I've heard a lot about the Krystall Rally which takes place in the middle of winter in Norway. It is considered the "Winter Olympics" of motorcycling, just as the Iron Butt is considered the "Long Distance Riding Endurance Olympics" for motorcycling. When I heard that Hartmut and Lutz, both members of our MGNOC European Division Club, were going to make this trip for the first time, I asked them to take notes and to share their thoughts and experiences with us.
This was the 28th Krystall Rally. It was not held in 1973 due to the fuel shortage in Europe. The Rally was started by Norwegian Leif Arnesen, age 65 and Harry, age 68, who is from Sweden. Every year it is in a different location, and the number of participants is limited to the number that the hotels can accommodate. You need to pre-register to attend and of course, for sleeping reservations. This year it was restricted to 200, which is about the average number. There are no planned events at the rally site. The fun and excitement is to arrive, take trips from the rally site, visit with old friends and make new ones. The common denominators are cold-snow-ice-motorcycles and friends.
There were riders from just about every county in Europe. There were no women riders this year, although in previous years women have participated. Total miles ridden by Hartmut and Lutz amounted to 1800 miles, average gas mileage: 30 MPG. Round trip ferry cost for one outfit with rider, $230. Four overnights at rally site with three full meals per day, $300.
Both Hartmut and Lutz spend months preparing their sidecar outfits for this trip. Both sidecars and bikes were disassembled, painted and repainted, new grease fittings applied, electric cables and connections replaced and improved. All the anticipated problems were addressed. They were running 15 inch wheels on which were mounted new snow tires as they decided not to use spikes. They used 5-30W Mobile One Synthetic oil.
Hartmut Wewer, age 49, 1983 California II, modified engine, sidecar by German company, Sauer Spatz. Hartmut has 125,000 miles on this Guzzi-sidecar outfit and has total motorcycle experience of 160,000 miles.
Lutz Müller, age 52, 1980 T3 California sidecar also by Sauer Spatz. Gas tank is specially made and holds 12.5 gallons. Lutz has 250,000 miles on this Guzzi and has total Guzzi experience of 350,000 miles.
OK, now to the story by Lutz.
January 31 - It's a cold (28F), bright winter morning. Hartmut and Lutz start their trip at 0.93 hours saying their last good-byes to family and to Stefan, who is rather sad that he will not be riding with them. His California II engine blew a rod through the side case two weeks before. They start by riding on highways along the Saar River. Hartmut leads on this quiet Sunday morning. There are not many cars on the road, certainly no motorcycles. The two Guzzis roll and roll; the nice soft sounds, "brabble - brabble," coming from their semi-open ended mufflers can not be heard by then as they are using ear plugs. Their hands are staying warm - Hartmut with electric gloves and Lutz has a special heated exhaust system that Stefan made for this trip. It is connected to the left exhaust side and cold air is taken in, warmed by the exhaust, and then blown into his "Hippo Like" handle bar covers. For backup he is packing some electric heated grips.
They progress through the old Roman town of Trier and then through the beautiful wooded "Eifel" area. At Euskirchen they see the clean, snow covered woods, and soon they enter onto the Autobahn. Speeds are "kicked up" to 85 MPH. They stop for coffee and gas at Muenster. Lutz notices that his knee covers, windshield and headlight are covered with a light film of oil. It appears that Hartmut's Guzzi (because it is running at higher speeds than normal) is blowing oil on Lutz. Another gas stop is made 130 miles down the road, near Bremen, where they start to notice sand and snow on the roads. Due to darkness they travel slowly as they enter the "Elbtunnel" into Hamburg enroute to a friend's house in Elmshorn where they will spend the night. Frank and Ute welcome them with a hot meal and then some entertainment, viewing their home video of a Harley trip they took in 1998 on Route 66 in America.
