Say Hi to Majda, My New Adventure Buddy. She’s a Charmer.

Winter is knocking on the door in this corner of the world. Most days, there’s fog and mud and wind that gets under your skin and seemingly never leaves, but other days, the ground is frozen solid and a sprinkling of white powder decorates the sick and tired woods. Whenever the sweet sugary snowflakes make an appearance, the depressed landscape cheers up and brings a spark of joy into my life, too. All in all, this was probably still a terrible time to buy a bike. I did it anyway.

Meet Majda

Majda is a Riverside touring bike that can take loads up to 170 kilograms. (This was important because I managed to damage a bike I borrowed by packing too much load.) The rear rack will hold up to 40 and the front one up to 20 kilograms. It has a leather Brooks saddle and cork handles that kepts my hands warm even when I forgot gloves in five-degree (40F) weather. I’m hoping the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tyres prove to be resilient because I still suck at fixing flats.

It has aluminium frame with internal cable routing. The front and back lights are connected to a dynamo, which also feeds a USB charging port. Hello, long journeys where I don’t have to be afraid to use GPS navigation on my phone! A paper map is always a good thing to have in case electronics fail but I’m really looking forward to not stressing about my phone battery. I like to take a break from electronics here and there but it’s still a good thing to have in case of emergencies.

Last but not least, for the first time, I’m riding a bike with disc brakes. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to make so much difference when it comes to breaking itself. How wrong I was! Yes, I must point out that before, I was riding on bikes that had quite a bit of mileage on them already, so the rim brakes and the rims themselves were… not in the best part of their lifespan. That probably influenced my experience a lot. However, there’s another big reason I’m excited about disc breaks now—as it’s winter here, rim brakes would take much more effort to maintain than disc brakes do.

The Four-Month Effort It Took to Get Her

You read that right; it took me four months to get Majda. I knew I wanted a bike almost as soon as I landed. In fact, getting a bike was a point on my list of things to do. This list of things lived in a folder on my computer named “Emergency Plans if You Have to Return to Europe.” You see, I knew it was going to take a toll and wanted to give myself the best chance of going through the months post-arrival more or less unscathed.

This is not Majda. This is Mike, a bike I borrowed from a friend back in California and named after my trail patrol colleague. Photo is from Divide Meadow in Point Reyes.

In August, I decided it was time to go through with the purchase and mark that point as complete. I searched for the right bike, knowing pretty well what I was looking for thanks to my friend Ari who was kind enough to lend me two of his bikes and teach me a lot about biking in general. There are two tiny local bike shops, alas, neither had what I was looking for. In the end, I found exactly what I wanted on the Internet.

I put the one bike in my size that was available in the virtual basket (I don’t know why I had to write “virtual,” it wouldn’t fit in a real one) and went through the check-out process… only to receive an error message at the end; somebody had bought the bike before I had the chance to pay. I messaged the company on Facebook, asking when (and if at all) the bike would be back in stock. “At the beginning of October,” was their reply. I set an email reminder and the waiting game began.

My brain decided that the email alert couldn’t be trusted so I kept checking almost every day. One morning, when I made it to work, I saw that the bike was back in stock. Great, I’d buy it when I got home. By the time afternoon rolled around and I had a chance to go through with the purchase, there were only two bikes left and neither was in my size.

Clouds chase across the sky above a forest in Point Reyes National Seashore. For illustration purposed only; I’m not in California anymore.

It seemed I was in for another two or three months of waiting. I didn’t think the bike would be back in stock until after the new year. I kept checking anyway. And one day, it was there. Two bikes, only two—and both in my size! I ordered one of them, racing through the process. I finally breathed again only when an order confirmation landed in my mailbox. It would take a week for them to deliver the bike to the nearest store I could pick it up at, which was an hour’s drive away. But that didn’t matter; the bike was on its way to the Czech Republic. It was on its way to me.

I got to finally pick it up two weeks later. The guy who handed it over to me said the whole staff biked around the shop, trying it out. I couldn’t resist myself; the very next day, I took it out for a spin, even though the roads were icy and the wind bit at my skin. On a forest road above the valley where I live, the thought shot through my head; the bike’s name would be Majda. Thus she was christened before we booked it home; rain was coming and I didn’t want to get caught in it as I spent the week before fighting off a cold.

Oh, The Places We Will Go

Winter is almost here and although that means almost nothing to the everyday bike commuters in Oulu, Finland, things are quite different over here. The roads here are small and icy. No driver will ever expect to meet a biker in winter here. The days are short so biking in the dark it would be, making the situation a little more dangerous still. I do hope to get on the bike during the winter but it won’t be a lot.

But once I get a week off work? Or almost the whole summer? (Thanks, teaching job!) I’m off! And oh, the places Majda and I will go!

So far, the plan is to bike to Slovenia to see a friend of mine and run a race there (this year, I did the Triglav Trail Run and it was a blast). The journey to Slovenia looks like it’ll be a gorgeous one, for my planned route follows parts of EV7 The Sun Rute and Alpe Adria Cycle Trail.

After spending a week or two there, I plan to take a train to Bodensee where another friend lives. After a few days there, I might take about 20 days to a month to bike to Machynlleth, Wales, to volunteer at another UltraX Wales event. From there, take 20 days to bike back to Czech and start work on August 28.

Or I might just stay in Slovenia and get a job there. As I’ve learned, Life has its own plans it never lets us know about. And it might just drop me off there and be done with me for a little while again. After all, I used to despise biking. Just like I did running. And we all know how that turned out.

Anyway, it’s getting a bit late. I’m off to bed now. Hopefully I’ll dream of my friends and all the places I’ll go with Majda. You have a good one, wherever you are.

Love,
—P

Want to read more? Here, take this offering:

The Last Wilderness of Scotland: A Breathtaking Documentary About Two Friends and a Canoe’s Battle Against the Elements

This journey had one objective: to tie “a collection of lochs together.” The beauty of the Scottish Highlands and the “wildest corners of Scotland” made this expedition an experience of a lifetime for Jamie and Ian. “It was about fulfilling a deep and aching desire to live and breathe the great outdoors.” On foot and…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.