At the beginning of last summer, I was coming to the end of my year living in Norway and moving to Slovenia. I had done quite a lot of mountain biking in the area around Trondheim where I had been living and I'd not had many opportunities to get down to the steep rocky mountains and fjords that Norway is famous for. I had been several times further south to Oslo, Trollstigen, the Atlantic road and the mountains between Oslo and Bergen all the while scanning the landscape for suitable riding trails, planning ahead for when I would be able to return with the bike. That chance came right at the end of my time in the country when we ended up on a four-day road trip in central Norway.
I am lucky enough to have a friend, who I know from living in London a few years ago, who is almost always up for a bike trip! Initially, he was just going to come over for a few days riding near Trondheim but it was him that persuaded me to turn this into a bit more of a trip and go exploring further afield, once I started looking at maps and photos of places we could visit it didn’t take much persuading before the plan turned into a full on road trip around the Norwegian fjords, we concluded that the driving would be worth it for the places we would get to ride… we were not wrong as the following images and words prove.Day One – Oppdal and MoldenRoute - OppdalRoute - Molden
Jonny arrived late on Friday night, bikes were immediately built and the car packed ready to set off early Saturday morning. The weather for Saturday looked ropey and we had planned to ride in Oppdal, weather dependent (since we were told it was currently snowing there), in the morning to break up the drive, then drive on down to Sogndal area. When we arrived in Oppdal the sun was shining and we decided to get the bikes out, in retrospect, we were very glad we did as the drive from there down to Sogndal ended up being extremely long. Although neither of us said anything, we could both tell we were thinking ‘is this really worth it?’ by the end, especially with the amount of snow we were passing. However, we were not disappointed by the trails which awaited us, it was certainly worth it!
Our transport for the week was more than we expected – I picked up the rental car on Friday night before we set off early on Saturday morning, I had booked the cheapest vehicle they had only the day before but when I arrived to collect it they said they didn’t have any in so gave us the next available thing. That happened to be an upgrade to something much more comfortable – the road trip just got a much-appreciated upgrade!
We rode up the hill which turned out to be quite dry, however once we reached about 700m we hit the snow line, we tried to ride on but quickly realised it wasn’t going to be worth it and turned back. Once we were clear of the snow again we could open it up on the singletrack of Raudhovden.
We even had a few spectators on the way down.
We were getting quite worried by the amount of snow whilst driving down towards Sognefjord, starting to think it wasn’t going to be possible to ride.…Really worried…However when we arrived at Marifjøra, because of the time of the year, the sun was weirdly setting on the north side of the hill, providing some amazing evening light to ride in on Molden.Once again we hit the snow line, which turned out to be the story of the trip, turning back when the snow began usually around 6-800m, there were some great technical sections on the way back down!Chilling out at the bottom of the hill ready to cook dinner on the camping stove by the fjord.
Things got a bit chilly after dinner so we decided to check out the hotel just up the road, definitely a good idea, the £10 beers were worth it for a warm cosy fire and a game of chess. We did plan on sleeping in the car however the cold and the lure of a cheap bed in the many camping cabins to be found around Norway meant we slept in a posh garden shed instead, this theme continued for the rest of the tripDay Two – KaupangerRoute - Kaupanger
We awoke to some rather wet weather which certainly dampened the mood, we had planned to ride some trails in a small fjordside town called Kaupanger but first we needed food so stopped in the town, we actually ended up spending until about 11:30am faffing around avoiding the rain before doing a ‘f*ck it, let’s just get muddy man’.
There had been an enduro race in Kaupanger last year so we had the map from that to put together a loop, we soon got over the wet and were seriously blown away by how incredible the trails were in Kaupanger! Lush green forest floors with ribbons of brown trail twisting off through the pine forests, despite the wet, the trails actually turned out to be really grippy. I will certainly be back to this place to ride at some point in my life, this small insignificant town has stuck in my mind since.
Once we actually headed off into the woods there were quite a few trails disappearing off into the fog that was hanging in the trees, however, we somehow managed to stumble across this gem of a trail, this trail and photo really stick in my mind. The ground was wet and the air nice and fresh, the trail just a thin strip cut through all the bright green bilberry bushes carpeting the forest floor, full of grip despite the damp and full of turns, compressions, jumps and little technical sections … and it just went on… and on… and on… until we popped out of the trees right down at the fjord.
After the morning’s trophy find we headed up the other side of the valley, on the east side of Kaupanger, in hope of finding more of the same dreamy singletrack. We headed up as far as the snow would allow us and ended up on quite a wide, superfast doubletrack for the first section before a short road section down out of the reaches of any snow where the forest floor still glowed green.
We felt like we were in Canada, it felt like we were riding the lush loamy trails that you so often see in videos of riders from British Columbia but we weren’t, we were in Norway, only a few hours from home. Fresh looking trails like this one continued all the way back down to the town.
We drove a couple of hours up the road after riding to our accommodation for the night, which we had found after another quick stint on booking.com. The accommodation actually turned out to be in quite a spectacular location – we were driving up the road using our Chinese GPS when the address we had entered told us our destination was coming up in 500m while we were still inside a tunnel, we thought it must be wrong but we emerged from the tunnel at the head of a very steep valley and saw the place just below us. It was stood at the head of the valley with huge rock walls rising up into the clouds above us, which revealed glimpses of a glacier high above when the clouds parted. We felt rather belittled against these enormous rock slabs.KjøsnesfjordenDay Three – Haugsvarden, Geirangerfjord and FjoraRoute - Haugsvarden (Sandane)Route - GeirangerfjordRoute - Fjora
Day three meant only a 30min drive in the morning to get to the first trails next to Sandane. However, we must have had plenty of Weetabix for breakfast as we ended up riding in three different locations that were two ferry trips, several tunnels and 200km apart.