February 1 - After a short night and a long breakfast they head out in the rainy (40 F) weather to Kiel, where they will catch the ferry to Oslo, Norway. At the ferry station they meet two Harley Davidson solo riders from Switzerland. One is riding a 1948 Panhead straight steel frame with hand gearshift and the other a 1964 Knucklehead. "Going to the Krystall rally?" asks Hartmut. "No" they reply. "We will be up in that area but at a Harley Davidson party in Trondheim, Norway." Later they noticed two Russian Urals and a black 1100 BMW with sidecar. They recognized the BMW license plates as coming from their neighboring town of Zweibruecken, so of course the rider must be their friend Charley. Charley has been riding motorcycles since 1980, and during the wintertime he rides extensively on his BMW sidehack visiting all the Scandinavian countries. He is a tough, hardcore, dedicated bike rider and knows a lot of people. What is nearly impossible to accomplish with a bike, Charley will do. He is very friendly and a lot of riders in Europe know him. They also saw a nice couple on a Yamaha Teneree solo machine. They too were headed to the Krystall Rally.
February 2 - The twenty-hour ferry ride started on time. They spent the night in their inexpensive double bunks that must have been located "directly over" the ship's propeller. Eventually the prop noise "lulled them" to sleep. It was 24 degrees (F) when they docked in an icy Oslo harbor. Clearing customs went fast and without a hitch. After riding 65 miles on the E6 highway, Hartmut's outfit starts to go slower and slower. Then they see the problem; the back tire is flat. The Norwegian car club, the NAF (similar to the American AAA), came shortly after their call and hauled the sidecar rig away to be fixed. After two hours they were back on the road, passing through Lillehammer, the home of a previous winter's Olympics. At their next gas stop they poured some gas additive called "Kondens-Fjerner" into their bikes' gas tanks hoping it would prevent their carburetors from freezing.
After 40 more miles, at the town of Ringebu, they left the E6 and started the 15 mile climb over snow and ice (uphill of course) to the "Spidsbergseter," the home of this year's rally. If you come to a "stand still" on this very long hill, you have to travel back down to Ringebu and start again. Salt is not used on the icy, snow-packed roads, but a fine mixture of crushed stone is spread around from time to time. Because the icy snow never melts your timing is pot luck if you will have any assistance with traction. The hill still had a thin covering, which provided minimal help. With their back tires providing sufficient traction, they made it the first time. After arriving at the "Gudbrandsdal Hotel", Charley, Lutz and Hartmut shared a small hut, which was fully furnished with modern day appliances and, best of all, lots of heat.
February 3 - At 10:00 A.M. (23F) they follow Charley up and down snow packed roads. He really knows how to ride under these conditions and goes as fast as he can down the hills. Hartmut and Lutz cautiously follow Charley and soon their speeds start to increase. There is no traffic and therefore they run up to speeds of 65 MPH over the straight, snow packed roads. On the bends they have to slow down a lot. What a strange feeling to ride like that. In Dombas they drink some coffee and again in Otta, as the snow starts to fall. They take the winding roads up to the 1998 Krystall Rally location of Rondane. Then back on E6 they see the Harleys from Switzerland again. Hartmut tries to signal them to turn back because of the intense snow and ice, but they wave and "rumble" by. The Guzzi sidecar riders head for the rally site. Their 140 mile ride this day was a lot of fun.
In the evening they were astonished to see the couple on the solo Teneree arrive at the rally site. That they were able to make that long snow and ice covered 15-mile hill was absolutely great.
Later in the evening four Germans looking for Charley banged on the door of their hut. They arrived just after riding to Finland, up to the North Cape and then south towards the"Polar-Circle-Meeting" in Sweden's Ammarnas. They had a lot of stories to tell about their ride. In some of the heavily snowed-in passes, in the darkness, they had to wait for the snowplow to arrive, clear a single lane where they followed one after the other. They could travel only a few miles at a time due to the snow and temperatures that were in the low teens. Werner, with short hair on top, was suffering from pneumonia and was regularly taking penicillin. During the evening meal they heard a lot of great stories about riding in the Great North during the winter.
February 4 - While they were enjoying a delicious breakfast, Werner, still battling his pneumonia, was back on his bike headed to Oslo to catch the ferry. Many more sidecars had arrived the previously evening. The west wind was blowing hard, keeping the snow-ice crystals pretty much horizontal. Walking around they spotted a pre-war Ariel (solo) and an old 250 Honda, also solo. Both had bungee cords wrapped around their tires for added traction. The laid back Englishman with the Ariel had shipped it over the channel from London to Hamburg and then on the ferry to Oslo. The Honda rider, a calm 25-year-old Frenchman named "Olivier" hailed from Amien, north of Paris. He needed five days to reach Travemuende in the south of Sweden, and then he headed on to this Krystall Rally. He also attended the rally last year. Around the rally site riders were packing and unpacking. They took Olivier for a spin in their sidecar but the ride was short because a pass was being closed due to blocking snowdrifts and constant whiteouts.
