Winter trip to Norway with Wehrmachtsgespannen



           out of the book Wehrmachtsgespanne gestern und heute            page 6-9



The heavy Motorcycles with sidecars from Zündapp and BMW were especially designed to do their duty reliably in difficult terrain and very low temperature.


With 26 HP out 750 cc's they do not offer an oversupply of engine output, but they can achieve a remarkable performance  because of 4 street gears, 2 reverse gears as well as a rear wheel differential lock.


To extend our well known fun of driving we decided to plan another variety: to dare a winter trip to Norway. We also liked to experience how much the cold would challenge us and our motorcycles.


We met in Kiel with 4 Wehrmachtsgespanne and a Volvo Jeep, already 35 years old , to take the ferry to Oslo.


From Oslo, where we came across the first snow and icy streets  we drove in the direction of Gol, our first base 190 km Northwest of Oslo. Here we had booked a comfortable hut on a camping ground for the night.


On the icy streets we were very much inferior to the Norwegian vehicles, because they all had special winter wheels with spikes.


It was quite nerve-racking when the rear-view mirror was completely filled by  a Scania-truck and you knew that 30 tons was following you close behind.


And when it could overtake at last , he did it with one meter distance and left you and with the bike struggling in a snow flurry practically without view between the truck and the road side.


After experiencing this situation several times, we had enough and drove voluntarily into a lay-by, to let the trucks pass.


The fast and bending mountain tours were followed by cautious down hill tours. At the beginning they were accompanied by skids and emergency braking in snow drifts. Udo got his Krad so stuck in an icy snow-drift, that he could not get off because his foot was squashed. Only with the help of the Volvo and its motor winch did we get the Krad and the driver back on the road again. Such mishaps never resulted in any serious consequences for Krad or driver.

After a short time and adequate exercise we knew how to drive on ice and snow without having to use the snow-drifts as emergency brakes. All things considered the first two days were an effort to get used to the wintry conditions. How to start at minus 13 degrees °F? How to protect yourself against the cold? How does the Gespann behave  on icy areas?  (It does not behave at all, it glides.)

The awaking in the morning was not a problem at all for our Krads. To convince a motor to start at minus 13 degrees °F only works when the motor is finely tuned. Starter's aid in, ignition off, floor several times , ignition on, and vigorously use the kick start. Then it must function.



Tadeusz had turned off his Gespann in the evening when the brakes were still a bit warm from the long down hill tour. So the snow melted and found its way as water into the brake drum. After the high minus temperatures at night the motor started, but you could not turn a wheel. Totally frozen up. On the slippery snow surface the wheels could not grip to get the brake free. Again our old Volvo helped. The Volvo pulled the Zündapp with locked wheels like a sleigh to the next ice free area where the wheels gripped again and the frozen brake released.


We followed the trails made by snow blowing machines over the Hardanger Vida, a deserted highland with lots of snow. We were lucky, the weather was fine and sunny and at the control point we did not have to follow a convoy with a snow-plough which guides the vehicles over highlands in case of snowfall. We found the dry cold between +5 and -20 degrees °F far more comfortable than the wet cold around freezing-point in Germany. But after a 60 km tour over the highlands the cold was creeping through our thickest thermo-suits . From my experience from former tours I knew that it was a big mistake to go into a pub for a short while to warm up. Because of the thick clothes you sweat easily . If you get out all sweaty into the extreme cold again is very uncomfortable and you catch a heavy cold very easily. Therefore we preferred to prepare a soup outdoors.


To protect against very low temperatures is only a question of good appropriate clothing.

Thermoboy, mitten, moonboots ( quite big but good) and a woollen hat with changeable mouth protection are the best protection against the cold. Spectacle-wearers  are always fighting with clouded glasses and consequently a restricted view. I have glued lenses between the double glasses of skiing-glasses. I wear my integrate helmet without visor and put on the prepared skiing-glasses instead. After many experiments this is for me, as a spectacle wearer, the best way to ride a bike in winter.


The tunnels bring difficulties we thought of before. In Norway you find different kinds of them. Sometimes they are winding like a spiral staircase through the mountain. Their length is between a few meters and 10 km, sometimes with and sometimes without light. The latter ones are dreadful to drive through. At the entrance of a fjord the temperature is 20 °F, at the exit 5 km further it is -2°F . In between is the tunnel with its wet cold around  32°F.  Dazzled by the bright white of the snow you´ get into the warm dark tunnel. The humid air of the tunnel clouds your glasses and restricts your view enormously. At the exit the clothes are humid, the glasses clouded. The temperature drops in 100 m between 10 and 20°F. Everything that is humid will freeze immediately. Several tunnels one behind the other take its toll.




But that's what we wanted - an adventurous trip in winter.


At the Hardanger-Fjord, which goes up to 180 km into the mountains, we crossed the fjord with several small ferries, to drive on into the direction of Telemark and Röldal. Quite often we could not drive the chosen routes, because they were blocked with snow-drifts. But most of the roads and routes were passable. Most of the roads were single-tracks and on both sides the snow was piling up high so that we had the impression of driving through an ice-channel.


The Norwegians have a long winter and know well how to cope with the snow and the cold. Looking back at it now there war far more strain on us, the drivers, than on our Gespanne. A little carelessness  can easily lead to frostbite. Uwe had awkwardly put on his glasses with a steel frame, so that the steel touched his skin.  He got frostbite, and weeks after he still walked around with red rings around his eyes. Except for a few frozen cables (wrong oil) and sooty spark plugs our Wehrmachtsgespanne were driving without problems. Wolfgang and myself have made these winter trips to Norway five times now but with different partners in the group.


Each time we said:

This was the last time that we drive through the cold! But then we drive again.


Maybe it is the search for the last adventures. To undertake these trips with our Wehrmachtsgespanne gives us the opportunity to break out of the rut of everyday life.






Hans- Peter Hommes

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