Omar Di Felice is a factual dreamer. That is, he dreams of incredible bicycle journeys, but when he wakes up those journeys he turns them into reality. A reality that sometimes goes far beyond the imagination of the common possible, as in the case of his Arctic World Tour, 4200 km across the three borderlines of the Arctic world. A journey that had cold weather and Miss Grape bags as companions, a journey that we wanted to have him tell us about himself.
Imagine that you want to traverse the world. And imagine focusing on that portion of the world that, in order to be focused on, requires you to place yourself in observation "from above" by fixing your gaze on that point, the North Pole, and letting the sphere spin in your hands as you watch it flow.
East to West.
From Russia to America.
Thus was born the idea of the Arctic World Tour, 4200 km across the three boundary lines of the Arctic world: the well-known Arctic Circle and then the July +10°C isotherm line and the Arctic tree line, the latter of which are linked inseparably to climate change.
The departure, from the eastern end of the Earth, that Kamchatka peninsula known more for its fame in the board game "Risk" than for winter biking adventures (so much so that it has never been crossed in this mode before this experience) and the arrival in the far west, in Alaska along the Dalton Highway, where the world's most dangerous winter road crosses the line of the Polar Circle.
In between are Lapland, a region that spans Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway; the Svalbard Islands, a jewel that packs all the peculiarities and criticalities of the Arctic into a small area; Greenland, an extreme and most remote land; and Iceland amid (melting) ice and fire.
An adventure traveled solo, in that mode that in ultracycling is called "unsupported" such that one has to be able to provide oneself for every need: from finding food and water, to places to sleep.Whether they were small guesthouses or host of houses in the villages crossed, but in the most isolated stretches the only shelter was the tent or the spartan "cabins."
All in "bikepacking" trim, the new frontier of bicycle travel and one that is giving millions of enthusiasts around the world the opportunity to be able to set off without disrupting the setup of their bicycles but by going and adding to the frame of their bicycles bags in the quantity and type necessary to hold everything they need.
And, in my case, the "needed" was of a different nature and of great volume: so it required the use of two bicycles (a gravel bike used during the first part and a fat bike, retrieved in Svalbard for the second part) on which I had to use as much space as possible.
To the classic saddle bag, with a volume of 20 liters I paired with a bag Miss Grape custom for the frame and one Tendril 10.7 for handlebars generously sized in addition to the small tactical bags (the buds and bags from top tube) in which to hold everything from heavy clothing and gear to survive arctic nights to small accessories essential in case of punctures.
This long crossing, through scenery made even more unique by the winter season (which for many can be an obstacle but which, for me, encompasses the true essence of exploration by bicycle) also represented the second chapter of the "Bike to 1.5°C" project created in collaboration with the Italian Climate Network association and whose aim is to flank the sporting and exploratory side of the challenges I choose to tackle with the no less important side of scientific popularization on the issues of the climate crisis.
A crisis that is as visible as ever right up there, where melting ice and the resulting land change is generating devastating impacts with consequences at our latitudes that we can no longer pretend to notice.
And precisely with a view to educating to greater awareness, in my role as an athlete, first and foremost, I cannot help but adapt my choices in the area of sustainability, seeking that reversal of course that every good citizen should pursue through daily gestures and actions aimed at reducing our footprint.
In my case, this comes through choosing partners who in turn adapt to the increasingly pressing and urgent needs in terms of sustainability: in this case, relying on Miss Grape bags means being able to have products that are easily repairable. Switching to traditional stitching by abandoning the heat-sealed technique means being able to intervene in case of breakage without having to replace the bag completely, or in part.
Crucial detail in the pursuit of an increasingly circular economy as well as, in my case, for convenience in shipments where it would be nearly impossible to source new material.
Beyond Miss Grape is registered in the European REACH registry., for the control and monitoring of chemicals, with strict controls towards all suppliers in order not to use harmful or banned substances. A look into the future toward those changes to which all companies will be required to adapt.
Another key point is to reduce travel from production factories to warehouses by optimizing orders and storage in order to reduce Co2 emissions given by transportation: the logistics sector is, in fact, one of the most impactful in terms of emissions and pollution. Significantly reducing transportation translates into concrete help to the environmental cause.