Day 15, Skellefteå – Piteå , 98 km

Woken by thunder and rain, I check the weather forecast again. It says it sunshine in Skellefteå, so I guess weather forecasts are just an infotainment.

Figure 1. Map day 15-17

Breakfast, clean the room, load bike and off I am. I ride to the local bike shop to get some disc brake cleaner, they didn’t have any to sell but I got some cloth with thinner on for free. I put the cloth in a plastic bag and spent the day at the bus station sniffing thinner. Just kidding, it worked great and I got some really good advice on how to avoid detours and other small bits of info. Great LBS, go and buy something from tidy.

I start to roll north, the sun comes out to play and the humidity is 1000%, blue skies and sun again. I get my MP3 player and speaker out and listen to radio, I ride a small gravel road far away from everything.

All of a sudden I hear a bike catching up, it’s a biker from Switzerland. We struggle to find a common language, but we manage to exchange some information on destination, plans and gear. He started in Switzerland 26 days ago, he rides besides me for a while but gets bored with the low speed. He takes off and I go back to the radio.

Hej Schwejs
Figure 2. Hej Schwejs

Just before Byske I ask a local about options for lunch, he recommends the lunch buffet at Byske Gästgivaregård, fantastic rustic food prepared by a proper chef. And it was a buffet including everything even brownies. I walked out of there 80 SEK poorer but 4000 kCal richer.

By now it is so hot I strip down to t-shirt and shorts again. I ride close to the highway on very small forest roads, combining the advice from the bike shop and google maps, I have a route all the way except for 3 km on the highway E4.

On all available maps there is a gap of 500 m in the route, I tell myself that there must be a road there. If the road isn’t there I will end up on the E4 and have some 4-5 km on the highway.

I get there and THERE IS A ROAD !!! Fantastic.

This is a road
Figure 3. This is a road

I leave the highway and pass by Piteå Havsbad, the last 10 km in to downtown Piteå is a bit of a pain. When I get closer I stop to ask a cyclist about the way to the camping, he gives me directions, we talk for a while. He likes bike touring, he had done some touring in south west Portugal towards the Spanish border. When I start to go to the camping I start in slight uphill and with the front wheel slightly turned. I guess the torque gets too high, one spoke in the rear wheel snaps. Not a happy moment. I decide to ride the last 2-3 km to the camping very slowly.

When I get to the camping I set camp really fast. I manage to borrow a proper pump from the camping, I have a pump but it will take 30 minutes to fill my big tires. I get the wheel off and since the spoke snapped in the thread I have to get the tire and tube off so I can change the nipple. This is quickly done and then I do some quick and dirty truing of the wheel.

The owner of the camping helps me to fill air again. Then I do some more truing, I can’t get the wheel absolutely straight, its maybe 1-1.5 mm wobbly. But I am not going rebuild my wheel at a camping, so I hope I got the tension of the neighboring spokes right.

I guess I will see how it goes, I have always dreamed of rebuilding a wheel in the rain in a Finnish nature reserve 300 km from next town.

When I have the wheel off the bike I notice a little “snot blob” of light grey oil that has escaped the gearbox through the axle. I document it and wipe it clean.

Snot on my Rohloff
Figure 4. Snot on my Rohloff

Again the camping is totally unprotected from wind by the sea. Must be fantastic for all the tourists in their house mobiles with 32A electric cables.

Day 16. Piteå – Luleå 72 km.

In the camping they have sealed off their new plantations with several hundred meters of red and white plastic ribbons. Great plan. But as the wind picks up during night these ribbons make a noise similar to a hoovering helicopter, I wake up several times from this and hard rain, I am not in the best mood when I finally get up and start to pack everything up.

Where is the helicopter
Figure 5. Where is the helicopter ?

I go looking for a bike shop, it seems like the two in Piteå opens at 10:00, ask at the tourist office and there is a third on the outskirt of town. If you ever have been to Piteå you will understand how hilariously funny that is.

3 minutes later I am there, and it’s a combined lawn mover store and bike store that opens their workshop at 07:00.

Good people ! I buy a bunch of more spokes just in case. They charge 10 SEK per spoke, that’s 5-6 times more than I am used to paying. Starting to look for breakfast, all places in Piteå seems to have agreed on opening at 10:00. I go further north to Öjebyn.