More friends from their homeland arrive. Hansi drags himself off his BMW sidecar rig and Sep, dubbed the "Freudenberger," crawls off his Guzzi 850 mounted with a Phantasy sidecar. It has an electronic ignition, which was not working correctly all the time. It would malfunction due to the cold and constant Guzzi vibrations. Hartmut and Lutz are lucky because years before they had installed the "Piranha-semi-electronic" ignition, which is fastened very securely and causes no problems.
A lot of the riders skip lunch so they will have a good appetite for the large evening meal. In the evening after their meal and over beers, the discussion turns to the crashed Russian sidecars (Dnjepr and Ural) and a Chinese sidecar (Dong-Hai), that they saw parked in Oslo. Achim says these BMW - copies should not be ridden at full speed when on a long trip. Everyone at the table agrees. Later, two German registered Vespa-sidecars arrived, having survived the snowy cold weather. Life was great they said.
February 5 - After a short night, Hartmut, Lutz and Charley, while on their way to breakfast (19F), walk past all the snow covered cycles and hacks. "What a sight to see," they remarked. Their legs are a little unsteady after helping their friends finish off the delicious French red wine that was biked in. Alcohol is very expensive in Scandinavia and most of the riders (depending on space) bring a lot of home grown spirits with them, which they all share.
As the snow storm continues, more and more Scandinavians arrive. There were cycles with skis, one on each side so the riders could insert their feet onto them and then push down on the snow to balance themselves. Most of these riders have extensive experience and travel at high speeds. In some sidecars there were skis, plus sleds and children. The snow was going to be enjoyed by everyone. There were a few Swedes there with their Corda-sidecars (VW Turbo Diesel powered) and also some expensive four-wheel drive cars such as the VW Golf and Audi.
Hartmut and Lutz learned of some native Swedish Indians living in the mountains of Duved in Sweden. They are called Samen or Laplanders, and they earn their living by breeding reindeer. Corda-Herbert warned them, if they wanted to ride there, even though it was only 160 miles, it could be very dangerous because of the snowstorms. They decided to go for it anyway!
February 6 - Hartmut and Lutz had their Guzzis packed long before breakfast time. (-10F) They used a long handled broom to remove all the snow from their machines. Although the sidecars had covers, the snow still found its way inside. The starter on Lutz's T3 is rotating in good shape, powered by a 36 amp hour Varta battery, but the Guzzi doesn't start. The usual comforting sound of "bloobb - bloobb" is missing. The hard, crusted and packed snow was removed from the air filter area, and then after some more tries the T3 starts. In the meantime Hartmut is fighting with his 40 mm, round slide, Del-Orto carbs. The modified 1050cc high compression engine refuses to start. He decides to "dope" the cylinders and carburetors with an industrial hot air fan. It still does not start. He then drops his carb bowls and frees up the floats and shoots some more hot air into the "guts" of the carbs. This time it works and the sounds of the steady "Bloobb-Bloobb-Bloobb" could be heard bouncing off the neighboring huts. They missed breakfast, but their Guzzis were up and running. They wave good-bye to Charley, who departed the next day and started that long and dangerous ride down the hill. Olivier is also rolling slowly down the road headed toward Oslo and then to Paris on his Honda, now dubbed the "Expander" because of all the bungee cords laced around his tires. After they reached E6, they headed north for 55 miles. In Dombas they gassed up, visited the ATM and ate pepper steaks and drank lots of coffee. As they progress towards Dovrefjell, in the high tablelands, on snow and ice packed roads they encounter high winds from the west causing snowdrifts and even blowing the snow up under their helmets. Traveling slowly, they are often passed by truckers making their travel even more dangerous. At a fully booked motel in Oppdal they are helped by the kind owner who books them a cabin farther up the road in a small village. In an hour it will be dark, and they still have 100 miles to ride before they reach Trondheim.
