The Camino Report - part 3

The Camino Gravel Report - part 3

By Ole Christian>

So, I bought a new bike, from a company that just started doing bikes, with no test ride and very little customer reviews to rely on. I literally fell in love upon seeing the pictures of the first prototype of the Camino on the Alpkit website. It seemed to answer all my requirements in my next bike, you know, those ideas that swirl around in your head, when pondering the next bike. I also decided to fly out to England to pick it up, meet the makers and ride it back to Norway. I promised the good people at Sonder/Alpkit to tell them about my journey and my new love. Now about six weeks later I feel I have enough experience with the bike to really tell my story. I am even a little slow in finishing my write-up, which has a lot to do with the fact that most of my spare time have been spent riding the Camino. It is hard not to!

I am a middle aged Norwegian man that loves bikes. I love looking at bikes, I love thinking about bikes, I love building bikes, I love fixing bikes and most of all I love riding bikes. I love what riding bikes does to me and how it puts smiles on my face, most of the time anyway. I am not a racer. Most of the time I am out on my own, be it on various road bikes, gravel bikes or mountain bikes, that I have assembled myself. I love the meditative state of riding a road bike and I love the feeling of more active riding a mountainbike on various trails. I live in a small town up in the mountains in the south east part of Norway. The place offers countless gravel roads, criss crossing the lands and mountains, connecting valleys and townships, often through summer farms with pastures filled with happy herds of cows and sheep. These roads and trails offer beautiful nature and very little traffic. These roads are begging to be ridden and many places “call on you” to pitch a tent and stay a while. Exploration and adventure are important aspects of biking for me. Touring, over a weekend or over months are sources of joy, the dreaming, the planning and the execution of those plans.

I had a short week off from my work as a hospital nurse in mid April and Neil at Alpkit informed me that the Camino could be picked up around that time. It is about exactly a year ago since I started my cross US trip last spring, so I found it to be a perfect way to have an anniversary, a compacted micro adventure, riding from England to Norway. I hadn´t even been to England since the 90s, so that was another reason to do this. I flew to Gatwick from Oslo and hopped on the train to London and further on towards Nottingham, where I spent a night. The following morning I took a local train to put me in the town where Alpkit and Sonder are situated. Neil, their bike guru picked me up at the train station and brought me to their headquarters.

I had bought some camping gear from Alpkit a few years ago and had gotten a sense of the nice way they interact with their customers. This showed well in all the communication with Neil in the time leading up to the pick up of the bike. It made me feel valued as a customer. Once there I was presented to my new love, sitting there all put together by Neil.Neatly put into its own box was a set of various bikepacking bags that Alpkit manufacture in the back. I was given a tour of the facilities and even got to sit down at the sewing machine and put some stitches into a bag of my own. Great fun! I also got to check out all the other excellent products that Alpkit puts together, for many kinds of outdoor activities. What strikes me is the quality of design, manufacturing quality and sensible prices.

After cycling the Camino back to Norway and at the time of writing this I have a good 2700 km on the Camino. I have travelled loaded up with gear as if I was crossing continents, ridden at higher speeds without any luggage, across perfect pavement, on gravelroads, in mud, through snow, on twitchy and steep singletrack, climbed mountains and bombed back down at high speed. In every situation I have been in, the bike has handled beyond what I am accustomed to on my other bikes. It handles with great agility and confidence, always rendering a smile on my face.

The weight of my body seems really well placed within the frame. The frame seems stiff where it need be and compliant and dampening where called for. The all carbon fork lightens the bike, and gives excellent assuring handling in the turns. It really soaks up a lot of chatter from the ground too. The bike seems to adapt to the terrain and surface more skillfully than with any other bike I have been on. When I want it to act like a mountain bike it does so, and when I want to pace it like a roadbike it does a darn good job at that too. An amazing achievement in my opinion. Another point worth mentioning is how there is no toe overlap, despite the narrow wheelbase. This was such a nice discovery.

Bikepacking Bags

Canister handlebar bag: UK made, weatherproof, 4L
Handlebar bag with roll-top closure: UK made, weatherproof, 5L expandable capacity
Camo half-length frame bag: UK made, weatherproof, 1.5L
Saddle pack UK made, weatherproof, 7L
Camo design Large saddle pack: UK made, weatherproof, 13L
£79.99 £99.99
Dual-ended handlebar dry bag: fully waterproof, 13L
Large dual-ended handlebar dry bag: fully waterproof, 20L
Tapered saddle bag dry bag: fully waterproof, 13L
Small, waterproof handlebar bag: lightweight, 3L
Waterproof handlebar bag: lightweight, 13L
Large waterproof handlebar bag: lightweight, 20L
Waterproof top tube bag: lightweight, 0.65L

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published