If you’ve ever dreamed of travelling huge distances by bike, you’ve likely stumbled upon Brody Leven, a long-distance bicycling enthusiast and ski mountaineer who specializes in human-powered adventures.

Late last year, Leven devised a bike and ski trip around Norway. It would be his second “Pedal to Peaks” trip, with his first being an epic 500-mile ride to ski all the volcanoes in the American Northwest, something Leven admits was probably the hardest thing he’d ever attempted. He enlisted Colorado-based filmmaker Joey Schusler, an accomplished downhill racer turned adventurer; and KT Miller, a Montana-based photographer and ski mountaineer.

The resulting film (see the trailer here) shows the grit, challenge and beauty of human-powered bikepacking adventures. And while Leven says the Norway trip was less gruelling physically than his first bike-to-ski linkup, it presented its own set of struggles as well—including KT ultimately heading home after some close calls with traffic. We chatted with Leven about the nature of bikepacking and going big.

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BICYCLING: Why bikes? Is it the human-powered experience, the sense of freedom and self-reliance bikes give us, or do you just like to make things more difficult?

BRODY LEVEN: Being human-powered is the most important element of any adventure I’m taking. Sometimes I’m dropped off on a glacier by plane, other times I’m pedaling a bikepacking rig from my front door, but it’s always integral to the spirit of my exploits. Self-reliance just comes along with the types of trips I do, and difficult is always inherent in what I seek. I think the other benefit you mention, freedom, is a subconscious side effect. What I find in the mountains is a type of challenge and satisfaction that I do a bad job of finding in normal life.

How could someone get started on a trip like this?
Immediately after college, I jumped on a bike and rode across the country. I didn’t know there were designated “routes” or anything like that. I just rode along the Canadian border until I got home. I’d never ridden a road bike. I just bought one off Craigslist and started pedaling. My chamois was a used one I bought from the thrift store. I still use it. The only real barrier to entry with bikepacking is what I consider common “adventure sense.”

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Is there one piece of gear you cant live without?
My watch—a Garmin Fenix 3 (check it out on Amazon here). It has a compass, altimeter, barometer and it displays my text messages. It tells me my heart rate, recovery time, and if I get lost, it literally draws a topo map on the screen and takes me back to camp. For the type of multisport stuff I do, it makes more sense than a bike computer.

How important is it to have mechanical skills when setting off on an adventure like this? Were you totally hosed when your derailleur broke? What tools did you carry? And what would you do differently?
In that order: I have none. Yes. Pretty much none. Everything.

I’ve done a lot of bike touring and bikepacking. I’ve ridden across the U.S., I’ve ridden around Hawaii, across the Utah desert, etc., but I’m not really a cyclist. Joey is. I just had this little multi-tool I bought when I was 9 years old. So yeah, I was pretty screwed. But Joey’s mini toolkit somehow always had exactly what we needed; he saved me. Oh, did I mention he was also carrying his own ski and camping gear, a MacBook Pro, a RED cinematography camera, multiple lenses, four hard drives, four brick batteries, a Ronin gimbal stabilizer, and a tripod?

brody leven bikepacking setup
Joey Schusler

You had big panniers as well as frame bags and backpacks...did you really need all that stuff?
Four panniers, a bike trailer, a front rack, a handlebar roll, two bags on the top tube, seat roll…I needed it all. Winter camping, ski mountaineering, self-contained bikepacking gear takes up space. Plus I never, ever wanted to run out of chocolate, and Joey wouldn’t get out of his sleeping bag without at least one full bag of dinosaur gummies.

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Any secret personal hygiene tips?
On any trip or expedition, I focus on my feet. I baby wipe them most nights, baby powder them before putting on ski socks, always drying my socks and my ski boot liners in my sleeping bag at night. I brush my teeth a lot, too. Except instead of my electric toothbrush from home, I use a free one that I got from a hotel and then cut in half with my multi-tool…which, if you remember, I got when I was 9.

How did you stay fueled up on the road?
The amount of candy Joey and I ate in Norway is absolutely disgusting.

Any tips for navigating around Norway?
Only one road runs the length of Lofoten, so we couldn’t get too far off course. With that said, I’m a Garmin inReach Explorer+ and Garmin Fenix 5 kinda guy. In addition, I always buy paper maps if they’re available where I’m traveling, and I use Earthmate, Gaia, Mapster, maps.me, and other apps on my phone, which I tend to leave in airplane mode and charge with a tiny Goal Zero Venture 30.

How was it traveling with Joey?
He’s cool-headed, strong, driven, and skilled. But his teeth are definitely gonna rot away.

bikepacking in norway in the fog
Joey Schusler

And what happened with KT?
KT is a dear friend, but we haven’t really talked much since the trip ended. I learned more about what was going through her head from reading a post she wrote on one of her sponsor’s blogs than I did by talking to her. But before she got a taxi and went home, she told me that the biking made her feel like she was in avalanche terrain—meaning that sort of constant alert and anxiety—all day, every day. Then, when it came time to actually enter avalanche terrain, she was burnt out. The stress—if that’s the right word—just wore her down. She’s a strong and independent woman, and I totally respect her decision.

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How many total miles and/or total vertical feet did you end up getting? Or does that even matter to you?
I’m glad you asked that, because no one else really has. This trip wasn’t physically that hard. The Pedal to Peaks I did before this one—through the Pacific Northwest—was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It was over 500 miles and 50,000 feet of climbing. Because of this, I’d prepared Joey and KT for the most grueling physical trip of their lives. But as it turned out, the road in Lofoten is relatively flat, perfectly paved, follows a beautiful Arctic coast, and has pretty frequent candy stops.

I think we biked less than 300 miles, but that didn’t matter to me at all. We were completely self-contained, in the Arctic, following our preferred human-powered epic, and sleeping in snowstorms on the beach. There was the added stress of trying to find mountains with sufficient steepness, snow cover, and film-worthiness, and I was only a year out of frostbite from a different Arctic trip—the challenges just seem to compound on themselves in those situations, but I like it. I’m happy to have partners who like it too.

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Aaron H. Bible

When it comes to gear, few have made a lifelong career of testing and writing about new products in the outdoor world the way Aaron H Bible has. With three decades of experience as a content specialist, creative director, and journalist, Bible is an award-winning writer, photographer, and multimedia producer. In addition to outdoor gear, Bible has written about everything from technology and home electronics to healthcare and home furnishings. He is a contributing writer, editor, and photographer to publications including SKI, Freeskier, Men’s Health, Sunset, Gear Junkie, 5280, Elevation Outdoors, Vanish, Runner's World, Bicycling, and more. Bible holds an MFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art & Design, and has worked as a photographer, gallery director, and educator. A ski bum at heart, he lives with his family in the high-country of Colorado where he and his wife are raising two girls to love thin air, fresh pow, and the flow state.