February 7 - It's 10:00 A.M. ( -6F) as they finish packing and depart from the peaceful Hut Village. It is a little cloudy with some sun peaking through. Then it turns very dark and snow starts falling from the sky. Hartmut with vacuum foil on his visor, leads. Lutz is using his home made heated visor, which should prevent the visor from freezing up, but it doesn't work. Somehow Lutz manages to follow Hartmut although his vision is severely limited. There is little traffic on E6. It takes them one hour to travel 30 miles. They still have 45 miles before they reach Trondheim and then another 100 miles or so to reach Duved. Riding in a blinding snowstorm on a road that continually curves sharply and often dips unpredictably is difficult at best.
They stop at a Trucker-Motel for coffee and to warm up. Time for deliberation. They enjoy some grilled salmon and talk about possibly changing their plans to visit Duved. Hartmut, the leader confesses that he couldn't see anything through his visor. Lutz states that his hand brake support is broken. With cable ties, almost everything can be fixed. Now they have a new destination because to reach Duved is too difficult. They will head southeast to Tynset. But first they must backtrack 19 miles, and then head toward Tynset. Soon the snowstorm is over. Scattered houses and nice mountains fill the landscape. The river, which accompanied their ride, is frozen solidly. After 45 miles it starts snowing again. Then the going gets really tough through many downhill curves and sharp bends. They arrive at Tynset and spot two "Krystall-sidecars" parked in front of a motel. But this night our two Guzzi riders spent the night in a youth hostel.
February 8 - they spot a large moose five hundred meters from their bedroom window eating away at some bushes. They tried to snap a picture but the moose walked off in the opposite direction. Later they enjoy a great breakfast and inquire about the temperature outside at the receptionist's office. They learn that the night before it was -22F. They thought that could not be possible, perhaps a communications problem. Later in the morning they spotted a thermometer on top of the bank indicating -8F, so yes, it was possible. Lutz decides to buy some warm rubber boots with removable insulation, called Yeti, made in England. The warm boots make him very happy. Then they check out their Guzzis. With a hairdryer they removed a few inches of ice-snow that built up on their headlights. They also directed some heat onto the carbs. Lutz's taillight quit working, but he fixes it. Every night Hartmut charges his battery in his room with a small charger. In the morning he hooks the battery back up and presto, full power. They spend a second night in Tynset.
February 9 - The temp is -15F. After breakfast, they go about their normal duties, tending to their Guzzis. Again a hairdryer is needed to defrost the carbs, thaw out the choke, and this time Hartmut has to change his metal spark plug connectors. He carries out his battery under his arm and places it in the California II. Lutz puts an electric heating plate under his bike's oil pan to warm the oil. His bike will not start! More tries, then it starts, but runs only on one cylinder. Then he notices frozen snow and ice stuffed up into one of the mufflers ends. He removes the snow and the bike runs smoothly. Okay, all set. At noon they start off toward Oslo, 125 miles down the road. The bikes are running okay, weather is sunny but very cold. Lutz's Guzzi starts to act up; it acts as is it isn't getting enough gas, though the tank is full. He opens the gas cap and that seems to fix the starvation problem. As usual, they are passed constantly by large trucks which blow snow on them, causing temporary whiteouts. They pass the town of Savalen, the location of yet another rally which was held a week before the Krystall Rally.
They tanked up again and enjoyed some hot coffee and hot sausages. It was mostly all downhill as they rolled toward Elverum. At times they could see the black pavement through the ice ruts. Suddenly Lutz's generator light comes to life and stays on. They find a motel in Elverum connected with a gas station and garage where they can park their bikes inside. Hartmut charges his battery first, then Lutz's. On a Norwegian TV station they see BMW rider Hansi and Guzzi rider Freudenberger giving an interview about their travels to the Krystall Rally. Lutz purchases a powerful new battery as a backup from the extremely friendly gas station owner.
February 10 - They start off again. It's -13F and cloudy with little traffic. Lutz leads with his lights turned off to save his battery. Then it becomes really foggy and Hartmut takes the lead. After passing through the town of Hamar, it gets warmer. Here the highway turns into a three and four lane affair and the traffic increases ten fold as they approach Oslo. They inquire if they can take the ferry a day early but this is not possible due to hundreds of bank employees on a holiday trip. They find a nice hotel with a heated parking garage. Lutz immediately hooks up their battery charger to his old battery. They haven't used the new one yet. The hotel receptionist tried to help them find another hotel, as this one did not have any vacancies for their second night. She explained in every little detail how to find the Scandic Hotel. The Norwegians are very calm and friendly people and don't show the stress like Germans normally do.
