Sisimiut, which is on the coast. Since the trail crosses lakes and rivers to a large extent, it is basically impossible to ride in the summer. In winter, however, when the lakes are frozen over, it is possible to make it in in five days on a bicycle.

Arctic Circle Trail

 

 

The ACT is 160 km long and runs between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut.

There are 8 simple huts on different sections of the route.

The ACT and the huts on the route are available to all hikers and locals.

You can only ride it by bike in winter when all the lakes are frozen. 

White hell

Since there are not too many people who have already done this tour or have any experience with biking at -30 degrees, I contacted my friend Max. He rode through Lapland last year and had experience with the cold and technology in these conditions. The first important information he shares is: “Try to take along as little hydraulic parts as possible on your bikes. The cold is not such a big problem for humans as long as you keep moving. But for the bikes, it is hell.”

Before we even leave, we take the necessary precautions. Since I know from my experience in racing on glaciers that gears and pinions are prone to freeze when they come in contact with snow, we were looking for the best possible bike for the trip. In the end, we chose the GHOST ROKET, a trail hardtail with transmission, where the entire shifting process is completely protected from the elements. Technically fully equipped for an adventure that none of us have ever experienced, we set off on our way North. We fly from Copenhagen all the way to Kangerlussuaq.

On to the fjord

First, we head towards Ilulisad, a village directly on Disco Bay, known for its gigantic icebergs floating in the fjord. Since we are the only tourists in the village, it is easy to make friends with the locals. Heino, an inuit in his mid-twenties, who owns a small boat with his family, is willing to take us out to the icebergs even though the bay is almost completely frozen.

No more road

At a snail’s pace, Heino maneuvers the boat around small icebergs, over plates of frozen sea water which break under the hull of the boat with loud cracking and creaking noises. “If we are lucky, we still have about one or two weeks where we can go out to the sea. After that, we have to wait until spring. That’s when it gets really lonely up here.” When you can’t go out to the icebergs, no more tourists come and you can hardly move around. The farthest distance you can go by car is about 5 kilometers.

When we get to the icebergs, Heino explains that this fjord produces the most and largest icebergs of the world. The heavy ice cap of the inland ice, which measures 3000 m thick at some spots, maneuvers the ice masses out to the fjord with enormous pressure. There, they break off and crash into the sea. This is where they start their journey into the Atlantic Ocean. For us, our journey takes us to the South of Greenland, to Nuuk and back to Kangerlussuaq. From there, we want to ride our bikes to Sisimiut, the unofficial outdoor center of Greenland.

Not without my outdoor guide

We knew right from the start that we couldn’t just go out on this long trail by ourselves. So we got in touch with Bo, Sisimut’s outdoor guide. Together with his wife Annette, he operates the Sisimut hotel and a guiding agency. When we asked on the phone what we should bring along for the trip he told us months before we even came over: a thick sleeping bag, good gloves and rum. A lot of rum. That sounded pretty promising.

When we see Bo live for the first time the day before we head out, it is obvious why he is the best outdoor guide of the area: This guy is about 2 meters tall and pretty much just as wide. His shaven head is kept warm in a goose down jacket which has seen one or two blizzards for sure. We pack our gear onto the snowmobile, assemble our bikes and do the first test ride around the airport. With practice and after a few meetings with the ground, we slowly get the hang of biking in the snow. We go to bed early, so that we are rested and ready to go the next day.

On the Arctic Circle Trail

The length of the daily stages is determined by the distance to the next shelter cabin. The first day is the longest. It is about 60 km, with the last 20 km over a frozen lake. Until then, the trail took us through beautiful scenery and over small hills. Bo and Nils had to basically make a trail with their snowmobiles through the new snow which was way too high for our bikes to get through. Most of the time, it went astonishingly well, but since we had to fight the resistance of the tires in the snow the whole day, cycling was way more exhausting than expected. And that’s how we got to our first cabin: absolutely exhausted.

No food, no fight!

It’s time to get ready for the night: dry our clothes, fill the stove with fuel and thaw our drinking water and food. In this country, anything and everything freezes within minutes, if you don’t heat it.

Since Bo offers excellent meals in his hotel and is also responsible for food on the trip, we were pleasantly surprised. We expected simple travel lunches (where you add hot water and then try to eat the mush without glancing at the packaging). What he served us instead were delicacies like caribou meat balls in a tomato gin sauce. That’s the life!

Sleeping in

At this time of year, the sun rises fairly late in Greenland, giving us the chance to sleep in and to enjoy a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Bo passionately fries the bacon while Nils is in charge of the fried eggs. Not even two minutes later, the entire cabin, all our gear as well, is filled with a delicious, but strong cooking smell.

No chance with our bikes

We head out onto our next stage. The closer we get to the coast, the steeper and higher the mountains around us get. We cross lake after lake, river after river, and come to the conclusion that it is simply impossible to get through on our bikes where the wind caused extensive snow drifts.

There is no other way: we have to load our bikes onto the snowmobiles and have to catch a ride ourselves. When we get to our cabin where we spend our last night on the Arctic Circle Trail, we are all very emotional.

One reason: our beautiful journey through a country which can be so rough and hostile, yet so beautiful and cozy, is coming to an end. Besides, our last cabin is the nicest of our entire trip. The little red cabin sits on a little hill at the shore of a frozen and snow-covered lake. We see white smoke rising from the chimney because Bo had gone ahead and had already fired up the stove. On the other side of the lake, the sun is setting in a long valley, illuminating the white surroundings in a gold, nearly pink light. After a while, the sun disappears behind the horizon and leaves us in the cold of the dark polar night.

((Photos taken by Philip Ruopp.))

Dealer

Find your GHOST bike near you

Here is a list of all GHOST dealers. Just enter your zip code, choose your range and you will see all regular and premium dealers in the area. When you select a dealer, you will see contact details and further information.

search dealer

Please enter an address first

dealer search
reserve a bike
test a bike