I start to feel cold, my body doesn’t generate the heath needed to stay warm inside the Goretex jacket. I ask around and there is a service station that has sandwiches and hot dogs. I go there to find that there is a restaurant open at 08:00, its called Paltzeria.

In Sweden we eat potato dumplings, in the north they are called “Palt”. They are open but haven’t cranked up the “palt” machine yet, but they have chicken stew with rice and salad buffet. I eat a massive serving at 09:30 in the morning.

I leave the Paltzeria all warm and happy, off on a detour to avoid the highway E4 again. Its 10C and the sky is grey. Guess where the wind is blowing from ? The first 30 km really sucks, I get colder and colder, head wind from the north. I have to stop to get dressed for winter. Then I get to Sjulsmark and turn 45 degrees right. The wind is now from the side or behind, life gets better.

Satan’s helpers converting yet another road
Figure 6. Satan’s helpers converting yet another road

Drove on small deserted roads through the forest and next to the E4, found a shortcut through a nature reserve. Unfortunately it was on a small hill.

This is also a road
Figure 7. This is also a road

I enter Luleå over a bridge, the bike lane system (if there is a system) is hard to navigate and badly maintained. I end up riding on the road instead. I arrive at the hostel and it’s unmanned, I get a code to get in, the staff arrives a few hours later to give me the bed linen.

I have already asked my friend Andreas about the oil on the gearbox, it shouldn’t be a problem, but I decide to also send an e-mail to the excellent people that manufactured my bike, Schauff, to also ask them. I am so tired from the 170 km biked in two days and last nights interrupted sleep that I fade in to coma before 22 or maybe even before 21, don’t remember.

Day 17. Luleå – Luleå, 0 km.

I wake up at 8, nice coma. I get a washing machine started and prepare for lunch with a very old friend that I haven’t seen in 20 years or so. When I start my computer and start to read e-mail I found a mail from Rohloff that manufactures the gearbox that leaked.

The service minded people at Schauff had already forwarded my mail to Rohloff and by 8:30 I had a reply. This is magic customer service at its best, all companies should be like this and the world would be a better place.

The initial advice from Rohloff was unfortunately that I should get the wheel off the bike and send it to Germany ASAP for warranty repairs. This was not a happy moment.

I replied describing the exact problem and what the environment was like, it seems the gearbox is completely sealed and has an internal reservoir with 25 ml of oil. When temperature and humidity changes quickly (like 3C at night and 32C during day) it automatically equalizes pressure by letting some oil out through a small hole in the axle tube.

I also spoke to the Swedish reseller, they have a very deep knowledge of how the gearbox works and after looking at my pictures of the gearbox and listen to what happened they also didn’t think it was a problem to continue my trip.

Veloform even offered to send a oil change kit to a camping further along the trip, great service.

If you wonder why the gearbox had to be sent to Germany for service, check their website out.

So in short, the ride will go on, I will clean and check the hub frequently to see that no more oil leaks. If all goes well I will ride to Rohloff’s service shop and give them the wheel in person later this year.

I am so happy that I bought a bike from Schauff, I have had only great experiences with them, they have a customer service that is very, very rare these days. I would highly recommend anyone to buy a bike from them, both the company and the product is fantastic.

Rohloff is also magic, it’s an almost maintenance free gear system, as long as there isn’t a major meltdown it will run for ever. I really appreciate the fast answers and full attention to customer service.

Update Summer 2015, I have sold my Rohloff and replaced it by a simple 9x3 Shimano XT MTB hub. The main reason is that if it breaks (3 times for me) and needs service your are down for +2 weeks each time and it will cost hundreds of Euros in shipping each time. The customer service from Rohloff is excellent, but in my case it was to much hassle.

With the end of the world scenario avoided I started to walk to town but I found a bus stop and the bus for down town just arrived. Well spent 25 SEK.

I went to get some funky money for Finland and Norway, just some emergency cash in case there is no ATM in the wilderness. I met up with my old friend and his wife, we had a nice 3 hours lunch, watching all the stressed people hurry back to work. They run their own business and work from home when they feel like it, great life. We agreed that we should meet more often than every 20 years or we would be retired next time. Thanks for lunch Christopher.

After lunch I went to the outdoors shop and bought another inflatable pillow, the one I have is too low for my neck. Now I have two of them, should be the right height I hope. Did some shopping and walked back to the hostel in the sunshine. Made a fantastic dinner, canned ravioli, yummy.

So now all that remains to do this day is, pack the bags for tomorrow and sleep.