February 11 - With one more night to go, they change hotels and are now staying in Asker, a small town full of snow, about 12 miles from the Oslo harbor. They have a good night's sleep and are anxious to get back to Germany and head home.
February 12 - It's -12F and Hartmut is smiling beneath his helmet. He wishes that every night his Guzzi could be in a nice, warm garage. His California II fires right up. To save battery power, Lutz, with the help of a friendly gentleman wearing a suit and tie, pushes his T3 to start it. It fires right up! Lutz thinks to himself, maybe only four more jump starts until he arrives home. Why do we even have generators? Hartmut's wet beard starts to freeze in the morning cold. After a short gas stop, Hartmut helps push the T3 to start it.
In line at the ferry station the bikes begin to gather in a group. There was an MZ and a BMW R69 with sidecar. Added later were a Guzzi Millie GT and two more BMW sidecars from Germany. They spent ten days in the southern part of Norway and said they met two crazy guys riding solo Harleys from Switzerland who stopped and insisted on helping them change a tire that appeared to be flat. Actually the Millie-sidecar was only taking off his fully mounted spiked tire and replacing it with a normal one. Spiked tires are allowed in the Scandinavian countries, but not in Germany. The enthusiasm of everyone wanting to help everyone was incredible.
The kickstarter Harley Davidson had problems starting because of the cold temperatures. Therefore, they stayed with as many Harley friends with garages as they could on their trip. At times they even used snow chains. They arrived at the Harley party in Trondheim on schedule, joining the other 300 bikers who were celebrating hard. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. At this party there were only three Harley Davidsons in attendance; the rest of the bikers all traveled to the rally via cars. When the third Harley Davidson rider who lived one mile from the rally site learned there were two Harley riders from Switzerland, he quickly put his Harley back into his garage.
As the ferry departed from the Oslo harbor they viewed clear blue skies and lots of ice floating in the fiord. With 20 hours of ferry time ahead, they all decided to partake of some beer and exchange more stories about their biking experiences in the winter weather.
February 13 - They arrive at Kiel at 10:00 A.M. It's 24F, considerably warmer then the previous days (-12F) and fog. Lutz, with his lights turned off, follows Hartmut. After taking on gas at Bremen, Hartmut rides his California II at full speed (approximately 90 MPH). His idea was to get Lutz home before dark. Lutz had to work hard to keep up with him as his old T3 is just not as fast. After 150 miles Hartmut is looking for the reserve setting on his petcock. At the gas station Lutz noticed the same thing as two weeks before, oil all over his legs and on the front of his T3. So Hartmut takes some oil out of his sidecar and tops off his crankcase. Two bikers stop by during the refueling stop - BMW rider Hansi and Guzzi rider Freudenberger. Lutz tells them they are TV stars and wishes them a good trip back home. Hartmut and Lutz have another 300 miles to travel before it gets dark and they're anxious to get back on the autobahn. They're now riding about 60 MPH, certainly much more boring at this speed, but it works out well for them. They exit from the Autobahn just beyond Cologne and enter the normal highways. Their feet are sending signals that they're cold. One more gas stop without any hot coffee. Since they left the ferry they haven't drunk any coffee in order to eliminate the "pit stops" that drinking coffee requires.
Only 50 more miles to home, but it's the longest 50 miles yet. And it's getting darker and now the car drivers are signaling Lutz to turn on the lights. At one exit they noticed some police parked, so on with the lights, and then later back off. Soon, it was time to split. Lutz waves good-bye to Hartmut. Lutz turns on the lights for the last time and 20 minutes later he is home. First thing he wants to do is measure his battery power. The meter reads 12.2 volts output. The last time he recharged his battery was in Norway. They rode this day 500 miles in eight hours. He smiles and says to himself, "We're home safe and sound, all the way from Kiel without coffee and associated pits stops. Our plan worked great!"
Maybe, just maybe, they will attend the Krystall Rally again next year.