The Arctic Cargobiker
By Geir Anders, CARGOBIKE MAGAZINE
What kind of vehicle do you need the most when you live as a teacher, firefighter and adventurer on an arctic island at 78 degrees north? Troels went for a Californian longtail.
– I have my 12 dogs in a dogyard just outside the city, and they need fresh water twice a day. The Benno Boost E is the perfect bike for getting those 10 liters water cans out there, says Troels Ørsted Yttredal, standing beside his longtail bike, with a rather unusual bicycle accessory hanging off his back: A hunting rifle.
On the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean, it’s a necessity.
DISCLAIMER: Troels one minute after this image were taken: «Hey, we need to reshoot these pictures, I left the helmet in the front rack – I never ride without it!» Me: «Oh snap, but the plane leaves in less than an hour! I’ll let everyone know in the caption, ok?»
– Yeah, it may seem strange to ride a bike with a gun like this, but all the locals have to carry a rifle and a signal pistol for polar bear protection when we leave the centre of town. It’s plenty of bears around these days, Troels explains with a peaceful smile.
His electric longtail has taken him as far as the roads go in this area, and he just loves it.
The tall and friendly adventurer is originally from Denmark, but went up to the Svalbard archipelago ten years ago to take a year off – working as a dog sled guide in the frozen landscape around the small city of Longyearbyen, the northernmost town on earth.
He’s still here, now working as a teacher for the third graders – besides being one of 25 firefighters on the island, only 1300 km away from the North Pole.
I discovered Troels and his bike by sheer coincidence, when I visited Svalbard with my son this last weekend. After a long day of hunting in the mountains, I checked by the beloved Norwegian Cargobike Magazine forum on Facebook on Saturday evening.
Photo: Troels Ørsted Yttredal
A new picture had just been shared by a new forum member named Troels, of his Benno Boost longtail.
To my surprise, I spotted something familiar: The bike was placed beneath a polar bear warning sign – just down the street from where we stayed!
I immediately sent Troels a message, we had to meet. And just two hours before our flight back south today, I watched him roll up with his black and red Boost outside the coffeeshop window in Longyearbyen.
– It’s my wife that got me onto the idea of getting an electric cargo bike, says Troels when he settles by the table.
– After all, this is such a small place – we only have 40 kms of roads in total on the entire island, and mostly everything we need is within five minutes distance from our home up by Mining Mountain. For our daily needs, it’s really no need to use the car.
LONGYEARBYEN: This town has been a coal mining town since 1906, but that era is probably nearing its end. We walked by Mine 2B on Friday evening, it was last in use in 1969 – and is now a heritage site. The building with the lights down there is the school where Troels works as a teacher.
– How did you arrive on this particular bike?
– In short, I knew what kind of stuff we bring in our car: Lots of water to the dogs, all kinds of boxes from the post office, heavy bags of groceries, tents, outdoor cooking gear and sleeping mats – and the weapons we need. So I quickly realized that we would need a bike that can haul stuff!
The Boost has huge bags and generous cargo racks front and rear. Troels especially loves the front rack, with no railing around the front end – meaning he can strap on huge boxes there.
– Since we got this bike five months ago, I haven’t used the car to town once – unless I’m on firefighting duty!
Troels admits: He’s a bit of a timing nerd. So naturally, both car and bike trips are logged and compared, just out of curiousity:
– Going down to the store takes 3 minutes by car, and 3,5 minutes by electric bike. Going out to the dogs takes 4 minutes by car, 6 minutes by bike. Just considering our carbon footprint up here in this coal driven society makes the bike trip worth those extra seconds.
– You had no experience with electric bikes before, right? Has it met your expectations?
– Indeed, and beyond! The big discovery for me was how much fun it is to ride an electric longtail! I’m still grinning like an idiot when I roll along the streets up here. The school kids love the bike, and I get plenty of comments.
Troels laughs, he wasn’t prepared to be so taken by the bike – even if he did quite a solid amount of research before settling for the Boost E.
(Left Photo) BEWARE: Troels riding his bike on the streets of Longyearbyen. Fun fact: The high fence you can see on the right, is a polar bear fence around the local kindergarden. The director of that kindergarden keeps a rifle in her office, for use when the kids are doing trips outside.
– It has all the practical features I needed, and it looks the part. I just love that red front rack, not just for it’s rugged and cool looks – but for the super useful design as well. I owed a tray of beer to a buddy earlier this year, and went to the store to get those 24 cans. Coming out, I thought: Hey, let’s check if it fits on the front rack! And it actually did! It fit so perfectly that I suspect Benno used a beer pack as a design template!
Photo: Troels Ørsted Yttredal
When I met Troels for a morning coffee earlier today on October 9th, a thin layer of snow had just covered Longyearbyen. The studded winter tires season is approaching fast.
– The only studded option for 24 inch wheels right now is two way too narrow tires from Schwalbe or Suomi tyres, so I’m going for one of those. I’ve got no other choice. But I really hope that Schwalbe or other tire makers will soon step up and deliver big winter tires for 24 inch wheels, says Troels.
– Because those big 2,6 inch summer tires from Benno are just super comfortable!
ANYBODY OUT THERE? Svalbard is just exceptionally awesome. This is the view we had from the Bird Mountain south of Longearbyen on Saturday. In the foreground: Two Svalbard reindeer, a subspecies that is endemic to the Svalbard islands, where it has lived for at least 5 000 years. In the background: The radomes of the Svalbard Satellite Station, which arrived a little later.
All photos by Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien/Cargobikemag.com (unless otherwise noted)
For the online CARGOBIKE MAGAZINE article, click the link: http://cargobikemag.com/the-arctic-cargobiker/