In the morning we rode a trail up to the mountain called Haugsvarden which was a pretty technical rock fest all the way down through the trees, we decided it was warm enough to break out the Hawaiin shirts Jonny had brought along on the trip for this ride! We then hit the road and the ferry to get across the hills to Geirangerfjord where we had been told of an old post road that used to link the towns of Hellesylt and Stranda, of course now there is a tunnel connecting the two, where the trail was also very technical and rocky and the views exceptional! In the evening, we planned to drive to Valldal to spend the night but we ended up arriving pretty early and managed to get in a quick two-hour ride behind our cabin after dinner too! Safe to say after three rides and a long drive we were ready for bed very soon after our ride.At the bottom of the trails at Sandane, the trail ran down the ridge that you see behind us - Eat your heart out Ed Masters.
This was the highest point that we got to on the Haugsvarden trail, in the summer, it continues another 3-400m higher. Each time we rode a trail there always ended up being quite a definitive start point, the snow would start quite suddenly and be quite wet and heavy so it was unrideable. Here the viewpoint was really spectacular looking right down the valley over Hundvikfjordern, if you look hard enough you can see the ferry crossing we took later on.
Don’t let this photo fool you, the first 50m was nice and smooth but the rest was a total rock fest with a lot of technical sections right the way to the bottom. I imagine the trail that continues to the top above here is very much the same so you could have yourself a good ride of two halves.
Taking ferries as part of your journey is all part of the ride in Norway, most are heavily subsidised and are not too expensive, well for Norway anyway, we ended up paying about 100-150NOK (£8-12) for each one.
At Geirangerfjord the ride ended up being only around 2hrs but it was well and truly worth it for the breathtaking views we had down over the fjords, here we made it up to a little cabin at about 650m above sea level, which doesn’t sound like a lot but it is not bad when you are riding back down to sea level.
As you can see it was quite hard to keep your eyes fixed on the trail at times whilst riding here, you always just wanted to look up at the view, especially when you can hear avalanches setting off in the distance, but the trail was so technical, look away for a split second and you were off your line.Jonny getting a bit loose on one of the corners further down.
After dinner, at about 7:30 we headed up the hill behind where we were staying for the night in Valldal, we left all our gear and just headed out lightweight since we weren’t going far, the dinner must have given us a boost of energy as we flew up the hill and had the ride done in about an hour!Day Four – Fjora – Ansok and LiarhornetRoute - Ansok and Liarhornet
When I first arrived in Norway, I had signed up to ride for weekend down in the Fjørå area which was organised with a big group of 50 riders by an Norwegian mountain biking website, the trails that I rode during that weekend ended up being the ones we rode on our last day on this road trip, I had to go back as the scenery and trails together were fantastic. We ended up doing one big ride which took in two ascents finishing on a little piece of trail which is known by locals as ‘blowjob’ ….it is that good. The sunny weather and warm wind wasn’t quite the same as last time I was here, it was still warm enough to break out the Hawaiian shirts for one last go (albeit with a thermal underneath).
Now then, who can spot the line in this one? This section certainly gets the heart going, it is very steep and full of rock and it is pretty hard to stop, queue some very tense riding and viewing.Jonny pretending to be a tree, trying to blend in with the surrounding nature.
Halfway through the ride we had to do a little connection on the road which meant passing through this tunnel, we hadn’t brought lights so it felt pretty sketchy riding through a 2km tunnel with a car potentially approaching us at 60mph with us nice and dark in the distance.
The trails down from Liarhornet in the spring time feel strange, it was actually quite dry but everything was just emerging from the weight of the winter snow and things were coming back to life, this photo probably looks like it has some effect on it but it explains it quite well, the colours almost felt like they were in ‘HDR’ with a deep contrast sort of effect on the trees and ground.
We ended the ride right down at sea level after the ride, the trail came all the way down to the sea which was a great way to finish the few days of riding before driving all the way back up to Trondheim, especially with a very ‘typical’ Norwegian scene such as the above.
To me Norway is one of these countries that is a sort of ‘holy grail’ of nature and landscape, all through my life I have always thought of it as a goal to be able to go and explore there and experience these crazy landscapes that you see so many ‘picture postcard’ images of, such as the Trollstigen, the northern lights, the Preikestolen or the Trolltunga, is amazing and to get to ride my bike with a good friend in these places is another thing. That was the thing, all the time we were riding we were thinking these are really great trails but what made it special was the landscapes that came with it, we weren’t just riding great trails, we were riding great trails in incredible landscapes.
Whenever you think of Norway I am sure you have some similar preconceptions as I did regarding the nature, however, I bet you anything the second thought that comes into your head is – ‘it is really expensive, I mean a beer costs £10 or something doesn’t it?’. But I would ask you to try to ignore that thought and get yourself to Norway, it is definitely worth it, the beer might be expensive, the distances long and the roads slow, it might rain a lot but all of it is far outweighed by the trails and landscapes you will experience. Plus you can pick up a beer for £2.50 in the supermarket anyway.
You can find plenty of examples of the cabins we stayed in here
. As well as help from my friend we used a book
to help us plan our trip which is excellent with routes across the whole country.
I finally have to say a big thanks to my friend Tarjei, he basically organised this trip for us! Tarjei is a friend I met whilst living in Norway and rode with a lot there his knowledge of bikes, bike tech and trails amazes me, I had mentioned to him about where should we go and ride for a couple of days and he told me a few places which I started researching, only a few days later he sends me an email with basically our four-day itinerary sorted; with rides, maps, photos, roads to take and how long it will all take which was perfect, so thank you Tarjei!